Tuesday, December 15, 2009

10th December: Keyhaven, Hampshire, UK

This a great site I enjoy visiting whenever we are in the area, and at dawn and in the early morning it can offer spectacular sunrises, vistas and good birds too!

Keyhaven at dawn. At high tide the water washes across the road. Those rocks mark where the edge should be! Last time I came two years ago there were Dunlins and Ruddy Turnstones feeding on the road, but it was not to be this time.

A Eurasian Curlew was hunting in the saltmarsh and eventually caught a crab.

It took some time to carefully remove the legs and pincers...

Even then, swallowing it didn't look too easy!

A pair of Black-tailed Godwits were among the first waders to take advantage of the fresh mud being exposed by the falling tide.

The Black-tailed Godwits that winter in the UK are the 'icelandica' subspecies. They are larger than the 'melanuroides' race we get in Malaysia but otherwise pretty similar.

Once the sun came up and the tide dropped, more godwits arrived. They feed in groups on the tideline, with a distinctive tipped forward stance as they drill deep into the mud for prey. The smaller waders in the foreground are Dunlins.

With a bit of experience and decent views, Black-tailed Godwits ('Blackwits' for short),can easily be told from Bar-tailed Godwits ('Barwits') by a combination of structural and plumage differences. Blackwits are longer-legged and straighter-billed, their upperparts are plain ash-brown (lacking the streaky pattern of Barwits) and the supercilium is more prominent in front of the eye (on Barwit it tends to be clearer behind the eye (compare with this picture.)

In flight, godwits are much easier to tell apart than when they're on the ground. Black-tailed shows this really obvious white wingbar on the upperwing...

...and a pure white underwing, framed by a dark leading and trailing edge.

Eurasian Curlews here (of the nominate race) are smaller and shorter-billed than 'orientalis', with more densely barred flanks (compare with this bird).

They also have lightly barred underwing coverts (just visible on the first of these pics) unlike the pure white underwing coverts of 'orientalis'.

Common Greenshanks are fairly scarce winter stayers in UK, and this one was particularly obliging.

This one's 'shanks' aren't particuarly green - more of a Greyshank!

Dunlins are five-star rarities in Malaysia and Singapore,but the commonest wader in winter in Britain. They are much dumpier all round than Curlew Sandpipers, and tend to show a high domed headshape.

Grey Plovers tend to feed alone on the tideline.

This one made short work of a sizeable marine worm, slurping it up like spaghetti!

One flew by flashing its black armpits and white rump.

There's no mistaking the noisy Eurasian Oystercatchers.

Ruddy Turnstones are numerous and tame at Keyhaven.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese are present in large numbers in winter, originating from breeding grounds in Central and Western Siberia.

A female Reed Bunting feeding in the saltmarsh allowed close approach.

As did this Rock Pipit.

This adult Mediterranean Gull was actually photographed on the 8th, which, as can be seen, was a much duller day!

A mammal to finish off with - a pair of Roe Deer were grazing in a fallow field. They were obviously aware of my presence but didn't seem too bothered.


Andrew said...

Another great post filled with wonderful photos!

Wai Yien said...

fantastic flight shots, like it very much.

Wai Yien said...

Black-tailed Godwits is new to me...anyway, great shots and nice to see new species

digdeep said...

Thanks Andrew and Yen. The low winter sun (on the rare occasions when you see it!) makes for ideal lighting conditions.