Trip reports

Pennington and Keyhaven in the sunshine

Pennington and Keyhaven in the sunshine
Neil Bew

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A beautiful September Sunday saw a small but select group join me to explore the lagoons, marsh and intertidal mudflats of Pennington and Keyhaven, nestled just south of the wonderful New Forest and with the downs of the Isle of Wight as the backdrop.

Having parked at the rather bijou (small and crowded) car park pretty much between the two parts of the reserve(s), we spent the morning exploring the Keyhaven side including the delightfully named Fishtail Lagoon. This area of rather shallow water gave us our first greenshank of the day, three of them to be precise with two following each other closely in a slightly odd looking feeding pattern, almost sifting through the water as a shoveler would. This end of the lagoon was otherwise dominated by Canada geese but walking up onto the sea wall that protects the marsh and peering over the top, gave us a number of close turnstone and dunlin, very close in fact and seemingly oblivious to the birders, dog walkers cyclists and children, all noisily occupying the sea wall path. The chance to look at these waders close up is always a great thing and brings home just how beautiful these small waders really are, even in winter (some partially so) plumage; a subtle mix of browns, blacks, grey's with a range of pale buffs and whites in streaks and scallops and diamonds. These were joined by ringed plover and the much more wary redshank, not much in the way of close up views of those at this stage.

Black tailed godwits are another regular feature, all now solidly in winter dress and wading through some deeper water and creating pretty circles in the water as they went. As ever, little egrets were common across both marshes, comfortably outnumbering the grey heron population.

Having enjoyed the slow walk along the sea wall, it was back to the car park via the more direct public footpath, sometimes accompanied by swallows and the odd house martin, stocking up on the local insect life before the long journey to Africa.

Lunch was enlivened by watching various visitors attempt tight parking manoeuvres in the bijou parking space before heading back towards the tidal area, but heading east along Pennington Marsh, passing a rare sight indeed these days, a lone corn burning occupying the hedge along the first part of the afternoon walk. Other passerines were represented by meadow pipit, linnet and goldfinch amongst others. Star passerine for the day was probably wheatear, we had seen one in the morning and found another three towards the end of the walk, perched expertly on barbed wire and like the swallows, getting ready for the long journey south.

The tide was on the rise and that was beginning to thin out the birdlife a little. More close waders were nonetheless still with us, joined at more of a distance by small numbers of grey plover, some with summer plumage still partially visible, oystercatchers and curlew. Looking much further out, on a long spit heading in the general direction of the Isle of Wight, half a dozen eider were hauled out just a little way from the local cormorants. Wildfowl were not a massive feature today but we also had some young shelduck, two low flying teal and the odd mallard.

In all, we had enjoyed a lot of late summer sunshine, in a beautiful location and with some excellent and often close birdlife, a nice start to the 2016/17 outdoor season.

Moving further round, we added a lone bar tailed godwit to the day's wader tally.
Neil Bew
Photo of dunlin by Neil Bew