Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog about cancelled flights, airport restrictions or quarantine, this blog is all about some of the recent avian arrivals to our Solent shores!
As autumn approaches, the beaches, mudflats, estuaries and rivers around our coast begin to get quite busy with birds. We live in a special place – did you know that the Solent is internationally recognised and protected for its coastal species? Our seaside is a very important refuge in the winter months for over 125,000 birds who migrate here from the Arctic. Each year, between August and December, we welcome some birds who travel over 3000 miles to call our shorelines their home.
The ‘autumn migration’ period has now begun which means that birdwatchers’ eyes are peeled for the first arrivals of wintering birds to their patch…
On the 10th August the first record of a teal was reported at Lepe since spring. August also sees the first reports of wigeon at Titchfield Haven and Farlington Marshes. Both duck species migrate from Arctic Russia and can be spotted in large groups swimming in estuaries during the winter. Recognised most easily from their beautiful looking males (drakes); wigeon have red/brown faces with a golden top to their head while teal have red/brown faces with a teal stripe going from the eye backwards. Both teals and wigeon have beautiful whistling calls which you should definitely listen out for over the coming months!
One species that the Bird Aware rangers are always watching the arrivals board for is the dark-bellied brent geese. We often see the first arrivals back to our coastline around the end of August/beginning of September, at the time of writing this blog, I couldn’t find any reports of wintering brent geese in the Solent yet. Do let us know if you have spotted one!
The Solent isn’t the final destination for all migrants though, many avian arrivals this month won’t be sticking around and are just in transit…
Ospreys are seen more frequently on the south coast during spring and autumn as many who breed further North (e.g. Scotland) are passing through on their way to their wintering grounds in Africa. One osprey was spotted fishing at Fishlake Meadows on the 6th August and another was seen on the 12th August at Farlington Marshes eating a fish. Fish form a major component of an osprey’s diet, they are well adapted to plucking them out of the water with their large talons. Look out for Ospreys in harbours, lakes and along rivers, as flying fishermen they are usually spotted by water bodies.
Whimbrel, like osprey, are also passage migrants who are heading to Africa which means they are generally seen on our shores during autumn and spring. The first week of August saw lots of reports of whimbrel seen at Hamble Estuary with further sightings of birds at Pennington and Inchmery. On the 14th, five were seen near to Fawley. Whimbrel can easily be confused with another large wader, the curlew, whose numbers will steadily increase around the Solent into the winter as birds migrate from continental Europe but also move to the coast from inland sites in the UK.
On the 15th August, a sanderling was seen at Hythe. These sprinting waders can be seen chasing the waves in large flocks during the winter months. Sanderling migration is quite confusing as there are two different populations of birds who migrate to, and through, the Solent. Birds seen this early in the Autumn are probably either Russian Arctic or Greenland breeders who are heading to Africa.
I hope that you have found this bird sightings update interesting and that it’s inspired you to have a look out for the changes happening on our coast at the moment. All of the records of bird sightings in this blog were taken from here (opens in a new window). As a Hampshire resident, this is my go-to for bird sightings and is a great place to find out about specific birds as well as notice trends in bird species arriving at different times of year. Similar bird sightings pages for Sussex and the Isle of Wight are here (opens in a new window) and here (opens in a new window) .