Walk report: 07 October 2018 Keyhaven Sunday Bird Walk

Speckled Wood
A worn male Common Blue

After yesterday’s rain, a fine morning greeted the first of this season’s bird walks that take place on the first Sunday in the month. With Richard leading we met by the sluice at Keyhaven and walked along the Ancient Highway to the Balancing Pond, where wintering wildfowl such as Pintail, Teal and Wigeon were beginning to gather. As we continued towards the end of Lower Pennington Lane several butterflies were also enjoying the warm sunshine along the sheltered lane with Speckled Wood, Common Blue and Small Copper giving us good views. Later a number of Red Admirals and a Small White or two were noted as well. Late flowering Honeysuckle attracted the blue as nearby wasps and bees were drawn to feed on clusters of Ivy flowers.

A Marsh Harrier flew east and amongst the Canada Geese grazing around Efford Lake were three Barnacle Geese, perhaps descendants of birds that probably escaped from a collection somewhere. Out over the marsh a Kestrel hovered as a small party of Swallows hawked insects before drifting away westwards.

Turnstones fed hungrily in the seaweed washed up by the high tide on the beach by the jetty. Way beyond them hundreds of yachts and dinghies dotted the blue waters of the Solent. We turned westwards to follow the seawall back to Keyhaven, giving us the chance to scan the salt marshes on the seaward side and the series of lagoons landward.

Water Rail
One of the highlights was a large female Peregrine perched on a block of concrete out on the saltings. The telescopes provided good views, not only of the Peregrine, but of a lone drake Eider on a shingle spit and for some a distant Brent Goose on the sea further out. There were few shorebirds around the lagoons themselves and we had good views of Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank and Ringed Plover. However they paled to insignificance as we watched a Water Rail feeding out in the open at the western end of Fishtail Lagoon – sustained views and a rare privilege to see this normally secretive bird so well. 

The last lagoon was Keyhaven Lagoon where a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits were roosting out in the water; three Shelduck rested on the shore, whilst on the other side of the sea wall a flock of Grey Plover roosted out on the saltings. With our change of position we could see the male Peregrine as well as the female and no doubt they were watching the plover as well! The final section back to Keyhaven was uneventful for most of us, but for a lucky two or three members of the party a fly-by Clouded Yellow was the final excitement and the walk’s sixth butterfly species – not bad for early October.

Photos: copyright Richard Coomber