A small number of Brent Geese were fairly close in shore on a flat calm sea out from Mary Monts. With swimming Brents it’s harder to be certain but I think this is a well-marked Dark-bellied Brent Goose as opposed to a Pale-bellied Brent.
A large group of 40 Cormorants flew over Mary Monts Pools as I started sea watching, this is my biggest count on the reserve, they had probably roosted around Venner. I spent 30 minutes sea watching, it was flat calm but visibility was poor with sea mist and my scope eyepiece was constantly steaming up. I watched 10 Eider appear from the Lepe direction although they landed before they were close.
Although Needs Ore and Hampshire aren’t great for large gulls I regularly keep an eye out for Yellow-legged Gulls and so I often photograph flying Herring Gulls. On this wing tip photo you can see the long grey tongue on the eighth primary (P8) and the tiny black mark on P5, these are typical Herring Gull features. Yellow-legged Gull shows a more extensive black triangular wing tip with a very short grey tongue on P8 and a much more extensive black bar on P5.
Looking over my shoulder to check whether there was any activity behind me a silent Dartford Warbler flew around the back of the sea watching bush. I managed a photo. The spiky tail feathers, worn primaries, dull brownish iris and dull brown orbital ring all make me think this is a 1st year bird. Another two Dartford Warblers soon joined it.
With little happening on the sea I headed to the hides. As I arrived at the Viewing Gate a flock of waders appeared out of the mist from the Black Water direction. They were Golden Plover and one or two of them called but only briefly as they went overhead. They tacked back around to Black Water and appeared to land on the Gins.
I later saw them on De L’Orne Scrape and I was better able to count them, there were 71 which is my highest count at Needs Ore. There were also 404 Lapwing on the scrape and a single Spoonbill. Lapwing numbers are certainly lower than recent years.
Also at De L’Orne a Water Rail squealed from the left hand side of the hide and then appeared briefly at the water’s edge.
On Black Water there had been an arrival of Tufted Duck with seven males and five females. Also a single female Pochard and the resident female Scaup completed the diving duck group. Otherwise it was good numbers of Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall.
A male Great Spotted Woodpecker was working its way along the oaks opposite the Shore Hide car park.
After a brief stop at a very misty Sailing Club I walked the old spit to the cottages, around Thrift Corner and then back to the Sailing Club. I then decided to head back to Mary Mont’s just as the sun finally broke through and suddenly all the morning mist started to evaporate. I decided to walk the spit.
Out to sea I picked up two distant grebes and in the bright sun their cheeks gleamed white. This was my first double count of Slavonian Grebe this winter. They gradually swam closer and although the light was harsh it was nice to get some closer photos. They stayed very close together throughout.
As I was watching the Slavonian Grebes drifting towards me I noticed a silhouetted sawbill and assumed it was a Red-breasted Merganser. A few seconds later I took another look and this time thought the chunky profile looked more like Goosander. As at moved out of the line of the sun I could see more detail and it was indeed a female Goosander, maybe even the bird had I seen with Ian at Park Shore on the 28th November.
Three Red-necked Grebes had been reported together on Thursday at close range inside the river from the Sailing Club. There was no sign today although the mist had closed in and from the Sailing Club I couldn’t see the other side of the river! Out on the sea I did see a couple of scruffy and dusky looking very distant Great Crested Grebes which were worth a closer luck. Even at this long range, however, a Red-necked Grebe would show a dusky grey neck front framed by white cheeks and chest. Also a much shorter neck and less of a horned appearance.
The wintering Purple Sandpiper was still showing very nicely on the muddy fringe directly out from the cottages.
While walking back along the spit a male Marsh Harrier headed over the saltmarsh drifting further inland. It was clearly a male although not a full adult given the browner underwings.
The Teal and Wigeon lifted up from the bay just east of Teal Point. A few seconds later I picked up the immature female Peregrine powering along the beach. You can see the pale edgings to the brown upperparts and although not visible in this photo it showed pale nape patches and streaking (as opposed to barring) on the underparts. In the last few weeks the only Peregrine I’ve seen at Needs Ore has been this young bird.
An unexpected Peacock showed briefly in sunny conditions on Wheatear Corner and a Siskin called overhead as I stopped at the Reedy Ditch.