Sunday, 24 February 2013

Norfolk - 19th-22nd Feb

 Iv'e just spent a few days birding Norfolk over this period and enjoyed some pleasent birding despite the cold and dull weather conditions. There were good number of waterfowl a variouse sites along the north coast including Pink-footed Geese a Long-tailed Duck and Red-throated Divers and lots of Scoter on the sea.

Marsh harriers were the commonest raptor by far and i saw four Cranes at Stubbs Mill early on the 20th. The 30-40 Snow Bunting at Salthouse were also good value.

Video of the Black-bellied Dipper, towards the end the bird is subtly singing!

However the highlight was certainly the Black-bellied Dipper at Thetford that was tricky to photograph only because of the low light levels. Otherwise its a perfect bird to photograph and video since its full of chaticter and very approchable.

Mid February

I’ve not been out a much over the last month but the patchlist is ticking over nicely and  I’m back where I should be covering Woolmer forest and ponds. The square also takes in Passfield Pond and some fields and farmland. I have most of the expected species ticked off so far and the best bird so far is probably Great-crested Grebe which is probably annual at Woolmer but not guaranteed. This years Patchlist table is here.
Many of the inland sites are hardly comparable, clearly Blashford will get tens more species than Woolmer but what makes it more interesting this year for me is that 1-2 other local birders are doing the same patch which make things a little more interesting and competitive!!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

16th Jan - Pallas's Warbler

With some time to spare either side of midday today i spent a few cold few hours on the Berkshire border looking for the Pallas's Warbler that has been lurking among a tit flock along the river near Moor green lakes. I wasn't feeling very positive on arrival and bumped into a few other birders who returned negative reports. I need not have worried though as fairly quickly i located the bird among the first group of Long-tailed Tits i encountered and had some reasonable views. Over the next hour it went missing and i was able to relocate it again twice more, though views could have been closer and more prolonged i went away happy.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

6th Jan 2013

Smew (Mergellus albellus)
I won’t be getting out much other than locally for the next couple of weeks and like a few other birders  I've been doing my best to see the good birds on offer in Hampshire over the last few days.

Today ACJ and I arrived a Bickerley shortly after first light with a view to seeing the Great Egret that can apparently be seen at roost from the viewpoint by the brewery. Perhaps we were too late but we didn't get it here and later heard that it had been on the other side near Bickerly road at dawn… pants. GWE is always a bogey bird for me and seeing this returning bird never seems to run smoothly. It’s a nice site though and the Glossy Ibis was on show most of the time from the bridge.

The Bittern at Ivy Lake, Blashford was next on the list but things didn't look good as we arrived in the hide where condensation on the windows made viewing pretty hard work. Luckily Andy quickly picked out a Bittern off to the right from the open side window and I had good scope views of it eating a fish before it wandered off back into cover.

It was a long shot but we figured it was worth putting in a little time looking for the Dipper that had recently been seen near Bicton. It was needle in a haystack stuff frankly there is a lot of habitat and much of the land is private and flooded, Water Rail and Chiffchaff were new here though. The Bewick’s Swan was on the floods at Ibsley bridge and back at Bickerley for another bash at GWE the Ruff was on show as well as the Ibis but no sign of the Egret.

Romsey had Smew and Hawfinch to offer and it didn't disappoint with very good views of both species. So overall a good days Hampshire birding which finished with dusk at Chichester harbour entrance, Guillemot, Shag, GN Diver and Sandwich Tern were visible before dark.

The end of today’s trip out sees me on 118 species.
Here is my list!

