22 December 2016 Blackwater and Poundhill Heath area

Twelve of us met up in the Blackwater car park on a bright sunny morning after heavy overnight rain. There was a Nuthatch in the trees above us, the first of several seen during the walk that took us eastwards along the track towards Poundhill Heath. Beneath the beech trees a number of Blackbirds were sifting through fallen leaves for food as last night’s rain still sparkled on the branches and twigs above them.

Usnea florida
Maureen and Pam pointed out several species of lichen growing on a hawthorn by a gateway including Usnea florida. The walk had been relatively quiet until we reached the heath where in low hawthorns and birches we found a flock of some 30-40 Reed Buntings that eventually drifted away in small groups across towards an area of burnt gorse. Some lucky people also saw a female Yellowhammer, surely the best bird of the morning. As we walked along the edge of Poundhill Inclosure a female Roe Deer in the bracken chose to retreat into denser cover as a loose flock of Redwings flew out across the heath from the conifers of the inclosure.

Reed Bunting
Before we took the hoggin track through the inclosure back to the car park Mike served the biscuits whilst Brian, wearing a suitably seasonal hat, handed round chocolates. They must have done some good for a up in the trees a few hundred yards along the track a Firecrest was glimpsed along with a Coal Tit. We waited and watched for it to reappear, but to no avail. Sheila however had more patience, and by staying behind was thrilled with excellent views when it re-appeared and stayed in sight for several minutes.
Back at the car park we wished one another a Merry Christmas and looked forward to more enjoyable walks in 2017.

08 December Testwood Lakes

Sue and Geoff plus 9 (including one visitor) gathered at Testwood Lakes Centre on a rather dull morning for this meeting, mostly focusing on birds and identification of winter trees from their twigs.

There was virtually no wind so small birds were active and visible if somewhat difficult to identify in less than ideal light. Unfortunately the feeders near the centre had not been filled but around the lakes Long-tailed Tits and Goldfinch were much in evidence and Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldcrest were also spotted in the trees. Blue Tit and Great Tit were active on the feeders by the Heron hide and a Song Thrush landed in the nearby fields as we returned to the centre. As usual we were accompanied for most of the morning by a Robin or Robins which appear to have become a sort of unofficial mascot of LymNats field meetings.

Gadwall - a pair

Various species of gull were evident and there was spirited debate over one individual which was thought to be a Common Gull but, as it didn't look “happy,” was more likely a juvenile Herring Gull. We had an excellent view of Shoveler and Gadwall from the screens by the scrapes and a Pochard was spotted amongst Tufted Duck on Meadow Lake. Several Great Crested Grebe were seen with Lapwing, a Grey Heron and a group of Cormorants. In all, 33 species were identified.

As there had been few species of bird showing on the recce, Geoff and Sue added interest with a basic guide to identification of trees from their winter twigs (courtesy of the Woodland Trust website). This was enjoyed by all and generated much discussion as we closely examined various twigs as an alternative to naming trees from their leaves and/or winter shape. Alder, Oak, Willow, Hawthorn, Hazel, Lime and Field Maple were confirmed and we discovered (to our surprise) that Hazel twigs are hairy when examined with a hand lens.

04 December Keyhaven

On a bright, clear Sunday morning Brian + 8 (including 2 visitors) set off from Keyhaven taking the path atop the sea wall towards Iley Point and into a keen easterly wind.

November/December sees the peak numbers of winter visitors and these included Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Wigeon, Pintail, Curlew, Dunlin and Shoveler, both on the lagoons and offshore. Residents were well represented by Shelduck, Mallard, Coot and various gulls.

Male Wigeon (c) Simon Vale

On the outward leg there was a Raven flying west towards Keyhaven,  3 squabbling Little Egrets, 4 Avocets seen feeding and in flight on Keyhaven Lagoon and excellent close-up views of a Grey Plover, Rock Pipits and Turnstones.

The return via Pennington Old Tip and along the "Ancient Highway" produced a female Bullfinch, a Shoveler on its spin cycle on the Western Balancing Pond and a perching Kestrel. Black-tailed Godwit were notably absent, presumably being either inland or on a more sheltered site.

The high wind also accounted for the lack of small bird activity. It would have been a tall order to match the number of sightings on Duncan's walk 10 days earlier but hopefully the provision of "Club" biscuits was some consolation.

24 November Keyhaven

Weather - dry, cloudy becoming sunny, cold north-easterly wind.
Tides - neaps, Hurst Point high water 07.40; low water 12.40

While assembling in the small free car park we had good views of Red-Breasted Merganser, Robin and, at the back of the reeds, a female Marsh Harrier.

A group of 15 set off at 10.00 along the ancient highway to the lower Pennington Lane car park then on to the sea wall before completing the circular route at just after 12.30.

Apart from the above, our species list was Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Canada Goose, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Lapwing, Woodpigeon, Rook, Carrion Crow, Grey Heron, Gadwall, Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Brent Goose, Little Egret, Coot, Moorhen, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Pintail, Grey Plover, Curlew, Turnstone, Dunlin, Knot, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit and Cormorant.

Pied Wagtail (c) Simon Vale

On the edge of Jetty Lagoon, everyone was able to enjoy seeing a Great White Egret with the added bonus of being next to a Little Egret for size comparison.

After passing Keyhaven Lagoon, we spotted a Stonechat followed closely by good views of a Dartford Warbler.

Then, with the tide almost at its lowest, we counted 94 Black-tailed Godwits and in excess of 100 Dunlin at the water's edge.

Finally, back at the car park we saw two Marsh Harriers over the reeds, one was definitely a female but the other may have been a juvenile.