Hayling Island 16 December 2023

Nine members met at the Ship Inn car park under overcast skies.  The tide was out and the harbour mud was fully exposed.  Lots of waders (Dunlin, Redshank, Grey Plover, Curlew, Greenshank, Lapwing and Oystercatcher) and several small gaggles of Brent Geese were taking full advantage.  Along the water’s edge, there were plenty of Shelduck, Teal and a few Wigeon.  Further out, there were Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye.  The Mill Pond held its usual selection of ducks and waterfowl (plus large numbers of Coots & Moorhens).  The field at the end was flooded, and a few minutes were spent enjoying close-up views of a Green Woodpecker and of a displaying male Teal.

At the oyster-beds the incoming tide meant that hundreds of Dunlin, Grey Plovers and Oystercatchers were already jostling for space on the remaining dry land-spits.  At the first lagoon, a real treat was provided by excellent views of a Long-tailed Duck – quite a little poser!  The usual Little Grebes and Mergansers were slightly put in the shade by this star sighting.  Several Rock Pipits generously posed for photos, but the real show-stealer was a Great Northern Diver out on the open water. While lunch was eaten in a spot sheltered from the cool breeze a Marsh Harrier flew over, causing mass panic among the vast flocks of roosting birds, which were now realised to contained a solitary Avocet and a few Turnstones.  By now, a light drizzle was causing problems and a halt was called.  The tally for the walk was 47 avian species plus one Common Seal.

Hayling Island Oysterbeds 4 February 2023

Sixteen members assembled at the Ship Inn in sunny, still conditions for initial birding around the sea wall and at the heronry near the Mill. In the harbour were many waterfowl but limited numbers of waders mainly Black-tailed Godwits. Some Grey Herons and Little Egrets lounged behind the millpond while female Kingfisher preened and a Grey Wagtail consorted with a dozen feeding Moorhens.

Thanks to a misunderstanding about the meeting location a second party of six went directly to the Oysterbeds car park followed later by the larger group. There a Rock Pipit required the immediate attention of camera lenses. Many Brent Geese, Red-breasted Mergansers, Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers and Dunlin were in evidence; the swirling flocks of Dunlin were particularly impressive, changing from dark to light as they reversed direction of travel. Viewed also in smaller numbers were Curlews, Turnstones, Redshanks and Oystercatchers. Towards the Oysterbeds two foxes were encountered out on the spit one of which was later seen swimming. The first lagoon delivered two Mediterranean Gulls and a sleeping Greenshank. A Whimbrel was then picked up, scope views revealing that it was missing the tip of its upper mandible. A Great Cormorant provided huge entertainment by successfully swallowing some wriggling spaghetti that was an eel; the same bird had been seen swallowing an even larger eel on an earlier reconnaissance, obviously failing to realise that eels are a red-listed species! Two distant birds in flight were tentatively identified as Red-throated Divers.

After the walk past the various lagoons the old railway signal from the Hayling Billy train line provided a convenient point for a pause. From there there were views under the road bridge and across to the mainland. Calm conditions made viewing the wildfowl easier even though some were very distant. There were many Wigeon, Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye on the water. The two Long-tailed ducks that had been reported on bird news services were also spotted though as they were in winter plumage their tails were not long. As an added bonus Black-necked Grebes were seen, albeit small birds at a great distance.

After consideration of the options for the afternoon, some voted for a visit to the Sabine’s Gull that was a ten minute drive away. The gull was very obliging (the nearest bird) and appealing both on the deck and in flight. The site also provided closer views of Long-tailed Ducks and Black-necked Grebes. A very pleasant day was had by all with a total of 50 species.