Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Birding Keyhaven Marshes

Our Tuesday group met on the first day of Spring at Keyhaven for a walk round the marshes, in glorious sunshine but with a chilly wind.  It was a day when it was very noticeable that numbers of waders and wildfowl were much lower than of late, already flying north towards their breeding grounds.  We're sure this will change over the next few weeks with new waders coming through from the continent.

There was still plenty to keep us occupied, starting with a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, a few Brent Geese, Redshank and a single Oystercatcher.  Also the first of five bird of prey species with Marsh Harrier and Buzzard as we began walking the sea wall.  We were pleased to come across a flock of 30 Turnstones on the tideline, they hadn't forsaken us yet. We stopped to look over the small pools with a single Black-tailed Godwit, a few Redshank and Teal, also a Meadow Pipit.  A Kestrel hovered over the fields and then went across to the saltmarsh.  As I watched it I heard some of the birds on the marsh fly up agitated, Nick found the culprit as it flew towards us low and fast, a Sparrowhawk.  Nick luckily had his camera ready and got a couple of shots as it flew across us.  
Sparrowhawk - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
We reached Keyhaven Lagoon, first though a pair of Stonechats took our attention feeding on the ground and then popping up on top of the gorse or on the wire fence.  I could see a large white blob on the lagoon, looking very much like a hunched Spoonbill.  Not only was it indeed a Spoonbill moving round a little further we found four roosting together, one very briefly lifted up its head to show its bill.

Also on the lagoon were 22 Pintail, Wigeon, a few Lapwing and a smart Greenshank.  A couple of Roe Deer   On Fishtail Lagoon we added a couple of Snipe and three Spotted Redshanks, several Shoveler and Little Grebes.  On the saltmarsh all we could add were four Dunlin other than Redshanks and Curlews.
Redshank-Black-tailed Godwit Keyhaven ©Nick Hull
As we came up to the ancient highway a Cetti's Warbler called, a Skylark spiralled up in song despite the strong wind.  On the old tip pool were the usual Black-headed Gulls, Tufted Ducks, Coots and Canada Geese.   Suddenly the gulls lifted up and seemed upset, Nick again came to the rescue seeing the Peregrine flying along back of the old landfill.  It did land and we had poor views only really seeing its head as it came up from eating something it had obviously caught.




Thursday, 9 March 2017

A good week Birding catch-up

It's been good birding over the past week or two with some excellent birds despite some grotty weather at times.   On  Sunday, 26 February, we had a group out for the day in the New Forest and it was challenging with wind and rain but we braved it and were rewarded for it.  Starting in the north of the forest watching for Goshawk, we'd had good views of a pair the week before so were very hopeful of a repeat.  Though we did see a pair they were fairly distant but with Wood Larks, Mistle Thrush, Raven and Lapwing nearby we didn't mind.

Moving on to Eyeworth Pond for the Mandarin Ducks we were not disappointed watching several drakes flying around the pond chasing each other, quite a sight!  Another reason to pop into Eyeworth is for Marsh Tit attracted to seed that someone puts down on the wooden posts.  Of course it also attracts other small birds including Coal Tit.  On to Bolderwood for a comfort stop and a quick look round, on the grass were several Mistle Thrush and a couple of Song Thrushes.  However it was Scott that picked up a two of Crossbills flying over us.  

Now the rain was heavier and we moved on to Beaulieu road to have lunch before looking for the Great Grey Shrike.  We added Stonechat and not much else and certainly not the Shrike!  However, our last stop at Blackwater Arboretum was now much less windy and much drier, even a bit of blue sky at last.  We had seven species of finch with Chaffinch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, a brief view of a Redpoll nicely picked up by Angus.  However the best was left to last with Hawfinch, we saw a few flying in but not stopping then one landed in a dead fir.  It stayed there for at least 20 minutes while we watched and admired it, in the end we had to leave.  
Male Hawfinch - New Forest © Nick Hull
On Tuesday, 28 February, Nick and I went with our friend Margaret to Abbotsbury, West Dorset.  It was very windy to say the least but we walked over the field by the Swannery looking for the Richard's Pipit that have been wintering there.  Nick spotted them in a private field but through the scope we managed good views, super looking birds.  Feeling a bit battered in the wind we got back to car and looked over the water in a bit more comfort.  We found the Long-tailed Duck and Scaup, also watched a Marsh Harrier briefly quartering the reeds.  After a great pub lunch we popped down to Portland Harbour for the Slavonian Grebe recently reported and Nick found two so another year tick in the bag.

Our Wednesday group on 1 March, we met at Knoll Beach, Studland for a walk in the wood, it was a quiet start with the usual common woodland birds.  Not much on Littlesea but Joe had spotted a small bird to the right of the hide, so we investigated.  Very glad we did as I walked to side of the hide on the ground were a small flock of Redpolls feeding.  We stood and watched these beautiful little birds for ages before finally they flew off.  
Great Northern Diver Studland © Nick Hull
Now for a spot of seawtaching first from Knoll Beach and then from Fort Henry, with a scattering of Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes and then two Great Northern Divers showed very well.  Then we heard the familiar call of Ring-necked Parakeets, despite being a brilliant green in colour they really don't stand out but eventually we had very good views of them.  On the way back to the cars admiring the beautiful spring flowers, with Snowdrops, Primroses, Daffodils, Fran saw a small bird flitting around and I able to see it briefly before it flew off, a Firecrest!

On the afternoon of 2 March it was sunny and we had a chance to visit Wareham Forest to look for the Great Grey Shrike, we started with Reed Bunting, then a few Siskin flying over as well as a Raven.  We hadn't walked that far when the shrike put in an appearance.  It was distant so no photo's again for Nick but through the scope we could admire it.  We added Stonechat on our walk back to the car.  

As we had been so lucky to see the shrike so quickly we popped over to the bay at the end of the afternoon but only recorded the usual gull coming into bathe before going to roost in the Wareham Channel.  But we were handsomely rewarded with a female Hen Harrier.

This week we've also caught up with the Snow Bunting on Studland Beach, if you've not seen it yet it likes to hang round Pilots Point area.  On a beautiful spring day you won't be disappointed, this was our view on Tuesday 7 March.  Shame I managed to put my thumb over part of the lens!

Studland Beach looking towards Sandbanks © Jackie Hull