Old Alresford Pond is a large shallow lake that attracts significant numbers of wetland birds and is one of the best inland sites in Hampshire for migrant waders. The area is also known for its many watercress beds, which have long been of ornithological interest.
At any time of year a range of wildfowl are likely to be seen on the pond. Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard and Gadwall are resident, while Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Pochard are usually present in varying numbers from winter through to spring. Shelduck are regular visitors and have nested in recent years, while Goosander are visiting with increasing frequency. Garganey are near-annual in spring and autumn. More irregular winter visitors can include Pintail and Goldeneye. Throughout most of the year one can also expect to see good numbers of Cormorants, plus Little Egret and Grey Heron. Great White and Cattle Egrets have also been seen in recent years. Water Rail are present in good numbers and can often be spotted around the edge of the reedbeds.
Migrant waders are perhaps the most interesting feature of Alresford Pond for the visiting birder, especially when water levels are low. The most numerous is the Green Sandpiper – as many as 25 have been present in recent autumns, although even in spring double figures can be present, with a smaller number overwintering. The best period for waders is mid-July to mid-September, with Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin, Greenshank and Redshank the most regular species, while Wood Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank are also occasional. Little Stint and Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes have also been seen in recent autumns. Spring passage is quieter, with the most likely species being Common Sandpiper, plus the occasional Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin or Greenshank if water levels are low. When water levels remain low into the winter, flocks of Lapwing often visit the pond, while Snipe and the occasional Jack Snipe may be seen around the margins.
A variety of raptors may be seen around the pond, most frequently Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, but there is also a good chance of Hobby (spring to autumn), Hen Harrier (winter) and Marsh Harrier (mostly autumn and winter). Good numbers of gulls can be expected on the pond, including regular Great Black-backed and Mediterranean. There are also infrequent records of migrant Little Gull and Black and Arctic Terns. Hirundines are often present in very good numbers in spring and autumn, especially after rain. Kingfishers zip back and forth across the pond on a regular basis, while one may also see or hear Reed, Sedge and Cetti’s Warblers. A winter Starling roost often numbers up to several thousand birds.
Away from the pond, the main birding interest of the area is provided by the various watercress beds. Perhaps the most notable species here is the Water Pipit, which is present from October to early April, with the highest numbers often in late March, when double figures can be present. Green Sandpiper is also likely throughout much of the year, with birds commuting between the cress beds and the pond. Other waders are irregular but Little Ringed Plover and Greenshank are the two most likely. Grey Wagtail can be expected, joined in autumn by the occasional Yellow Wagtail.
Alresford Pond is best viewed from the viewing platform on the east side of the causeway road (SU588331). There is a bench at the viewpoint. Parking is easiest on Broad Street where there are many parking spaces, however to reach the viewpoint one must walk carefully along the verge of the causeway road (the B3046). Views of the pond can also be obtained from the garden of the Globe Pub. For the cress beds, the most productive beds are Pinglestone (view from road at SU583332), Manor Farm (centred around SU585337, best viewed from public footpath to west and road on north side) and Drayton Farm (centred around SU599334, view from public footpath to north). There are various public footpaths and quiet lanes in the area that can be used to create a circular walk through a variety of habitats. In addition to the Globe, there are several other pubs, cafes and shops in the Broad Street area where one can purchase refreshments.
About Alresford – Old Alresford Pond
Natural England – Alresford Pond SSSI Designation
Words by Tom Jordan