Tuesday, 5 June 2012

June 2012

June immediately got off to a great start, but not with what you'd expect!! Whilst cleaning the thousands of sun scorched flattened flies from the front of my car from various trips last month, a Hawfinch began to call from the Oak trees behind my house before flying off towards a larger copse about 1/4 mile away on the morning of the 1st constituting the second garden tick of the year.

Thankfully last months male Black-winged Stilt at Pennington made yet another appearance, this time with the company of a female. I was eager to add this to my county list after missing them previously due to more important birds (Orphean Warbler and Baillon's Crake), on arrival both birds were actively feeding, but extremely vocal on the Shoveler pools.

Shortly after, I went to chat to Tim Parminter (Pennington Patcher) who was looking for the Glossy Ibis that had been seen that morning; no sign but an old chap approached us early afternoon informing us that he had seen a Night Heron. Being the sceptical sod I am, I was not expecting anything to come of it but nonetheless walked round there to investigate. Viewing was limited and so only a fraction of the fishing pool was visible but lo and behold, smack bang in the middle of the only open gap was a stunning adult Night Heron. And potentially the first twitchable bird in the county since the early 90's, so indeed another addition to my county list! News was distributed to all the locals as this was clearly going to be a popular bird and within the hour a small group had gathered, this was my queue to leave but not before checking Lower Pennington Lane again where I managed to briefly catch the Glossy Ibis walking back into the long grass! 

Wind and rain bought about a dozen Manx Shearwaters into the bay off Hurst on the 3rd, the Night Heron and Stilts were still on show; the latter getting abit of grief from visiting birders climbing the near bank to the pools preventing them from feeding close.

Whilst chatting to various other Hampshire birders at the Heron, I joked how a Marsh Warbler would be very much appreciated as again the last twitchable individual was yonks ago. But admittedly I wasn't expecting to wake three days later (5th) to see a report of a probable male singing at Harbridge, I dashed down there to immediately hear the bird mimicking Blue Tit, Great Tit and Linnet just metres away from the car, and was pleased to confirm it was one! The rain soon settled in but the Warbler still sang intermittantly at close range, showing occasionally as it perched up in the reeds, displaying most of the subtle characteristics and chasing neighbouring Sedge Warblers. The sound recording below is relatively poor quality, people talking, passing cars etc but not bad considering it was done with my phone and should come in handy when the finder submits their description.

Later the same week the winds increased to quite some strength with heavy overnight rain, attentions turned to the sea where I was once again hopeful of connecting with a Hampshire Storm Petrel. Small numbers had been at Portland and Hengistbury the previous day, with 16 still lingering off Hengistbury the following morning (9th). The Milford shelter failed to produce anything other than a fly-by summer plumaged Great Northern Diver, so Lee and myself went round to Hengistbury (Dorset) where there were half a dozen still feeding around the lobster pots, we immediately tracked back East onto the Hampshire side of the border where it took abit of time for us to pick one up from Chewton Bunny but we both eventually managed distant views of possibly 2 different birds! Whilst down that way it would have been rude not to drop in to see the Black-winged Stilts still in situ with the male showing reasonably well. Later the same day we went into the New Forest and found 4 roosting Nightjars without too much effort, including this amazing male.
Since then however, things have gone quiet as the Spring seems to have fizzled out and the summer lull has taken over, not helped further by the abysmally wet weather we have been experiencing. I have also started back at work for the Summer which has prevented me from getting out in the field as much as I'd like to, prefering the option of staying in bed as I work lates. The latter factor seriously messing me up when a Little Swift was found early afternoon on the Wirral (22nd), literally minutes after I had arrived at work. I knew immediately I wouldn't be able to leave so had my fingers crossed that it would linger for the remainder of the day and even roost. And that it did!! I finished work at 21:30, went home, had some food, showered, filled up the car, met Dan Houghton and Mick Fuller and we were on our way to arrive before first light.

Four hours later we arrived in darkness but could still see the Pier House (where it had reportedly roosted) relatively well because of nearby street lamps and could clearly see a swift sp that was either horizontally roosting or dead on an exposed ledge. Fearing it was the Little Swift we hoped it was just roosting but it didn't look very healthy either way. Minutes later someone then spotted the Little Swift roosting on another ledge several windows along with its large white rump exposed, squared-off tail with a small notch in the middle and pale fringes to the wing feathers all clearly visible at this point.
It was clearly getting restless as it began to flick its tail and occasionally lift its head, after two hours of light it then took flight with a low overhead display before joining the other Common Swifts over the Mersey where good comparisons could be made in terms of flight technique and overall structure. These photos are far being the best out there! Furthermore, the unhealthy horizontally roosting Swift eventually got up for a short fly before returning to the same position shortly afterwards.
Having had our fill by 7am, we headed back down South, driving straight past home to Bognor Regis (West Sussex) where three White Storks were still in situ. All showed well at range with about 20+ Grey Herons. These White Storks are most likely the remaining birds of the flock of nine, originally found in the Midlands that have since been touring the country for the last two months - yet all have avoided Hampshire so far!

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