Keyhaven Marshes

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Keyhaven Marshes

Keyhaven Marshes

The Hampshire Wildlife Trust's Reserve on the west Solent is situated between Hurst Shingle Spit in the west and Lymington River to the east. This Reserve extends to over 2,000 acres of saltings and mudflats thus forming a major part of the Hurst Castle/Lymington River Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest. The intertidal area of the Reserve is complemented by the addition of botanically-rich sections of Hurst Shingle Spit. The marshes to the east of the Lymington River became a Local Nature Reserve in 1995. They are managed by the Trust in partnership with South Hampshire Wildfowlers Association under a lease from New Forest District Council. Other traditional uses of the intertidal areas such as non-commercial bait digging and the collection of gulls eggs are permitted under a series of licences and leases.
The saltmarshes and mudflats, together with the associated shingle ridges, support nationally and internationally important numbers of birds. During the breeding season the most numerous is the Black-headed Gull with up to 7,000 pairs regularly nesting on the Reserve. Several species of Tern also breed here, including Little, Common and Sandwich Terns. Among breeding waders the most conspicuous are Oystercatcher, Ringer Plover and Redshank.

A wide variety of birds visit during both spring and autumn migrations and in the winter months. The mudflats, teeming with diverse mud-dwelling organisms, provide rich feeding areas for many wetland species. In spring these include waders and other waterfowl en route from wintering quarters in Europe and Africa to breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Siberia.

Late June and early July heralds the beginning of the return migration, this reverse journey continuing until October. In winter the Reserve is of international important for Brent Geese with an average of over 3,000 visiting each year. There are also significant numbers of waders such as Dunlin, Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwits.
The marsh lagoons lying inside the seawalls may at first glance appear to be uninteresting. However, they form a nationally important habitat for a number of uncommon salt and brackish water creatures. Foremost among these are the Starlet Sea-anemone and the small shrimp-like Gammarus insensibilis. These two species are confined to only a very few sites in Great Britain and are protected internationally.

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Where to Watch Birds in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Where to Watch Birds in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
A revised and expanded edition of this useful guide for any birdwatcher in the counties of Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. All significant birdwatching areas in the region are analyzed, providing all the information necessary to make the most of each trip, whatever the time of year.

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