Keyhaven – March 21st 2024

15 members arrived at one of our favourite coastal locations anticipating a pleasant day’s birding in the forecast conditions of a mild sunny day after early mist. The forecast was correct for Salisbury, but not alas here! For mist, read fog until a cold and persistent wind arrived mid morning to give us a view of the Solent, but left us wishing we were more warmly dressed.

However, the conditions did not impact the birds. Cetti’s Warblers were in full song in the scrub abutting Avon Water, as was an out of habitat Coal Tit, possibly a freshly arrived migrant. The first brackish pools held a couple of Redshanks, an elegant, calling Greenshank and a “hide and seek” Snipe. We spent quite some time here, adding a very smart male Marsh Harrier, spotted by Chris, two passing Sand Martins, the first of the year for most and an enthusiastic Chiffchaff. All the while Brent Geese were feeding on the seaward side of the footpath along with several “singing” Curlews. Approaching Keyhaven Lagoon the gorse scrub held Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats before Janette spied a Wheatear perched on a taller gorse.This bird flew before being seen by everyone, but fortunately, it had joined another scurrying about on an open grassy area just a little further east. Male Wheatears in spring plumage are a splendid sight.

Keyhaven Lagoon was almost overflowing with water. Although wildfowl numbers were unsurprisingly low this late in the season, the usual suspects were still in situ, including a pair of Pintail, several pairs of Shoveler, a dozen or so grazing Wigeon, some Teal and Shelduck, this latter the most numerous duck. Behind us four “redhead” Red-Breasted Mergansers were hauled out and preening. Waders included two Avocet in the lagoon and two Grey Plovers and a few Oystercatchers on the saltmarsh. Les, who was back up on the seawall, informed us that if we looked back towards Hurst Castle we would see two Spoonbills at the edge of the saltmarsh. We duly complied!

Next stop was Fishtail Lagoon, where Suzanne found another of our hoped for species – a very handsome newly arrived drake Garganey. Even better, this normally secretive duck was swimming out in the open water. For two of those present this was a “lifer”! What’s more, at the eastern end of Fishtail, a drake Scaup was with several Tufted Ducks. All were actively diving, so patience was required to appreciate this slightly stockier duck with the grey back. Another bonus was provided by two Ruffs, one of which stood in full view. Lunch was taken around Butts Lagoon and Chris announced that we had already recorded 55 species.

Three Bar-Tailed Godwits had joined Turnstones and Ringed Plovers on the low tide flats and out in the Solent was a flotilla of Eider, dominated by stunning adult drakes. A few extra passerines were added on our return walk along the Ancient Highway and our final bird was a singing Starling in the car park. 

Bird List – Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Garganey, Scaup, Tufted Duck, Eider, Red-Breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Turnstone, Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Ruff, Black-Headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Sand Martin, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Wheatear, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Magpie, Jay, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting.  (71)

Steve Oakes

Drake Garganey