5th Jan

It had to be the Oysterbeds this afternoon as Scaup was on offer along with BN Grebe and Slav which I had yet to connect with this year. The Scaup (apparently a 2cy male) was visible out in the harbour but was frankly disappointingly distant and mostly asleep. Also in the harbour were Mergs, GC Grebe, LT Grebe, Slavs, BN Grebe and Goldeneye. Before dark I nailed Jack Snipe at a traditional site and after dark Barn Owl and Lt Owl also fell with relative ease before an evening in the pub!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Seeing Red (instead of golden)

With a couple of hours spare this afternoon I did a little local birding around the farmland and water bodies in the Kingsley and Binstead area. A Green Sandpiper on a flooded field was nice and I found three Grey Partridge relatively easily. The local Golden Plover flock was nowhere to be found but an unexpected Red Kite was excellent compensation. 2012 was the first year I have had multiply local records of Kites locally and this latest record suggests nothing has changed. They are still a novelty for me here and they are most welcome!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

East Hampshire from top to bottom

Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) and
Dark-bellied Brent Goose (Branta bernicla bernicla)
With a free afternoon and a twitch feeling I was very temped to try and tidy up Divers and Grebes for the year list on Hayling Island today, particularly since a RN Grebe was present in Chi harbour and visible from Sandy Point. In the end however I opted to pop up north for the Waxwings near North camp station. I could see them in the trees as I arrived on site and had a quick check of the map to confirm that both they and I were inside Hampshire. No problem there but they were berry flicking distance from the border. I’d hardly parked when they flew off into Surrey and out of site, so not exactly my most satisfying Waxwing experience but they are on the year list none the less. At this point it was only 14:05 so I made a slightly out of character decision to find out that it only takes around 45min to get from North Camp to Farlington Marshes! This was not green birding but all the same by 16:00 I’d located the target Red-breasted Goose on the east side of the marsh and picked up Avocet among other  year ticks on the way.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy new year!

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) 
Walpole Park, Gosport 1-1-2013

Well it may be true that enthusiasm will diminish and other commitments will ensure that my name will slowly trickle down the table but I figured I may as well keep a Hants yearlist this year (I’ll be patch-listing too at Woolmer). So with that in mind I left the house before dawn this morning aiming to see the key birds on offer and with any luck get a reasonable day list as well. A change of year brought a change in the weather and there was barely a cloud in the sky all day!

First stop had to be the Glossy Ibis at Bickerley, a site I have never been to before. After a bit of faffing with a dodgy grid reference I arrived at the place I should have been on Bickerley road to view the floods where an unknown birder had the bird, nice. A quick text saw the ‘overreadies’ appear shortly after the bird disappeared. And then shortly after hearing they had relocated it, it got up high and flew off south where it was presumably the bird relocated at Stanpit in Dorset, I suspect foul play but I’m saying nothing :-)

The rest of the day was spent working my way back east where the highlights were Marsh Harrier at Titchfield, RB Gull at Gosport, Shag, GN Diver, Guillemot and SE Owl on Hayling Island. A wiz around some country lanes locally got me a Tawny Owl (sat on a branch within a meter of a roosting Pheasant!) to give me 89 species for the day.

Followers of this blog may be interested to hear that there is now a Hantsbirds facebook group.
Hayling Island - 11th November

A pretty average day of November birding around the SE of Hampshire today but the weather was clear and sunny providing a nice light for photography. The best of some other pictures of common birds was probably this Kestrel that obligingly sat on a fencepost and allowed a close approach.

And here is a short video of some Sanderlings also taken on Hayling

Island today

Monday, 29 October 2012

Goldcrests -28th October

I have very little to show for a day birding SE Hampshire today other than a short video of some enchanting Goldcrest behaviour.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Yellow-browed Warbler - Sandy Point

In a particularly good Autumn for Yellow-browed Warblers even in Hampshire it would have been simply offensive not to catch up with one as I did today at Sandy Point. Next I hope I’ll be able to find one for myself!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Farlington - 30th Sept 2012

Given that I have not been out birding much at all in recent months I could not complain about finding a Spotted Crake today at Farlington marshes. I could however complain about the photo!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Unusual Little Egret - Hampshire, 12th September

Believe it or not this is a Little Egret fledgling. Structurally it’s identical to its siblings, two other Little Egrets with fairly typical bill colours, darkening pinkish/orange and this bird has been seen being fed by its presumed parent, an adult Little Egret. Some research suggest that juvenile Little Egrets can look like this occasionally, i.e. have bright orange bills but I have yet to see any pictures or mention of this in any book. An interesting bird and an undoubted pitfall many of us must be unaware of.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Mosquito Larvae

