Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A Desert Of Lapwings, A Herd Of Curlews, A Congregation Of Plovers And A Wisp Of Snipe (among others).

We had a college day out at Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve today.

It's a truly beautiful place with lots of reed beds bordering the sea and boasts SSSI status because of it's number of widgeon (although their population has dropped sharply at Titchfield in recent years. For some reason they are moving West, so places like Keyhaven further along the coast have picked up their numbers while Titchfield's have fallen).

We parked up on the seafront and as the tide was out were able to see water-birds the minute we left the minibus. Redshanks were in evidence, quietly wading through the calm shallow seas looking for food.....

 
There were Oyster Catchers too, but the pic didn't come out so well. We met up with Richard, who is the Ranger for the site, and he gave us some background on the Reserve and took us across the boardwalks to some of the hides. On the way we passed masses of golden reed beds which have small platforms set into them covered with gravel. These have been provided for Bearded Tits who require gravel to digest their food. One of the best times to see these shy creatures is first thing in the morning when they collect on the platforms and fill up with gravel for the day's digestion.


Titchfield has one of the UK's biggest populations of Bearded Tits with over 40 counted this autumn so far. I have wanted to see a Bearded Tit for yonks, but they are hard to spot and there was no joy on that score today, so the pic is pinched from t'internet...

 

We reached the first hide and settled down with binoculars and cameras. The place was stuffed full of wading birds. I've never seen so many varieties in one place before. It was a real treat for the senses.

There were quite a few firsts for me today. I've never seen an Avocet before. They have extremely precise requirements in terms of habitat (as does the Bearded Tit who needs extensive reed beds), needing shallow saline water and oozy mud with drier islands. Do you recognise it? The Avocet is the RSPB's emblem, and if you have a look at their website it will tell you that the Avocet's return to the UK in the 1940s and subsequent increase is numbers is a major YES! for conservation. The Avocet is the largely white bird in the foreground with a lapwing behind.


Another bird I'd never seen before is the Snipe. It too has precise habitat requirement, for floods and oozy, watery mud which allows it to insert its very long bill into the ground to reach worms. The drying up of our land (believe it or not after all those floods at the start of the year) means that Snipe have vanished from many of their former ranges.


Aren't they smashing? The old boy sitting next to me in the hide said he'd never seen so many Snipe together in one place before..... Incidentally, the collective noun for Snipe is a Wisp (lovely, no?).

A Wisp of Snipe

I took hundreds of photos, just in case I never see another one.....



I didn't think the day could get much better, until my buddy Dave spotted a Water Rail among the dense vegetation on the edge of the pool. Water Rails are generally acknowledged to be very difficult to see because of their habit of skulking in dense water-side vegetation. Again, this is a very habitat-precise bird and therefore it is not at all widely distributed (my bird book describes it as scarce), so I was thrilled to watch this one darting in and out of the reeds to see the Snipe off his patch. Unfortunately, they are buggers to photograph. This is the best I got despite many attempts.....


We moved on to another hide, the reed beds looking stunning in the sharp sunlight between the heavy showers....




Great Excitement was caused by the boys spotting a Marsh Harrier at the next stop. The bird disappeared into some trees before I could find it with my bins, but then seemed to reappear again, preening on a dead silver birch. We watched for a while until someone pointed out that it had an awful lot of white on it for a Marsh Harrier. It was too far away to be certain, but we think it might have been an Osprey, which is very exciting because I have never seen one of those before either :o)

From this hide we could see a Heron....


A row of Cormorants lined up on the fence posts in the distance (they get loads of them here).....


And five of my favourite water-birds, the Curlew.....


The next hide boasted lots and lots of Lapwings....





And (thanks to eagle-eyed Dave again) a couple of Golden Plover. They were some distance away so hopefully you'll be able to make them out beside the Lapwings (the Plovers are on the far right and there are two of them).....



Wandering back to the sea the skies were amazing....


Even Fawley Power Station in the distance looked reasonably striking in the light.....


The tide had come in by that point and the wind was blustery. I wasn't expecting to see much more beyond the family of swans who were eyeing us up, hopeful of being fed.....




But then I realised that there were lots of small mottled brown birds darting about on the remaining patch of gravel not covered by the cold grey waters....


I have a real Soft Spot for Turnstones.....





What a fantastic day! Titchfield NNR is a definite to put on your list of places to visit if you love birds. I shall certainly be going back there.

