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?