Monday, 14 March 2016

12th March - Blashford Lakes, Harbridge, Mark Ash Wood & Acres Down, Hampshire

I was early as I pulled of the A31 and headed north towards our meeting place at Blashford, so I decided to pass the turn off and head to the turn to Harbridge.  An adult Bewick's Swan had been reported from the water meadows there for over a week and I wanted to make sure it was still there.  It was quite misty but as I passed over the first bridge I could see plenty of swans feeding close to the road on either side, and as I slowly approached them I could make out the adult Bewick's alongside a Black Swan.

I decided to use the car as a hide so turned around and came back, pulled over and watched as it grazed on the dew covered grass.



Occurrences of these wild swans has become less and less over the years, and this is the first one here for a couple of years.



This completed the set of me this year after seeing the Whooper Swans on the Isle of Skye.  The main difference from the Whooper Swan is the size, the Bewick's being smaller with a proportionally shorter neck.  The Bewick's bill though is fifty - fifty yellow and black while the Whooper's is predominantly yellow, with more of a wedge compared to the square edge of the Bewick..



Confident that the swan would stick around for the rest of the day I headed to a rendezvous with Ian.

We made our way to the visitor centre where everything was still locked up, and took some time watching the Tits on the feeders.  If the Great Tit was a North American vagrant everyone would rave about how exquisite their plumage is.  I remember the twitch for the Golden Winged Warbler back in the late eighties and the way that bird was received not just for its rarity but its appearance, surely a Great tit compares just as well?, unfortunately we just over look them.



In the trees above the visitor centre Jackdaws were calling, their grey necks and steely blue eye being picked out by the sun breaking through the mist.



We made our way to the Woodland hide, which was locked, but there was plenty of activity in the trees around it.  A Dunnock sang from a clump of bramble.  We saw many today in pairs and threes with plenty of the wing flapping displays going on.



The trees seemed to be full of Siskins, their calls drowning out almost everything.  A niger feeder away from the hide was a major attraction and the birds would drop from the trees to the bushes close by before going onto the feeder.



This gave us the perfect opportunity for the "not on a feeder" photograph.



We walked down towards the Ivy Lake South hide which was also going to be locked, but we were rewarded by a Kingfisher in the morning sunshine at the back of the silt lake.



There was a lovely reflection in the water.



The Kingfisher attempted two dives before zipping off.  Then at the back of the lake a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the top of a tree



Then I managed to catch it just as it decided to fly off.



We could hear the ducks and geese on the lake but couldn't see much so we headed back towards the Woodland hide where there were now some good views of Lesser Redpoll feeding in the tops of the trees.




And a little further on in the boggy area several Redwing and Song Thrushes.



Next maybe they had opened the hide at Ivy Lake North, but again it was still locked.  Here though you could manage to peer around the side and I was able to get some atmospheric shots across the water in the mist.  First a Canada Goose.



Then a pair of Black-headed Gulls



As we stood waiting we a pair of Goldcrests were busy feeding and calling in a Spruce tree.



We gave up waiting for the hide to open, and headed back to the woodland hide which was by now open, but with the only open window taken with a very long lens.  The other windows are covered in an opaque film, and while you can see the birds it is no good for photography, as the film reflects into the hide, and distorts the pictures.  You have to either put up with it, or wait for the opportunity at the window, or try and get a few shots through the window by kneeling or standing back.

There were plenty of Reed Bunting feeding on the ground turning over the moss in search of the fallen seeds.



With the Reed Buntings were also Chaffinches and at least six Brambling, mainly males they are now almost fully into their summer plumage.  This one though I did manage to see through the window.



Waiting to join the feeders.



I was then lucky to get a series of birds as they came to the perches.

A nice male Lesser Redpoll.



And a really cool looking male Chaffinch.



We decided to try the Ivy Lake North hide again, surely it was open now.  It was, but again the available windows were taken so we had to put up with the opaque windows once again.  This hide must rate as the worst in Hampshire, and probably the whole country!

There was little happening though so finally we left and walked around to the Lapwing hide, where the water was nice and still with plenty of sunshine, and there was a nice collection of duck including Goosander, Wigeon and Teal, but all along way off.



