It was a very early start, the conditions overcast, despite a forecast of sunshine for the day. After a near escape with a Roe Deer on the A31 just before Winchester I arrived to meet Ian in the car park at Acres Down.
Out of the car we could hear a Cuckoo calling close by, but never managed to see it. We decided to head down the main path to look for the main targets, Redstart, and Wood Warbler. Birds were singing all around us, Robins, Blackbirds, Wrens and Goldcrests, but not the ones we were hoping for.
Looking down one of the rides we found a small group of Fallow Deer.
We passed a singing Firecrest, and eventually reached Highland Water. Here there was al t of activity. We watched a male Chaffinch feeding a youngster, and a pair of Mistle Thrushes getting it on. In an open glade there was a very weak song, and a bird flew up onto an open branch It was a Spotted Flycatcher, and was very mobile and difficult to pin down.
This was not one of my better efforts, but the best of a bad bunch.
As we watched the flycatcher we realised there were two, both were singing and both were catching insects and zipping about under the canopy.
Behind us another song joined the chorus, and this was a Redstart. A flash of red and then a flicking tail gave its position away on an oak branch. It was in full song.
We continued to pursue the Spotted Flycatchers, and were joined buy another birder who worked with us to pin them down.
This is the best picture I could get which shows how difficult they were.
We were then kindly shown where there were two Wood Warblers singing. Unknown to us the path leads back towards Bolderwood, and it was not that far. We made our way, and were shown where one warbler had been singing, and then where one was definitely still singing.
As we walked through the bracken I disturbed a Great Spotted Woodpecker from the bracken and then up into a tree.
The Wood Warbler was continually singing, and we managed to find it amongst a small group of young Silver Birches. It was though quite dark through the tree canopy, and the darkening clouds above. It actually rained for a short while, but was nothing more than drizzle.
The Wood Warbler put on a lovely show.
It was singing all the time, spending time out in the open.
The beautiful song powerfully delivered
At times it came very close, grainy photographs because of the darkness under the trees.
We left it singing, and made our way back towards the Acres Down Car Park. When we passed the other spot shown to us, the warbler was singing, and as we walked on there were at least another two birds making four in total.
At the bridge over the water a Firecrest was singing from the oak tree, amazing to think this was once considered a rare bird.
A little further on a strange call above us stopped us. We found the owner at the top of the conifer. At first it was difficult to make out, and identification drifted to possible a Hawfinch. But as it turned around we could see it was in fact a male Crossbill.
As we approached the car park, another Wood Warbler could be heard. This time it was much brighter, but the bird was not as confiding.
After removing some clothes at the cars (this definitely proved a mistake), we set out up the hill to the viewing point on the down. It was still quite early so we decided to have a walk around. In doing so we disturbed a pair of Woodlark, saw several Stonechats, heard many Willow Warblers and came across this Tree Pipit with food for a brood nearby.
Our circular route meant that we had to make our way to the viewing point by way of a bog, which was not too bad, and had the added bonus of allowing us to see the Sundew plants that were everywhere amongst the boggy soil.
These are Round-leaved Sundew, and could be seen nestling in amongst the moss. The leaves are clothed in red glandular hairs, each of which have a drop of sticky liquid at the tip. These hairs ensnare an insect hoping for nectar by rolling up and then digest the insect inside.
Sundews live in the wet acidic soils which are very low in nutrients such as nitrates. Capturing and digesting insects provides the necessary nutrients that allow it to survive these harsh conditions.
Once up at the viewing point we set up, and waited. We were informed that we had missed a Honey Buzzard, and that there were Goshawk about. The first birds we saw were Red Kites, there were two around early on, but drifted away to the east. The Kites were followed by Common Buzzards, probably four in total, then the Goshawks arrived. We saw probably four individual birds, again probably all males. The views were distant but very good in the clear conditions with a telescope. Too far though for a camera.
Unfortunately I had to leave, and as I left I just knew a Honey Buzzard would turn up, and sure enough, the text came in during the early afternoon. One had drifted overhead, too far away though for photographs, a small consolation. The reason though for having to leave was well worth it, an excellent performance of "Sister Act" by BATS in Basingstoke.