Sunday, 26 April 2015

25th April - Keyhaven, Pennington & Normandy Marshes, Hampshire

The weather has changed, gone is the blue sky and sunshine, and as we drove down the M3 it was in mist and drizzle, but once into the Forest, and to the coast the skies cleared.  It was cooler, but dry.  This was a family event, Helen and I were joined by Louise, and we were going to walk the route Helen and I took in March.

As we set off along the Pennington cycle track over the water to our right there were plenty of hirundines, with House and Sand Martins being year ticks. The gorse was looking superb, and along the fence there were Linnets.  Some were also using the newly filled puddles for a bath.

A Little further on there were more signs that the overnight rain had been very welcome as a Robin was in the middle of an extensive preen.

There was bird song everywhere, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, and Wrens, then a rattling song that I haven't heard for awhile, a Lesser Whitethroat, the trick now would be to find it, they are notorious for creeping through the bushes and staying hidden.  It kept singing, and I kept looking.  Finally it came out into the open, and showed really well.

I am not sure why it is called a Lesser Whitethroat as it appears with a much whiter throat.  It then sang in the open.

The show continued with a shake and quick clean up.

In the ditches a Reed Warbler sang, but never showed, and as we reached the car park at Keyhaven a Firecrest sang from the conifers.

We took the coast path, the tide was out and as ever the Oystercatchers were both visible and vocal on the mud.

Whitethroats were singing from the gorse, bursting up into the sky at intervals, you could find them at the top of the bushes.  You can see the difference here from the Lesser, the Whitethroat having a white throat patch

As well as the Whitethroats the Linnets were using the gorse as a place to sing from there rosy chest patches now quite bright.  

With the tide out the mud was exposed, a Redshank was busy feeding in the gullies.  At this time of year they look very smart with the spotted chest not seen in the winter.  Often an overlooked bird but looking good now.

we walked around to Fishtail Lagoon where a Common Tern was fishing, again my first for the year.

Like the swallows the tail streamers are pristine at this time of year.

The channel between Fishtail and Butts looked lovely with the flowering Gorse and Blackthorn, plus a small flock of Canada Geese flying over.

There was a good size flock of Dunlin about, all looking splendid with their black bellies.  There had been a report of two Curlew Sandpiper in the area at the old jetty, there are two birds in this photograph that do not have a black belly and could be Curlew Sandpiper, but I am not one hundred per cent certain.

The Black-tailed Godwits are currently in different stages of plumage.  It must be hard for those with out the lovely brick red plumage to look at those with it, a case of the ugly Godwit.

There were several Mute Swan about, and one decided to take off, the noise and effort impressive as it flew past us.

Several more terns were fishing on Pennington Lagoon.

A lone Greenshank was also on the lagoon just off one of the small islands.

There had been a few Curlew calling but I finally managed to find a Whimbrel.  It flew over onto a spit offshore and was immediately mobbed by Black-headed Gulls, and flew off.  I can only assume the gulls thought it was a raptor from the colour, I see no other threat from the Whimbrel.

You can clearly see the head and eye stripe, plus the smaller bill.

As we came around Oxey Marsh a flash of white alerted me to a pair of Wheatear.  They were chasing each other, and flew through the gorse before settling on a bank on the other side of the marsh.

In the bay there were more terns, but this time the flight was more bat like with high flaps of the wings, they were also smaller than the earlier Common Terns.  They were Little Terns and there was at least three fishing in the shallow water.  In this picture you can see the blur of the wings, but the head kept still.

The tide was turning now, but there was still plenty of mud, and a flock of Dunlin were joined by a couple of Ringed Plover.  You can see here the lovely breeding plumage of the Dunlins

While I watched the waders the Little Terns came back and gave some good close views.

On Salterns Marsh another Greenshank was patrolling the water in front of the reeds, but was this time a little closer.

