Sunday, 15 October 2017

14th October - Black Gutter Bottom, New Forest & Blashford Lakes, Hampshire

The weather over the last couple of days the temperature has risen, and it has become quite mild.  On Friday there was thick fog early morning as a result and quite gloomy conditions all day despite a positive forecast.  As a result there was not much point in starting too early so I met up with Ian at the footpath that leads down to Black Gutter Bottom at around 9.00.

As we set off there were Stonechats and Robins on either side of the path, and across the bracken and gorse you could hear the calls of Dartford Warblers.  Looking up from the path on tree stood out on the horizon, and called out to be shown in black and white


We were here for Ring Ouzel.  Four had been seen since last weekend here, this site being an annual location to catch up with these large blackbird like birds.  They migrate to the mountains and moors of northern Britain, and on the return journey like this particular spot to load up on berries.

Today though they were not in the usual spot at Leaden Hall, so we had to take the path known as Ashley Walk.  In the distance was a lone hawthorn tree that appeared to have plenty of berries.  The birds have been very flighty, preferring to just drop into the tree for a short while then head off.  As we approached the tree a Ring Ouzel flew past us and into the tree.  We stopped watched and it soon came out along with two others and proceeded to fly around above us.


There was one adult male, a female and two immature birds.  This is the male told apart by the bolder white crescent on the throat.


They are about the same size as a Blackbird, but appear to have longer wings that are also much paler in flight


This is a result of the wing feathers having pale edges


We waited to see if they would return to the tree, but didn't for some time so we decided to walk on, missing a male Merlin that another birder happily told us about. 

One feature of the morning had been the large numbers of Meadow Pipits, one of the reasons why the Merlin was about no doubt.  They would burst out of the bracken calling, and then settling on the top of the gorse bushes.


We were walking through the bracken and heather, and surprisingly flushed out three different Snipe, they flew off and settled a little way from us.  A female Sparrowhawk also came past us, hugging the tops of the bracken and gorse as it attempted to surprise the Meadow Pipits.

We could see large thrushes about, and one settled at the top of a tree, but on closer inspection turned out to be a Mistle Thrush.


As we walked along the stream, Ian picked up a falcon heading towards us, that turned out to be a Kestrel.


From the stream we walked up the side of the hill, the sun was trying to break through and with the cloud and aspect, a dead tree on the hill became very atmospheric.


We made our way back to Ashley Walk in the hope we could find the Ring Ouzels once again.  They never returned, and over the gully that is Ashley Hole were fourteen Lapwing, they wheeled around as they dropped out of sight.


We were debating where to go next, but first decided to walk around Leaden Hall.  There was very little about, but as we approached a hawthorn bush on the west side of the plateau I heard the cluck of a Ring Ouzel.  We could see movement in the tree, but never a clear view.  Finally it flew out and headed over to the Whitebeam tree, the usual spot where the Ring Ouzels seem to gather at this time of year.

There were hardly any berries on the Whitebeam, probably why they have not been here, and the Ring Ouzel moved to a hawthorn, and into view at last.


We stayed and waited to see if it would show again, but never came back out into the open.  We could hear it, and it would show briefly until it eventually flew off, heading in the direction of Ashley Walk, probably to join the other birds.

We decided to go to Blashford Lakes, nothing had been reported anywhere else so we hoped there could be something about.  How wrong we were.  There was little from the Tern Hide, and walking around to the other two hides the highlight was a brief view of a Kingfisher as it flew out of the bay.

A Southern Hawker dragonfly provided some interest as it flew around us, finally settling at the top of a Silver Birch, but it wasn't until we left the Lapwing Hide and was walking back that a bird appeared that was of interest, a Green Woodpecker that had annoyed a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was continually calling.


We walked around the lakes, stopping to look from the screens, a sleeping male Shoveler being of interest.


While along the path and in the trees were several calling Chiffchaffs and a Jay.


As we approached the Woodland Hide there was some activity in the trees above us.  Long-tailed Tits and Siskins were feeding at the top of the alders, while Goldcrests were foraging around the birch trees.


The Woodland Hide provided the opportunity for some photography, and the chance to see some birds.

A Blue Tit, easily overlooked.


A male Bullfinch, behaving as all Bullfinches do, secretly moving through the leaves.


I don't like pictures of birds on feeders, but I wanted a picture of a Nuthatch, and this one would not perch in the tree in an accessible spot, so I ended up with it on a feeder, but with a lovely background.


A smart Great Tit


And of course there is always a Robin


Coal Tits seem to perform a smash and grab approach to feeders, flying in and then immediately flying off.  This one was caught as it was making its mind up to approach the feeder.


Another quiet day, but with some good company and plenty of laughs.  The birds will come, and you have to remember we did get Ring Ouzel today which is not to be sniffed at!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

7th October - Farlington Marshes & Titchfield Haven, Hampshire

The forecast was definitely not wrong for once.  After the sunshine and blue skies yesterday today was a polar opposite, heavy grey cloud and a strong south westerly wind.  Not the ideal conditions to be at Farlington with, as there is no cover should the rain come.  Taking the path past the information centre (where incidentally there is no information!), it slowly started to become light.  Looking across the marshes two Kestrels were hovering, hunting at first light.  Coming up onto the sea wall, there were the first signs of rain, and a little further on it became quite heavy, sweeping in across the marsh.  Shelter was taken near the pill box, and the rain eased.  Canada Geese flew across the marsh, and there were a few Little Egrets out on the mud.  The tide was probably at its lowest, and there was no sign of any waders.