The closest thing to a wildlife picture i've taken for a while, Mosquito Larvae in a coffee jar in my kitchen.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hants Birding - 26th July

Very little birding going on for me of late but today I did get out and twitch a rather unseasonal Red-backed Shrike a cracking male showed reasonably well near Cheriton. Since I was out I figured high tide at Farlington could be worth a look. There was nothing unexpected on the lake but a Short-eared Owl hunting the grassland to the south of the lake was a nice surprise. It was using the fence posts and posing in the evening sunlight. For photography purposes it could have been closer, this is heavily cropped but I can’t complain really!

Farlington Lake at this time of year attracts passage waders which gather here at high tide when they can’t feed out on the mudflats of Langstone harbour. It’s a good place to check for something unusual but also if the high tide coincides with a sunny evening it can be an excellent place to photography birds in flight (BIF) in this case waders coming off the lake to return to the harbour. The light, wind and tide were just right this evening to bif some waders, here’s some examples below.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Hants Birding - Late May/Early June

I have not managed very much birding over this period but i have been able to catch up with the Black-winged Stilts at Pennington Marshes as well as obtaining brief views of the singing Marsh Warbler at Ibsley water meadows. Stilt pics and a recording of the Marsh Warbler below.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Owling - 17th May

With a little time to spare before dusk this evening and some reasonable weather it seemed appropriate to attempt to locate and photograph some Owls locally. The result was a least three pleasing images so it went pretty well! See below.

Two Juvenile Tawny Owls

Barn Owl at dusk

Juvenile Tawny Owl

Patch update - mid May

A few hours on the patch over the last week have kept things ticking over nicely with new migrants added on most visits. The Common Tern at Kingsley sand pit remains in residence adding weight to the theory that they do breed somewhere locally. A sunny afternoon last week saw me scanning for raptors from the Wyck road and tally up five species, a nice close flyby Hobby the highlight. 6+ Wheatear in a ploughed field here were also very nice. Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler are now on the list and Little Ringed Plover along with the previously recorded Common sandpiper make up the waders I could reasonably expect to get.

I will doubtless remain in the lower half of the table but Kingsley is hardly evenly matched against the likes of Blashford, Fishlake, Fleet Pond etc. I set myself a goal of 100 species and that looks well within reach since I’m currently on 93 with I’d like to think a few easy ones still to fall

Friday, 4 May 2012

Proper May Birding in Hampshire – 4th May

Male Whinchat,
Sinah Golf Course, Hayling Island
I have managed a few days out in the field over the last week. I had a good sea-watch on Monday and I’ve seen most of the migrants that I might reasonably expect to have done. Overall the weather has been poor and the birding not much better considering this should be the best time of year. Today however was a good one with admittedly no major quality but plenty of quantity. I was out of bed late due to lack of enthusiasm frankly, though on arrival in the west corner of Hayling island it was quickly apparent there had been a reasonable fall of migrants. Fiveteen Wheatear in a very small area of the public golf course was a good start and these quickly became twenty five with at least six Whinchats among them, including a couple of males which are always worth seeing. A quick look at the sea then produced a distant Great Skua sat on the sea bathing and flapping around for a bit before it flew off east, I’ve seen several Arctic Skua and a couple of Poms this week so a Bonxie was a welcome addition. The lure of land birds was strong and the sea too quiet so I was soon back bashing the scrub. The Kench and Sinah Warren area was heaving with birds to keep the bins active. Many of the Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and Blackcaps were perhaps breeding in the area but many were clearly migrants. On top of these I had Redstart, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler and at least five Spotted Flycatchers to keep things interesting.
Spotted Flycatcher at The Kench, Hayling Island

There has been a group of five White Storks roaming the south of England over the last few days and they have been threatening to enter Hampshire airspace. I refused to chase them around Sussex yesterday and aborted a twitch once I had heard they were back in the air. Hampshire is a different matter mind you and with late news (there’s a chance I could have scoped them from where I was, frustratingly) of them flying over Havant towards Portsdown, I decided it was worth a scan from the top of the hill. I didn’t give it long but I also spent a while driving the fields north of Portsdown hoping to find them on the deck with no joy.