We then made our way up Normandy Lane, and into the centre of Lymington for lunch and a wander around the street market.  On the way back a Chiffchaff showed well above in what was now some warm sunshine.

The sunshine was also responsible for bringing out the butterflies, an Orange Tip flew past not stopping to be followed by two dueling Speckled Woods, but finally one Speckled Wood stopped to show off its newly emerged wings.

As we came onto Normandy Marsh a Whitethroat flew up to the fence and sang, the white throat patch showing clearly as it sang.

Sailing boats on the 8 Acre Pond meant there was little there but nesting Canada Geese, however as we turned on the path past Salterns, a superb Spotted Redshank was feeding quite close in.

The weather was changing once again, it was getting much cooler as the sea mist rolled in up the Solent.  In the distance Hurst Castle was slowly disappearing.

We headed back to the car park, and the pools were also showing mist above them, I can only assume the water was warmer than the cool air that was now coming in from the west. You can just make out the mist over the water here.

A lovely walk with some quality birds, the weather being a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

18th April - Pulborough Brooks & Noar Hill

I arrived at RSPB Pulborough at around 07.40, and the car park was full.  It was a lovely morning, clear blue skies but cool with a north easterly wind.  In fact it was cold enough for me to have to wear a hat and gloves despite the sunshine.  It would seem there was an early morning event because gradually people were leaving, so I waited for Ian to arrive. The target today was Nightingale.  Once we were all together we made our way from the car park into the reserve, as we did so the first Whitethroat of the year sang from a tree near to the cafe.

The path out of the visitor centre was alive with bird song, and Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere.  I have noticed that they display by fluttering the wings, and this behaviour seems to follow a burst of song, and an answering call from presumably the female.

You can see the fluttering wings here.

A little further along we came across a longer winged bird that was calling, and looked good for a Willow Warbler.

It came closer, and put in a short burst of song as if to say, yes I am a Willow Warbler.

We never heard it sing again, but we were treated to some lovely views

We made our way to the West Mead hide, with Bullfinches, Blackcaps and more Chiffchaffs singing as we walked.  On the water there were several Shoveler, Canada Geese, and a few Shelduck.  But of interest was sitting on the islands, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers.

The early morning sunshine was casting them in some lovely light as they walked along the edge of the water probing at the water.

The stillness of the water was creating some lovely reflections.

We left the hide, and made our way around the path towards the "adder alley".  There has been some planting of trees and changes to the paths which in time will make this area quite interesting.  As we walked we could hear Nightingale singing in the distance.

We arrived at the location, and the Nightingale was in full song, typically sitting low in the tree.  Then it appeared sitting at the top of the tree in full view.

We were then treated to a wonderful performance, all the notes and volume.

Changing position that was even more accommodating.

When it turned away from us the sunshine picked out the rich russet colour on the back

And you could always see the wide gape as the notes came tumbling out.

Finally it stopped and flew off, but a little way along the path another was in song.  We walked back to watch this one, and it pt in a few notes before dropping from sight, but then appearing on the ground.

It then skulked through the grass and then into the nettles where it popped up conveniently in a patch of sunshine.

These were my best views of nightingale, the timing was perfect, just arrived and not too many leaves on the trees to hide them.  The song is always there, and is truly a wonderful experience, but to see the bird that delivers it is the icing on the cake.

We walked from there to the Netley's hide, stopping on the way to check the sheltered spots, in one of these a Whitethroat was singing from the top of a tree again.

The Blackthorn is in full bloom, and looked wonderful against the vivid blue sky, it provided the back drop for most of the paths as we walked along.

The hide did not reveal a lot, and after a short stay we made our way back to the Nightingales.  However we stopped to check out what sounded like Garden Warbler.  It is always one of those bird songs that makes you doubt yourself, but this was very scratchy compared to the more tuneful song of the Blackcap.  I had to search through the bushes but eventually found it, and could confirm it was a Garden Warbler.

