Saturday, 28 March 2015

28th March - Titchfield Haven

The calm sunny weather of yesterday was replaced with misty and damp conditions Saturday morning.  As I drove south the mist turned into fog, along with some spots of rain.  It was still misty when I arrived at the Haven, but the wind was very strong.  I scanned out into the Solent, unable to see across to the Island, but all I could find were a few Turnstone flying past.  Both Gannet and Common Scoter were reported.  

Unfortunately we found a dead and flattened Water Vole on the road, why it was there was a mystery with one or two theories.  May be caught by a raptor or gull, and dropped and then run over, or maybe fancied some time on the beach and didn't look both ways to cross the road.  Sad either way.

Ian and I walked around to the west side and down to the Spurgin Hide, in search of a Jack Snipe reported the previous day.  As was to be expected there was no sign of it, but there were a few Common Snipe.  The water though was full of Black-headed Gulls and their calls were constant all the time.

The gulls were everywhere, and in pairs although there would be little "issues" breaking out in threes.  They would call by pointing their heads down, and then lay low in the water with the bill held as if just on the water.  They were also aggressive to anything that got in their way, Teal Lapwing and even the few Mediterranean Gulls.

Lapwing were also in pairs, but would wander about, coming into the shallow water from the islands.

Teal were mostly all sleeping, unconcerned about the raucous noise and antics of the gulls, one though was preening just out of the water and in doing so showed off a part of the male Teal not seen that often, the orange marked breast and belly.

It was fascinating to watch the gulls and their behaviour.  Once in pairs, what I assume was the female which would look slighter, would beg the other birrd by tapping at the bill.  Eventually it would regurgitate food which the begging bird would quickly gobble up.

At one stage, for no reason a Black-headed Gull just flew at a Lapwing.

I can only assume it was something to do with raging hormones!

Black-tailed Godwits were about in good numbers, over 100 counted earlier.  They are all in various stages of summer plumage, and are beginning to look splendid, this bird was feeding in the grass and the scene looked just like one we had seen last year in Iceland where they breed.

In contrast to the Black-headed Gulls the Mediterranean Gulls appear much calmer, no calling no fighting, happy to sit on the islands.  Far fewer than the Black-headed though we counted probably around a dozen birds.  Every so often they would fly off, the white wings standing out against the distant reeds.

We made our way around to the Meon Shore Hide, and while here it started to rain, along with the wind picking up. The Black-headed Gulls didn't seem to care.  These three were engaged in some "banter".  We had noticed that some of the gulls breast feathers had a rosy tinge to them, and these birds seemed to be more dominant than the others.  Loud calls, wings held slightly open, and a bobbing action would start proceedings.

The calls would then continue, but the birds would drop lower, almost laying on the water.

Then they would go their own way, off to find the partner they had left watching.

At this time of year there is the chance of other waders, but other than the Godwits, and 25 Avocet there was nothing else about.  The Snipe were more than likely their but hiding, and the Oystercatchers were on the beach.

The Avocets kept very distant, but the Godwits were prepared to run the gauntlet of the gulls.  They fed in the deeper water thrusting their heads deep into the water and mud, sometimes coming up with a black, muddy head.

One was close to the hide, and gave the opportunity to see the full detail in the feathers as they develop the brick red plumage.

There was a break in the weather and we headed on, stopping at the cars for lunch, the rain though returned and along with it the wind too.  We walked around to the east side, and watched from the Knights Bank Hide, the highlight here was a distant flock of about 40 Wigeon, two Great Black-backed Gulls a Stock Dove.  In the bushes there were a few Chiffchaffs singing, and every so often a Cetti's Warbler would burst into song.  

The weather though for once had beaten us, and the birds were staying in shelter.  We decided that was it, and headed for a pint before setting off home.  Surely there has to be some movement and birds soon.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

21st March - Keyhaven, Pennington & Normandy Marshes, Hampshire

Its Spring!  But you wouldn't know it, a cold north easterly blew as Helen and I set off from the car park at Pennington and walked along the cycle track towards Keyhaven.  The flooded area on the reclaimed tip had a pair of Gadwall, the male looking splendid.

As we neared the car park at Keyhaven large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits flew over our heads.  I was watching them wheeling around over the reed bed, Helen pointed out a bird above them, it was obviously what was upsetting the Godwits, a Peregrine.

Even though the Peregrine headed off to Hurst Castle, the Godwits continued to fly around over the reeds

We walked around the sea wall, the tide was almost in, and there were still quite a few Brent Geese feeding in the shallow water.

With the tide rising the waders were looking to find dry land to roost.  Several large flocks of Dunlin were flying around in tight flocks before settling on a small spit of dry land.

A pair of Pintail were swimming away from us as we passed the Fishtail Lagoon.

On Fishtail there were more Pintail, this male was preening on the bank.

The wind was quite strong, and we were walking into it, and it made it very uncomfortable, the eyes running as the wind bit.  A tight flock of Dunlin flew past us, and looked quite good with Hurst Castle behind them.

On the beach, Turnstone and Dunlin were feeding in amongst the sea weed.

We walked around to Normandy, and then headed up towards Lymington for lunch.  Along the lane there was an amazing bed of Violets.

We had a wander around Lymington after some lunch, and then decided to make our way back the same way we had come.  As we turned off the lane and onto the footpath at Normandy, I noticed a larger white heron at the back of the marsh.  A closer look revealed a Spoonbill feeding in the pools.  For me seeing a Spoonbill active is always treat, as normally they are just asleep with the bill tucked under the wing.  It was though very distant.

