Thursday 28 January 2016


We decided that with the weather set fair a day's birding in a westward direction would be ideal. So we set off for some of our favourite venues down in the New Forest. First up was Pennington Marsh in an attempt to locate the long staying Long-billed Dowitcher. We had nailed this bird, photographically speaking , last year and I didn't think we would improve on those records during today's visit. In fact we didn't find the bird, not surprising really as the water levels were very high and it could have been anywhere, either in the lagoons or on one of the many flooded fields.

Next was a visit to Mark Ash to find that our reliable Tawny Owl has moved home. The forest was very quiet, just a few Blackbirds, no flocks of Chaffinches to be found. Though it was nice to find a couple of pairs of Stock Doves, exactly where we saw them last year.

On to Eyeworth Pond at Fritham, always good for Marsh Tit and of course a Mandarin or two. A full supporting cast enjoyed the feed we put out and we left with hordes of Great, Blue, Coal and Marsh Tit attacking the bounty with gusto,

Then a visit to Blashford where we expected to get Goosander and possibly a Ring-billed Gull from the Tern Hide, sadly no Goosanders about but the sightings board indicated that 90+ had been counted recently. On the reserve itself, a mass of Siskins raiding the feeders which I stopped to record, Martin went on to the hide to see if he could find a Brambling, he returned hotfoot with information that the Bittern was showing well from the Ivy north hide.
When we arrived it was quite busy and during our stay became nearly full with birders hoping for a glimpse of the bird. Oddly only one window opens on this hide and there is almost a queue to occupy it, normally a photographer wanting a clear shot as the rest of the windows in the hide are glazed with the most horrendous blue glass. In the end  two birds were feeding in the reeds but as always they were hard to find and rarely broke cover.


 Not forgetting the Siskins.

We finished the day on a high note for on the way back Martin suggested another go at the Red-necked Grebe that inhabits the channel north of Northney Marina on Hayling Island. Initially we thought that we had a fourth dip on this bird but there it was in the distance - no doubts about the ID as all points were satisfied before the bird decided to make off down stream on the fast ebbing tide.

Some photos from our journey to Minster on the Isle of Sheppey for an obliging Shore Lark, shame the Richard's Pipit at Shellness wasn't in the same mood.

Finally a Firecrest at WWT Arundel that as we followed it along the fence morphed into a Goldcrest and had us fooled for a short time.....

......and a classy Stonechat from Farlington Marsh.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Ring-necked Ducks

Today was a Rooksbury Mill revisit to see if we could improve the records that we had in December. However, we stopped off on the way at the delightfully named Pinglestone Farm water cress beds. A Water Pipit had been reported and I still haven't got a reasonable shot of one. When we arrived the temperatures were hovering above freezing but it was a bright crisp morning, a good day to be out. There seemed to less birds about than on our previous visit, we did manage to find a couple of likely candidates but given the distance we couldn't achieve a positive ID.

On to Rooksbury Mill near Andover, with the weather remaining clement we were hopeful of some decent photography. The birds weren't difficult to find, more or less where we had left them on our previous foray. This time though there was a small flock of Tufted Ducks, a pair of photogenic Gadwall and a family of Mute Swans.

On the journey home we called in at Pinglestone but there had been no improvement save for eight Little Egrets, smaller birds were absent yet again. After a detour through Petersfield we made our way to an old favourite, the Little Owl at Stapelash Farm, he may have been in residence but if he was he wasn't showing. Similarly the Hawfinches in the trees next to Yew Tree Cottage were obviously foraging elsewhere and I didn't fancy a slog along the path. Then we had a tweet that the Glaucous Gull was back at the gull roost at Goring and as Martin needed the tick we made our way home.

Out on the gap the Glaucous Gull showed well but as I got the camera out it promptly sat down and went to sleep - so no improved shots. By now the biting north-wester was cutting to the bone and the toss up between a steaming hot cup of tea and a shot of a plain white gull was a no brainer. Really nice to be out on a day when the sun shone and that the grey clag has been banished.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Purple Sandpipers

With my mobility still restricted I had to find somewhere to go where I could use a lighter set of equipment. Fortunately the three things you need to get Purple Sandpipers occurred today - sunshine, a midday tide  and of sufficient height to push the birds on to the top of the East Pier at Newhaven. As the tide peaked at 6.8 metres several of the 16 birds that were hiding under the pier popped up and the conditions were perfect.

If the water doesn't come up high enough you have to shoot down and it can be quite dark.

However, when they come up they are happy to pose for the camera.

 Turnstones too, ever on the lookout for a fisherman discarding a lump of bait.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Glaucous Gull at Goring Gap.

I was sitting at home feeling sorry for myself and regretting the fact that I hadn't joined Martin for a day's birding when I saw a tweet from Nick Bond. "Glaucous Gull at Goring Gap" and it was sent only five minutes previous. Another five minutes and the car was loaded, a further five minutes to get there and the first photo was in the camera in next to no time. Although the light was good and the bird posed occasionally between extensive bouts of sleeping it was still a good way off. Anyway, with it duly recorded on a day where the falling temperatures were no incentive to hang about, it was time for home. It is amazing what restorative powers the presence of a year tick on the local patch can have, by the time I reached home my aches and pains were much diminished - I always said birding was good for the health - that's why I go so often.

Well hidden amongst the other gulls.

When it stood up it was like the proverbial sore thumb.


Living in close proximity to other gulls has its downside.

Many thanks for the tweet Nick - keep 'em coming!

Nice to see a Black-headed Gull coming into summer plumage already.






Friday 8 January 2016

Mediterranean Gull at Goring Gap

I started out after the morning rush hour and made my way to the Widewater at Shoreham for the drake Goosander that was reported yesterday. Several other birders who were in attendance showed that glum face that indicates an absent bird.  I hung around for about an hour and apart from four Red-breasted Mergansers there was precious little to record. On the way home I decided to give the gull roost at Goring Gap the once over. For once conditions were ideal, high tide, strong winds and lots of overnight rain to create some decent puddles. I parked opposite the one nearest to the roadside and scanned the whole field. Apart from the obvious Herring, Great Black-backed, Common and Black-headed Gulls there were hordes of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sanderlings and Turnstones happily searching the muddy field for some form of food.

Then it finally dawned on me that one of the gulls was a tad different, even though it had its bill between its wings it was obvious that it was a Mediterranean Gull.


The other birds were taking advantage of the fresh water and having a bath and I spent an hour or so snapping away. I felt duty bound to inspect Groyne No.4 and wasn't surprised to find only a few Turnstones, the wind was whipping the sea into foam and salt spray, that isn't an ideal environment for birds or for that matter my camera - time for home!

One of the Sanderlings, rather distant, was carrying colour rings.