The ‘silly Season’ that I wrote about in my last post came to an end on Good Friday – not because I had success, but after six trips up Beacon Hill I’d had enough! Also, the rest of my sites were being neglected so unless I get lucky or someone reports one locally that I can twitch, Ring Ouzel will not be on my list this year. My visits were not without reward however so here are a few shots from my six visits.
Red Kite – Beacon Hill, 10th April 2014
Skylark – Beacon Hill, 12th April 2014
Chiffchaff – Beacon Hill, 18th April 2014
Wheatear – Beacon Hill, 18th April 2014
So with Ring Ouzel off the menu and out of my system, it was time to start thinking about mopping up some of our more common summer visitors that were now beginning to arrive. It didn’t take long either, as I was greeted at Ewhurst Park by the familiar scratchy song of the Common Whitethroat.
Common Whitethroat – Ewhurst Park, 18th April 2014
It was whilst I was at Ewhurst that I received news of a Common Sandpiper at The Vyne, but two trips that day and another first thing on Saturday were unsuccessful. Looking back through my records for the last four years, I am fairly confident that I can claw this one back (famous last words!) as I usually see two or three in the district every year – fingers crossed! Anyway, thanks for the text Martin.
It was also a WeBS weekend, and as heavy rain was predicted for Sunday I headed off to Overton on Saturday instead. This Grey Wagtail seemed very agitated at one site and it quickly became evident why - a fledgling was sitting nearby and soon gave itself away with its calls – why do they do that? The parents’ need a unique call to tell the youngsters to be quiet, though thinking back it never worked for me!
Grey Wagtail (male) – Overton, 19th April 2014
Grey Wagtail fledgling – Overton, 19th April 2014
Breeding was evident at a number of sites over the weekend with several broods of Mallard, Coot and Moorhen being seen and others incubating eggs.
Mute Swan – Overton, 19th April 2014 (how’s that for an opportunist shot!)
Coot – Overton, 19th April 2014
Sunday actually started dry, so I headed off to Benyon’s Inclosure in the hope of picking up Garden Warbler and perhaps Cuckoo before the rain arrived. No luck with either of these but although not a year tick, I was very pleased with a bonus four Lesser Redpoll and absolutely delighted with the sighting of around twenty Common Crossbill; possibly a post-breeding flock. I first picked them up on the east side near the caravan park but they all always remained high in the trees and on this gloomy morning this was the best record shot I could obtain – I didn’t have a magic wand to entice them down to a puddle to photograph them from a couple of yards away…..
Common Crossbill (fem or juvenile?) – Benyon’s Inclosure, 20th April 2014
Later on Sunday I received news (thanks John) about a pair of Oystercatchers on a private site that I visit very regularly. I made two visits that day (thanks Mrs S) but had no joy. This one did hurt, as Oystercatchers are very scarce in the borough with few records. I got absolutely soaked and returned home thoroughly miserable, which was a shame after the crossbills. I consoled myself with some comfort food, and as it was Easter what better than a large chocolate egg, but it still didn’t do the trick – alcohol it was then!
I expected conditions to be wet on Sunday but was pleasantly surprised to find it dry and bright. We had visitors over Sunday night and we were off to football late morning, but I was tempted! Dare I suggest that I pop out again? I did a few chores then tentatively ventured the question – ‘Hhrrmm, I wonder if it would be worth checking out the Oystercatchers again?’ As usual I received a positive and encouraging response and a couple of minutes later I was in my birding garb and out of the door! I arrived at the site about 9 am and as expected really the birds weren’t there. I was thinking about heading home when around twenty past nine I heard a familiar call and two Oystercatchers flew in – I couldn’t believe my luck!
Oystercatchers – Basingstoke and Deane, 21st April 2014
Needless to say I was ecstatic! This reinforces what I often say about local birding - I could easily travel to the coast and see bucket loads of Oystercatchers, but they’re scarce inland so seeing one locally makes it really special. They flew off east at 10:47 and I returned home a very happy man with a borough first and year-tick 108 in the bag.
Recent patch ticks have been Sparrowhawk and Common Whitethroat (18th) at Ewhurst, House Martin (19th) Ewhurst Park floods and Green Woodpecker (19th) at Monk Sherborne.
And finally, I think everyone knows that members of the corvid family have a high degree of intelligence, and I’ve recently been witnessing this first-hand. A pair of Rooks are visiting the garden that are obviously feeding young and have learnt a technique for collecting food from the fat balls I hang out – this requires teamwork. They arrive as a pair, one bird jumps onto the top of the feeder and pecks away at the balls but does not attempt to feed. The second bird stands on the ground collecting the fragments, again not attempting to feed and when its beak is full both birds depart together to presumably feed the young. This process is being repeated over and over; interesting to watch but it costs a small fortune in fat balls!
Rook – Charter Alley, 21st April 2014
Rook – Charter Alley, 21st April 2014