Field meeting report : 23rd October 2020 - Calshot

On a bright but showery morning Geoff and Richard Smith “gathered” for the programmed field meeting at Calshot, albeit a day late and an earlier start for convenience. 

Fortunately, the torrential rain held off until we were heading back to the cars but one of the earlier showers provided the most spectacular sighting of the day – a double rainbow over the Fawley power station chimney. This was a real juxtaposition of nature and industry and although Richard's photo is brilliant, you had to be there to fully appreciate it!

Collared doves accompanied our walk from the village down the field to the reed beds where the sunlight briefly caught the arrow like flight of a Kingfisher. However, our patience was not rewarded with a reappearance so we moved on. 

Across the heath towards the saltmarsh, numerous fungi were evident which certainly  highlighted our lack of expertise in mycology even with a handbook at the ready! 

Common Puffball © RS

Common Toadflax © RS

A violet fungus could have been either Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystina or possibly Lilac Bonnet Mycena pura but we are reasonably confident with Common Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum and we found large numbers of a variety of Milkcap Lactarius but were unable to pin down which variety. This is where we really missed the wisdom of a full Lymnats contingent!

There was a fine display of Common Toadflax in flower and a dog rose laden with hips as we headed on towards the Calshot Marshes reserve. Here it was low tide so many of the waders were well out at the waters edge. There were several Curlew, Redshank, and Black Tailed Godwits and an abundance of Oystercatchers. Several Little Egrets were busy among the grasses and offshore there was a large raft of Widgeon and the usual Cormorant on a post with wings outstretched. A couple of Stonechats were darting about on the shingle bank demonstrating how effectively they are camouflaged as they “disappeared” when still.

Sea Kale © Geoff Nuckley
© Geoff Nuckley

Crossing to the Solent shore side of the beach huts, the blustery winds had brought out a lot of kite surfers so with bird life rather lacking owing to all the activity, we turned our attention to plants of the shingle and identified Sea Kale, Valerian and Yellow Horned Poppy before the downpour struck and we retired to dry off. 

Pondhead Inclosure Conservation Talk

Following our last talk, which took us to the beautiful countryside of Shropshire, we are returning closer to home for our next Zoom meeting, which promises to be full of local interest.  Derek Tippet will be talking about the work of the Pondhead Conservation Trust to restore and manage woodland in the Pondhead Inclosure near to Lyndhurst, including charcoal production.  Invitations have been sent out to members for the talk which is at 7.15 pm on 27th October.  

Details of how you can join the society to access our wonderful, varied range of talks can be found on our membership page.

Wilson's Phalarope

The big excitement this month has been the Wilson’s phalarope on Keyhaven Marsh, a very obliging bird showing well for all and sundry. This is a bird of the Western USA in Summer and Argentina in Winter. This puzzled me, so I started to search the literature to see how this bird could end up here!

Wilson’s Phalarope
© Chris Robinson

Unlike its relatives the Grey (Red) and Red-necked phalaropes it is not a bird of the ocean. It nests around lakes and lacks the highly developed salt-gland of the other two species. However, it is a bird prone to ‘reverse migration’ (genetically programmed dispersal) and has been found in Australia and southern Africa. One was found dead on Alexander Island in Antarctica, making it the most southerly wader in the world. There is also a move into eastern Canada where most of the European vagrants seem to originate from. It first turned up in the UK in 1954 and has been a regular, if scarce, visitor ever since. This one appears to be the seventh recorded in Hampshire.  The bird at Keyhaven is not a juvenile, it is an adult bird, suggesting that it got across the Atlantic a year or two ago and is now commuting North and South between West Africa and Scandinavia. This has been documented with other waders, so why not?  But why here, on a pocket-handkerchief of a marsh?  Well I think the answer lies in the other local migrants.

Grey Phalarope
© Chris Robinson

The Grey phalarope is known to have favourite stop-offs on its migration routes. This is the third year that I have seen them at Keyhaven so it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that these birds have been here before and could well return next year. The Wilson’s getting here is probably down to it being with the Greys.

Also, you may not have noticed that a Bar-tailed godwit has just broken the record for the longest non-stop migration ever recorded. It left south-west Alaska on the 16th September and arrived in New Zealand 11 days later! 7,500 miles, having flown at speeds up to 55mph. The bird in question is known as 4BBRW (the colour coding of its rings) and carried a 5mg satellite tag harnessed to its lower back. Amazing.


