For the first time in many years I did not work on New Year’s Day, so today was my first foray out to the reserves this year. It did wonders for my yearlist, not that I actually ever manage to keep one until the end of the year. Still it was good to see the red-breasted goose was still gracing the brent goose flock in North Marsh and attracting a steady stream of admirers. Near the Building there were bearded tits in the reeds and a singing Cetti’s warbler, just one of at least five I heard around the reserve today. Less expected was a Dartford warbler just east of the Building, typically it was associating with a pair of stonechat that were working their way along the fence to West Mudlands, beside the track.
I headed north of the A27 to see if there had been any damage to trees in the high winds over the Christmas break, as far as I could see there had not been, although I did not go to the very far end of the reserve. This area gave me a few new birds for the year including great spotted woodpecker, stock dove, which don’t seem to be as regular as they used to be here and a green sandpiper.
Walking around the wall I saw the usual good variety of waders, although I never found a ringed plover and forgot to check on the wall by the Eastern Road bridge as I left, a place that has them almost without fail around high tide. I did see at least 16 avocet and all the usual suspects including a good few knot, which seem to be present in fair numbers this winter. As the tide was rising I looked into the Harbour and was able to see a party of black-necked grebe in the far distance over towards Hayling Island, although no sign of the reported Slavonian grebe. I did spot a duck diving way off in Chalkdock Lake, it was a “Tufted type” but long in the body and not quite right, scaup crossed my mind but there was no way I could be sure at that range. Later, from the Point I saw a first winter scaup floating up Russell’s Lake on the tide, perhaps the same bird. It did not appear to have any white around the base of the bill and I was inclined to think it was a very brown looking first winter drake, I later heard there was a first winter duck reported at the Oysterbeds today, so who knows. Perhaps every bit as unexpected was the sight of 2 eider duck diving south of the Point, although more common in Hampshire now than in the past they are still an uncommon bird in the Harbour.
I was quite pleased to see that the top of the seawall near the Lake has firmed up quite well after the cutting up it got from the Environment Agency’s machinery, sadly the same cannot be said for the track leading there from the main entrance, which is very muddy in places meaning there is no firm way up to the seawall path. Clearly there is work to be done, it now comes down to who is going to have to pay for it.
I stopped for lunch and then headed off to Swanwick the wet clay soils, many tall trees and high winds had surely resulted in some fallers, or so I expected, but again things seemed ok. I did not see a lot of wildlife, although four pairs of gadwall was one more than I usually see. The paths, except where surfaced are in a poor state though. clay, water and lots of feet do not make for a good surface.
I ended the day with 87 species on my “yearlist”, very oddly I have seen scaup but not their much, much commoner cousins, tufted duck and pochard!