These photographs of Reddish Egrets were taken at different locations during our trip to Texas in April 2012. Finding both the dark and white morphs together on one river bank was particularly pleasing, the birds were so obliging, giving Chris a rare perfect photo-oportunity.
The freshwater lagoons at Titchfield
Haven in Hampshire are very different in the autumn. Gone
are the nesting Avocets and Terns and in their place, hundreds of wildfowl. Skeins
of Canada Geese fly around the lakes, preferring to land on the tidal waters of
the river Meon. A flock of 5 Barnacle Geese, the first of the autumn, chooses one of the
three lagoons as a resting place. A spectacular flock of House Martins and a
few Sand Martins feed in a frenzy of activity low over the lagoons, some
dipping into the water to drink. This autumn spectacle more than compensates
for the lack of waders, as does the constant activity of the myriad of small
birds in the surrounding vegetation. There’s a sense of bustle to the place and
a feeling of great movements in and out.
The few shorebirds that are
around feed on the banks of the river and a walk along the road by the beach
provides wonderful close-up views of Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Turnstones, but best of all are the Lapwings showing their amazing iridescent green
backs. I much prefer the old name Green Plover for this outstanding wader and
on days like this, when the sun hits their wings at exactly the right angle, I’m
persuaded that there’s no more beautiful wader in the British Isles. Other
delights by the river include Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and pristine Little Egrets dancing in the shallows. A distant Marsh Harrier quarters the reed beds
adding extra spice, but as I watch its elegant manoeuvring the Green Plovers are
still in my mind.
The walk along the old canal to
the meadows at the northern end of the reserve is uneventful, save for a vibrant
newly-hatched Comma butterfly. I’d been told that amongst the grazing cows I would find Yellow Wagtails. Uncommon in the west,
they’re always a real bonus for me; a flock of about twenty duly obliges.
An excellent lunch in the
garden of the rather good restaurant tastes even better when I notice Swallows
on the move again. Unlike yesterday on the Isle of White, they’re moving east. Maybe the winds have changed, perhaps they’re heading for Dover to make the
crossing to France, or are they taking the same route as those I saw yesterday?
Living by the sea gives an extra dimension to life, but especially at this time of the year when large numbers of seabirds head south, many from the Arctic. The best places to see them around here are the western headlands of Pembrokeshire, but even this far away from the main Atlantic flyway it’s worthwhile getting up early and heading out.
I usually head for the end of a nearby bay which protrudes out into the Bristol Channel further than any other; it’s always a bit of a lottery and you never know what will turn up. Waiting to hear on the grapevine that birds are on the move is the trick, but I risked an early rise this morning and headed out cold. It’s wise to take a telescope, but even with binoculars it can often be good. Nestling in the soft salty turf above the rocky shore provides the best good vantage point and I’m at once watching Manx Shearwaters in groups of twenty or more moving steadily up-channel. Hundreds of Gannets dive in the calm waters off the point and with Sandwich Terns resting on the rocks below, I’m more than happy to have got out of bed early. It isn’t long before I’m joined by a couple of serious birdwatchers bedecked with all manner of expensive paraphernalia. They soon get to work on the part of sea beyond my reach, turning up Great Skuas and several Storm Petrels, the latter far too small for me to see with binoculars. In the two hours I stayed, my tally of Manx shearwaters exceeded 2,000, but with plans to stay the whole day their final counts would probably end up many times this. The Shearwaters will return down-channel in the evening and I wondered if the morning and evening counts would match, or if the birds would return by a different route on the English side of the channel.