At the Deeps there were small groups of Wigeon, and ten Black-tailed Godwits feeding along the edge of the pools.  A look at the radar on my phone showed it was going to get wet.  The only place to provide shelter was the sea wall at the end of Point Field.  Here there are steps and a level area where it is possible to get out of the wind, there is still the rain, but without the blasts.  The view though was not very impressive.


With the worst of the rain passed it was possible to scan the mud.  Of note were the numbers of Ringed Plover.  I counted 276 spread out across the mud.  In the channel were nine Great Crested Grebes, while on the other side, in amongst the sea weed were 46 Little Egrets, and 54 Oystercatcher.  It is interesting that that counting helps to pass the time.  With the camera covered up from the elements there were no photographs.

The rain finally stopped, but the wind persisted.  The walk from Point Field around the the viewing area on the lake produced very little, on the marsh were four Pheasants and Canada Geese spread out, while on the mud there were Curlews and Redshank.

At the Lake I was able to get the camera out, first to catch the eye was a single Snipe flying into to the cover of the reeds.



Then settled down.



Out in the middle of the lake a Grey Heron waded, not looking like it was fishing.



In front of a group of Black-tailed Godwits, were two Spotted Redshanks, feeding with the usual vigorous action.



The Spotted Redshanks mixed with the godwits, and when the godwits took off they went with them, only to return later at the back of the lake with three others to make five in total.

Another wader in amongst the godwits stood out, this time a Ruff, breaking away to feed alone.  With the amount of white, and grey brown on the upper parts this is an adult male in winter plumage



The tide was now starting to rise and waders and duck were coming onto the lake from the estuary.  There had been plenty of Canada Geese about, but coming over the sea wall were a group of Brent Geese, their numbers starting to build up.  Coming with the wind they were fast, but they turned back into the wind which allowed the chance to photograph them.



A Kingfisher broke out of the reeds and flew around the lake before disappearing into the reeds on the north side.  It was then followed by another coming from the same area.



By now the Ruff was coming a lot closer.



Giving some good views.



And had teamed up with a lone Black-tailed Godwit.



For some reason the Black-tailed Godwits all took off, producing a lovely spectacle of black and white wings.




The Ruff went with the godwits, and while the majority landed back on the lake, a small group headed out onto the mud, and the Ruff went with them.



Scattered around the mud were several Curlew, every so often you would hear their bubbling call, but mostly they patrolled the mud.



The Kingfisher appeared again, a welcome flash of brilliance in an otherwise gloomy dull morning.



The reason I had stuck around was in the hope of finding the Curlew Sandpiper that had been seen through the week.  The Godwits were forming a large group in the middle of the lake, their numbers well in excess of one hundred.  The Redshank too, were gathering together, and as I scanned through the Redshank and the Dunlin that were with them I found the Curlew Sandpiper.



It is a juvenile bird, the breast a peachy tint, and the upper feathers neatly scalloped, which give it a more elegant appearance than the surrounding Dunlin.



The wind was very wearing, and having found the Curlew Sandpiper, it was time to move on.  Walking back to the car a Greenshank called, and there were three birds in amongst Common Redshank, coming from the corner of the marsh in front of the cars.



It wasn't a day to be out in the open.  Regardless that the rain had stopped the wind was relentless, so Titchfield Haven was the next destination, and the comfort of a hide.  Arriving at high tide, on the beach around the sailing club there was a large roost of Turnstone.

Walking to the Meon Shore Hide there was the pings of Bearded Tits, and despite the wind, a pair perched briefly at the top of the reeds before flying off across the reeds and away from the hopeful camera.

Once in the hide, it was calm, and looking out across the scrape very quiet.  Two Dunlin, a Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe all fed together off one of the islands.



there were plenty of Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Oystercatchers, but the one wader of note was yet another Ruff.  At first at the back of the scrape, but it came closer as the Redshank it was feeding with flew over.




This time it is a juvenile, appearing more golden in colour, with scalloped feathers with dark centres.  The colour of the legs is just visible despite the mud, greenish.



When it stopped and stood still it looked quite elegant.



The mud it was wading in was obviously very sticky, and it had to keep flapping its wings to lift itself out to move on.



In the deeper water the Black-tailed Godwits did not have the same problem.



The two Dunlin seen earlier finally came closer to the hide.



But were having the same problem as the Ruff in the mud.



Little was moving in, so it was time to move on.  The Spurgin Hide though could only produce a Buzzard on the fence post.



While from the Pumfrett Hide, the only item of interest was a Snipe roosting in amongst the Lapwing.  



The rain returned and it became time to call it a day.  Not the best of days, but you have to live with these to get the good ones!