Saturday, 16 March 2013

16th March - Titchfield Haven

The rain had been replaced by sunshine when I arrived, and I made my way to the Meon Hide.  As I opened the window of the hide I was greeted with the relentlous calls of the Black-headed Gulls.  One sat on a post in the water and just called at everything.

I stayed here awhile watching the antics of the gulls, then set of around the path to the west.  A Cetti's Warbler sang from the bushes, and a Male Reed Bunting was singing from a bush in the middle of the reeds.

At the next hide I was able to get better views of the Mediterranean Gulls.  I counted 25 birds on the islands, they are lovely looking gulls with jet black hood and silvery white wings.

On one of the far islands I found a pink Black-headed Gull, I am not sure how it would have obtained this colouring, maybe from eating shellfish, the colouring was consistent, and not patchy though.  It didn't seem to care, and was very aggressive to the other gulls.

There were a few teal swimming close the edge of the pool, and as usual I couldn't resist a picture of one of my favourite birds

The reason to visit Titchfield was to meet up with Ian who has been following my Four Marks blog since last March.  He joined me in the hide, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company all afternoon.

From the Meon hide I had seen the Black-tailed Godwits, and from this hide they were closer and roosting on the bank.  Some of the birds are beginning to get their brick red breeding plumage.

With the tide rising the islands were providing a roost site for the Oystercatchers, and in amongst them were 12 Bar-tailed Godwits, but these were still in winterplumage, a few Dunlin flew past, but once again the dominant birds were the noisy Black-headed Gulls.

We left the hide and walked further around the west side.  From the next hide an Avocet came close, and the water provided some nice reflections as it fed in the characteristic way sweeeping the head and bill from side to side.

As well as the Avocet a few Lapwing were close to the hide.

A Marsh Harrier was seen briefly over the reed bed, but the best chance of seeing them was from the east side so we made our way around the reserve.

The harrier did appear several times, and flew above the reeds and settled once on the ground, only to be flushed away buy a group of Canada Geese.  The birds were very distant from the hide, but the Wigeon and Teal seemed to be quite flighty, and every so often they would take to the air, with no evidence of a threat.  The wigeon though do look spectacular as they fly together.

We sat talking and in between watching the harrier, Ian picked up another brown bird over the reeds a long way off in the distance, closer inspection revealed this to be a Bittern.  It flew over the reeds for quite a distance before dropping out of sight into the reed bed.

The clouds were darkening, and it looked like the rain was about to return, it was also very cold, so we set off back to the centre, and called it a day.

Monday, 11 March 2013

9th March - Ross-on-Wye

This weekend we were away with my sister Debbie and her husband Steve, it was Debbie's birthday, and we were away to celebrate staying in a hotel in Ross-on-Wye.  The weather fortunately had improved on Friday's and it was relatively dry if not a little murky.  After settling in at the hotel, we set off to do a short walk along the river and back through the market town.

It was a very grey day, with no sign of the sun, but as we walked down to the river, looking across the fields, the trees were casting a shadow from somewhere.

The walk takes you along the bank of the the river, and you can immediately see the impact of the rains over the last six to eight months.  There was a lot of old vegetation tangled in the tress well over twelve feet from the level of the river today, and there was a lot of places where the bank had subsided and the trees up rooted.

There were signs of spring though as we walked along the river bank, the Willow tree branches covered in the silvery "pussy" willow buds.  Debbie pointed out the fact that the buds were capturing the rain drops on the fur.

The river was flowing very quickly, and there were plenty of Mallard on the water fighting their way up river.  The walk took us over the bridge and continued along a muddy path.  I noticed a large duck in the middle of the river and immediately regretted not bringing my other camera.  It was a male Goosander, and it was drifting down river with the current.  I hoped we might be able to relocate it and be able to get closer so the camera I had could at least get a record shot.  But once we got beyond the trees on the bank there was no sign of it.  There was though the amusing sight of a Mute Swan just floating stationary facing up stream.  It's legs were working overtime just to stay in that place, and you thought that it might just give up and drift down stream.

As we watched the swan, I noticed some large grey duck against the far bank. on a closer look  could see they were female Goosander.  They appear quite distant here and not up to the usual standard I know.

I checked around to see if the male would appear but there was no sign of it.  I did though manage to find a male Mandarin Duck, unfortunately again it was on the other side of the river, and this picture is even worse and does not do justice to what is a gorgeous duck.

Where the river comes around a tight bend, there was a large flood plain on the inside.  The field was completely bare where the river had obviously flooded and deposited silt.  All that was there was a single tree in the middle of the field.  It looked quite striking against the starkness of the mud, and the spire of the distant 13th century church in the centre of Ross.

Once again there were signs of spring, this aconite on the river bank.

And as we came away from the field and river and climbed the path back towards Ross there were some Violets flowering on the banks of the footpath.

The walk took us past fields of emerging rapeseed with Wood Pigeon and a pair of Buzzards, and then through the grave yard of the church where there was some bird song mostly from Robins and Blackbirds.  Finally we were back into the town, and we found a pub, where we could get down to the serious business of the weekend break.