Hope you're all having a good week?

CT :o)

28 comments:

  1. It sounds like a cracking place to visit. So many great photographs! A wisp of Snipe, you learn something new everyday.

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    1. It was lovely. I shall definitely go back (have to see those Beardies...) x

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  2. Yes a great place to visit and you saw a tremendous selection of birdst. Love the close ups of the juv. and adult Swan, all the waders adn the lovely Grey heron and its reflection

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    1. Thanks Margaret, it was a thoroughly enjoyable visit :o)

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  3. Thank you for all the pictures of the birds. You are very patient obviously. I'm a member of the RSPB have been for quite a few years now. I must use my free pass more and seek out Snipe, they are tremendous.

    Jean
    x

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  4. You forgot to mention the Grain of Sanderling!

    Some great pictures there, shame about the Beardies; one perched on those Bullrushes would have been amazing.

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    1. I didn't get any pics of Sanderling, but a Grain is a great noun for them :o)
      We'll have to go back and keep watch for the Beardies another time...

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  5. Wonderful photos, I love the cormorants all lined up, and the lapwings.

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  6. Marvellous. I wish we'd had more time to spend in the hides when we were at Slimbridge last week. I have a soft spot for Turnstones too. They must be extremely adaptable birds. I first encountered them in the tropics.

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    1. I'd like to visit Slimbridge. Amazing about the Turnstones in the tropics. I shall have to go and look it up now... :o)

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  7. I love the Swans, they really are majestic even if a little bad tempered but who am I to complain of a bad temper ;)

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    1. Swans are beautiful and graceful and these were very friendly :o)

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  8. What a wonderful day out and great photos. Well done on the new "ticks". Shame about the Bearded Tits - I've never seen any either - very much on my "wanted list"!!!

    re: association between dates when frogspawn laid and temperature. Yes I did get an apparent correlation (used Spearman Rank Correlation co-efficient statistical method) - null hypothesis was rejected at 95% confidence level. The correlation needed to be viewed with caution though as other weather factors would need investigating e.g. hours of sunshine, amount of precipitation, humidity, frost free days. Also investigations needed into presence of algae as other research had indicated this could be a factor. Good Luck with yours - you probably already know this but keep a record of references as you go along - we had to reference absolutely everything and if you leave it to the end you can spend hours searching to find where you got just one bit of info from. Looking at it again I can't believe I wrote it - wouldn't have a clue now on how to produce scattergrams!!! But it really is great fun so enjoy :)

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    1. Fascinating about the frogs- nice when a correlation does appear! Yes, I am writing everything down with dates and times in a book so I forget none of it. Hoping to get the weather station up and functioning this weekend. It's been a very busy week here! x

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  9. What a fab day! I've never event heard of Titchfield but I shall remember it if I'm ever in the area. I've never seen so many snipe in one place either!

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    1. It is well worth a visit if you are ever down this neck of the woods. I'm now keen to go to Avalon Marshes- apparently they've got huge Starling murmurations at the mo and tonnes of wading birds too :o)

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  10. What fabulous pictures! I love the Snipe and how long their beaks are compared to their bodies, the collective name is wonderful as well isn't it. xx

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    1. I'm rather fond of Snipe now- something very endearing about them xx

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  11. A fantastic day indeed. Very envious! As you know, I'm constantly disturbing lone Snipe out on the moor but have never got a decent picture. So lovely to see them like that.Hope you've had a good week and enjoy the weather this weekend - it's actually sunny here today! xxx

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    1. Funnily enough, the first thing I thought when Dave pointed out the Golden Plover was your wonderful photos of them in flight above the moor. Good week here, busy busy as usual. Hope you're all well. Enjoy the sun! x

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  12. A great post full of my favourite things...birds. My weather station is all packed up, but hope you get yours assembled this weekend. I loved having mine.

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  13. Great place, great post!
    Makes me wonder how these "collective" nouns are created. Did everyone sit down and decide on them at some distant point in the past, or did they somehow just happen?
    I particularly like your lapwings (one of my favourite birds and far too rare here) - and the power station looks like a silvery alien city!
    Sadly I'm not likely to be in your neck of the woods anytime soon.
    All the best :)

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    1. It's the same with moth names, some are sooo inventive they make you smile just seeing them :o) Hope all's well x

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x