A Monday morning text reporting four Black Necked Grebe at Lake 74 made the day at work go rather slowly. Then it seemed as if family commitments would scupper my after work visit. In the end I managed to get to Twitchers at around five o’clock. No birders and no BN Grebes to be seen. I was only able to stay till half past so not a great start. After a few minutes one of the Grebes appeared at the North East end of the lake, eventually all four birds were in view with two birds displaying. It would have been nice to have had time to go down to the hide for some closer views. Another birder had arrived and mentioned that the Nightingale had been showing well earlier on which was good to know! Just as I was leaving a Hobby appeared and circled around gaining height towards a flock of Swifts and Swallows. Better views than I had on Friday. A successful end to April’s birding. All in all a pretty good month. Hopefully May will be just as good.
I had considered a drive to Standlake to look for the White Storks. However, when I woke at nine it was still tipping down so decided not to bother. Took the dog to Coate in the afternoon and had a good walk around the lake and the ever-growing floodwater. There were still hundreds of hirundines around with a more even mix of House Martin and Swallow, also a fair few Sand Martin. A few Song Thrush and Chiffchaff were valiantly “singing in the rain”. One each of Grey Wag. and Reed Bunting were seen and amongst the wildfowl on the flood was a Green Sandpiper. A much brighter evening and a drive to RAF Benson to pick up my son who arrived home from Afghanistan this afternoon. First time I have been all the way there and back without seeing a Red Kite.
Late evening I popped down to Coate for a quick walk around the lake. There was a strong easterly wind blowing along the lake and battling against it were hundreds of Swallows and House Martins along with a few Sand Martins. There were 17 Great Crested Grebe on the main lake and a couple more on the bottom lake. Also seen were two Grey Wagtail on the dam wall.
Today I was taking Steve to Southampton to collect a motorbike. We decided on an early start with a stop at Franchises Wood on the edge of the New Forest. This is one of a small number of annual visits to bird in the South of the county. Three target birds today, Firecrest, Wood Warbler and Redstart. The weather was not as forecast with continual light rain on the drive down. Two Grey Partridge in a field by the road near Tidworth were a good spot by Steve. It was still raining when we arrived at Bramshaw Telegraph so it was full waterproofs for the walk. There was loads of birdsong so we were hopeful of a productive time. It started well with four species of tit and plenty of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper were seen and heard. A small herd of Fallow Deer were seen through the trees and a flock of a dozen Crossbill were watched in the treetops, it was not easy keeping the binoculars clear in the rain. Goldcrest, Chiffchaff , Blackcap and Green Woodpecker were added and then Firecrest heard. Unfortunately despite a lot of searching they remained heard and not seen on three occasions. Many more Song Thrush, And Chiffchaff were heard and Blue Tits were everywhere seemingly enjoying the wet weather. After four hours and just under six miles of walking we arrived back at the car park which is over the border in Hampshire. Here we saw Linnet, Greenfinch and Stonechat. It was disappointing that we didn’t see any of the hoped for birds but it was still an enjoyable morning.
Another visit to Twitchers at lunchtime. A few Terns around and I managed to confirm one Arctic amongst the Commons. A lone Wigeon was on the lake and a small group of Greylag Geese flew in. A Nightingale started singing from the scrub across the road but after ten minutes staring at a singing bush I gave up. I did see Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and Bullfinch while I was looking so not a waste of time. With the arrival of some cars it turned into a bit of a social event, nice to put some faces to names. With many eyes watching the bird count went up with Reed Bunting, Swallow, Swift, House Martin and Hobby seen. We all decided to head off to Waterhay to look for the Whimbrel. I embarrassed myself by mistaking two Mallard for the Whimbrel (I did realise when they lifted their heads!), however the Whimbrel then flew in with four being seen. I then redeemed myself with calling an overflying Yellow Wagtail. No sign of the Wheatears that had been seen earlier, a bird I am yet to see at the Water Park. By now it had started to rain heavily so it was back to the cars and off home.
I had a half hour walk at Coate Water after work. It was very windy and the lake looked like a mini sea, very choppy. Again no interesting Terns or Gulls. There were at least three, maybe more, Common Sandpipers but they were very flighty so hard to confirm how many. Plenty of Swallows low over the main lake, along with a few House Martin. Also Grey and Pied Wagtail along the dam. Also as it seems to be every visit now a Green Woodpecker was calling from the direction of the golf course.
As the title says, bit of a mini milestone reached just now with the 5000th hit on the blog. As always, thanks to all of you who like to checkout the site.
At work this morning I started to receive texts and the a phone call about the mass influx of Arctic Terns at the Water Park this morning. It made it a long old day hoping they would still be around when I finished. Arriving at lake 74 I could hear Terns calling. There were a couple of locals at the screen watching. Between us we picked out a couple of Arctics amongst the Common Tern. No sign of the Black Terns or Little Gulls but was impressed by the number of Swifts. Three Little Egrets flew over battling with the wind and a Heron struggled across the lake carrying nest material. Then headed for the meadow next to lake 83 where a Whimbrel had been seen. For some reason this area attracts them every year. A quick look, on the way home at lakes 16 and 9 for Black Tern was fruitless. Not quite as successful as hoped but a worthwhile drive out. The contrast in the weather from yesterday evening could not have been more marked.
…if the weather hadn’t been so nice! Steve and I went over to Farmoor Reservoir after work. It was a lovely calm sunny evening. Great for a nice walk but a bit more wind and some showers may have dropped a few more migrants in. One of the first birds seen was a Barn Owl hunting in the sunlight. From the first hide a couple of Lapwing and a Reed Bunting along with a few Black Headed Gulls. A few Blackcap were singing along the path and then we picked out a Reed Warbler. Reaching the reservoir which was flat calm. A dozen or so Great Crested Grebe were seen on the water and then another five flying, quite an unusual sight. Think, how often do you see them fly? Steve found a first summer Little Gull which eventually came quite close. There were a lot of Pied Wagtails along the causeway along with three or four White. A few Swallows were over the water and three Swifts were seen at a distance. Steve then found a Common Sandpiper on the far bank followed by a Yellow Wagtail. A little later a flock of a dozen or more Yellow Wagtail flew onto the causeway giving great views, definitely the highlight of the visit. In all thirty-two species seen with three year ticks.
Went to Coate before work this morning to see if the Turnstone was still around. No sign of it but did see three Common Sandpiper and two Common Tern so it was worth half an hour less in bed.