Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Titchfield Haven, National Nature Reserve [NNR]

Titchfield Haven is an NNR situated at the mouth of the River Meon which discharges into the Solent at Hill Head, the site is managed by Hampshire County Council.
It holds one of the only two breeding populations of Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta in Hampshire. Last years breeding attempts at the Haven though at first hopeful with 11 chicks hatched - disappointingly failed after they all became prey to the local pale phase buzzard Buteo buteo prior to any fledging. The photo below is of the last Haven avocet chick of 2008 just two days before it was lost.
Avocet chick Titchfield Haven 5th June 2008 (own library)
This year the Haven has had more success, following an active management plan by which the local buzzard is fed with carrion from a feeding platform further up the reserve and away from the scrapes. The buzzard was fed from the start of the breeding season and still continues to be fed whilst the avocets remain on site. Currently two pairs of avocets have successfully raised six young to date, who on todays evidence, appear strong enough to be out of the parents sight and feeding alone across the scrapes.
The adult birds are one of the most charismatic waders breeding in the UK, and it is no wonder that they continue to remain the icon of the RSPB.
Evidence of more recent breeding activity was also apparent with these three young moorhen Fulica atra chicks making demands on a parent that has probably already raised a brood or two this year.
Another member of the rail family, Rallidae, was showing well for a while in contrast to its usual skulking reputation amongst the reeds and flora of the waters edge. The water rail Rallus aquaticus only usually shows it presence by its call a squealing wail that is reminiscent of a stuck pig. However, at the Haven these birds always seem to give particularly good value.
These are the first videos I have attempted shooting using a combination of both digital camera and telescope - on a tripod which is getting older and stickier more quickly than I am - so please accept my apologies for the quality of footage.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Farlington Marshes Wetland Bird Survey [WeBS]

Farlington Marshes (Hampshire Ornithological Society 2009)

Farlington Marshes is located in Langstone Harbour, between the islands of Portsea and Hayling. The marshes cover an area of 125 hectares. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest [SSSI] comprising habitats of flower-rich grazing, reed-beds, both freshwater and brackish marshes and lagoons as well as scrub. The site also has designation as an SPA and Ramsar site. Farlington Marshes is managed by the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust, whilst the islands and offshore saltmarshes are managed by the RSPB. The harbour provides an internationally important winter feeding ground for wildfowl and waders including the Brent goose Branta bernicla and Black-tailed godwit L. Limosa islandica

L. Limosa islandica (own library)

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is a monthly survey of wetland sites for wildfowl and wader species which takes place nationally across a wide range and number of wetland habitats. The data is used to inform policy makers on the development of coastal and wetland sites. Whilst the core count dates take place September through to March, Farlington Marshes like many other sites is counted throughout the year.

The WeBS count at Farlington Marshes begins at high tide when the maximum number of birds are shorebound on the marshes and surrounding islands, then continues on through to the "flight" when wildfowl and waders leave the islands to the east of the marshes to feed on the exposed mudflats. Following the flight - birds left on the islands are also counted. The count proceeds over five hours. The WeBs count at Farlington Marshes was undertaken by five people, whilst the RSPB warden undertook counts at other sites across Langstone Harbour.

The initial returns indicate that the count totalled 27 wader and wildfowl species including: 852 oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and circa 1250 curlew Numenius arquata; 233 Black-tailed godwits; 23 greenshank Tringa Nebularia; 23 cormorants Phalocrocorax carbo; 3 Brent goose; 5 knot Calidris canuta and a single common sandpiper Actitus hypoleucos.

Actitus hypoleucos (own library)

2 species of tern Sterna spp; 5 species of gull Larus spp and eight other avifauna species including a single peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus were also recorded on the day.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Isle of Wight Cornflowers

Via Fe and Chuck Eccleston:

A couple of weeks ago we joined a 'Farmland Visit' organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to Cridmore Farm, Chillerton on the Isle of Wight. The visit was organised to enable members of the public to see the extensive areas [approximately 5 acres] of Corn Marigolds Chrysanthemum segetum which were interspersed with large numbers of Cornflowers Centaurea cyanus, these fields can be seen from the road but only show up as bright yellow patches in amongst the green fields of wheat.

Both these plants are in a nationally perilous state due to the introduction of herbicides and fertilisers in the 1950's. By the end of the 1970's a dramatic decline was noted in the Cornflower throughout the country and it is now only found in its natural state in three small sites: Suffolk, Lincolnshire and the Isle of Wight.

The owner of the farm, together with his farm manager, take great care to preserve these wildflowers which have occurred naturally on the site for in excess of 100 years.

The presentation by the G&WCT also focussed on the decline of many farmland birds including the Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella and Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra and the measures farmers can take to assist their recovery i.e. Stewardship Schemes run by Natural England.



Corn Marigolds and Cornflower

Corn Bunting


Monday, 20 July 2009

Peter Harvey's Kruger Trip June / July '09

White Rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum

Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis

Tracks and signs - Lion Leo panthera (2 fem)