Spoonbills have been seen this winter in good numbers on the south, and there have been three here.  For me it was nice to see one active

Then as we came onto the sea wall I was amazed to see two more feeding on Normandy Marsh.

As I said its just a lovely experience to watch them feeding.  They would sweep the bill through water, with the bill open, going deep , almost up to the base of the bill.  Every so often they had to come up to breathe

Then they seemed to stop feeding, while Pintail just drifted past.

Then it was time to preen, and that flat spoon bill comes in useful.

Close to us the Teal were taking in the sunshine.

We headed off making our way towards Pennington.  A Redshank was very confiding on the sea wall, allowing me to get quite close before it would fly out over the water calling, as all Redshanks do.

A little further on and at eight acre pond there were two pairs of Little Grebes were diving.  Always a challenge when they are like this as you can focus on them, 

Then they are gone.

And that was about it, as we walked across the marshes Skylark were singing, and Meadow Pipits were displaying, but there were no migrants, the weather really not being conducive to bringing them in.  The highlight though were the Spoonbills, for once not sleeoping.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

14th March - Acres Down, Mark Ash and Denny Wood, New Forest

Last weeks weekend weather got you thinking that maybe spring was here, and there were a few migrants trickling in along the south coast.  This weekend though the weather forecast was for cold and cloudy weather, so it was quite a pleasant surprise as we walked from the car park to the Acres Down viewpoint and the sun started to emerge.  It was still cold to start but a breeze picked up, and it was necessary to find a spot sheltered from a north easterly.

Ian and I had returned to the Forest, this time to Acres Down in the hope that the Goshawks would perform.  As we settled in, there was a minor panic with the camera batteries, the moral of which is, extreme cold weather destroys camera batteries, fortunately I had one that seemed to have survived the Svalbard experience, and interesting it was the genuine Canon battery.

When I returned to the view point I found out that there had been one Goshawk soaring distantly.  It wasn't long though before two showed again over the distant pines, good views in the telescope but way to far off for even my new lens!

At least two pairs showed off and on, and we were also treated to a Peregrine, again distant, but it was possible to see quite clearly the difference between these wonderful birds of prey.

As usual it was a buzzard that came the closet and seemed to be checking us out as it soared above us.

Finally a Goshawk drifted closer to us, and through the telescope you could clearly see the white under-tail coverts, the definite eye stripe and barred underparts.  As you can see from the photograph, it was still a fair way off.

Siskin were flying over calling, and early there were Hawfinch reported, but we were not able to see them.  A calling Dartford Warbler sent us off in a brief walk around the gorse and heather, but all we were able to find was a pair of Stonechat.

The Goshawk flights became fewer, so we decided to head back to the car, and to try our luck elsewhere.  As we walked down the hill to the cars a Wren sat out in the open in the bracken at the base of a bush.

We decided to head back to Mark Ash Wood in the hope that the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker might be showing.  When we arrived it was quiet, gone were the Redwing and Chaffinches that were here two weeks ago.  We walked to see if the Tawny Owl was showing but it must have too cold.  We took the time to have lunch, listening, but nothing showed.  There was though a Stock Dove sitting at the top of a dead tree, maybe a possible nest site.

Rather than sit and wait we headed into the wood across the road.  As we did alarm calls rang out and a very pale almost ghostly bird flew slowly through the trees.  We wondered was it a Goshawk, but as we walked down the hill it flew from a perch in the tree, across in front of us and then into another tree.  The alarm calls went off again, but the calls were not for a hawk, but a very pale Buzzard.  In the tree its colour provided some excellent camouflage against the bark.

When it flew off it showed once again the pale rump and breast that when seen quickly gives the impression of something else, and not just a Buzzard.

Some movement at the base of one of the trees caught my eye, and closer inspection revealed a small bird with a definite eye stripe, a Firecrest and a male with a fiery orange crest.

We edged closer and watched as it buzzed around the tree calling and singing.

A beautiful bird, the orange crest, white eye stripe and olive green shoulders a wonderful colourful combination.

It also spent a lot of time foraging around in the leaf litter.

From Mark Ash Wood the next stop was Blackwater Arboretum.  Hawfinch had been reported, so we wondered around the area listening.  The dominant calls were those of Siskin, but they preferred to stay at the top of the very tall conifers, and became just dots as they flew around.

It was very quiet though, but we did manage to find a small flock of Goldcrests, and I was able to get a picture of one, that shows the significant difference with the more colourful Firecrest.

The next destination was Denny Wood, parking in Shatterford we walked across the open heath and bog towards the wood.  A Buzzard appeared and then promptly disappeared, and a Kestrel flew across in front of us, but that was the only bird life we saw.  As we entered the wood, Robins could be heard singing, and Great and Blue Tits were busy in the tallest branches.

Strange calls led us into the wood, going off the paths to investigate, these calls were either a Great Tit, or even a Chaffinch.  We did though manage to find a single Marsh Tit.

Two stag Fallow Deer wandered in front of us, both sporting quite an impressive set of antlers.  As we watched another appeared but not with same impressive head gear, its antlers only just beginning.  They kept themselves well hidden, but eventually there curiosity got the better of one.

We came out of the wood, and headed along Bishop's Dyke and then back down the path to the car park.  In all that walk we only saw a pair of Mallard in the pond, a single Lapwing and another annoying calling Chaffinch.  

March can be frustrating, and almost there month, but on the days when it is not there its very quiet.  Still really shouldn't complain, Goshawk, Peregrine and Firecrest isn't bad.