By this time news had reached me of a quality bird on my proper patch of Woolmer pond. Steve Mansfield had found a Bar-tailed Godwit there mid morning and this would be a Woolmer tick for me if it hung on for long enough. There is no doubt I literally over looked and looked over this bird initially since I didn’t expect it to be mostly motionless and at such close range! 
Bar-tailed Godwit, Woolmer Pond

The pond has benefitted greatly from the recent rain and is looking very attractive for waders now; the six Common Sandpipers also present seemed to agree. Clearly it had been a good day for migration and there had to be a chance of finding Common Sandpiper nearby on one of the pits at Kingsley for the patch list. Two Common Terns and three Common Sandpipers on the south pit was a welcome sight and Whitethroat and Cuckoo were also new additions for the patch-yearlist. All in all a pleasant days Hampshire birding.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Patchlist 2012 - 22nd April

Very few chances to get out on the patch in the last few weeks have meant that there are probably several migrants i should have seen there by now. However i have managed a few hour over the last week and have added Swallow unsurprisingly. More surprising though certainly hoped for is a semi resident Common Tern that's been present for a few days at Kingsley south pit, interestingly it is sporting a ring. I had hoped this pit would be good enough to attracted Terns and I know hope there will at some point be more than just this one species!!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Patch meanderings

Grey Partridge

Various meanderings locally over the last couple of weeks have produced little of note except a trickle of the first summer migrants. Chiffchaffs have been everywhere for a while now and i have had two singing Blackcap and Firecrests seem to be in every bit of vaguely suitable woodland in the Hants/Surrey/Sussex border area, however it took me until yesterday to find a male singing on my patch! I also picked up the first Sand Martins at Kingsley sand pits where they will no doubt be a continued feature through the summer since they are likely to breed here.

Another resent highlight was a daytime Tawny Owl which I located due the local Jays and Chaffinches kicking off over its presence, a shame it wasn’t a LEO!

Grey Partridge seem to be cropping up in various places around the patch, so it's good to know they are around in what seems to be good numbers.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Rose-coloured (and uncooperative) Starling, Hordle, 11th March

Nice bird to see but unfortunately, as you could guess from the video, it never showed very well for me.
For better pictures see basically anywhere else......

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Going gullistic - The Iceland Gulls....

The Immature Iceland Gulls in Hampshire, Jan-March 2012 

Iceland Gull, Broadmarsh, Hampshire - March 2012

Firstly I am basing a lot on little experience, and features which may not be concrete, bear in mind I do most of my birding in Hampshire and I Hants ticked Iceland Gull this year, so I have not seen many. I also admit to not fully understanding how and when these birds moult, but I now believe the Broadmarsh bird could well be a 1st winter bird and that the Camber dock bird is certainly a 2nd winter. Anyone following this may realise that they were both aged as such publically after there initial discovery and in both cases I challenged that opinion! What a numpty! Anyway over the course of my journey all round the houses and back I have learned a lot and I hope you have too.

The Camber Dock Iceland Gull
Photographed on the 30th January 2012

If you except that the Camber bird has a darker iris than is typical then everything else fits 2w. The books suggest that the iris colour is a good feature to use to age birds in their first two year but that it can be variable. In general we are lead to believe that the iris of a 1w should be dark and in a 2w it should be pale.

The above photo has been deliberately darkened to enhance and clearly show the presence of grey feathers in the mantle and scapulars of this bird. The argument falls apart If a 1w Iceland Gull can appear this advanced but surly it can’t. So coupled with this and a clearly bi-coloured iris, the pale greenish ivory (not pink) coloured base to the bill with a dark band and a pale tip, the white head, breast and primaries and otherwise very pale appearance it has to be a 2w.

