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.
'And if it rains all day, call on you, I'll call on you.'
It's as if spring had been put on hold by the constant rainfall of the past three weeks. But a short break in the clouds told us to get out and be quick about it. The copse appeared to have changed little since our last visit, the only clues that the countryside was crawling towards summer were revealed in the flora. Moschatal and common dog violet was still growing strongly, but their ranks had been joined by barren strawberry, lily of the valley and goldilocks buttercup.
Orange tips patrolled the pathways and one even paused a while to feed on a violet.
Bird activity was fairly quiet and the only migrants we heard were chiffchaffs and a blackcap. Swifts and swallows passed overheard showing us that migration is still in full swing. The marsh tits were busy feeding young in the nestbox, with three adults serving the nest.
Surprise, surprise, the weather soon closed in and we headed home, but not before dropping in to see the hares - who looked very content in a sea of winter barley.
If you're expecting words of wisdom from Dan and Rosemary you may be sadly disappointed. However, if you want to keep up to date with our current projects then pick up the feed at the top of this column.