A foggy and damp start with lots of young Blackbirds and Song Thrushes grounded. Also my first record this winter of a Fieldfare ‘shacking’ in the distance. There has been talk that Fieldfares have arrived late this year but my first last year was only 4 days earlier than this.
From Gravelly Beach there were now two Razorbills together on a calm sea. This is the 4th time I’ve seen Razorbill in my last 6 visits, a few of these sightings may involve the same individual.
25 Meadow Pipits were mobile and flighty around the beach hut and two female type Red-breasted Mergansers landed on the sea briefly before heading off west again.
Over on Great Marsh a Green Sandpiper called as it flew over Gravelly Marsh West. I later saw another on the shingle bar near De L’Orne, perhaps the same bird. Green Sandpiper didn’t winter here last year with the last disappearing soon after the 18th October 2020.
An ungainly Water Rail flew across the Flight Pond as a wagtail flew over, the tail looked too short for Pied and the brief flight call was good for Western Yellow Wagtail, a very late record, in fact one of the latest ever in Hampshire.
There were two Dartford Warblers around the Ringing Area and around Gravelly House, they were typically elusive. I eventually saw the first bird well although not in focus! It was an adult with a ring on its right leg.
The second bird didn’t show but churred regularly. Nearby a Chiffchaff was calling and there were several Siskin moving overhead.
I watched a Marsh Harrier drifting out over the sea. It approached a swimming Greylag and momentarily dropped down aggressively but thought better of a full on attack before being mobbed and chased off by a Peregrine.
A walk out along Warren Shore produced 13 Skylark and six Snipe while there were good numbers of dabbling duck resting on the sea. A count of 62 Mallard was my highest on the reserve.
The vast majority of wildfowl on Black Water and Venner were dabbling ducks, the diving ducks formed an exclusive small group on Venner with the female Scaup still present alongside 3 Tufted Duck (two females) and a single male Pochard. There were 10 Avocet on De L’Orne Scrape.
From the Sailing Club I watched the waders restlessly shifting on Inchmery Saltmarsh. I counted 630 Dunlin and 150 Ringed Plover. One of the Dunlin was colour-ringed but around half a mile away and so I couldn’t read the colours. As the Dunlin and Ringed Plover flock lifted up and wheeled back and forth over the river I picked out several Turnstone and plenty of Grey Plover but there was one bird larger and darker then the Dunlin with an obvious dark head and chest.
I initially thought Turnstone but quickly dismissed this as this wader was bluey grey, not blackish, and the upper wings and back were uniform and fairly plain. The flock landed but I lost the bird in the melee. I felt sure it must be a Purple Sandpiper although wanted another view given the rarity here and the fact that it was a brief flight only view at around 600 metres.
Philip Hack arrived for a catch up, I mentioned the possible Purple Sandpiper and he then returned to his car for his scope. After a few minutes of scanning I picked it up again, asleep. It looked good for Purple Sandpiper and then it woke up and flashed its plain dark face and yellow based bill. Unfortunately it never did this while I was pointing the camera at it! This is only the second record for Needs Ore.