A trip down to Keyhaven Marshes last week had ended up in failure. We had spent about four hours walking the sea walls, surveying the various pools and looking for the Long-billed Dowitcher and had come away without seeing it. Reports later that evening indicated that it had shown a few minutes after we left. The day was only memorable for the cold wind that cut across the marshes for the whole time we watched.
I had no intention of going back but today when Dave suggested a return visit I leapt at the chance. Bad experience or not the Long-billed Dowitcher is a bird worth seeing and on top of that I needed it for a year tick.
We thought we had spotted it, on the back of Fishtail Lagoon, whilst walking from the Lower Pennington Lane car park down to the sea wall. It was difficult to make the identification and also disappointing as the bird was too far away for a photograph. Fortunately there was a tractor complete with hedge trimming attachment parked at the top of the field. When it started its engine up again all the birds were flushed down towards the front of the lagoon. We just had to find it again.
It wasn't too difficult. The bird had settled on an island towards the front of the lagoon and was showing well.
There had been another Long-billed Dowitcher on the Keyhaven Marshes a couple of years ago but that had been a real skulking bird that had been very hard to find and difficult to photograph. It spent most of its time in the reeds well away from the bird watchers.
This bird seemed the complete opposite. It had taken two visits to find it but now it was showing well, preening and feeding in the shallow waters.
My first hundred or so shots were all wasted. Good record shots but we were too far away to get any detail. Dropping down off the sea wall onto the footpath at the front of the lagoon just got us that little bit closer and gave the sort of detail we were looking for.
We had moved slowly and the bird did not seem at all concerned by our closer approach. We did lose it into the reeds for a few minutes when a large group of noisy walkers went past on the sea wall. When they eventually moved away the bird quickly reappeared. It seems to be in the nature of the bird to run for cover in the reeds when disturbed rather than to fly away.
Twelve thirty and we were all finished. A great mornings birding and some great pictures in the bag.