As we drove along the main path there were Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges everywhere, they scattered as we drove slowly around the pot holes. We headed all the way down to the point, with the tide rising there was the chance to scan for something both within the estuary, and out in the Solent.
Getting out of the car a Grey Seal could be seen hauled up on one of the pontoons, looking more a brown seal, than grey this was probably due to the high amount of tannin flowing into the estuary from the New Forest streams.
There were several flocks of small passerines flying about, and as they passed overhead the majority called to identify themselves as Linnets, however one bird separated from the flock and headed north calling, and I recalled my time in Essex when these birds would callas they flew over the sea wall at East Tilbury, a Lapland Bunting.
We walked to a good vantage point where we could see both the Solent and the estuary. Along the edge of the estuary was a group of eight Spoonbill, all doing what good Spoonbill all do, sleeping.
Scanning the Solent, Ian picked up a Greta Northern Diver, moving west, diving as it went. It was relatively close in, but still very distant for anything other than a record shot.
As we watched the diver I picked up a small grebe, and then very quickly a second, at first we though Bleck-necked but as they turned and showed the head shape and the white on the cheeks and neck it was clear that they were Slavonian Grebes. Again nothing more than a record.
Things then moved at a pace, a large flock of Wigeon had a red head Goosander feeding at one end, and mid channel were two Eider, three Pintail and a single Guillemot, again heading west, and diving frequently. All these very much too far away.
The tide was now rising quite quickly, filling the channels in front of us, and providing a lake for the Brent Geese. It remained bitterly cold
A single Herring Gull drifted on the rising water in front of us.
Gunfire came from the estate, and this unsettled a lot of the geese and duck. As they flew off the Spoonbill were awoken from the their dreams, and decided that maybe they should move on.
They circled around the area for awhile before settling back down on the marsh further up the estuary.
Aside from the gun shots the geese and Wigeon appeared to be unsettled, and would take to the air frequently. As well as the wildfowl, the Rooks and Jackdaws too could be seen flying up in large flocks, but we were not able to find any bird of prey other than a staionary Buzzard
It seems every day out these days produces a Kingfisher, and once again the familiar piercing whistle signaled the arrival of one. It flew to a post not to far from us.
And decided on one dive into the water, probably just to wash, before returning to the post to sit and watch.
Then it flew off, around the point and came back into the estuary to settle on a post above the Grey Seal. we walked back to try and get close, but it was off again, out across the saltmarsh. We were though closer to the seal, who watched us carefully as we approached.
We were more an annoyance as we walked as close as we could get, it kept its eye on use, but never seemed as if it would drop into the water, water which was probably warmer at this time than the air temperature.
The early rush of sightings were now winding down. Three Little Grebes were in the estuary, and on the Solent up to three Great-crested Grebes, but apart from that it was quiet.
We then decided to spend our time around the lakes and pools, where there were plenty of duck. The majority were Wigeon, and there whistles could be heard all the time along with the honks of Canada and Brent Geese.
On one of the lakes were up to thirty Pochard, all mostly sleeping.
And in amongst the Pochard were four Scaup, although here only three together
The two on the left are probably first winter drakes, the right hand bird a female.
Scanning around there were plenty of Teal and Shoveler, and five Pintail drakes and a single duck, but like all Pintail, quite a way from us.
The Scaup would alternate from sleeping with bouts of swimming around, here the female.
With not much else about our attention turned to the other ducks on the water, all now in their beautiful breeding plumage. A drake Gadwall, often over looked but possessing some beautiful markings on the breast in the form of fine black and white waves.
It would seem that Wigeon were everywhere, on the water whistling away and grazing in the grass, with some of the drakes posted as look outs with their heads standing up above the feeding bodies.
Again, due to their numbers they are probably over looked but again they are a very beautiful duck
Lovely reflections in the still water.
We went back to the Scaup to see if there was any movement or activity. At first they continued their sleeping with heads tucked under the wing. But then two decided to preen, and one of the drakes, at last, wing flap.
The peaceful scenes continued, punctuated by the whistle of a Wigeon, or the splash landing of Brent Geese as they flew in from the surrounding fields. The Pochard though sleeped on, but with one eye on events.
Back at the car, a strange shape on a piece of driftwood out on the saltmarsh caught Ian's eye, and it turned out to be a Peregrine, probably a male sitting on the wood. Here was probably too the cause of all the panic earlier this morning.
We decided to move on, it was still very grey and cold, but as we headed north back to nursling it started to rain. These conditions turned worse as we headed on to the New Forest, and as we pulled up at the footpath leading down to Black Gutter Bottom, there was a heavy drizzle in the air, more from low cloud than actual rain.
Once the drizzle had eased we walked down to the stream, and then up the other side towards Leaden Hall. Bird life was extremely hard to find, there was the occasional, sharp rattle from a Wren somewhere in amongst the gorse, and every so often as we walked down the hill a Robin would appear as if to watch our movements for disturbing something worth eating.
Up on Leaden Hall several Blackbirds could be seen on the grazed turf, but there was no sign of either Redwing or Fieldfare. We walked across to view Ashley Hole, and the silence and lack of movement continued. We decided on walking a loop along to Cockley Plain, and then down into Black Gutter Bottom. We were hoping to find a Hen Harrier, but to be quite truthful, anything would do.
In amongst the ponies were a group of Fallow Deer, all now with their thicker dark grey winter coats., standing out amongst the deer though was a complete white deer, not albino, but leucistic Fallow Deer.
It appeared quite at ease with the other deer, and as they moved away it went within as part of the group.
A lot of the gorse has been removed from the area, tyre tracks from tractors gouged into the mud, and a lot of open space where previously gorse bushes stood. Every so often there would be a call of the Dartford Warbler, and a brief view as one flew low between the gorse bushes. The Wrens too continued to scold, these two doing it out in the open.
As we walked down into Black Gutter Bottom a Raven flew overhead, while a Crow called from the top of a nearby tree. Every so often a Blackbird would fly over, and as we approached a small copse of trees that included some Holly bushes there were Redwing feeding on the berries and on the ground, and a lone Fieldfare sitting in the middle of the Holly tree.
As I approached to get closer to the thrushes, the Fieldfare burst from the tree and settled conveniently at the top of a bush close by, the first good view I have had of one this winter.
The search for Hen Harrier was becoming fruitless, and it made the walk a burden, there was no sign at all, and this was confirmed by another birder who had been searching. maybe the gorse clearing work had scared them off, or just the fact that this is now quite a popular place to walk dogs. Safe to say though we could have searched all day without any joy in finding one.
We decided it was time to call it a day, as we did a group of Fallow Deer jogged down the hill and stopped to watch a dog walker from a safe distance.
A day that had started so brightly gradually fizzled out, leaving an air of despondancy, which in truth was not deserved, such has been our success lately that it was always to be. The winter here in Hampshire though, by now needs the injection of interest that a new year brings