Wednesday I received an email, an adult Surf Scoter seen in Stokes Bay Gosport. I am in Munich!
Fast forward to Saturday after two days of relatively good weather to wake to fog and drizzle. I arrived at Stokes Bay to see several cars and telescopes pointed out to the sea. I parked got out and immediately felt the cold wind, in fact it seemed colder in that short moment than I had experienced in the Arctic at the start of the week.
I scanned the sea and saw two black blobs, and one black and white blob on the sea.
An adult drake Surf Scoter along with two Common Scoter, only the 5th for Hampshire, a bird that is difficult to see in the English Channel. The last one I saw was off Sandy Hook in New Jersey. This is an American species, and is a rare visitor to Europe. The size was comparable with the Common Scoter. The views with the telescope was a lot better and you could clearly see the white patch on the back of the head, and as it bobbed on the sea the white at the base of the heavy triangular bill. The conditions improved slightly, and as the sun came out I could make out the yellow bill, unfortunately it was quite distant for the camera.
The Surf Scoter dived frequently and they seemed quite happy just drifting off shore.
I had met up with Ian, and we watched if for about 45 minutes, then decided to head west, hoping the weather would improve to the New Forest. Our first stop was Eyeworth Pond, the fould weather meaning that the car park was empty when we arrived and the ducks were close to the path where there was food.
A bonus was a pair of Wood Duck that were close in, but drifted away as we walked down to the shore.
But the main attraction was the specialty here, Mandarin Ducks, I counted 16 drakes and they really are a very photogenic bird. I was also lucky that they were happy to be in close to the shore.
Fantastic little ducks
They would stretch their heads and look into the water, creating some comic reflections.
After the look they would dive, come back up and then shake the water off the feathers
With so many males and only a few females there was plenty of displaying, characterised by the "sails" being raised, and every so often the duck lifting itself out of the water
We walked away from the pond along a road, that we soon realised we had come across when we walked through the area in January. If we had turned right we would have come across the pond we were looking for.
There were plenty of Thrushes, Mostly Redwing, but also a few Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. It was though still damp and very misty.
We headed back towards the pond. Seed is put out for the birds and this attracts many tits, we saw Marsh, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits.
With the skies seeming to brighten we decided to head off the Mark Ash Wood. The tarhet there was Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a bird I used to see frequently when I was living in Essex, but now are quite a rarity. I heard one a couple of years ago in Denny Wood but never managed to see it.
As we walked to the area Ian found a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was hammering away at rotten wood just off the ground, it was making Matchsticks!
A male it would stop its carpentry only to look around.
We walked around the car park, there were loads of birds in amongst the beech mast and laf litter, as we walked they would just fly out, mostly Chaffinches and Redwings, we scanned for Brambling but there was no sign of any white rumps.
The Tawny Owl had decided that it was not the sort of day to sit in the open, and there was no sign of it. As we turned back we heard drumming, a rattle rather than that which I am used to from the Great Spotted. It was definitely a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and we headed off in the direction. It continued to drum, and we reached the tree and could hear it above us, but we couldn't see it. It was extremely frustrating, then the drumming stopped, and we never heard it again. Where did it go, did it fly off as we scanned with binoculars.
We waited, but there was no more drumming. After awhile we decided to walk back to the cars, and then drive back giving the woodpecker chance to drum again. As we walked along the ornamental drive a stag Fallow Deer was feeding on its own just off the road.
It watched us as we walked by, unconcerned as we walked past.
Once we returned with the cars we stood around waiting and listening. A Lesser Redpoll dropped in to entertain for a while.
There was a short burst of drumming again, but again we were not able to locate it. As the clouds gathered and it started to rain we decided to call it a day, knowing full well that tomorrow it will probably show well in glorious weather! Oh well you can't always be successful, and come on there was an adult male Surf Scoter in the morning!