Thursday 11th February Very Light SW Very Sunny, cool 5 to 7C after early frost. One quick shower with hail and rainbows
Skating away on the thin ice of a new frosty day, I head off along the sea wall for Fishtail Lagoon on Pennington Marsh. It is a glorious morning, sunny with some mist over The Solent. There is a thin veneer of ice on some of the pools. Maybe there will be winter this year after all. It has been more like Autumn so far with gales and rain followed by beautiful days like this.
The tide is quickly coming covering the outer saltmarsh and with almost no wind the view over the sea is mirror-like reflective of sky and shore.
Not having been able to find Fishtail Lagoon on any map on the internet last night, I am grateful for an information board which has a labelled map of the marsh. I proceed straight away to the area, ignoring any birds on the way. I am focssed on the target bird, the long-billed dowitcher. I meet another birder, Ian from Christchurch. He has seen it and says he will put the news out on Rare Bird Alert. He describes where he has seen it, “look to the left of where there is a little egret standing next to a and as we are joined by two other birders, Colin and Ben, Ian leaves and the three of us walk down to the spot to try to find it.
There are waders here, mostly redshanks with a group of four spotted redshanks and a single common snipe. Another spotted redshank is behind some rush and a ruff flies in to join it. After twenty minutes or so a wader flies from behind a nearby gorse bush to join the redshanks, the long-billed dowitcher goes onto the year list.
I watch it over the next hour as just occasionally the rare American wader comes into view. Most of the time though it is hidden amongst or behind the rushes.
Colin is a local birder who tells me that he has been birding here for six decades. Ben is a young man, twenty one, who is extremely keen and eager to learn. Ben spots two spoonbills flying in. nother spoonbill comes in but stands away from the first two.
The light today is sharp and clear, the earlier mist has gone and thin wispy cloud merges with the blue.
I start to walk along the seawall to the west and Ben walks with me. He stays with me for the next three hours and together we become a spotting team. There are plenty of great birds to enjoy and we both start a day list. By the time we reach Keyhaven Harbour we both have over sixty birds written down and we stop for a little lunch beside the bridge. We have seen the long-tailed duck again and enjoyed close views of dartford warblers.
A water rail squeals in the reedbed and a pale-headed marsh harrier flies over and lands on a distant hedgerow. I then find four bearded tits at the far end of the lagoon, tickable but never giving great views.
My target bird for the afternoon is water pipit and after saying goodbye and good luck to Ben, “have a great life,” I head back eastwards along the seawall checking every pipit. We have already seen rock and meadow pipits and there are more of these, mostly rock pipits but no matter what I cannot find a water pipit.
A short shower of rain and hail causes a double rainbow to appear and it's reflection is beautiful.
I find the short-eared owl perched up and preening at the east end of Keyhaven Lagoon.
A couple out for a late afternoon stroll stop me to inquire about the Lads. She has beautiful bright green eyes and has some lovely jewelry pieces, both rings and necklace, Her name is Elaine. She delights in telling me that she has made all of the pieces, some of them cast using cuttlefish. Her partner is named Peter and he takes back stage after telling me he is a landscape gardener.
Later, with the sun going down I see a young person sitting on a concrete block at the end of a concrete extension out into The Solent. He or she is wrapped in an orange blanket and I am concerned that they might have a problem as it is getting dark and getting very cold as the sun has gone down. A slavonian grebe gives me an excuse to go down there. The person turns out to be a young woman who is enjoying the landscape and she tells me she is a foundation year student of art, an oil painter and often comes down here to watch the sunset. I photograph the grebe and leave her to her contemplation.
The year list stands at 162. This is twenty two ahead of where I was this time last year.
9.52 miles 130 feet elevation up 130 elevation down