A Merlin, Some Ruff but no Spoonbill

by A warbler a day

I spent today at one of my favourite spots on the coast, Keyhaven/Pennington Marshes. For the last week or so birding sites had been saying that there are Spoonbill there. That’s great! I’ve only seen Spoonbill once before and that was just a view of the back of it’s head pointed out to me by a birder in the know!. Today was a chance to get a proper view.

Parking at Keyhaven I walked up to the main lagoon. I saw lots Brent Geese, some Shelduck, Teal and Wigeon and even a few Pintail. A flock of Grey Plover flew along the shoreline, Redshank flew noisily overhead and the occasional Snipe zig-zagged across the marshes. However every white bird I saw was a Little Egret or a Swan not a Spoonbill. I would normally just do 1 circuit before lunch and then head down to Hurst Castle but today I decided to walk around the marshes after lunch as well. I was glad I did as just minutes into the second circuit, before I even reached the first lagoon, I spotted a Greenshank. Finally a first for the year. And just behind the Greenshank, walking through the longer grass was a Fox. At the campsite on Lower Pennington Lane I spotted 3 Ringed Plover and 2 Dunlin feeding on a patch of bare mud. The rest of the circuit was much as before. On returning to the car park I was briefly entertained by a small flock of tame Turnstones standing on the wall less than six feet away.

Next I headed down to Cut Bridge where the spit to Hurst Castle starts. I decided to though to walk the other way towards Milford-on-sea where I enjoyed a pot of green tea at the Needle’s Eye Cafe. As I walked back to the car, numerous flocks of Brent Geese flew over. More than 300 geese must have landed on a field next to the caravan park by Start Pond. Back at Cut Bridge I got another ‘new for year’ bird, a female Red-breasted Merganser.

As it still wasn’t late I decided to have another look for the Spoonbill. This time, having worked where it is, I drove to the Lower Pennington Lane car park as it is much closer to the lagoons. When I got to the sea wall, the tide was finally out. Lots of waders and gulls. In amongst them was a couple of Mediterranean Gulls (another new for year). Still no Spoonbill though. Heading back to the car I met a bloke with scope trained on some flooded ground. had it found the elusive Spoonbill? No, but he had found a flock of Ruff. This is a wader I find difficult to identify and certainly hadn’t seen previously this year. As we were chatting, the bloke pointed out a Marsh Harrier drifting slowly over the marsh. He also directed me to another birder who had got a view of a Merlin in her scope. Information gladly received I set off for said birder a duly got a view of the wonderful little falcon contentedly perched in a tree. In all I saw 61 species of birds today (a personal best). So despite the lack of Spoonbills, it was a Brilliant day!