Saturday, 28 April 2012

A Black-headed Bombsite

With the cricket season here and the weather already proving a wash out, the first friendly was cancelled, so what to do with a unexpected free sunday? I know a trip down to the coast and Titchfield Haven NNR. The weather was still pretty indecisive and I must say any reserve that has enough hides to keep you sheltered from the frequent showers is good in my book.

The good thing about Titchfield is you park literally on the sea-front, the Solent merely feet away, plenty of action out on the waves but none of it anything other than Sailboats and Wind-surfers. On the opposite side of the road lies the Titchfield Haven reserve, a well managed and great location for watching wildlife, 6 Hides separated to 3 either side of the river that runs down into the Solent. The first thing that hit me though was the noise, thousands of Black-headed Gulls calling from the scrapes. A quick wander along the sea-front to the visitor centre and got my first glimpse of a pair of Linnets sat atop the surrounding gorse bush. Turnstones wandered up and down the footpath around the side of the small harbour totally unperturbed by the amount of human traffic. You often wonder when you turn up at these places, seeing the huge amount of cars and people if its going to be standing room only around the reserve, luckily nature didn't seem appealing to most, as once inside I probably only saw 10-15 people for the rest of the day.

The visitor centre side of the reserve has 3 hides overlooking the river and the water meadows. The usual Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mallard and Moorhen showed up on the river in the 1st Hide, the second two showing a bit more variety, a fairly biggish flock of Black-tailed Godwit grazed on the far side of the meadow, rising and falling regularly as they were often bombarded by Lesser Black backed Gulls.
Black-tailed Godwit
I did get quite excited about 15 minutes later when a stunning male Marsh Harrier (my first of the year) soared overhead spooking the Godwit flock and pretty much anything else within the vicinity. He landed briefly before being mobbed by 5 or 6 Carrion Crows, pretty rapidly disappearing back up the water meadows. Lapwing, Canada Goose, Teal and a Kestrel all showed well in the meadows as I sat dodging the rain drops in the hide.

A rather surprisingly nice lunch in the reserve cafe, and I was off out the other side of the river, All 3 hides over looking the scrapes and distant reed beds. It took a while to focus on any other birds as the Blur of Black-headed Gulls becomes more apparent. It would be hard to guess numbers but I'd say anywhere between 3000-4000 mostly paired off and nesting.

Just a narrow view of the Scrapes showing only a couple of Gull islands.

Once distinguished from the ever moving throng of Gulls, I spotted 9 feeding Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Avocet, Shellduck, Snipe, Shoveler, Gadwall, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Buzzard, Coot, Pheasant and a rather distant Fulvous Whistling Duck - a presumed escapee mingling with a couple of drake Mallard.

Black-tailed Godwits
Male Shoveler
So all in all a pretty a pretty good trip, with 35 Species logged, I'm sure there would be a few more if I could identify the bird song from the reed beds and trees. And an even bigger bonus I guess is I didn't get wet!

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