Sunday, 29 January 2012

January 2012

Most Hampshire birders started the New Year at Hawkshill Inclosure, New Forest for the reported Junco - I didn't, I ignored it as I didn't expect it to make an appearance in the adverse weather conditions. Instead, the year got off to a dreary start as myself and Lee Fuller attempted the NYD Bird Race, having taken it easy the previous night - no drinking - no sleep; for absolutely no reason at all as we didn't score any owls except Tawny at 7am. We were thoroughly impressed with our total of 116 considering the horrendous wet weather and strong winds. Bird of the day was an adult Caspian Gull that we found at last knockings roosting on Spinnaker Lake, Blashford.

As suspected, there was no sign of the Junco all day, but come the 2nd the weather was almost perfect, though still quite breezy. And so it was no surprise that the Junco was refound again in the clearfell area beyond the car park mid-morning. We had to wait a few hours before it's next showing but once pinned down it was quite easy to locate thanks to its continual 'tikking'. Crossbill were numerous here, a male Hen Harrier flew infront of my car enroute and a Short-eared Owl was accidentally flushed from the clearfell.

Other in county highlights at the beginning of the month included Cattle Egret at Warblington, Ring-billed Gull at Walpole Park, and Sandwich Tern in Gosport (all 4th), Dan Houghton's Siberian Chiff-chaff at Newlands Farm (7th), finished with another look at the Junco, with Great Grey Shrike and Hen Harrier down the road at Bishop's Dyke (8th).

Emma and I then spent an enjoyable 4 days in Marrakech, Morocco with a couple of excursions into the Atlas Mountains etc, for a short break together. Not many birds were seen but Moussier's Redstart, White-crowned Black Wheatear and Laughing Dove were particularly nice even if they aren't that unusual out there.

However I was eager to return as the night before we flew out I was informed of an adult male Spanish Sparrow that had taken up residency at Calshot. Unbelievably, this was the second wintering mega to be found in Hampshire in as many weeks and so come the 13th, I was up well before the 'Sparrow's fart' waiting in anticipation of what would be a truly amazing county tick. An hour after dawn the bird showed briefly in the back garden before relocating to the hedgerow along the road where it showed ridiculously well. I managed one shot with my camera before the battery died. D'oh!! But enjoyed cracking views of this striking bird. No doubt he'll still be around when I return from Uni in the spring so I'll make sure my batteries are charged and will hopefully improve on my current effort: The rest of the day was spent birding with 1-2 female Black Redstarts in their traditional area around Fawley Power Station, 2 Black-necked Grebes were unusual for here just offshore. The Black-throated Diver was at Eling Tide Mill and a Whooper Swan joined the 6 Bewick's and 200+ Mute Swans at Harbridge. 2 hours in the hide at Ivy Lake eventually got me the Bittern as the light began to fade.

Making the most of my final weekend before heading back up to Uni in Cumbria, I managed to connect with the 2nd winter Iceland Gull in Old Portsmouth (14th) with 2 Purple Sandpipers down the road at Southsea Castle. And on the 15th I gave the Junco yet another visit as he will almost certainly have departed by the time I'm next at home. This time it showed much better, but I seemed to be the only person onsite able to pick the bird out as it occasionally 'tikked' and came down to seed on a near stump; allowing me to improve on the attrocious record shots I had previously obtained. Certainly a very enjoyable bird to watch!

Once again, it was time for me to head North again back to Uni (16th), leaving the good birding behind. Birding immediately took a back seat, with only 3 whole days birding managed by the end of the month. First of which was to Leighton Moss (22nd) where I failed to see the Glossy Ibis in very naff conditions, but 3 dodgy Lesser Snow Geese were of note amongst the resident Greylags. We (Tristan & Pete) then cut our losses and continued South to Luddenden Dean (West Yorkshire) and still managed not to see anything of note. Giving up early we dropped back into Leighton Moss to give the Ibis another chance - which didn't disappoint.

On the 28th I went to Caerlaverock WWT to test out a new uni camera but didn't really see anything of note except the more standard fair - mostly Wildfowl. However the following day was abit more interesting as yet again I headed South; with Colin Lister for my 2nd attempt at the Northern Long-tailed Tits at Luddenden Dean. The weather was alot calmer and it soon became apparent that we were looking in completely the wrong area and so needed to walk a further 2 miles to get to the right place...past the pub, past the cemetry, and past the woolly the bridge. Thankfully we didn't have to wait long till I picked up the Tit flock moving through and both 'caudatus' birds were seen with relative ease - being considerably paler underneath, with the pink tinge limited to the flanks it was surprisingly easy to pick these white-headed 'Snowballs' up in the tree tops. Once lower you could really appreciate these stunners,and they even came close enough so I could grab a few pleasing shots. The shorter-tailed individual seemed slightly more reluctant to visit the feeders. All in all another eventful month!


  1. A great selection of shots. All these sparrow and Junco photos are making me edgy.

  2. Certainly worth it Marc - especially if you can get there mid-week and you'll have both of them to yourself!