Sunday, 11 January 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, Hampshire

This morning I set off early to meet Chris at Gosport Wildgrounds to try and catch more crests. Things were going quite well, in that we had caught one new Firecrest and three Goldcrests, when news broke of a possible Greater Yellowlegs, that had been found by Dan Houghton on the flood north of the Haven. We were on the verge of finishing up anyway, so decided the nip along to have a look. The bird was initially located on an area of standing water known as the Posbrook Flood, which is located along the canal path rather than in the Haven itself. There are three main areas of water, the Posbrook Flood is the southernmost flood, the northernmost flood is known as the Bridge Street Flood, I don't think the middle area has a name.

When I arrived the bird was tucked into a grass tussock, behind a couple of Pintail and a Black-tailed Godwit on the far side of the flood. It was spending most of its time asleep, and mostly out of view and as such the ID had not been confirmed. After about 15 minutes, it began moving around and began showing features that suggested that the bird was indeed a Greater Yellowlegs, and the second record for Hampshire. We were all being very cautious with calling the bird as a Greater given its extreme rarity and likely confusion with Lesser Yellowlegs, especially given that Lesser Yellowlegs have become such a regular feature of late with birds wintering in Hampshire last winter and this winter in Sussex and Cornwall.

The bird was gradually becoming more active and after a while it started to call. The call was, what I can only describe as being very reminiscent of Greenshank, a three syllable call, which is described in the Collins Bird Guide as peu-peu-pew, which in my view was pretty accurate. After a while the bird flew north up the valley and began feeding with Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwing. It was now possible to compare the size of this bird with the other species directly, and the long, slightly up-turned bill became very apparent.

Unfortunately the bird was pretty distant most of the time, it was giving great scope views, but it was not really possible to get any decent photos, but I did manage a few record shots. The series of shots below were taken when it was feeding on the Bridge Street Flood and hopefully give a good indication of the bird's size when compared with the other nearby species, Lapwing, Teal and Black-tailed Godwit. The final photo also shows the long, slightly upturned bill as opposed to the shot needle-tipped bill of a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Great Yellowlegs with Lapwing
Greater Yellowlegs with Lapwing
Greater Yellowlegs - with Black-tailed Godwits
Greater Yellowlegs with Black-tailed Godwit - note the long upturned bill

Massive congratulations to Dan for finding this bird and for getting the news out so quickly, a very well deserved find.

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