As we walked back to the open area we could hear Nightingale.  And then as has seemed the way today it decided to put in a wonderful show again.  Out in the open, against the blue sky, a virtuoso performance

Photographs are fine, but you also need sound so enjoy this short clip.

The Nightingale flew off once again, as if to say that was enough.  It was warming up now, the hat and gloves were discarded, the warmth also brought out the butterflies, the first was a Small White.

And then a beautiful male Orange Tip.

Finding the Cuckoo Flower irresistible it managed to show the beautiful patterns of the under wing.

Another surprise was a Large Red Damselfly along the path on a cool day.  Fortunately it stopped to allow me to get quite close.  There are some lovely colour combinations on the abdomen that remind me of a public school tie.

The sky was extremely clear and it was possible to see quite a distance, gliders were above us, and we could see Buzzards soaring, and then a Peregrine dashed past us and headed off as always out of sight.

We made our way to the visitor centre, where we had just missed breakfast, and were too early for lunch, so we had a short walk around the heath where it was very quiet, and then went back for some lunch.  Sitting outside, the view was amazing.

We were joined by a Jackdaw that came close and we were able to admire the lovely grey nape and pale blue eye.

So after lunch we considered our options, and decided to head off to Noar Hill in Hampshire, Duke of Burgundy butterflies had been reported earlier in the week.  Despite the cool wind the sun was strong and there was plenty of sheltered spots there, every chance of finding them.

As we walked up the path towards the reserve a Holly Blue appeared, and settled on the Dog Mercury.

We were to see several more around the reserve, but this was the only one to stop and allow a photograph.

We walked through the reserve checking the dips and sheltered spots.  The Cow Slips are just emerging, and the reserve looked a picture.  I have seen Dukes before, but forgot, you don't see them fly very often, typically they sit still on the grass.  We turned and saw someone photographing, and when we approached he pointed out a Duke on the grass.

A beautiful little butterfly, The Duke of Burgundy is the sole representative of a subfamily known as the "metalmarks", since some of its cousins, particularly those found in South America, have a metallic appearance.  The Duke of Burgundy was once classified as a fritillary, given the similarity with those fritillary species found in the British Isles.  The only member of the genus Hamearis, is now a member of the family Riodinidae.

The Duke then flew off, and we couldn't re-find it, but we were then informed of sightings of Green Hairstreak.  They were apparently on Juniper bushes, so we made our way to the location where there were several others looking at these lovely little butterflies.

They have black and white legs just like the antenna, and an iridescent green colour on the wings.

The Green Hairstreak holds its wings closed, except in flight, showing only the green underside with its faint white streak. The extent of this white marking is very variable; it is frequently reduced to a few white dots and may be almost absent. Males and females look similar and are most readily told apart by their behaviour: rival males may be seen in a spiralling flight close to shrubs, while the less conspicuous females are more often encountered while laying eggs.

As we watched the hairstreaks, a Red Admiral flew past us, and Holly Blues put in an appearance

It was hard to leave the Hairstreaks but we eventually did so, and made our way around the little trails, checking the ground for any sign of more Dukes.  Finally we reached the area at the back of the reserve where I had seen several before, and sure enough they were there.  Only two, but they did show well as they sat in the grass.

These are males, the females emerging a little later.  On the underwing, the male has a darker area close to the abdomen, in the female, the area is a lot lighter.

We wandered around the area continuing to search for butterflies, but they were in short supply, there was though plenty of Bee Flies.

I then heard a Firecrest singing, and wit a little patience I was able to find it, and then get some wonderful views in the sunshine.

As always this photogenic little bird put in a wonderful show.

With a fantastic background

We left the Firecrest, deciding to make our way back.  As we passed the Juniper, a Green Hairstreak flew up from the bush, and then settled on the blossom of the Blackthorn, and decided to nectar on the flowers.

And that was it, a wonderful day, with some really special views of some really good species.  As I made my way home a Raven flew over just before the A32 at East Tisted.