Sunday, 6 November 2016

5th November - The New Forest and Farlington Marshes, Hampshire

After the rain of the previous day, I set off in clear skies, just before dawn.  It was cold and there had been a frost.  After negotiating a closed road I arrived at Black Gutter Bottom just before seven, it was very cold, but the forest looked lovely as the sun was not quite up yet.


We walked from the cars down the hill towards the stream at the bottom of the gutter, there was frost on the grass, bracken and gorse.


 As the sun began to emerge the colours came out in the heather and the bracken.


 As we approached the trees at the top of the hill on the edge of Leaden Hall, Fieldfare burst from the trees that were now leafless and berry less, although there was some crab apples still about.


As we walked onto the plateau the sun finally emerged lighting up the area, and highlighting the frost on the short grazed grass.


Looking to the west as the sun gained some height in the sky, the trees were bathed in golden light enhancing the glorious autumn colours.


Up to now the Fieldfare had been hidden in the trees, and we only knew they were there when they burst out with their chuckling calls.  But as we walked around the plateau area one came to the top of a tree as if to enjoy the early morning sunshine.


Using the cover of several bushes we were able to get closer.


A beautiful overlooked bird


We headed to the south across the heather, and came a cross a small group of scrubby bushes.  There was one Dartford Warbler that avoided me, and several Reed Buntings that didn't.


Birds you never expected to see here appeared two pairs of Bullfinches flew around us, and yet more Reed Buntings, this one sitting high on the gorse like a Stonechat.


We stopped to look over the valleys in the hope that a Hen Harrier might drift past, but unfortunately the scene was as you see here.


It was then that Ian picked up a Great Grey Shrike at the top of a birch tree in the middle of the bracken.


It didn't stay long and flew away into the gorse, and then after some searching, and some help from a pair of Chaffinches we relocated it on the branch of a dead tree.  As I approached it was off again, flying to another branch.


It sat there in full view allowing us to get closer.


The small birds were making a lot of noise and would every so often mob the shrike, as a result it flew off again this time settling in a Holly tree.


From the Holly tree to the top of another evergreen, it was continually scanning the ground and the sky.


The views we were getting were superb, and when it flew again we just had to follow it.  It flew down into the valley, but not too far away and we located it on the side of a tree.


Again some lovely views


Then from here it flew across to another tree, and immediately saw something on the ground flying down to pick up what looks like a beetle.


Then it was off again, back to where we had watched it earlier.  There was a dead tree there, and when we had watched it earlier I thought the would be perfect for ity, and this time it obliged and flew to the top.


Brilliant views of a wonderful bird


Finally it decided enough was enough and flew off, heading out over the valley.  Ian followed it as it flew towards the car park at Godshill, and finally out of sight.  Or was it?

As we walked back to Leaden Hall Ian picked up a bird at the top of a silver birch tree.  Another Great Grey Shrike, or was it the same bird.  It was about 15 minutes since we had seen the bird at Cockley Hill, could this be the same bird or were there two in a very close territory. As we approached it flew off across the heather.

We decided then to walk down to Ashley Hole in search of a Hen Harrier.  We were to be unlucky but we did managed a very distant Goshawk.


As we walked back to the plateau at Leaden Hall we came across the Great Grey Shrike again, this time sitting in a silver birch.


Once again it flew off and we couldn't find it again.

We decided that it was time to move on, and headed down the hill back to the cars.  Another Dartford Warbler teased us, disappearing into the bracken.  While coming up the hill on the other side of the stream a Stonechat insisted that I photograph it in the flowering gorse.


Hen Harrier had eluded us, but the Great Grey Shrike was stunning.  Our next destination was to be Farlington Marshes, the target here were the tree Short-eared Owls that have been present all week.

After a quick lunch we started our walk around the sea wall, the tide was rising, and the Brent Geese were moving.


A surprise was a Sparrowhawk that appeared above us.


On the Lake the high tide wader roost was building up, as we watched flocks of Redshank were flying in the increase the number of birds on the water and edges of the lake.


There were also good numbers of duck, the Teal looking splendid in the full plumage.


The water reflecting a little of the blue sky patches.


While there were also good numbers of Pintail, but as always keeping either out of sight or at a distance.


A good sized flock of Dunlin flew in and could not settle as they flew around they unnerved the others and everything went up.  The Black-tailed Godwits a blur of black and white, plus if you look a little bit of coloured bling!



After everything settled down once again the waders continued to fly in, Lapwing appearing from all sides.


We waited to see if the waders would go up again, but all seemed quite settled so we decided to walk around the wall to Point Field.  As we entered the call of a Dartford Warbler was a surprise, but we were pleased to see that this bird was more confiding than those in the New Forest.


It was a Dartford Warbler that allowed us to find the Short-eared Owls.  Another pair were flitting around in a patch of bramble, and as we waited for them to appear Ian found not one Short-eared Owl.


But two!


Then I found a third!


The first bird was the most restless.


And very soon it was off, away and dropping again into the long grass.  We stayed and watched the others.  Finally the second bird became restless, and it too flew off.


We watched it fly out of Point Field and out over the marshes.  The thirs bird stayed quite still, not looking like iot was going to move at all.  We continued to keep watching it, but in the end decided to head back to the wall to see what was going on.  One of the Owls was sitting on an ant hill on the marsh.


It continued to hunt, and I managed to catch this one with what looks like a vole.


It flew to another anthill and attracted the attention of a Magpie.


What we didn't know was that the owl was still holding the vole, but the Magpie did and it approached finally forcing the Owl to the other side of the ditch where it dispatched the vole when the magpie came close again.


It then continued to fly around the marsh, and we chased  it about until it settled once again.


It was then hunting in the sunshine that had returned as the clouds broke up above us.


Some great views.



By the time I had to leave there were three Owls hunting in Point Field.  I made my  way back to the car, the tide still high and the waders still on the roost.


As I reached the car a Brent Goose was sitting in golden water, magical.


Yet another brilliant day....

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos!
    My favourite in the one of the Blacktailed godwits as they took off. Remarkable detail including the bling rings.
    Thank you for continuing to share these photos on your wonderful blog. Sheila

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