The Broadmarsh Iceland Gull 
Photographed on the 5th , 12th and 14th March 2012

This bird superficially looks very similar to the Camber bird and could be thought to be in 2w plumage. Add to that its dark eye (a feature apparently unusual for a 2w) and it is unsurprising that I and others initially suspected it to be the same individual as the Camber Dock bird. On inspection of photographs it became clear that this was not the case.

In strong sunlight the iris of the Broadmarsh bird can look yellowish, but in general it appears dark as in this photo. 

The bill base is pink (not greenish ivory) with an all dark band and tip. The head and breast are white but particularly in flight the wings, tail and upper body have a brownish milky tea colouring. 

There is no sign of any new grey feathers in the mantle and scapulars. 

It is not a typical biscuit coloured juvenile but I believe this bird has a dark eye because it is a faded, worn juvenile (or 1st winter).

If you have got this far then you must be at least vaguely interested in these birds and their age.
What do you think?

Thanks must go to Alan Lewis, Andy Johnson and particularly to Jason Crook for helping me to get my head around these gulls…


Woolmer tick - 12th March

Not just any Red Kite, a Woolmer Red Kite  

Not only that the first I have ever seen at Woolmer (my proper local patch) in at least ten years of regular birding there. Having now seen six Red Kites locally in a month, which is more than i had ever previously seen in total locally, it seem this is the year they become a regular site round these parts....!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Iceland headache

On studying my photos from today of the Broadmarsh Iceland Gull it is clear that it is different to the Camber Dock bird, though at first glance similar. There is a difference in bill pattern, the Camber bird has a pale tip, and the eye looks nothing but dark in any of my photos of the Broadmarsh bird, where as the Camber bird’s eye though dark for a 3cy is pale/bicoloured. The Broadmarsh bird doesn’t have any grey/un-patterned mantle/scaps feathers, the Camber bird does. So the Broadmarsh bird is quite unlike the Camber 3cy in many ways but it is not a brown coffee coloured, dark billed juvenile/2cy. So is the Broadmarsh bird a faded, spring juv/2cy…?
Or should I just stop looking at Gulls?!?!
Comments welcome!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Patchlist: 75% Woodcock - 24th February

Well the Malthouse Farm area is fast becoming one of my favoured areas of the patch; there is a good view over a large area that takes in farmland, woodland and views of Sleaford reservoir. So far the Goosander and Ruff have been found from here and yesterday I picked up another Red Kite, tens of Buzzards and managed a new high count of ten Goosander.

Just about got all ten in one picture, they're Goosander believe me!
Tonight I was there again for an hour at dusk with a view to targeting Barn Owl hunting the farmland. Sadly that was not to be though at Sleaford Res a pair of Goosander almost certainly roosted along with 7 immature Mute Swans and 45 Canada Geese. Both Little and Tawny Owl were calling and two Woodcock flew over me and out into the farmland to feed. Species no. 75 so three quarters of the way to my original target for the year before the end of February!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Patchlist: Kites are like Buses - 21st February

Record shot
I had a wander around the part of the Straits Enclosure, Alice Holt Forest that is included in my patch yesterday with little to report though there were several Marsh Tit. It will definitely be worth coming back to this area in the spring and summer as I have had Turtle Dove and Lesser Whitethrout here in the past and it must also have a chance of harbouring breeding Firecrest so a bit of a rekey more than anything.

