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!

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