We had plans for the rest of the day, and the arrival of a coach in the car park by the Tern Hide decided for us that we should now move on.  Firs stop was back to Harbridge so that Ian could catch up with the Bewick's Swan.

It was still present feeding by the side of the road.



It did though move away from us looking to take shelter behind a tussock of grass.



The Black Swan was also present feeding close to the side of the road.



As we left I scanned across the meadows again looking through the Grey Lag and Canada Geese hopefully for some Egyptian Geese.  I managed to find a distant pair in amongst a group of Canada Geese.

We headed into the forest towards Mark Ash Wood in the hope of finally locating the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.  Two visits last year resulted in just hearing one bird, but never seeing  them.  Today in the sunshine we hoped it would be a better result.

As I got out of the car I heard one drumming, and a little later we heard one call.  As we headed to the spot and trees where the call came from we also heard another away in the distance.  The close bird called again, but we never managed to see it.  Once again these little birds had beaten us.  We stayed for a while, but the calls and drumming stopped and all we were left with was the calls of quite a few Stock Dove.  The doves sound very much like Howler Monkeys and travels some distance through the trees.

We wandered around the wood in hope, but had to be satisfied with a lovely clump of Daffodils.



And a couple of Honey Bees that were looking for nectar in the trumpets.



Back at the car park, and while having a cup of coffee a pair of Ravens signaled their arrival with the familiar "gronks" and then they proceeded to circle above us.



It was now quite sunny albeit though watery, there was little wind about and it was quite pleasant.  We decided then to go to Acres Down, and to be able to find the Woodlark and Dartford Warblers we missed last time, and to maybe catch up with a Goshawk?

As we walked up the hill from the car park, away off in the distance it was quite hazy, the pine trees silhouetting against the horizon.



Rather than go to the viewing point we walked across the heath in search of Woodlark.  As we did so a Red Admiral flew past us and as all butterflies do at this time of year, it didn't stop.  It was though a welcome sign of the things to come this year.

The only birds we found was a pair of Stonechat, and we decided to head back, as we did so a call from across the heather revealed two birds heading towards us, both birds broad winged and with short tails.  One bird then started singing as it passed us.  The song is quite distinctive, and sad, and we watched as it flew down to the top of a holly tree where it continued to sing.  It was of course a Woodlark, and had come from nowhere, even more surprising as we had walked across the heather from where they appeared.



The second bird was feeding on the ground beneath the bush, and the singing bird dropped down to join it.



Then they were both off and away from us across the heath.

We turned and made our way to the view point.  There were several Meadow Pipits displaying all around us, the parachuting flight displays coming quite close.  We then settled in to watch the horizon.  We had seen several Buzzards about, and it was a pair of Buzzards that were seen first and then in with them was a distant Goshawk.  We watched this one for a while, the white flanks and vent clearly visible as it soared amongst the buzzards.

Then another Goshawk was found and we watched as it circled above the distant pines.  At one point it dived onto another bird that may have been a Woodpigeon, or maybe another Goshawk it wasn't clear.  It was soon back though circling, and it was remarked that when soaring like this in large circles it can take on the appearance of a Spitfire.

We continued to watch the horizon for hopefully a closer encounter, but the only bird that came close in a fly over was, bizarrely a calling Grey Wagtail.

The weather wasn't wonderful for soaring raptors so we finally decided to call it in, and headed to the gorse where we had been told there were Dartford Warblers.  There were in fact two, and were given the run around by them before finally managing to catch them at the top of a gorse bush rather than in the middle.



A classic view in amongst the yellow flowers of the Gorse.



We made our way back to the car park, and after dropping the 'scopes and tripods walked down the path again.  It was quiet, the only sounds were of Robins and Song Thrushes singing.  We took a detour and walked to an enclosed plantation, as we stood here we heard the chipping call once again of a Crossbill, and saw a very distant male bird at the top of one of the far deciduous trees.

With precious little else about we walked back to the car, but just before the car park, movement at the base of a moss covered tree trunk produced my first Treecreeper of the year.  Here is a very poor record shot.



After that there was little else about and we decided to call it a day, already planning our trip.

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