Sunday, 26 March 2017

25th March - Farlington Marshes, Hayling Oyster Beds & Acres Down NF, Hampshire

I had been looking forward to this weekend throughout the week, the forecast was for wall to wall sunshine, but still with a cool wind, but I didn't worry about that, a chance to be outside with some spring weather was all I wanted.  I was up early, well before sunrise, and as I set off the skies were clear, and the sun was just beginning to turn sky a feint pink.  However as I drove the winding road through Steep the sky was turning flame red.

There was a surprise when I reached Farlington, the drive and car parks had been tarmaced, and this might pose a problem for Ian when he arrives, as the barrier has been tight for his van in the past.  Well we managed to get the van through, and as we set off the sun was just rising.

A Kestrel flew across in front of us and hovered above the sea wall.

The teasels were still being framed by the slowly rising sun.

We decided to take the route via the information hut, and as we arrived at the stream there were teal, and Mallard, plus a pair of Pintail on the far side.  Closer in were groups of Black-tailed Godwits, some roosting.

While the others were busy feeding.

In the hedges there were plenty of Greenfinch sing, and of course the Robins.  This individual was perched on a small bush with the rising sun behind it, and was really pushing out its song.

On reaching the sea wall we were greeted with plenty of mud.  High tide was around 9.30 and there was still about three hours to go.  The golden light from the rising sun scattering across the mud.

In the hedge and bushes along the sea wall there were plenty of small birds active, moving around from the field to the bushes.  Plenty of Linnets.

And also quite a few Greenfinch, that were also in display.

Out in the field Lapwing were displaying, a common sight at this time of year.  Their acrobatics accompanied with their distinctive calls.

As well as the Lapwing the fields were full of Shelduck.  Good numbers collect here at this time of year, and many could be seen out in the field, but also more were flying in from the harbour.

At the Deeps there was a collection of wildfowl, but not as much as has been present through the winter.  There were small groups of Brent Geese, and Wigeon. that were probably stragglers left over after the main numbers have moved out.  I would suspect these will not be here much longer.  Shoveler were present as were the calling Teal, and in one of the small pools a pair of Pintail, the drake looking very elegant.

Reed Buntings sang from the reeds, and Meadow Pipits could be heard in song above us, and then falling to the ground with the parachute display.  One landed on a post in front of us.

On reaching Point Field we decided to walk through it the hope of maybe finding a Dartford Warbler.  There was though no sign of the warbler, and other than the Dunnocks and Robins, the only bird of note was a wonderfully sing Song Thrush, that would do so from the tops of the Hawthorn bushes.

We came out of the field, and turned back onto the sea wall. We met another birder who pointed out a Short-eared Owl, tucked down by the side of a grass mound, keeping out of the easterly wind, but at the same time in the warming sunshine.

So it was set up, and wait to see what would happen, would it decide to hunt?  It kept turning its head, but never really opened its eyes.

I could only assume the eye were partially opened, and it was looking around it.

Then some action, it started to preen, working quite vigorously on the wing feathers.

A good scratch with those deadly talons.

Plus then a good shake.

Back to watching everything about it.

Then it moved, jumping up and moving closer to the shelter of the grass.  But it continued to look around.  Not sure what this look was all about.

Then it settled down, tucked its head into the wing, and didn't move.

It stayed like this for a while, and we considered that it was now probably a sleep, and would not be moving any time soon.  As a result we decided to move on, and leave it to sleep.

In the bramble by the ditch on the wall movement turned out to be a Chiffchaff.

As we scanned the Lake Ian picked up a female Wheatear, but it was much too far away for any photograph attempt.

As we approached the viewpoint a Little Egret in splendid breeding plumage was preening again tucked out of the wind.

Scanning the Lake, produced very little, roosting Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank, and a few Teal, but nothing of great interest.  We made our way back to the car park, and as we reached the cars I heard the familiar call of a Sandwich Tern, and then looked up to see two birds fishing along the sea wall.

They worked the water from where we were up to the bridge, and then would make their way back.

They moved up and down the shore line before heading out to settle on one of the exposed islands.

Next stop was to be the Oyster Beds on Hayling Island.  As we waled the path we could hear the continual calls of Black-headed Gulls, they seemed to be everywhere, and had issues with every gull.

There was nothing on the sea, and very few waders on the beds apart from a few Turnstone and Oystercatchers.  The attention then returned to the gulls.  At this time of year there is a build up of Mediterranean Gulls here, they gather before dispersing to their breeding grounds.  They announce themselves with their call, which is less coarse than that of the Black-headed Gulls, more a whining tone, like an enthusiastic nasal yeah!

Like a snow ball through the all white wings with a really black head stands them out from the "brown" heads of the Black-headed Gulls.

They also seem to occupy a much higher space in the sky, happy to sora much higher than the Black-headed Gulls.

They would fly around and then pass over our heads.  They would fly around and then return to the islands where they would settle back down amongst the Black-headed Gulls.

With little much else about we decided to move on, and as we turned away the Med Gulls continued to fly above us, the white wings looking superb against the blue sky.

AIt was now getting quite warm, and as if to confirm this when we reached the end of the path, Ian picked up the first butterfly of the day, a superb male Brimstone.  At this time of year Brimstones rarely stop, but here there was a reason, plenty of hawthorn blossom.

As it nectared it was joined by a bee that settled on the wings of the butterfly.

It would fly off, but never went too far returning to the blossom.

Our next place was to be a visit to the New Forest, Acres Down being the place of choice.  After lunch in the car par, and a brief update from some birders who advised that it was very windy up on the down, we decided to walk through the woods following the cycle path.

After about half a mile I heard the song of a Firecrest.  At first it was difficult to see the bird, and the bursts of song were not frequent.  Finally we picked it up in a spruce tree.

It was very mobile, interspersing feeding behaviour with short bursts of song as if to signal it was available.

Above us we could hear Siskin, and we detoured off the main path in the hope of finding a Crossbill.  This did not happen but we did come across some more butterflies in the sun lit area along the path.  First was a Red Admiral.

Once warmed up it closed the wings, but remained in the sunshine.

Next was a Peacock, and once again I had forgotten how beautiful this butterfly is.

Brimstones continued to drift by, and in total we saw sixteen of these lovely butterflies.  There was only one Red Admiral, and four Peacocks by the time we were finished.

We crossed the main path, and headed south.  Another butterfly then appeared, this time a Comma, my first of the year.

As soon as we found this one, another appeared and they engaged in some dueling before one decided to head off, the remaining Comma then danced around in front of us, settling every so often on the bracken.

A little further on two Crossbills flew over our heads calling but disappeared into the conifers, this was to be our only sighting.  

The path we were following took us through a wooded area, and we came across a huge Wood Ants nest.

Looking closer you can get a perspective of how dense the amount of ants can be.

The path took through a typical  boggy valley bottom.

A little further on and we were coming out onto Acres Down. As we passed through some conifers, a tit in amongst the cones was not the expected Coal Tit, but a Marsh Tit.

We made our way to the view point, and took the chance to disrobe, it was now quite warm.  Apart from several Buzzards soaring above the trees there was very little else about.  The wind was quite strong and was probably a major contributor to this.

Finally we decided to head down into the shelter of the valley in the hope of finding a Woodlark.  There were no larks about but we did manage to find a male Stonechat.

And that was about it.  We did walk on, but apart from more Siskins there was little else about.  It seems that the sunny weather brought out the butterflies, but the cold fresh north-easterly winds were acting as a blocker for migrants.  Still it had been a good day, like the Barn Owl at the start of the month, any day with great views of an owl has to be a good day.