Trip reports

Calshot and Ashlett Creek

Calshot and Ashlett Creek
Tony Bates

Saturday, 29 September 2018

On a bright, still Saturday morning, and despite the closure of the M27, sixteen people assembled by the Bluebird Café at Calshot. Even better, everyone noticed the later start time of the walk as it was scheduled for 11.00 am rather than our usual 10.00 am. There were wood pigeons and starlings around our assembly area, a line of four cormorants flew westwards along The Solent and several black-headed gulls were sitting along the beach. Heading eastwards, we crossed a wooden bridge into the field between the beach huts and the scrub, where there were a few carrion crows but little else.

In Calshot lagoon, a lot of mud was exposed as we were on a low, but rising, tide. Groups of redshank were dotted around the area, a group of about ten little egret were perched on a grassy mound and, in the distance, there were large numbers of oystercatchers, a few black-tailed godwits and some dunlins. Several common gulls were present amongst the black-headed ones. Behind us a wren was flitting between bushes. A male stonechat was perched on a wooden post on the saltmarsh while a couple of female/juvenile stonechats were active closer to the high-tide line and in bushes to the left of the path. A large group of long-tailed tits moved back and forth between some low trees.

Further on, more redshanks were located on the saltmarsh and the first sightings of what turned out to be a large number of curlews. Out on Southampton Water were herring gulls and great-crested grebe, while tall posts were occupied by cormorants and great black-backed gulls. In an inlet near the power-station, there was an adult shelduck, possibly recently returned from the moulting grounds in the Netherlands. Two ringed plover were actively feeding along the shoreline. Small birds were in short supply with sightings of meadow pipit, chiffchaff, robin and blackbird. There was an unconfirmed sighting of a black redstart, but many felt it was too early in the year for them to have arrived. The only raptor was a distant kestrel as the resident peregrines did not put in an appearance.

Few birds were seen in the woods towards Ashlett Creek, where we took a break at the Jolly Sailor for refreshments. Mute swan, black-headed gull and redshank were on and around the pond by the old tide mill and a magpie was spotted. But the highlight for those who were on the seats by the moorings was a goshawk circling high over the sea. They also spotted some distant buzzards. Those of us tucking into beer and chips missed these!

Blue and great tit were seen in the woods on the return leg and on emerging from the trees by the old power station, we found a group of around 20 wigeon in the creeks. Shortly afterwards, a group of around 10 Brent geese was seen on Southampton Water. For most of us, this was the first sighting of these species this autumn. There was a lot of activity on the lagoon, now full of water, as groups from the Activity Centre were kayaking, paddle-boarding and wind-surfing. Not so good for birding, but some high-tide roosts of redshanks were seen.

No new species were seen on the walk by the beach huts, back to the parking area, but there was a very close view of a common gull showing the streaked head of its winter plumage.

Species list: mute swan, Brent goose, shelduck, wigeon, cormorant, little egret, grey heron, great crested grebe, goshawk, buzzard, kestrel, oystercatcher, ringed plover, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, redshank, black-headed gull, herring gull, great black-backed gull, common gull, wood pigeon, magpie, carrion crow, blue tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, chiffchaff, wren, starling, blackbird, robin, stonechat, meadow pipit