Thursday, 31 January 2013

January 2013

A new year starts with another bird race. Not the best we've ever done on January 1st with a number of common species that were still missing by early afternoon. Unfortunately once we had dragged ourselves away from the coast we knew it was pretty much game over and subsequently gave up afterwards. 111 ended up being our total. Most frustrating was a possible Red-necked Grebe off Normandy Marshes that was simply too distant to confidently ID. But as is always the way, once the bird race is over the next few days are typically productive; the Glossy Ibis returned from Stanpit (Dorset) to Bickerley Common (3rd) to join the also returning Great-white Egret. A Black-necked Grebe reappeared on Ibsley Water and the Bittern eventually gave itself up on Ivy Lake; not that any of these species were co-operative during the race. On the opposite side of the county 2 Scaup were at Hayling Oysterbeds with a dozen Black-necked Grebes in the harbour, with a further selection of seabirds off Sandy Point later that morning (4th). Presumably the same Red-breasted Goose I found at Needs Ore last winter returned as an adult to Farlington Marshes with the Brent (also 4th). A male Hen Harrier at Beaulieau Road Station (5th) was nice, as indeed was the suspiciously 'tame' redhead Smew in Romsey (6th). A good day out was had in the north of the county (7th) that yielded a number of scarce county residence; all of which I'll withhold for obvious reasons. The returning Ring-billed Gull was yet again at Walpole Park (9th); the Ibis still at Bickerley Common and Red-breasted Goose again at Farlington (both 10th). By now I had pretty much mopped up every bird species in the county.

On the 12th I ventured out of county to Berkshire with Joe Stockwell, Lee Fuller and Dan Houghton for a look at the Buff-bellied Pipits since access had been once again arranged for Queen Mother Reservoir. Unfortunately no sign on arrival; so we wandered anti-clockwise around the waters taking in the wintering Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Red Kites, Ring-necked Parakeets and Egyptian Geese. We had almost made it back to the sailing club when we simultaneously picked up a Pipit fly-in, over us and over 100 or so other (unknowing) birders and then landed on the reservoir basin about a kilometre back from where had just walked from. We trundled back round to find both Pipits on the basin, but before they became settled the birds were flushed by an over-excited crowd and that was the end of that. I literally managed one shot before they flew off. Five Waxwings were seen briefly on the way home on the Hampshire/Surrey border in Farnborough.
The undoubted highlight for me this month was the Pallas's Warbler at Moor Green Lakes (14th) on the Berkshire/Hampshire border. Originally reported as Yellow-browed Warbler for 10 days prior I hadn't taken too much notice of it but as soon as it became apparent that the identification was wrong I bolted up there. No sign of it on the first afternoon I tried in wintery conditions, but the next morning myself and Mick Fuller eventually connected. It followed a tit/crest flock along the river for a short period, but had otherwise spent the rest of the morning on its own; of course I only needed to see it on the south side of the river, to which it obliged. Admittedly I struggled to pick up the central crown stripe as I was mostly looking up at it, but the bird hovered and preened on one or two occasions revealing the diagnostic yellow rump. Four Jack Snipe were seen nearby that afternoon. Images provided by Alan Lewis.
On 16th Needs Ore continued its good run of wildfowl with a drake Scaup on the Blackwater: the first I have seen here. The patch has also had a drake Mandarin and female Goosander; both of which are noteworthy sightings here. A Short-eared Owl took up residence for a short period, whilst a Merlin was typically more brief. There were two male Black Redstarts down the road at Fawley Power Station (19th) in their usual spot and I had a rather nice redhead Smew on Ivy Lake (20th) that constituted the first I had found in the county.
I departed back to Uni in Cumbria on 21st where birding instantly took a back seat; the usual story. Before the month end I managed one day at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries) to film landing Whooper Swans that also yielded a drake Green-winged Teal on the Folly Pond.

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