It’s been a busy winter season for our rangers. Find out from some of the team what have been their high spots so far and what they’re looking forward to over the next few months:
Karima tell us how the ringed plover at Hill Head have been one of her top coastal spots this winter.
“My highlights of the season this year have included welcoming new members to the ranger team who’ve all settled well into their new roles.
“It’s great to see all of them getting out and about on the Solent coast and sharing all their lovely bird sightings as well as lots of stories of the people they are meeting.
“For me personally I have enjoyed visiting Hill Head beach and watching all the small waders feeding on the shore when the tide is out, especially the ringed plover, which is such a smart little bird that always makes me smile”.
“This is one of the sites where we see the most amount of disturbance so I always feel like my presence there makes a difference.”
For Charlotte wildlife photography and juvenile geese have been high points of a busy season:⠀
“A highlight for me every year is the start of the season, with all the birds arriving and new rangers joining the team for the winter.
“Getting back out and doing more wildlife photography and filming has been wonderful: it’s a real passion of mine but I also find it useful as part of my role so we can use the images online and in print and to help identify any interesting species or ringed birds we see. ⠀
“Taking part in events has also been something I’ve really enjoyed in 2022, and as we move into 2023, I’m working on developing and growing our outreach programme so that we can offer different kinds of walks and activities across the Solent region.
“Of course, I also have to mention running the Great Coastal Birdwatch which is always a high point, especially in 2022 as we had wildlife projects from other parts of the UK join in, which was a first for the event.⠀
“My wildlife highlight this season so far has been seeing the juvenile dark-bellied brent geese, especially since we saw so few last year. This could indicate that they had a better breeding season in the summer and shows why our work highlighting the importance of giving them space over the winter is crucial. Everyone who looks out for these geese is giving them a better chance of safely migrating back to the Arctic and a successful breeding season. It’s lovely watching the geese here: at first you think it’s just one big flock but if you look closer you start to see the little family groups, usually of 3 or 4 birds.⠀
“I’d have to mention the fighting kingfishers at Bembridge as another high point. I’ve never seen kingfisher battle over territory before, even though I knew this was something this species does. That was definitely a big wildlife highlight for me, especially as I had my telescope and mobile phone handy to video the kingfishers in action!”⠀
Fighting kingfisher at Bembridge filmed by Ranger Charlotte
Julie tells us her highlights from the winter season so far, and explains why seeing eiders is always a high spot: ⠀
“My highlights definitely include the guided walks we’ve led over the last year, as showing people birds over a longer period of time is very rewarding, especially when people get really excited.
“I also loved contributing to the sea life mural which was part of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Secret of the Solent project.⠀
“It’s also been a highlight to work out the technicalities of sharing a map which will show the best places for wildlife friendly paddle sports and wind watersports on the Solent.
“Tom, Bird Aware Solent’s data expert, has been an amazing help and I can’t wait to share it with everyone in the next few months.⠀
“Wildlife-wise, highlights include seeing glossy ibis at Titchfield, a harbour seal investigating our boat at Lymington while on a birdwatching tour with Milford Conservation volunteers, and also seeing eiders a couple of times because they look so darn classy!”⠀
Natalie’s high spots include the installation of signs for the England Coast Path project and seeing a common seal capturing its meal:
“One of my best wildlife moments for wildlife this was watching a common seal rounding up and then successfully catching a fish. It bobbed up in the water with the flapping fish in its mouth, brandishing it around for everyone to see.
“We tried really hard to take a photo or get a video but we couldn’t tell when it would pop out of the water next!”
“Workwise, it’s been very satisfying to see the wildlife signage for the England Coast Path installed this summer. My particular favourite is the one we made for Hook Spit. We worked together with Natural England and Hampshire County Council to create a sign which was specific to its location, raising awareness about wintering birds, breeding birds and the importance of vegetated shingle on the spit”.
“The Hook Spit sign is one of dozens along the 52 mile walking route from Calshot to Portsmouth which officially opened in August last year. The sign reminds visitors to look out for plants such as sea beet, sea kale and the yellow horned poppy, as well as coastal birds like ringed plover and oystercatcher. It encourages walkers to help wildlife thrive by steering clear of the spit for the sake of birds and rare plants, and by keeping dogs alongside them and away from birds.”
Find out more about the new stretch of the England Coast Path.
Alice talks about the pleasure of opening up new worlds for Solent visitors and about spotting her first greenshank at Emsworth:
“Highlights for me definitely include some of the more meaningful conversations that I’ve had with people out on the coast, perhaps when there’s been some inadvertent disturbance. Often people have no idea about all the amazing birds that we have here on the Solent and how far they’ve travelled.⠀
There are those moments where somebody looks through the telescope and it opens up this whole other world to them that they can’t see with the naked eye. When someone gets that ‘wow’ moment and I’ve helped make that happen, that’s amazing.
“That’s been my favourite part of 2022 and I’m lucky that that’s happened quite a few times.”
“My wildlife highlight so far this season was in Emsworth when I successfully spotted and IDd my first greenshank: a very exciting moment for me as they have eluded me up until now!⠀
“I’m looking forward to being out and about and meeting more people in 2023. I cover Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbours and within those harbours are about 30 different patches I visit on a semi-regular basis. You may spot me and my dog Conrad walking along the beach or standing with our telescope at the Kench on Gunner Point to talk to people about the birds that use this bit of the coastline.”⠀
Getting to know her patch has been a highlight for Dawn this winter, as well as seeing one of the first dunlin to arrive on the Solent, after its autumn migratory journey:
“My favourite bit of the season so far is getting intimately to know the area I patrol.
“Whether you want to see a kingfisher or an avocet, I can tell you the best place to go that offers a high probability of success.
“My wildlife highlight was that one of the first dunlin to arrive in Chichester Harbour was ringed. Chichester Harbour Conservancy was able to establish that it was a first year bird that had been ringed in Greenland.
“When it arrived in the Solent it was four months old and had seemingly travelled alone”.
“I hope the weather is kind this winter, giving the birds the best chance possible to fatten up and prepare for their journeys back to the far north in early spring”.
You can read about some of Ranger Dawn’s favourite spots on the Solent coast in a recent blog about Hayling Island, where she and Ranger Alice talk about why the island is a lifeline for migratory birds.
Tony joined our team to support us over the busy winter period and has found interacting with the public the most satisfying part of his role:
“I actually have many highlights for 2020. Just joining the Bird Aware team has been a wonderful experience. I’ve always wanted to work in the countryside, in some capacity, but to be able to work in the specific area of birds has been an absolute delight.
“It’s been great working with such a dedicated, caring and hardworking group of people. Getting up for work is never a chore!
“I obviously love the birds, especially the overwintering ones that descend on the Solent and make it their home for the winter but, more surprisingly, it’s been the interactions I’ve had with the public at large that has been most satisfying.
“Their enthusiasm for the birds and the work that we do as an organisation, and particularly as rangers, has been really gratifying and inspiring. I’ve found that most people really do appreciate the birds on their doorstep and genuinely want to do what they can to help them thrive – which is why it’s so important to have ‘boots on the ground’ to get the message out there”.