A meeting with the RSPB at the Hayling Island Oysterbeds to look at future interpretation for the site could only mean one thing. Fish n' chips at the seaside!
We duly arrived a couple of hours before the meet-up and sat like 'Howard and Hilda' munching away, paper bags full of scrummy lunch sat in our laps - if only we had brought a Thermos of tea and a rug, then life would have been an ever decreasing circle!
Scram scoffed, we wandered off for a reconnoitre. The Oysterbeds have long stopped producing oysters commercially, but in recent times they have been preserved as saline lagoons and managed for wildlife by the RSPB and Havant & Hampshire councils among others. And a pretty fine site for birds it is too. During the winter months it acts as a roosting area for many thousands of wader, along with ducks and geese. In the summer the islands are home to nesting little terns, black-headed gulls and of late Mediterranean gulls.
Oddly though, it seems that no matter what time of year you visit, it's always blinkin' freezin'. Temperature aside, it was also clear from the birds we noted that winter was ever clinging on. Brent geese, wigeon and small flocks of
dunlin, grey plover and oystercatcher all vied for roosting space among the gulls, who were noisily setting up home for the summer on the islands.
But all was not ills and chills, a tiny, yet certain sign that spring is finally beginning to reign came in the form of a
steady and most welcome trickle of swallows sweeping Northwards over the meadows. Returning to the carpark along the old Hayling Billy Line, more clues to sunnier times to come revealed themselves. A splash of purple from the flowers of ground ivy, bumble bees motoring indiscreetly around the grassland and three whimbrel passing overhead. Just enough to bring further warmth to our cockles or should that be oysters.
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