Monday, 24 February 2014

Catching Up on Events

Sunday 23rd February 2014
Only a small group today exploring the New Forest and targeting a few species that can be hard to find at times.  We started at Acres Down but the weather wasn't the best windy and moist, though there was the promise that it would improve later in the day. After exploring the area we came away with just one of our target birds Common Crossbill but we still had another location to find one of the others which was Brambling.  A little later we were walking through Mark Ash Wood and found a very large finch flock feeding in the leaf litter under the beach trees, obviously searching for beech mast seeds.  We scoured the flock but couldn't see a Brambling at all.  But like all finch flocks when they are feeding every so often they will all fly up into the trees or hedgerow for a short while before returning back to the ground to continue feeding.  When this happened I saw several white rumps disappear into the trees with all the Chaffinch.  So I knew it was just a case of waiting for them to come back down to ground to get a view.  Shortly after we were watching at least half a dozen of these superb northern finches feeding.
Brambling Mark Ash Wood © Nick Hull
We lunched at Bolderwood where had some nice views of Song Thrush and Goldcrest all feeding together on the ground, with more Goldcrest and Siskins in the the trees overhead.  After lunch we headed off to Fritham just to see the very gaudy Mandarin Duck and for Marsh Tit though we had already been lucky seeing them earlier at Acres Down, a good job we did as none showed themselves whilst we were there but plenty of Mandarins.  It was then on to Blashford to finish our day, the woodland hide gave us the usual variety of woodland birds.  It did seem that the number of Lesser Redpoll were less than usual  however a few really nice colourful males came onto the feeders.

Male Lesser Redpoll © Nick Hull
This one was also sporting a ring on his right leg.  We moved to the Ivy North Hide in the hope of another of our target species and we were in luck soon after entering the hide we were watching a Bittern.  It was from the reeds into the wood and with the use of my scope Jess managed a pretty good shot with her iphone as it passed across the opening between trees.

Bittern Blashford Lakes © Jess Evans
Viewing from the Tern hide added Continental Cormorant with one or two on the sinensis race showing their very white headdress and white flank patches.  Goldeneye, Pintail, "whinning" Little Grebes, Mediterranean, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed Gulls were just a few of the birds seen from this hide, which brought the day to an end.

Saturday 22nd February
Jackie and I had a fairly early start and headed down to Cogden Beach, part of the Chesil bank, over the last week there has been a good number of Little Gulls as well as the odd sighting of Glaucous Gull from the area.  Indeed when we arrived it was soon obvious that there were a good number of Little Gulls hawking over a cultivated field to the right of the car park, so off we headed to get a little closer views.  Once down on the beach we saw local photographer Pete Coe already set up and we joined him watching the the birds moving to and from the sea and feeding over the field.

So thanks to Jess who had loaned we her camera for our Norway trip I though I would put it to use again and see if I could get some reasonable shots as the birds passed close by.

Little Gulls - Cogden Beach, Chesil © Nick Hull
We also had a few Kittiwakes feeding over the field and at times they also would fly by very close. The bird below came within a few metres and I managed a reasonable shot as it passed. 

Kittiwake Cogden Beach © Nick Hull
On inspecting the photograph I noticed it seemed to have something hanging from it's gape but in the camera viewer we thought it was dried piece of grass.  But later at home when I blew up the shot it appears it maybe some sort of fishing line.  Though the bird was feeding well and looked healthy you can't but wonder how it's long term health will be affected.

Kittiwake © Nick Hull

Wednesday 19th February
We took our group out on the RSPB BirdBoat around Poole Harbour, there is a boat every month through the winter and they are an excellent way to see the harbour's birds.  We started before leaving the quay with two Little Gulls and a couple of Kittiwakes flying backwards and forwards between the quay and Baiter.  

On casting off we headed along the north channel to Parkstone Bay where we had sightings of some very nice summer plumaged Shags looking very smart in their green plumages and crests stood high on their heads.  We recorded our first divers here, a Great Northern and then a Black-throated both gave reasonable views though distant.  We cruised on and edged along the Brownsea Lagoon where we found a good assortment with Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin and much more.  Two Raven flew in before we left and landed on the lagoon wall showing themselves off before flying on up into the trees on the island.  Leaving the lagoon we crossed Brand's Bay, here we saw two more Great Northern Divers and another Black-throated and we came across our first Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye and Black-necked Grebes.  
Great Northern Diver © Nick Hull
Passing behind Green Island heading towards Ower Quay a scoter flew in and landed on the water out in front of the boat.  As we approached it became obvious that it was the immature Surf Scoter that has been wintering in the harbour.  We crossed the central harbour and across to Arne and sailed up the Wytch Channel to Round Island jetty and we found another Black-throated Diver and two more Great Northern.  On the Arne spit we counted twenty four Spoonbill, along with a few Little Egrets and the resident Common Seal popped up to see who was around.  Then it was back across the harbour to the quay and we finished with a Black-throated Diver by the Fisherman's Dock presumable the one we had seen earlier off baiter.

Sunday 16th February
A walk at Hengistbury Head, on what was a very nice sunny morning, produced little but we did have some quality out on the groynes, we found Rock Pipit and Pied Wagtails and the House Sparrows were enjoying the sun lazing on the roofs of the Beach Huts.  The beach was strewn with debris from the storm the previous two days.  Mick was the first to find a small group of waders huddled together on one of the groynes on closer inspection they turned out to be three Purple Sandpipers and a single Dunlin.  Whilst watching these I had a conversation with another birder who gave us some fresh information that the Iceland Gull was still around and was last seen off the Double Dyke, so that's where we headed off to next.

A walk around the Head gave us many sightings of the usual gull species Herring, Black-headed, Common, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls but no Iceland.  A movement on the cliff and a Stonechat was found but the Black Redstart that also had been seen earlier wasn't to be found.  Walking further and stopping I decided to scope the sea further on towards Southbourne and I picked up the target, a coffee coloured white winged gull with a black bill, a first winter Iceland Gull so every one had good views of this scarce winter visitor.

Our walk back added Dartford Warbler and many more views of the more common species. We also had a look at the Heronry which is now starting to get busy with nest building.

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