About Two Owls

Monday 5 February 2024

Starting the New Year 2024

How did the year start for you? Hopefully like us you've managed to get out and start your birding and as I've mentioned Jackie and I always try to get to a hundred species as soon as possible in the fewest number of days we can. This year we managed it in seven days and by the end of the month we are on 117 and there are still plenty of species we are missing before the spring migrants start arriving.

As is usual we always start on the patch here at Lytchett Bay and then head off around the local area to add other species not found on the patch.  We started off very well with the garden birds then our first stop was at Rock Lea View Point to look over the bay to get some waders under our belt.  One of our first species here was a superb grey male Hen Harrier quartering over the reed bed which was quickly followed by a Green Sandpiper calling close by which eventually took flight giving us a view. Checking out the feeding station added tits and finches and Reed Bunting. Once we felt we had seen all we could here we moved on inland for some farmland species.  As we were passing along the Charborough Park we came across Paul Morton (BoPH) and pulled up to see what he was watching.  Glad we did as we added Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Fieldfare and Redwing and a tad unexpected Woodlark made for a very fortunate stop.

Pale Morph Common Buzzard © Nick Hull

From here we had a slow drive around the winding lanes and picking up species en-route like Jay, Rook Coal Tit, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Kestrel.  We had a brief stop at Holme Bridge adding Mute Swan and Grey Heron but no Cattle Egret or waders which were there a few days before.  We were a little limited with time and it was now mid-afternoon so decided to call it a day and make our way home for a late lunch.

Our next chance to get out was on the 3rd with friends at Arne, our morning walk here added a few more species to our year list highlights here were Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Dark-bellied Brent Geese and no less than three Common Seal hauled out on the beach of Long Island. We ended the morning getting very close to our 100 species.

Redwing - Arne © Nick Hull

We were next out on the 5th to Studland for grebes, waders and water fowl.  Again with just the morning available to us for a bit of birding we headed out to Jerry's Point here it would give us a good view over the inner harbour and into Brand's Bay.  Great Crested Grebe were scattered over the water and then Jackie found a single Slavonian Grebe and eventually I managed to find two Black-necked Grebe and a small group of Goldeneye.  In the distance at the south end of the bay there were lots of Pintail and Brent and waders waiting for the tide to drop.  

We moved on to Middle Beach adding another three species to our year list, one was a little odd being a Little Grebe that flew into and pitched up in the bay, the other was a Marsh Harrier crossing the bay and the third was one or two Gannets also moving across the bay though a little distant. After we went home for lunch and then checked out Baiter and Poole Park in the afternoon where we added Greylag Goose, Turnstone and Coot to the list.

Next day as we were visiting my mother in the care home we decided to take a picnic lunch and after our visit we went to Maiden Castle to have lunch.  Here we picked up Skylark and then Corn Bunting and our first Mediterranean Gull.  After we stopped at Lomoor to see if we could connect with a Pochard but had no luck so we moved on to Sandsfoot Castle, to see if we could find the Red-necked Grebe, where we met Loy and Aspen who were doing the same.  After looking for sometime we moved down to the small bay and from this different angle we picked up the Red-necked Grebe out amongst the buoy's  along with a couple of Black-necked Grebe.  This was a good bird to catchup with as they don't come along that often these days..

On the 7th we had a busy day but had time to pop down to Holes Bay where a Black-throated Diver had taken up residence for a few days.  After arriving and walking along the footpath, so we were opposite the Merc garage, we scanned the bay and found it almost immediately and I took a few distant shots but after a while it moved much closer and gave excellent views.  We also had a Shag feeding in the bay which is somewhat unusual. Back home I uploaded our sighting to Birdtrack and we had hit 103 species three days earlier than we did in 2023 so not a bad start to the year.

Black-throated Diver - SW Holes Bay © Nick Hull

To try and continue our listing for January on the 9th we headed to Durlston to see if we could add a few seabirds.  The morning was bitterly cold but we managed to find a little respite from the cold wind by the Dolphin Lookout and saw Fulmar, Guillemot, Raven and Rock Pipit to our list and then it was retreat to the castle cafe for hot drinks and warm up.

For the rest of the month we revisited Studland a couple of time, had a visit to Blashford and the New Forest a couple of visits to Thorncombe Wood otherwise it was birding the local patch.  Though we added a few species nothing was outstanding until the 19th when a call from Shaun to say that SJ had just found 8 Waxwing feeding on mistletoe in a birch tree in Dacombe Drive, just five minutes away.  So we were in the car and very soon stood next to Shaun and SJ watching eight Waxwing.  These birds are still around as I write but seem to be staying on the berrying trees on Canford Heath near ASDA and the Haymoor pub, with the odd visit back to Upton.

Bohemian Waxwing- Upton © Nick Hull

We ended the month with a walk at Middlebere on the 30th where we saw the usual species of waders and farmland birds.  It wasn't untill we were walking back to the cars we met local birder Trevor Warrick as we chatted he looked up and said "I've a Goshawk" and we all looked up and there heading towards us was indeed a male Goshawk.  I thought it was going to fly directly over us but it then turned away so I took a couple of distant shots as it flew back the way it had come from.  What a bird to end January's birding. not the best shot but you can see it's a Gos.

Goshawk high over Middlebere © Nick Hull