Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Same wildlife different location

Female Pochard

While staying with friends at Hill Head, on the Solent, we strolled down to the lovely harbour with its adjoining nature reserve. Two of the first waterbirds we spotted were a female pochard (above) and a little grebe (below). Back home on the Thames we are regularly visited by a pair of red-crested pochards but seldom see 'regular' pochards.

A little grebe heads towards the reeds

At the mouth of the harbour, where the river Meon meets the Solent, we spotted a pair of little grebes, a pair of pochards, plenty of tufted ducks, gulls, coots, moorhens and, of course, mallards. The light was so lovely and refelcted the colour of the reeds in the water when I took this shot.

A little grebe intent on fishing

I watched for ages as the little grebes dived for very small fish, taking time out to preen their feathers on a regular basis. I was so pleased to be able to watch this pair at leisure as they were more habituated to humans than the pair I've spotted around Taggs Island.

Disappearing act

It's fun to watch them dive for fish. Their success rate isn't great if what they bring to the surface is all they get. They may be like cormorants, however, which swallow the smaller fish while still underwater.

Fulvous whistling duck

A rather handsome and unusual looking duck caught my friend's eye and it seemed to be arousing interest among some birdwatchers, so we asked them what it was. A fulvous whistling duck, was the reply, and I gather we were quite lucky to have seen it. They are not native to the UK, but this one seems to have settled in the area for a while.

The fulvous whistling duck has lovely matching beak and feet

The light wasn't very good when we discovered the fulvous whistling duck but, as it was low tide, we were fortunate enough to see it both in and out of the water. I went down to the haven the following morning when the light was fabulous but the tide was in and the duck was nowhere in sight. However, as I turned my attention to some swans having a territorial dispute, I heard a strange whistling call and was thrilled to see the duck fly past me and land in some reeds beyond. I could just make it out amongst the reeds in the distance and was able to watch it preen for a while but the reeds prevented me for getting a decent image.

Territorial battles

Just as our local swans on the Thames are defending their territory from intruders, so the dominant pair at Titchfield Haven were busy seeing off the opposition. I could hear the familiar slap of wings and feet on water during take-off and landing and also the lovely 'whistling' sound of the wind in their wings during flight as the fleeing pair left the haven and headed out to sea.

He who fights and 'flies' away . . . !

On this occasion one of the swans under attack took the line of least resistance and flew to safety but I'm sure there will be plenty of battles in the coming breeding season.

A tree sparrow sunbathes in the chill morning air

It was a beautiful bright morning the following day, still very cold but the light was fabulous, so I visited the Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve. Next to the Visitor Centre is a café and garden with plenty of bird feeders around to keep the local birds well supplied during the cold spell. The tree sparrow (above) enjoyed some early morning sunshine after a frosty night while helping himself to some pyrocantha berries .
Tide's out

Low tide is lovely here leaving interesting patterns in the sand. Some of the rock pools also attract wading birds to the shoreline. We saw plenty of turnstones on the shore next to the harbour.

Back home on the Thames, the dominant swans are still patrolling their territory and chasing Bidou, the black swan, away. I'm delighted to see that the pair of little grebes still visit daily although they are far from habituated to humans and dive at the slightest of movements. In the garden, a pair of black caps now visit the bird table and peanut feeders and, even more exciting, a pair of nuthatches came to the most secluded on our peanut feeders this week. I'm hoping to get images of the black caps and nuthatches in the coming weeks.

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