Today I briefly stopped in at Sleaford Res to check on the Goosander, still three birds present. Even better though I stopped by a road on the western side of my patch and had a scan around for raptors. Straight away I was pretty sure I had a distant Red Kite and scoped it to confirm, a nice patch tick that I was pretty sure of getting but they are still a scarce bird locally. I hung around a little longer and got the total up to four with three of those together. It seems they’ll be a common site soon then, I’ve seen as many today as I had seen in my corner of Hampshire ever before!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Patchlist 2012 - 18th February

I had a couple of damp hours on the patch today with not a great deal to show for my trouble. At Kingsley sandpits I had several Mandarins and a Cormorant along with the female Wigeon again, though it flew of and I later relocated it at Stubbs Farm ponds where there was also Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Tufted, Gadwall, Canada Goose and Mute Swan so as good a selection of waterfowl as anywhere on my patch. The most interesting bird here however was a hybrid Tufted x Pochard which I suspect is the same bird mentioned at this location in the 2010 Hampshire bird report, so it has been around for years and I am therefore surprised that I have never encountered it before on any of the other local water bodies. Anyway I still need Pochard so does it count as half a tick!?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Patch Mega - 16th Feb

A brief spell on the patch today was really productive. The footpath that runs west from Malthouse farm is mostly within my patch and affords good views to the north over the Straits enclosure, part of Alice Holt Forest and the surrounding farmland. It is also possible to stand in my patch here and scope Sleaford reservoir. By doing this I had already found a drake Goosander last month. Once in position I started to scan the area, really with a bonus raptor in mind and concentrated on the sky. There were plenty of Buzzards around but the hoped for Red Kite has yet to be seen. After a while I scanned the reservoir and picked up a drake Goosander straight away but another bird slipped out of view before I could id it, though it later appeared and proved to be a female, nice a pair! Before long another drake slipped into view, and by the time I had left I had managed to see six Goosander here which included 4 drakes, there may be more. Goosander is a scarce bird locally though perhaps not anymore!

There were at least 100 Skylark in the stubble here 30+ Linnet and a few hundred winter thrushes too. As I had arrived I had noticed a flock of Lapwing south of the reservoir but not paid them too much attention, they were occasionally getting up in the air and flying around, I stuck my bins on them and noticed a smaller wader among them, initially I took it for a Golden Plover but as I watched it spiral round with the flock at some distance something didn’t fit. 

I noticed the birds feet extended beyond its tail and as it descended the white tail sides were obvious, it landed and quickly started feeding actively quite unlike the Lapwings and everything fell into place, a Ruff, an almost unheard of bird locally and another patch mega!!! 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Patchlist 2012 - 6th-15th Feb

Last week I did manage a few hours on my patch over two or three days. I added Snipe at Shortheath Common thanks to Tony Davis’s detailed knowledge of the site and also Reed Bunting at two different sites. Other highlights were a Little Egret roosting at KSP south and a pre roost flock of 140 Linnet in Oakhanger as well as 26 Golden Plover and 200+ Skylark in one flock near Wyck.  On 15th I also added Red-legged Partridge and Yellowhammer, two in a  Chaffinch flock in a stubble field with 5 Reed Buntings and the first singing Yellowhammer I have heard this year a few hundred meters away. So things ticking over nicely and some interesting hard weather birds bring me up to 72 species.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Patchlist 2012 - 4th Feb

It seems winter has arrived so a few hours out on the patch this afternoon seemed in order since more than a few winter birds are still missing from my list, due to the mild weather. Hopefully things will change in the coming days as the weather around the country moves a few birds around. Just as I was about to leave the house I had a text from Andy Davidson to say that 12 Golden Plover were near Kingsley and within my patch. There is usually a local wintering flock but I had yet to catch up with them and so I made these my first stop. 12 Golden Plover (later 30) with a few Lapwings, nice.  

The northern pits at Kingsley were quite frozen but I was pleased to find a good count of 39 Gadwall keeping a small area ice free in the company of 5 Mallard, 3 Lt Grebe, 3 Coot, 1 Teal and best of all a Wigeon probably the same female that was around at the end of last year, where has she been! The big south pit was ice free?! and attracting a lots of BH Gulls (180+) and a Common Gull to bath, the expected waterfowl were present but 15 Mandarin is more than usual on this pit. It started snowing around 16:15 so visibility was poor but I tried a few places for Barn Owl all the same, with no success, good views of Little Owl and a Tawny sat on the hedge was nice though.