My plans for today were for a good long birding session at the Water Park. However yesterday evening while browsing on the web I had noticed that there were several good birds at Keyhaven and around the New Forest. With the forecast looking good it was a late change of plan. A packed lunch was prepared and the car loaded ready for an early start. Leaving home at just gone half-six a brief glimpse of a Barn Owl outside Marlborough was hopefully a good omen. I arrived on the coast at just before nine and after a quick look at Sturt Pond parked up by the harbour at Keyhaven. Redshank, Little Grebe and several Brent Geese were the first birds seen quickly followed by a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was drumming on a metal box attached to a telegraph pole. Conditions were almost perfect. Crisp, calm and sunny. The tide was on its way in and a scan of the harbour found a few Mergansers, Curlews and many more Brent Geese. A Kingfisher flashed past and on the shore were a couple of Rock Pipits and several Reed Buntings. A grebe swimming along one of the channels was quickly identified as a Slavonian and a scan of a large flock of waders found Knot and Grey Plover amongst the many Dunlin. I was joined by another birder and together we found Little Egret, Grey Heron and Spoonbill. A check of the gorse bushes on the landward side soon added Dartford Warbler to the list. The surface of the sea was so calm it was like a mirror, with incredible reflections of boats, birds and clouds, absolutely stunning. Everyone who passed spoke of how amazing the morning was.
Another birder stopped to tell us that there was a Long-tailed Duck a little further on. This bird has been around for a while and was top of the days wish-list. Hurrying on we soon found it, fairly close in giving great views. An absolutely stunning bird. It was keeping company with a pair of Goldeneye, seemingly not wanting to be on its own.
Suddenly almost all of the waders and ducks on the marsh exploded into the air. The local Peregrine must be hunting but initially we couldn’t find it. After the birds had all settled it was soon located sat preening on a post. Next area to check out was Keyhaven Lagoon. Plenty of birds on here, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Brents Redshank, Oystercatchers and a single Greenshank. I didn’t think the day could get any better but at Fishtail Lagoon a small group included the Birding Biker https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015/ The group were all watching the Long-billed Dowitcher which was soon picked out from the midst of a group of Redshank. also with them was a Lapwing and a couple of Snipe. Two Spoonbills then flew in giving great views. Next to be found were four resting Spotted Redshanks.
Final stop was where the path meets the actual sea rather than the harbour and as usual theis was eating and scanning time. On the sea were just a few Great Crested Grebes and Mergansers. On the landward side, Water Rail and Cetti’s were seen but not heard. From here it was about turn and back to the car with just a few stops to check out the best birds again. Back at the car I sat on the wall and had a sarnie in the company of a confiding flock of Turnstones.
I left here with sixty-one species in the book. My next stop was in the New Forest, a place called Broomy Plain where a Great Grey Shrike was seen yesterday. A new area for me so I didn’t have a clue where to go. I found a place to park by a track that led onto the heathland. After a quick scan around I decided that I would walk for up to fifteen minutes, find a viewpoint and scan for the same time before coming back to the car. Just short of time a Forest Warden came along the track in his 4X4. He stopped to chat and said that he had seen the Shrike earlier in the day and pointed out the area. A short walk further on and I found another birder. I joined him and a quick scan of the area amazingly found the Shrike straight away. It was in the classic pose, perched atop a small tree. After a minute or so it flew down, caught something, returned to its perch and then flew off into the nearby scrub disappearing from view not to be seen again. With luck like that I should have rushed off to buy a lottery ticket. Final stop was to be Blashford Lakes which was just a few minutes drive away. On arrival I headed straight to the Woodland Hide where as usual the area was teeming with birds. Amongst the common stuff were many Siskins and a single Redpoll.
After a quick look for Bittern at the Ivy Hide I headed for the main lake where two Black-necked Grebes were found. There were many gulls in the roost with more arriving all the time but no-one had managed to pick out the Ring-billed Gull that has been here for a while. With it being almost half-four it was time to set off for home. On the way back Pheasant was added to the day-list and back in Wiltshire, just outside of Allington a Barn Owl flew across the road. A fitting finish to the day. Today was one of the best birding days that I can remember, sevety-seven species seen with nine year-ticks. But best of all the magical conditions down on the coast.