December Delights

It’s been a cold week here with the temperature dropping well into minus figures overnight and frost that has lasted for several days when the sun hasn’t reached it. Our weather station says it reached as low as -5° C.

Inevitably this appears to have had an effect on the wildlife. It was really noticeable on my regular walk yesterday just how quiet things were and how little wildlife there was to be seen compared to normal. I did get lucky though and made a surprising spot- two goosander on the fishing lake. I’ve never seen any there before so it was completely unexpected.

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Today I visited Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve which is full of bird life at any time of year but even more so the moment. As soon as I saw the marsh I could see there was a flock of brent geese there.

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There’s a lot going on this photo with a few widgeon in the foreground. If you look to the right of the picture on the water you can see the clearest view of a brent goose. These geese are small, about the same size as a mallard, and are winter visitors to our shores. The ones pictured are of the dark-bellied subspecies and breed in Northern Russia.

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There were plenty of other waterfowl on the marsh including a few teal. I was surprised at how dark this one’s stripe is- I can’t even see any green in there.

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There’s a clearer view of the many widgeon in the back of this photo which also shows the only avocets I could see on the marsh.

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There were loads of different waders on the marsh too. Probably the most common were bar-tailed godwits.

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There were also plenty of redshank around but they seemed more timid and therefore harder to photograph. You can still make out the bright red legs here though.

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I also managed to find a few dunlin. Like many waders, these birds lose their brown summer plumage and become greyer in winter.

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This is one of my favourite waders, a gorgeous little bird and a fairly uncommon one too, the ringed plover. In may have migrated here but it might actually be a resident- you can see ringed plovers on the south coast all year around if you know where to look.

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It was a kingfisher that outdid all the others though. I was admired a stunning shoveler on the marsh when a kingfisher came and sat on the barbed wire fence close to the path. It kept sitting and fishing from various points along the fence and seemed to follow us through a fair chunk of the reserve. They are always fantastic birds to see and this one put on quite a show for us.

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