Saturday, 5 December 2015

5th December - Blashford Lakes and Lower Test Marshes, Hampshire

After the brief interlude of sunshine yesterday morning normal service was resumed today with overcast and dull conditions, and the added bonus of a gale force wind.  I met Ian at Blashford Lakes, parking outside the entrance to the visitor centre and then heading off to the Goosander Hide.  As we walked through the gate we were surrounded by Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests something that was going to be a common occurrence today.

A little further on and I an spotted a Kingfisher which then flew off, perched up again, then disappeared through the branches.  As we approached the hide a Sparrowhawk flew across us, heading off with a very keen tail wind.  Then I flushed a Snipe from the boggy area.  I waited to see if it dropped quickly, but it kept going, confirming it as a Common Snipe.  In front of the hide there was a group of Pochard and closer in a small group of Tufted Duck.



Little Grebe were keeping close to the bank, and there was a female Goldeneye a little further out.  A male Goosander flew in, then started to preen and drifted from left to right.  Then it started to swim back, coming a little closer to the hide.



WQe sat and waited in the hope that a Kingfisher might take advantage of the sheltered bay, but nothing appeared.  A group of eight Egyptian Geese flew across from the right, and in the distance we could make out Wigeon and Pochard.  After a while we decided to call it a day, and left the hide walking towards Ivy Lake, and we headed down the centre path.

I finally managed to just pin down a Goldcrest as it moved through the hedgerow.



We had come out without a map and were heading for North Poulner Lake, or as the maps call it Northfield Lake, our quarry was a Black-throated Diver that had been around for just over a week.  In a roundabout way we managed to find our way, and with the help of a local fisherman we ended up in the right place.  The fisherman had advised us that it was close to the bank and out of view, but when we arrived it had been spooked into the middle.  The problem though was that the only viewing place was through a chain link fence, and then through the branches of the trees.  At first it was distant, but then it came closer as it dived.



The views were good but very difficult through the fence and trees.



In comparison with the other two divers normally seen it looks much sleeker and streamlined.  Compared with the Red-throated it has a more defined breast and neck, the head held horizontal while the Red-throat is almost always angled up.  Then unlike the Great Northern the head is gently rounded, but as it turned its head there was evidence of a forehead.  The bill too is a lot more slender that the Great Northern.

Black-throated Diver is the rarest of the divers to be found in the south duringthe winter, and it was a treat to be able to get such wonderful views.



As it swam it would constantly push its head under water looking for any suitable prey.



We decided to see if we could get a view from the entrance to the lake.  As we approached a fisherman was leaving, and after Ian negotiating he kindly let us into the lake and we were able to walk down to the shore of the lake where we were able to get clear views.





Slowly it drifted away from us into the middle of the lake, and out of sight.

We then made our way to Kingfisher Lake where we had hoped to find the Ferruginous Duck, but despite an extensive search once again through the fence we were not successful.

As we walked alongside the stream we saw our third Kingfisher of the day, again flashing past us.  The walk took us back into the reserve, and in the hedges we flushed a flock of Bullfinches.  We could see three pairs but there were definitely more about.  A male showed well tucked away in the branches.



We stopped off in the woodland hide, where at first it was very quiet, but then Blue Tits arrived and all of a sudden there were birds everywhere, at least six Blue Tits



Three Great Tits.



A single Siskin appeared.



Then at least two Lesser Redpolls, this being one of them.



Goldfinches squabbled on the feeders, and one sat nicely on a teasel head for me.



There were Chaffinches and Greenfinches, and just like the last time we were here the Bank Vole appeared under the feeders.  The finch family was completed when a male Brambling turned up on the feeder, fighting with the Chaffinches.



As we walked back to the car it started to rain, and after lunch we decided to head to the Lower Test Marshes where in the week there have been two Short-eared Owls.  As we set off along the board walk the rain stopped and it brightened up, and the wind dropped a bit, we were hopeful, but the conditions were still not good.

A Stonechat was on the board walk and in a flooded area a Grey Wagtail was feeding by the water edge.



There were several large Pipits flying around the flooded marsh, they looked quite light, and could possibly have been Water Pipits, but they never settled in a position to allow a clear identification.

We made our way to the area where the owls have been performing, but there was nothing happening.  The wind was still fresh, and maybe this was the problem.  The highlight as we stood watching the field was a Pintail flying over, and a singing Cetti's Warbler.  As the gloom closed in we decided to head back, the owls were not going to show this afternoon.

As we walked back along the board walk Ian pointed out a murmaration of Starlings away towards Redbridge,. not a huge gathering, but its always nice to watch them flying back and forth in formation.



Not a bad day despite the conditions, you can't complain when you get a county tick.


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