|Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Carrion Crow|
Rather than retrace the route taken on the previous field meeting Brian + 5 (including 1 guest) set off west from Keyhaven towards the bird hide at Sturt Pond. On an overcast morning after overnight rain virtually the first sighting was of a female Marsh Harrier at rest, occasionally provoked into a short, languid flight by the harassment of a Carrion Crow. On a bar in the harbour a Great Black-backed Gull was making a meal of a sizeable unidentified fish in the company of 2 Bar-tailed Godwits. Low water meant much frantic feeding of Dunlin accompanied by Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone and Grey Plover with various waterfowl in the channels. The outward leg produced Kingfisher, Raven, Reed Bunting, Common Buzzard, Greenshank, Ringed Plover and a female Kestrel. 3 Spoonbills were seen flying east before dropping into one of the channels. In the fields were Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Rooks and Oystercatchers.
Sturt Pond Nature Reserve is a SSSI. The bird hide was erected in 2009 and offers fine views over various habitats including saltmarsh, tidal pond, reed bed, bird scrape and grazing field. From the hide an indeterminate number of Common Snipe (20+?) were seen on the saltmarsh, their magnificent cryptic camouflage and skulking behaviour making a precise count impossible. There were also various gulls, including Common Gull, and we also watched Lapwing, Cormorant and Moorhen.
On the return journey a Rock Pipit showed well along Salt Grass Lane and the 3 Spoonbills reprised their earlier appearance with a short flight. Both Marsh Harrier and Spoonbill have now become almost regular sightings on the Keyhaven bird walks which invariably produce a minimum of 45 species. Several flowering plants were also noted: Shepherd’s-purse, Common Gorse, Red Dead Nettle, Winter Heliotrope and Annual Meadow-grass.