Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Change of scene

Sunday saw me heading east over the border to Hampshire, Keyhaven Marshes to be precise. This is a great stretch of coastal lagoons and saltmarsh which has attracted some fine rarities over the years, and I have some fond memories of visiting here. Memorably, I chanced my arm to twitch a Lesser Sand Plover just two days before my eldest son was born. Fortunately, he didn't arrive early. The year before I saw my first Stilt Sandpiper here, and since then I have also caught up with Baird's Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper on the pools behind the seawall.
Long-billed Dowitcher: #225 for my photo yearlist
The Dowitcher on the deck
Kinder light than in the above flight shot
This was as close as the Dowitcher came while feeding, and it was always facing away unfortunately
With such a track record for American waders, the recent arrival of a Long-billed Dowitcher, one of our commoner trans-Atlantic visitors, was not a huge surprise. Needing to travel a bit further at this stage of the year to add to my photo year list gave me a good excuse to reacquaint myself with the area. Half a dozen Bearded Tits were pinging manically around the reedbed as soon as I stepped out of the car - a promising start.
Bearded Tit - male
Bearded Tit - female
The small flock would fly around before landing back in the reedbed
Here the male in flight
A short amble down the seawall to Keyhaven Lagoon brought the Dowitcher within view, and, when it woke up and moved from behind some other waders, within camera range. Grey Plover, Knot, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing and Dunlin kept it company.
Black-tailed Godwit
Another Blackwit in winter plumage
Dunlin on the shore
Lapwing on the pools behind the seawall
My photos weren't terribly satisfying so I stuck around. It took an age for the Dowitcher to move, and I had returned to the car for lunch when it returned to the saltmarsh. This was enough to tempt me back and despite patiently waiting for a few more hours, the closest I got was when it flew over my head to commute between the lagoon and the saltmarsh.
Greenshank: why couldn't the Dowitcher show like this?
Greenshank in flight
The distinctive black armpit of Grey Plover
Grey Plovers on Keyhaven Lagoon
So, while the Dowitcher didn't quite perform as hoped, it was a still a day well spent on a fine stretch of the south coast. The Isle of Wight provides a dramatic backdrop across the Solent, and with so much good habitat there is always a sense of promise at Keyhaven. I'm sure I will be back again soon.
Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Stonechat - a male
Hurst Castle and Lighthouse from Keyhaven
Male Bearded Tit

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