The reserve between Keyhaven and Lymington is managed by the ‘Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust ‘on behalf of the local authority and consists of marshes, coarse grazing and shallow lagoons trapped behind a sea wall built in the 1990’s.
The seawall provides a footpath which is part of the south coastal path and small lanes on the landward side of the reserve enable a circular route to be followed from Keyhaven.
A trusted finger in the air to gauge the wind direction led to the decision to walk towards Lymington on the landward small lanes and return along the seawall with a following wind.
Autumn appears to have started early this year but leaves were still on the trees and the wet weather had kept the temperature well above freezing.
The sights and sounds of Autumn, however, were never far away.
A few Sloe berries were left on the Blackthorn bushes and the bright red berries of Hawthorn and Rose bushes hung in abundance.
Birds will surely not want for food over the coming winter.
It was not long into the walk before the sound of Canada Geese could be heard and a flock of these large birds flew over the path a few feet above the ground.
Canada Geese spend the summer in the far north and migrate southwards for the milder winters.
They chatter incessantly when flying in the air, swimming on the water or feeding on the meadows as though they are catching up on all the gossip from a busy summer.
Swallows and House Martins were seen effortlessly swooping low over the water in a hurry to catch any insects that would fuel their imminent flight south.
Many of the overwintering birds had yet to arrive but at least three Spoonbills were trawling through the shallow waters of one of the lagoons.
These birds together with Little Egret have taken up residence in this country and others are starting to follow.
It is interesting to see any new species make their home here but it is also with sadness that once common birds like the Nightingale and even the Tawny Owl are seldom heard and rarely seen.
A few Gadwall have taken up residence on the reserve but it was interesting to see the large number of Black Tailed Godwit that had arrived some of which were still in their summer plumage.
On the seaward side of the seawall in the marshes Redshank and Little Egret patrolled.
Further out Cormorant relaxed in the sunshine surrounded by Dunlin and a few Ringed Plover.
A small group of Grey Plover searched through the mud; one of which had a black chest from its summer plumage.
Late flowering plants such as Fleabane and Toadflax gave the ground a touch of colour but there was a surprising number of flowers on the Blackberry bushes even though the fruits still clung to the same plant.
Toadflax is not a flax or a toad but the leaves resemble flax and the wide lips of the snapdragon-like flower resemble a toad’s mouth.
Unlike the Snapdragon the lips of Toadflax never open except when forced open by Bees with a tongue long enough to reach the nectar.
Many large hairy caterpillars were seen at the side of the path on the return to Keyhaven along the seawall.
It was thought that these were the larvae of the ‘Cream Spot Tiger Moth’ which could herald the appearance of many moths next spring.
The walk from Keyhaven proved to be an ideal place to see and experience Autumn in action as the birds arrived at the change of season.