A relative lull in the weather between storms Ciara and Dennis encouraged me to visit the New Forest coast this morning, although the bright sunshine had limited impact on the biting westerly breeze! A brief look at the sea off Hurst Beach produced Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and a flock of five Eiders all beating west into the wind, but no sign of any storm-driven seabirds.
Moving on to Keyhaven Reedbed, I was able to secure a long-range shot (below) of the long-staying Great Bustard in fields adjacent to Vidle Van Farm. These big ungainly birds are the heaviest flying birds in the world - they became extinct in the UK in the 1830s, and this individual (present in the area since early December at least) is part of a reintroduction scheme on Salisbury Plain. Other birds from this scheme have evidently also dispersed across the region for the winter months, as there is currently one on Toyd Down, a few kilometres northwest of the New Forest, and one was seen across The Solent on the Isle of Wight in the early winter. A recent BBC News update on the reintroduction is here:
A circuit around Keyhaven Marshes produced Spoonbill, Water Pipit, Water Rail, Greenshank, two Peregrines, two Cetti’s Warblers, three Marsh Harriers and five Ruff. The Water Pipit was feeding along the margins of the flooded Fishtail Lagoon, allowing me to secure a record shot (below). These flighty birds, which are scarce winter migrants from mountainous regions of Europe, are usually hard to see on the ground at this site in winter. The clean white underparts with fine streaking, brownish upperparts, prominent supercilium and wingbars, pale-based bill, dark brown legs, and white outer tail feathers are all visible in the photo, and together with the call (a high-pitched “weest”) help to separate it from Rock and Meadow Pipits. A BTO video guide on Water Pipit identification can be found here:
As well as the scarcer species described above, the abundant common wildfowl and waders were looking smart in the bright sunshine, including this pair of snoozing Wigeon.
Finally, on the way home a Red Kite was seen drifting low over houses at Netley Marsh, just outside the New Forest boundary, before being escorted away to the northwest by Carrion Crows. This species is being seen with increasing regularity over the lower Test Valley and adjacent farmland, and it is surely only a matter of time before we see the first breeding attempt of the modern era within the National Park – maybe this year?