Thousands of Brent Geese come to the UK from places like Iceland for the winter to feed and take advantage of our milder winters. Dawn over Hayling Island and hundreds of Brent Geese are coming into shore to feed.
The Grayling butterfly can be seen in the areas of Bell heather like Sinah Warren and Hayling Golf Course.
All along the beach there are lots of scrubby areas with flora and here you can find the Small Copper some years it can be really common. This is the blue spot female known as 'caeruleopenctata', which isn't common but it is well looking out for in its flight season, of May June and August September /October.
Although not a colourful moth by any means its size gives it away being one of the largest moths in Britain the Old Lady is known to sit on the outside of old buildings during the day and wait for dusk before flying again.
The nature reserves at the north west corner of Hayling Island are species rich for such a small area. This is largely due to the importance of Langstone Harbour being on the migratory route and destination, of many bird species.
The muds in the harbour being rich in invertebrates, seaweed, fish and other creatures which help to support and sustain them.
A NATURE LOVER’S HAVEN
The Hayling Billy Trail and Nature Reserves have varied habitats – marshland, meadow and coastal. These encourage a wide diversity of flora with the likes of poppies seen on the seashore and typically orchids in the grasslands. Rose shrubs, thistle and sea beet to name a few are also found and the magnificent Monterey Pine can be found between Hayling Halt Car Park and the oyster beds. With its low spreading branches it offers welcome shade on a hot summer's day.
Cattle and sheep can sometimes be found in the fenced meadow and Marshland. These help to manage the area in a natural way. Volunteers help manage other areas by removing plants that would otherwise take over, carrying out surveys, hedge laying and also clearing litter and items washed onto the shoreline from the harbour.
All Flora is limited to that which can be found in the Nature Reserve.
The indigenous wildlife on the trail is rich and varied, supported by the relatively mild winters and diverse habitats on land and the muds of Langstone Harbour.
The bird population changes with the seasons with many species of migratory birds arriving in the harbour for both the summer and winter months. Notably three species of tern arrive from West Africa to breed on the harbour islands and at the Oyster Beds during the spring/summer months. In the autumn and winter months the summer visitors are replaced by geese, ducks and waders, seeking sanctuary from colder climates and the rich pickings to be had in the harbour and surrounding land. These movements add to the rich tapestry of the local wildlife.
Listing of bird SPECIES is limited to those that have been seen on Hayling Island or its Langstone Harbour shoreline. An indication is given against each bird species, as to whether they are Resident, Summer Visitors, Winter Visitors or can only be seen On Migration. A guide as to where they may be seen is also included.
Sea Holly is quite common along some of the stony beaches on Hayling Island
Autumn Ladies Tresses are a rare plant but there are a reasonable number on the stony beaches if you know where to look, on Hayling Island where this lovely Orchid can be found.
Common Terns nest on sheltered stony spits well away from predators and arrive in the early spring. They can be found around Hayling Island and over towards Langstone Harbour at Chichester.
The Kench, Hayling Island
This small inlet of Langstone Harbour is an excellent place to visit throughout the year. Situated in the south-west corner of Hayling Island, the Kench is readily accessible from Ferry Road. Part of the area is a Hampshire County Council wildlife reserve and there is an interpretive signboard situated close to the World War Two pill box.
During October the first Brent geese of the winter arrive in Langstone Harbour. The Kench is an excellent place to watch them as they often feed close to the road here. These birds have just completed an amazing 3000 mile journey from the Taimyr Peninsular in Siberia. They spend the breeding season from June to August on the high Arctic tundra where they often nest on small islands. The success of their breeding season can now be gauged by the number of young birds in the returning flocks. The young birds can be told from the adults by the white bars on their wing feathers. They will remain with their parents until spring.
Other birds which have made a similar journey also spend the winter here. Grey plovers can be seen running on the mud. They have large eyes and a rather short bill designed for picking small food items from the surface of the mud. Individual grey plovers maintain small winter territories on the mudflats but will congregate in a small flock on the shingle spit at high tide. The dunlin is most often seen in small flocks as they probe the mud with their long, slightly down curved, bills in search of small snails and worms just below the surface of the mud.
The curlew is a large wader and immediately recognised by its very long down curved bill. This enables it to reach a different food supply to the other wading birds. In this way several different species of wader can feed in one area without competing with each other for food.
The best time to see waders at the Kench is at high tide. At this time many birds from around Langstone Harbour congregate to roost on the shingle spit to the north of the inlet. This spit is all that remains of an ill-fated attempt to build an embankment for the Hayling railway line. The shingle was dug from the area immediately south of the road which is now part of the Hayling golf club grounds. This is now a Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve accessed by permit only.
Large flocks of waders roost at the Kench particularly on spring tides. Flocks of bar-tailed godwits, knot, redshank and curlew may be seen along with cormorants, gulls and little egrets. The area immediately to the north of the Kench is an excellent place to watch red-breasted mergansers. A flock of up to 30 birds is usually present between October and March. Watch for their spectacular displays as the males curtsey in their attempt to impress the females. These displays are best seen on sunny days in January and February.
During the late summer passage waders, often resplendent in their breeding plumages may be seen roosting here together with terns. A large roost of common, Sandwich and little terns builds to a peak in September before these ‘sea swallows’ migrate to the southern Africa for the winter.
This is a good time to see some specialist saltmarsh plants in flower. The golden samphire is a scarce plant in Britain which has a stronghold around the Solent. Look for the yellow flowers along the upper edge of the saltmarsh in August. The sea aster is related to the garden Michelmas daisy but only grows in saltmarshes.
During late August and September the striped caterpillars of the star-wort moth may be found feeding on the flowers and leaves of this plant. Several species of grasshopper and bush-cricket may be found amongst the coarse saltmarsh grasses during late summer. Commonest here is the lesser marsh grasshopper. Although rather plain brown in colour it can be easily identified by its dark bordered pale line along the lower edge of its wings. Two species of bush-cricket called cone-heads can also be seen here. The short-winged conehead prefers slightly damper grassland than its close relative the long-winged conehead. The males of these crickets produce a high-pitched buzzing call to attract females.
With such an abundance of prey it is no surprise to find invertebrate predators here. The striking wasp spider is a fairly recent colonist in Britain. It was first found in East Sussex in the 1920s but has since spread along the south coast. The males of this spider are tiny and rarely seen but the much larger females can be found on their webs during late summer. The webs are easily identified as they have a thick white zig-zag spun into them. They are spun low down amongst the saltmarsh grasses as these spiders like to prey upon grasshoppers, bush-crickets and flies. Each female spins an elaborate egg cocoon with three layers of insulation during September. The young spiderlings hatch soon after but remain snug inside their cocoon until the first warm days of spring.
There will be much more to see throughout the year here. Scarce migrant land birds such as red-backed shrike and corncrake have been seen here in the past. Please do not disturb the wader roost here at high tide, especially during cold spells during the winter months
Wasp Spiders can be found in the grassy meadows alongside the beaches, by the Hayling Billy line and Sinah Warren. Above is the start of the Hayling Billy walking trail which follows the old railway line.