The first of October saw the official start of the Bird Aware Solent 2020-2021 winter season with the Rangers heading back out to patrol the coastlines of Hampshire, Chichester Harbour and the Isle of Wight.
Having mostly worked from home since March we couldn’t wait to get back out there, and luckily the weather was kind to us with a beautiful sunny day to kick the season off.
Autumn is a really exciting time around our coasts, as more and more birds are arriving every day, having completed their long migrations down from the Arctic to join us here on the South Coast.
Over the last few weeks we have already seen dark-bellied brent geese arriving at Ryde, Hill Head and Chichester Harbour among many other places. They are one of the easiest birds to spot, and you often hear them before you see them as they are very noisy!
They migrate together in family groups, and we have seen a number of juveniles with the adult birds this year which is great news!
We have around 10% of the world’s population of dark-bellied brent geese coming here each winter, thanks to the special habitats and feeding resources the Solent provides.
Species such as oystercatcher, redshank and curlew are also starting to increase in number as migratory birds join the residents for the autumn and winter.
I photographed this colour ringed curlew on a site visit to Bembridge recently and found out that the bird was ringed as a chick in Rouveen in the Netherlands. It first appeared on the Isle of Wight in 2011 and has been reported around the same time most years at Bembridge ever since!
Other highlights of our visits so far include a wonderful flock of golden plovers (pictured below) that Natalie and I watched at Yarmouth showing off their flight patterns and stunning golden colours in the autumn light. Julie saw lots of lovely turnstones living up to their name at Lepe in the New Forest over the weekend, Miranda witnessed a curlew land an impressive catch of a giant lugworm at Eling and last week Rangers Dave and Mark were even lucky enough to see a group of eider ducks bobbing around at sea near Titchfield Haven!
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have had to adapt the way we work this year so that we can all keep safe. As well as patrolling sites and undertaking monitoring work, we are also using ‘pop-up’ information stands where social distancing allows, so that we can still engage with visitors to the coast and raise awareness of these special birds.
If you see us out on the coast please do come and say hello, ask us any questions you may have and let us know what wildlife you have spotted – we always love to hear what you are seeing out there!