Grey Phalarope – Hook with Warsash, Hampshire

After a few days of strong winds half a dozen Grey Phalaropes had made landfall along the South Coast. The closest individual was at Ibsley Water north of Ringwood but once that individual had disappeared (it subsequently re-appeared) I decided to head to Farlington Marshes to see a Pectoral Sandpiper and a 1st winter Red-backed Shrike. As I was about to set off another Grey Phalarope was found at Hook with Warsash Nature Reserve, only a 25 minute drive from home. Co-incidentally I had seen a Red-necked Phalarope at this location in 1999. 

I couldn’t make up my mind whether to head to Hook or Farlington and so I hoped an updated message from Rare Bird Alert on the continued presence of any of the birds would make the decision for me. I’d recently seen a Red-backed Shrike in Surrey and I had sketched quite a few sandpipers recently and so as I approached junction 8 of the M27, and with no further news on any of the birds, I decided to head to Hook for the Phalarope. 

It was still very windy especially once I’d got to Southampton Water. The Phalarope was still present and I found a spot near the bench which was sheltered by large gorse bushes. The Phalarope was right at the back of the scrape weaving in and out of the reeds at the waters edge, behaving more like a Water Rail than a Phalarope. 

Grey Phalaropes breed in the Arctic and winter at sea well off the coast of Africa and so rarely see people and so are usually very tame, not this one. The most obvious features were the dark drooping ear covert mask and the large panel of grey 1st winter scapular feathers. There was also a lovely pink orange flush to the throat and upper chest. Most of the time the phalarope was either swimming or wading up to its chest in water. 

After 45 minutes of sketching my Dad came around the corner accompanied by Martin and Mark. They had just come from Farlington and had seen both the Red-backed Shrike and Pectoral Sandpiper.

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