Saturday, 26 January 2013

26th January - Romsey and Testwood

After the garden Bird Watch this morning we decided that it would be nice to go somewhere different, with the chance to catch up on some birds that we just don't find around Four Marks.  The first stop was Romsey, and Mercer Way. 

At the end of the cul de sac we parked and walked to the small park.  There were several birders there with cameras and scopes, and we paused to watch and see if we could see the target bird.

As we stood there a mother with her children walked down the path.  One of the girls asked their mother "why are those people bird watching Mum", to which the mother replied "they like to look at extinct birds!" - Wonderful!

 There was plenty of activity with Chaffinches, Goldfinches and several smart Bramblings using the puddles to wash and drink from.  A couple of extremely smart male Bullfinches put in an appearance but even they were still the supporting act for the star bird.

We saw a couple of the stars fly away, but they never settled and it was impossible to see them well.  We decided to walk around the area, and did manage to get some views.  However after a stroll along the canal towpath we returned to have another go to see if we could get some better views.

They are notoriously shy birds, and winter is the best time to see them when the leaf cover reveals them, but even then they stay well covered in amongst the branches proving a challenge to photograph.

Helen found the first bird, but all I managed to get was this view, any idea?

It is that wonderful finch that you just don't see like all the others, it is a Hawfinch.  These are truly enigmatic birds, they seem to be genuinely scarce in most places, even when woodland areas seem suitable for them.  In other areas they are seen year after year, and Mercer Way is just one of those places.  Just recently as many as 30 plus have been seen here

There were up to four birds in the trees here but they were extremely difficult to see, the least disturbance would see them off and away, high up and into the trees or worse away over the tree tops and out of sight.  Fortunately we were able to get some better views and with that some nice photographs.

It perches upright in the tree showing off the bull neck and the massive bill.

In this picture you can see that the bill has some mud on it, probably as a result of foraging on the ground, something that we were not able to witness.

Gradually persistence and patience paid off and we managed to get slightly closer views.

A stunningly beautiful bird, with an orange brown crown contrasting against a pale grey neck, and the dark brown back highlighting the white wing patch, and then of course that sharp pointed stocky bill which makes it unmistakable.

From Romsey we decided to checkout Testwood Lakes.  I had never been here before, and thought that maybe it was an opportunity to catch up with another beautiful bird that captures the imagination.

As we made our way around the lakes path a large flock of Lapwing were flying around the area, probably looking for a suitable place to land.

In order to get away from the dog walkers we made our way to the hides.  In the first there was not much around.  There was a group of Wigeon on the lake, and with them was a lone male Shoveler. The male Shoveler is one of my favourite ducks, the white breast and the orange flanks at this time of year make them a gorgeous sight, and typically they seem to always sleep right next to the water line providing a lovely reflection.

From the first hide I managed to find our target.  It was a long way off but the electric blue of its back stood out in the afternoon sun.  We left the hide to walk to the next which was hopefully a little closer.

Scanning the edge of the lake we could find it again, and we had to make do with the lovely light highlighting a male Mallard against the reeds.

Then Helen noticed something flying across the lake towards us, and suddenly realised it was a Kingfisher.  It came straight at us, and even perched in front of the hide.  It had a small fish in it's bill, but unfortunately it was behind some small trees and I could not focus the camera, and then it was off and across the lake.

 we watched it go from a concrete wall to fence posts, and to fish from the posts and while hovering.  Finally it flew across the lake again and perched in the willows.  This was the best picture I could get.  It is there if you look closely.

We had set out today to find Hawfinch, and to see Kingfisher, and we had managed both.  Unfortunately I had not been able to photograph the Kingfisher as I would have wished, but that did not take from the fact that we had some wonderful views of another beautiful bird, which is what it is all about, enjoying the beauty of the natural world.  I wonder how many of the dig walkers could say that!