I was hoping to report that I have at least equalled my year list record but unfortunately nothing has changed since my last post and my borough year list has grinded to a halt on 130 – over a month since my last year tick!
Saturday and Sunday morning (25/26th) were spent driving around the borough scanning farmland for gull flocks in the hope of finding a Common Gull amongst them; the previous weekend was much the same. Needless to say I had no luck and actually became rather bored – It didn’t do my carbon footprint much good either! My travels took me to the extremities of the district and once or twice I accidentally strayed into neighbouring boroughs, including Hart District, where I took the opportunity of catching up with Hampshire’s only free-roaming Rhea; yes, free-roaming Rhea! Nicknamed Chris, this Rhea is an escape (obviously!) and now roams the countryside to the south of Odiham, being regularly seen in the Four Lanes End area.
I found it very easily and had a little chuckle to myself that I could find a Rhea in Hampshire more easily than finding a Common Gull!
Rheas are related to ostriches and emus and are normally found on the open plains of South America, but Chris looks perfectly content here.
Chris Rhea – Odiham, 26th October 2014
Well worth going to see if you’re in the area.
By late morning on Sunday I was in need of a fix, and as it wasn’t going to be the much needed borough tick I’d hoped for, what better than a Hampshire life tick as compensation? I don’t have a great Hampshire list but add to it when I can - regular readers will know that I make a habit of dipping Hampshire rarities! Anyway, the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm, so I invited Mrs S out for a spot of lunch……she didn’t know at this stage that it would be in the cafeteria at Titchfield Haven NNR! Her suspicions were aroused however when I loaded my camera into the boot and suggested she wore wellington boots!
A female/1st winter Siberian Stonechat had been found on the reserve the previous weekend and seemed settled, but my priority of course was Basingstoke and Deane so I decided to let my visit to the Haven wait until I had some free time – this sort of procrastination has cost me dearly in the past! Siberian Stonechats (in this case assumed Saxicola maurus - I’m no expert on the various forms!) are rare but regular visitors to the UK but this was the first ‘twitchable’ bird in Hampshire.
Being only forty minutes from home we arrived about 12:30 and duly paid the entrance fee; apparently some weren’t bothering…
I made a brief stop outside the gift shop to photograph this lovely Turnstone which was sat on the harbour wall opposite, before focusing my attention on our continental visitor.
Turnstone – Titchfield Harbour, 26th October 2014
We set off for the Meadow Hide on the east side of the reserve and several passers-by on the board-walk told us that the bird was still showing well – it was getting exciting! So exciting in fact that my pace had quickened to such an extent that I’d left Mrs S behind! The hide was fairly busy but as the bird had been present for a week, much of the foot traffic had probably already passed through, so after a short time we secured a seat at the window overlooking the area favoured by our celebrity vagrant. Several European or ‘ordinary’ (as some people called them), Stonechats were posing along the fence line outside the hide, but the ‘Sibe’ was much more elusive. It wasn’t associating with the other Stonechats at all and stayed towards the back of the meadow, often concealed, but regularly coming out in the open affording decent ‘scope views. Every time it showed, great panic ensued within the hide as people tried to ‘get onto it’.
We spent about two hours watching it but it never came any closer and photographic opportunities were few and far between. One fellow birder said to me tongue-in-cheek ’With that lens you could reach through the window and hit it on the head!’ The reality was that I certainly could not - see for yourself in this un-cropped image.
Siberian Stonechat – Titchfield Haven NNR, 26th October 2014
With heavy cropping these were about the best images I could get – there are much better examples on Going Birding and elsewhere on the Surfbirds site. The tail pattern and unmarked rump are diagnostic but you can also clearly see that this bird is much paler than its European cousin.
Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus?) – Titchfield Haven NNR – 26th October 2014
This flight shot clearly shows the unmarked rump, which on European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) would be streaked or spotted.
The ‘ordinary’ Stonechats, as I was hearing more and more, obviously felt left out and made sure we paid due attention to them by sitting close outside the hide, despite the bustle emanating from within. If only our eastern friend had behaved like this!
European or ‘ordinary’ Stonechat (male) – Titchfield Haven NNR, 26th October 2014
European Stonechat (female type) – Titchfield Haven NNR, 26th October2014
It was now around mid-afternoon and as lunch was part of the deal I thought we’d better head back! Luckily they serve snacks all day and we even sat outside on the terrace – perfect!
So for once a successful twitch and it was great to re-acquaint myself with Titchfield which was a regular haunt of mine before I got wrapped up in all this borough stuff! As we walked backed to the car yet another Cetti’s Warbler burst into song, a species you can take for granted here and one I’d love on my Basingstoke and Deane list…… next week……… perhaps…