Monday, 29 December 2014

Ice Cold in Hampshire

If the weatherman is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt him, last night was the coldest night of the year. The sub-zero temperature had produced a heavy frost and I was unable to get the solid ice out of the bird baths, and so had to fill up some saucers with water and place them around the garden. 

It was frozen at Titchfield Haven too, the first time I think I have seen that this year, and the waders and gulls were roosting on the ice at the southern  end of the River Meon. However, it was not the roosting gulls that drew my attention, but the waders feeding on the intertidal. In the 35+ years that I have been visiting Hill Head, things have changed, the intertidal area has become more sandy, and this in turn has attracted small flocks of Sanderling. The numbers remain fairly small, this morning I counted only nine birds, that were feeding with a single Dunlin and a handful of Ringed Plovers. Because the beach is well used for recreation at low tide the birds are generally quite approachable, and these were no exception.

Sanderling - Hill Head
Sanderling - Hill Head
Dunlin - Hill Head

I spent a good half an hour with the Sanderling, despite having only seen, and photographed them recently at Southsea, and then moved on around the foreshore. There wasn't much of note to report, Oystercatchers were common, as were Ringed Plovers and Turnstones, but other than the Sanderlings, Dunlin and single Grey Plover and Redshank, there wasn't much else.

Black-tailed Godwits - Titchfield Haven

Before heading off I had a quick scan over the frozen river, there were mainly Black-headed, but also Common and Herring Gulls. Four Black-tailed Godwits were also present, but they must of got cold feet and flew up the valley. A cheeky Fox was soaking up the sun on a south facing slope. It was clearly visible from the roadside viewing area and seemed unperturbed by my presence, although it did occasionally have a quick peak to see who was watching it.

Fox - Titchfield Haven

After my visit to the Haven I headed up to a site in East Hampshire where there was meant to be a Red Kite roost. Apparently up to 40 birds have previously been recorded there but recently it has numbered around the low 20's. It was still bitterly cold but the clear sky meant the light was excellent. I parked up on the corner of a farm track and almost immediately three Red Kites drifted over. Several Common Buzzards were also milling around, at one point I counted seven, but there was most likely more.

Red Kite - East Hampshire

As I waited for more kites to show I was entertained by a couple of Robins, who were being typically territorial, and several Brown Hares that were showing occasional signs of their March madness.

Robin - East Hampshire
Brown Hare - East Hampshire

There were several Red Kites coming into the roost by now but most of them were distant, which was a bit disappointing, the local Buzzards were coming much closer and enabled me to get the odd photo. The kites were generally just flying leisurely towards the roost and perching up, but just when I though that they had settled down, they would all take flight and chase each other briefly before settling back down.

Common Buzzard - East Hampshire
Red Kites - East Hampshire
Roosting Red Kites - East Hampshire

As the light, and the temperature dropped the kites settled down, and so did the level of bird activity, although a male Pied Wagtail continued to feed on the frozen farm pond. It seemed to be a very unlikely place to be feeding, when the farm yard appeared to have much more to offer, but it was actively picking up little morsels from the surface. Eventually it too flew off to roost, but as it did the moon put on a spectacular show.

Skating Pied Wagtail - East Hampshire
The Moon

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