Seven fifteen this morning saw myself, Steve and Pete heading south for the WOS trip to Shatterford Bottom in the New Forest and Lepe Country Park on the South Coast. A hedge load of Corn Buntings just outside of Chiseldon gave Steve his first year tick of the day. A brief stop on the bridge at Chilton Foliat gave us Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe. Kestrel and Red Kite were next with the latter disturbed whilst eating its roadkill breakfast. Arriving early at the meeting point I drove on into Beaulieu so we could use the facilities. Heading back to Shatterford a superb male Hen Harrier flew across the road ahead of us. Good views were had as it heading away over the Heathland. At the meeting point we checked out the Pine Trees for Crossbill with no luck. A good-sized group of, I think twenty-three people headed expectantly out onto the Heath. However the area turned out to be almost birdless, probably due to the cutting wind. With no sign of the hoped for Shrike, Dartford Warbler or Wood Lark we carried on into Denny Inclosure and Wood. Both also distinctly lacking in birds. In a clearing with some habitation we finally found some birds with numerous small species on feeders and others such as Redwing and Starling in the fields. Great-spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were seen and heard respectively. Heading back across the Heath to the car park a lone Reed Bunting sheltering from the wind in a young fir-tree must have felt like a major celebrity with so many pairs of binoculars trained on it. After lunch in the car park we headed for Lepe Country Park. Kestre,l Snipe. Little Egret and Red-legged Partridge were all seen en-route. Arriving at Lepe, which was my first visit to the coast this year we were greeted by a small flock of Turnstones, a Mediterranean Gull, a Great Black-backed Gull and a couple of fly by Brent Geese.
The wind here was even stronger and colder but at least the sun was breaking through. Plenty of year ticks here including Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Rock Pipit. Apart from gulls and a few Isle of Wight bound Crows the only bird of interest out to sea was a lone Common Scoter which was seen by a few of us as it flew past. Also seen by just a few of the group was a Water Rail. After Lepe we had a quick stop at Calshot but with the tide in there was not much to be seen. The drive home took us across the east side of Salisbury Plain where we were hoping for Short-eared Owl. Another dip but more Corn Buntings, Stonechat and Fieldfare got the day list up to around fifty species. All-in-all a good trip albeit the lack of birds on the New Forest walk. Also a good test (passed with flying colours) for the much admired new boots.