What's out there now - March 2020 Part 1

With all LymNats walks cancelled until further notice as a result of the dreaded virus and government advice these short notes are intended show what is about and what members are seeing as Spring unfolds.

Adders, Pennington Marsh © Richard Smith
During the last spell of sunshine Brimstone butterflies were on the wing locally and elsewhere in Hampshire people have been seeing the first Wheatears and Sand Martins. Richard Smith has seen Adders down on Pennington Marsh

Two nights ago a Fox was caught on camera at Pennington and this morning a Chiffchaff was feeding in blossom of a flowering cherry.

Chris Robinson was along the seawall from Keyhaven recently and had good views of Spoonbill and Ruff as well as a singing Song Thrush.

Spoonbill landing © Chris Robinson

A male Ruff © Chris Robinson

Song Thrush in full song © Chris Robinson

It won't be long before our wintering Brent Geese leave for their northern breeding grounds and yesterday Richard Coomber found a number of last year's youngsters in the flock grazing in the fields at Cut Bridge. Amongst the spring flowers Early Scurvygrass and Alexanders were conspicuous on the sea wall.

Brent Geese near Cut Bridge © Richard Coomber

Early Scurvygrass © Richard Coomber
Alexanders © Richard Coomber

Have you seen anything you would like to share on these postings? Hopefully we will publish more over the coming weeks. Keep well!

RC 19 March 2020

Walk report: 05 Marsh 2020 Acres Down, Water Levels Up

Richard Smith wrote on 05 March: This morning at 09:10, the Mill Stream below Acres Down was running fast and deep enough that I didn’t think it wise to try and get through - it was well over wellington boot depth when I waded out and I have seen it rise rapidly, to a point where you can be stuck on the other side! So I decided to cancel the walk and we hope to reschedule it sometime in the future.

Forthcoming talks and our AGM 10 & 24 March 2020

Dear All,

I am writing to advise you that following the increasing reports of the spread of the coronavirus your Committee has reluctantly decided to end the winter talks early. We have cancelled the two remaining indoor meetings – this coming Tuesday, 10th March, and on 24th March. The AGM will be pushed back into the Autumn programme.

Have we overreacted? Who knows? Only time will tell and hindsight will be the judge. Taking the welfare of our members into consideration I think we will have done the right thing in the long run. I hope that you will agree that this is a wise and sensible course of action.

Certainly our regular field meetings will go ahead as planned throughout the Spring and Summer and I hope you will enjoy as many as possible, although it is recommended that participants bring their own biscuits and don’t share the use of optics such as telescopes.

Hopefully by the time our next programme of talks begins on 22nd September, with Mike Read’s excellent presentation “Hampshire – Nature in Trust”, this difficult situation will be over.

Keep well and best wishes


Walk report: 01 March 2020 Keyhaven Bird Walk

On a bright, dry morning, 17 of us set off from Keyhaven to walk round the sea wall, down to Pennington Marsh and back down the Ancient Highway.

Brent Goose © Richard Coomber
Straight away there was a male Red-breasted Merganser in Keyhaven harbour, quite close in and showing well. A good start. There were two Marsh Harriers over the Avon Water reed beds.

As we walked along the sea wall we could see the results of the succession of storms have had on the shore line. Shingle and seaweed had bee carried over onto the marsh side exposing the concrete footings of the sea defences. I, for one, have never seen this before.

Hovering Kestrel © Chris Robinson
Brent Geese were still about on the water, though probably not for too much longer, along with one Great-crested Grebe and a few Shelduck. On the marsh side there were Stonechats, a Linnet and a pair of Kestrels. The female was perched in a tree but the male was hunting over the grass.

Keyhaven Lagoon had its usual ducks (Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler and Mallard) along with Curlew, Little Egret and Grey Heron. On the saltmarsh there were more Curlew along with Redshanks and Oystercatchers.

Fishtail was more of the same, with numbers of Brent Geese increasing all the time as they flew in. Coots, Moorhen and one Little Grebe were also present. The three local Barnacle Geese were amongst the Canadas. We got distant views of a Spoonbill flying east, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine. On Butts Lagoon there was a host of Gadwall, RC counted around 100 overall including those on Jetty Lagoon and Shoveler Pools.
The oldest Little Egret  © Richard Coomber

We stopped for our biscuit break at the ‘Jetty’ where the turnstones were turning what seaweed and stones were still there. A Rock Pipit was around along with Reed Buntings. Nowadays one tends to take Little Egrets for granted, but the one in the ditch near the Jetty was rather special for it was the oldest known on its kind on the BTO database. It had been ringed as a chick by Graham Giddens in 2006 and can be identified by the colour rings – left leg – orange and the letter J, right leg yellow and N.

Light-bellied Brent Goose © Richard Coomber
We walked down towards the Lower Pennington Lane car park. On Pennington Marsh there were Golden Plovers galore, ditto Lapwings and three or four Ruff. A passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls was a quite unusual sight, but at this time of the year they should be returning from wintering in foreign parts. The local Starling were giving a mini-murmuration!

With the Brent Geese flock in the field north of the car park was an immature Light-bellied Brent Goose, the race that breeds in Greenland or Arctic Canada. On the way back along the Ancient Highway there were Goldfinches, a singing Great Tit and, by the Lower Balancing pond, a singing Cetti’s Warbler.

And it didn’t rain! CR

Forthcoming walks 01 and 05 March 2020

We have two walks this week.

On Sunday 01 March Chris Robinson will lead the last of our winter Sunday bird walks starting from Keyhaven (SZ308916) at 10:00

On Thursday 05 March Richard Smith will lead a bird walk to Acres Down (SU267097) also setting off at 10:00

Walk report: Blackwater20 Feruary 2020

Fifty mile an hour winds and heavy rain were forecast but six members turned up at Rhinefield for a spot of ‘shinrin yoku’ or forest bathing, the Japanese idea that a walk among trees can be a relaxing and de-stressing spiritual experience. Of course we all know this anyway or we wouldn’t be LymNats.
Blackwater area
© Richard Coomber

We went to look at the wetland restoration work that has been done at Fletchers Water. Under a scheme using money from Europe, Natural England, the Forestry Commission and other interested bodies, meanders have been reinstated to restore the stream to how it would have been before 19th century commoners straightened it to improve drainage and grazing. The idea is also to hold back rainwater from flooding downstream. The work done is impressive and it all looks very natural.

Examining one of the Giant Sequoias
© Chris Robinson
We looked at an area where a dense patch of Western Hemlock had been removed to create an open grazing area for the deer. The hemlock is a prolific self-seeder and something of a weed. No deer to be seen but a flock of Redwing were spotted.

We learned how to tell the difference between several conifers; Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce and Scots and Corsican Pines. Hemlock and Douglas Fir have very distinctive and strong scents. All these conifers were planted by the Forestry Commission to test as timber trees in the days when the Forest was considered as a timber factory. Nowadays the policy is to increase the number of deciduous trees and the amenity value of the Forest.

Coastal Redwood bark
© Richard Coomber

Giant Sequoia © Richard Coomber
These trees were planted around the 1850s but are still young, as they can live for up to 1,000 years or more. Their soft fibrous bark acts as protection from fire and insects and is irresistibly tactile.  AM