Monday, 28 November 2016

Late Autumn birding on Hengistbury Head

We met at 8a.m. in the main car park and we were entertained by a pair of Stonechats while everyone got ready.  It was a cold but dry morning and seemed perfect for a morning spent birding.  

Walking by the visitor centre we had a few of the usual birds such as Robin, Blue and Great Tit etc, also a couple of male Pheasants in a tree, well it is Christmas and there aren't many Partridges around these days.  Looking towards Stanpit we could see Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Brent Geese and a flight of Lapwings.  I just happened to say to the group do look out for Marsh Harrier when an adult female came into view and was quartering the reedbeds, do wish all birds I mention appeared on cue!
Drake Wigeon by Hengistbury Head © Nick Hull
We walked on and paused at the Natterjack Toad pond, Sarah brought our attention to a female Reed Bunting, which promptly disappeared from view, instead a pair of Stonechat popped up on to the fence.  Fran then spotted a male Dartford Warbler, we then watched it flit to and fro round the vegetation and fence.  Patiently watching him he eventually came down to the pond and started bathing only a short distance in front of us, not something we see them doing normally, so felt quite privileged to watch him.
Stonechat pair © Nick Hull
Moving on we had a male Kestrel, then saw the Jay perched on top of a bush and in the distance the Lapwings were up again on Stanpit, a flock of about 30.  Looking through the scope across we added Oystercatcher, Curlew and Redshank to the list.  A few Meadow Pipits and Linnets went up as we walked along the head and looking out to sea we watched Brent Geese flying towards us and on into Christchurch Harbour.  We then noticed another skein of geese, at first thought they also would be Brents, but Nick quickly realised they were Barnacle Geese.  In fact there were 22 and they were later picked up flying over Poole Harbour and then seen landing at Swineham, unfortunately they got spooked and flew off and not seen again.

Reaching the beach huts we did a little more seawtaching and Nick soon found a group of 10 Common Scoters on the sea, then three Great Northern Diver flying past and into the Solent.  On the groynes only Rock Pipit, Oystercatchers and Cormorants, sadly we couldn't find any Purple Sandpipers this time.  So we repaired to the cafe for hot drinks and whilst there watch and admired the Starlings as they hoped we would leave a crumb or two when we left.
Starlings at the Hengistbury Cafe © Nick Hull
After warming up with hot chocolate and teas we walked back stopping to watching Little Egret, Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits at Holloway's Dock.  Then nearing the visitor centre again the Marsh Harrier was quartering even closer giving brilliant views, so a nice end to a very good morning's birding.

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