Hamble Conservation Volunteers
Birdlife in the Winter
Hamble Common supports overwintering goldfinch, greenfinch, meadow pipits and reed buntings that search for seeds in small flocks. The reed buntings are attracted by the purple moor grass seed that is abundant on the Common. There are also mixed flocks of long-tailed, blue and great tits and smaller numbers of goldcrest foraging in the trees.
Although the goldcrest is our smallest British bird they seem very trusting and quite often let you approach quite closely to observe them feeding in the lower branches of trees.
As the climate changes and we experience more mild winters, some birds have changed their behaviour and it is possible to see over wintering chiffchaff (a small olive coloured warbler) and blackcaps on the Common, although the majority of summer visitors head south for the winter.
The local year-round residents - robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, song and mistle thrushes - all hold out by foraging as much as possible during the short winter days across the Common and the woodland fringes.
Redwings often visit for short periods in the winter looking for berries – these are small thrushes that travel down from Scandinavia when the weather gets really harsh. They can be identified by a small orange/red patch under their wings and they usually travel and forage in small groups.
Occasionally, fieldfares can also be heard “clacking” in the tree tops; these again are visitors from Scandinavia from the thrush family which are more like a mistle thrush in size and they can be identified by their call and their blue/grey heads.
Hamble Creek offers the chance to see small numbers of teal, brent geese, black-tailed godwit, lapwing, redshank, greenshank, little egret, mallard, little grebe and a kingfisher, all either foraging in the deep mud or fishing in the shallows.
The foreshore at low tide offers the opportunity to view large numbers of overwintering waders and geese and small numbers of ringed plovers - with occasional visits from small flocks of more unusual visitors like avocets. The ringed plovers can be fiendishly difficult to spot against the shingle on the beach as they blend in so well; they are very smart little birds with shortish orange legs and black and white head and chest markings.
When the weather gets colder flights of up to 250 dunlin can be quite spectacular when they are moving along the shore and very occasionally you may witness a mini murmuration, when the flock arrives on the shore or leaves as the tide rises.
Eventually, winter will give way to spring and by that time the birds that make the Common their home all year round will be staking out territories and pairing up in anticipation of the longer daylight hours and the opportunity to raise young.