Walk Report : 4th October 2020 Maiden Lane

 Brian was accompanied by cameraman Richard Smith on what would have been the first Sunday bird walk of the winter programme (08.30 - 10.45). The early start was because of the state of the tide (LW 06.18, HW 12.46) although there was not a big tidal range. On a squally, showery morning there was still plenty of interest around 8 Acre Pond and Normandy Lagoon.

There was an opportunity to see the various feeding strategies of different species:
Ringed Plover, a little scuttler with a short stubby bill and energetic pecking action, running along as if powered by clockwork and then standing still. 
Dunlin, a dumpy little bird feeding busily with a rapid "sewing machine" action using a longish bill, slightly decurved.
Oystercatcher using its powerful bill to probe for large marine worms and molluscs and to prise shellfish from rocks and seaweed.
Black-tailed Godwit, a long-legged, long-billed wader standing with its body well forward, bill probing almost at its toes, often in water up to its belly.
Turnstone, a stocky, short-legged, stubby-billed wader doing exactly what it says on the tin.
Greenshank, another long-legged, long-billed wader, probing and then running head-down after small fish

Little Egret, spending much of its time standing still, wading in shallows looking for prey and then dashing about in a frenzied fashion.
Redshank (long, thin and straight) and Curlew (long, decurved) probing with their different length bills, the latter also wading in to deep water.

Other sightings included 2 Kingfishers (at rest and in flight), a soggy and sullen Grey Heron, an imperious Great Black-backed Gull commanding one of the islands in Normandy Lagoon, Little Grebe, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Stonechat, and Starling. The explosive call of Cetti's Warbler.

Grey Plover

In the departure lounge: Swallow, Wheatear.
Arrivals: Wigeon coming from their Arctic nesting grounds, staying until March.
Throughout the walk conditions deteriorated for us spectacle wearers!



Walk report 1st October 2020 Millyford Bridge

The car park lies part way along the road from Emery Down to Bolderwood and was the site of intensive timber operations during the First World War. A sawmill was operated by men from Canada and Portugal to provide timber for the war effort and a narrow gauge railway operated to transport it away. All that remains today are some concrete blocks and the fireplace of a long gone building, known now as The Portuguese Fireplace. 

   Mistle Thrush
We walked around the forest edge of this area with inquisitive ponies looking for an easy meal from passers by and found Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Chaffinch in the trees, a single Speckled Wood butterfly, a Mistle Thrush picking its way over the grass and heard the croaking of distant Ravens. 
Holidays Hill Inclosure

On entering the Holidays Hill Inclosure we quickly turned off the cycle track along a path to the right into dense woodland where we came across a variety of fungi including Grey Spotted Amanita, Split Fibrecap, Southern Bracket, False Deathcap, Common Puffball and a Robin at every turn! 

Grey Spotted Amanita
Split Fibrecap

We made our way through the wood, mostly with conifer on one side and deciduous on the other, skirting the edge of Wooson’s Hill Inclosure and made our way round the south side coming across a tiny clump of yolk yellow fungal fingers called Golden Spindle. More clumps of fungi on rotting stumps, Sulphur Tuft and Sheathed Woodtuft, and soon we found the first of the King’s Trees that we were looking for.

King’s Trees Mark

These trees are marked with a slashed arrow to indicate that they were now earmarked for use in ship building for the King’s fleet in the 17th century and must not be cut down or pollarded by anyone else. We also found what we think are Witches Marks, made during a similar time to ward off evil spirits. Continuing around the Inclosure to Wooson’s Hill we found several more imposing King’s Trees, all Beech, among the Bracken and Bilberry. 

Crossing the road, we took the path into Holmhill Inclosure where we found lovely specimens of Cauliflower Fungus and Golden Scalycap

Cauliflower Fungus
Golden Scalycap

Roe deer

and then a single Roe deer very close by among the trees, seemingly totally unconcerned about our presence. It even decided to settle down on the carpet of autumn leaves before we went on our way. 

A couple of Chiffchaff flitted in the sunshine among the Silver Birch as we passed on our way back to the car park. The walk which should have taken about two and a half hours to complete took three and a half on this occasion! In true Lymnats spirit, why rush when there’s so much to see?