Waders and Wagtails in the Woods

Myself and Mark had a short walk up the River Hamble early this afternoon. Just as the tide was pushing the waders up the river. We had a total of 8 Greenshanks feeding on the river edge then roosting where the river splits with around 10 Redshank. c14 Curlew were also on the river banks.

Greenshank, River Hamble, 30 Mar 2009

The wood as expected was full of bird song, principally Wrens Robins and Chiffchaffs. A single Blackcap was also in good voice with a female close by.

It was also nice to see all the spring flowers in the woods. Two species that were in full bloom were Wood Anemone and Lesser Celandine.

Wood Anemone and Lesser Celandine, River Hamble woodland, 30 Mar 2009

I know quite little about the wild flowers of Britain but they nevertheless look cracking on a sunny spring walk. We had a light lunch at the Horse and Jockey and as we ate we had at least 6 different Buzzards overhead. A pair of Grey Wagtails were also in full courtship on the opposite river bank. The male giving a posturing and quivering display to the female which I have never seen before.

Grey Wagtail, female, River Hamble 30 Mar 2009

Grey Wagtail, Male, doing his thing.

Seems to be working.

Steve Copsey

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Whooper Swan at Romsey

This afternoon we had news of a bird that apparently had been just to the West of Romsey "all winter"
Due to marital circumstances we had very little time but we set off with hope in our heart.
We parked near the Cromwell Arms but I am sure that you could park in the carpark itself if you combine the visit with a swift half.  We then walked back along the A27 to the footpath that leads North, this side of the river.
This carries on north and veers west behind the house, jsut before Sadler’s Mill.  Another 500 metres, over a small wooden bridge and view NNE across the fields. The bird, a single Whooper Swan came into view appearing to be rather alert, we soon realised that this was due to a dogwalker, just behind the bird (where he came from we have no idea)
Whooper Swan, West of Romsey 29 March 2009
As you can see the small bridge that can be seen on the OS Map is in the picture (I think !)
Mark C

Breeding Plumaged Black Tails at Hook

Spent a few hours this morning around the harbour at Hook with Warsash. Plenty of birds in song including three Cettis Warblers, five Chiffchaffs and the Reed Bunting below.As I walked around the seawall this pipit flew up from the harbour. At first I assumed Rock but it did not quite fit the bill. It did not look streaky enough for meadow, although the legs are quite pink, the bill also appears quite stout so I thought about Water but again it did not appear as the birds me and Mark saw at Lower Test Marshes. I know this family can be quite contentious so hopefully someone will put me right. Please comment if you have any ideas, or you can see something I am obviously missing. It would not be the first time. A poorer image below but from a different angle.As the tide pushed deeper into the harbour, 31 feeding Black-tailed Godwits most of which were displaying breeding plumage got closer to the sea wall where I sat.Black-tailed Godwit, Hook Harbour, 29 Mar 2009The bird in the foreground was clearly smaller and shorter billed than the other birds. With the colouring thrown in I would make a stab at it been of the Islandica sub-species.Black-tailed Godwit, islandica ssp?, Hook Harbour, 29 Mar 2009Like I said many of the Godwits are in superb plumage and the harbour is well worth a visit a few hours before high tide as the bird push in.

Steve Copsey

Barn Swallow and Jack Snipe at Titchfield Haven

   Since joining HMS DAUNTLESS in January 08 there has been no point in putting too much effort in to Hampshire year listing due to the considerable amount of time that I am in Scotland.   However, this weekend found me torn between following in Mark and Steve’s footsteps by chasing the Spoonbill at Farlington, Garganey at Alresford Pond and Ring-billed Duck at Frithend and sticking to my personal ‘birding’ agenda.  That agenda consists of chasing the birds I failed to connect with in Hampshire last year and obviously any ‘lifers’ or ‘firsts’ for Hampshire.  

   Sticking by my guns I opted to spend yesterday searching in the New Forest for two of the species, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Goshawk, that failed to make it on my Hampshire 2008 list instead of accompanying Mark and Steve to Lower Test Marshes.  Although I did come across two single Hawfinch I dipped on both and when I returned home I found out that the Spoonbill, Garganey and Ring-necked Duck had all been reported again throughout the day. 

   Consequently, this morning I was again torn between chasing good Hampshire birds or sticking to my personal agenda.  Thankfully I went with the latter and I had one of my most rewarding ‘birding’ days ever with the added bonus of not having to travel very far.  My intended target bird was the Jack Snipe that had been reported at Titchfield Haven for the last two days.  

Jack Snipe – Titchfield Haven Saturday 28 Mar 09

   For me Jack Snipe is a species that I am pretty sure I have flushed on two separate occasions, once with Mark at Crab Tree Earth in the New Forest, but I have never been 100% positive of the ID.  I have also been informed of locations where you can go to flush Jack Snipe but for me disturbing a bird just so that I can get a tick isn’t an option.  Although I have been keen to participate in an organised flush for the purpose of establishing an accurate count of the species at a reserve these do not seem to take place or at least I don’t get to find out about them.  Consequently, Jack Snipe has been a frustrating species to actually tick off even though they over winter annually in the county.  

Jack Snipe – Titchfield Haven Saturday 28 Mar 09

   Before I set off for Spurgin Hide from where the Jack Snipe had been seen I had a quick scan of The Solent with my binoculars.  I was immediately rewarded with a tiny black speck flying low over the water that I instantly recognised as a Swallow.  Although initially distant and to the West of my position the stiff westerly breeze pushed the bird eastwards as it flew North.  By the time the Swallow reached the shore and flew up and over the seawall it was only a matter of metres away from me.  The thrill of seeing my first Swallow of the year was made even more special due to the bird representing my first summer migrant of 2009.  It was also my first ever Swallow sighting in March.   

   As for the Jack Snipe it was well worth the 75 minute wait in the Spurgin Hide.  From there I was fortunate enough to spot a small movement in the stubble that remained from reed clearing operations on the left hand side of the large island in front and slightly to the right of the hide.  The hidden bird was a couple of metres from the edge of the remaining reed bed that occupied the bulk of the island and was probably sat there throughout.  It was only when it started foraging for food that its presence was given away and it showed itself to be the Jack Snipe.  After a few minutes the bird flew left across the scrape to another patch of mud with a few tussocks of vegetation.  It remained there on show for another fifty minutes!  I left the hide at 1208 with the Jack Snipe still showing superbly.  

Jack Snipe – Titchfield Haven Saturday 28 Mar 09

   Although I was informed that a Spoonbill was still present on ‘the frying pan’ and viewable from the knightsbank Hide on the other side of the reserve I decided to call it a day.  After all my intension is to concentrate on species I didn’t see last year and I head back to Glasgow from Southampton Airport at o’crack sparrow Monday morning. 

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open) 

Hooded Crow at Arrochar, Argyll and Bute

   Although I struggle to get a fraction of the time off from work that Mark and Steve manage to wangle I did manage some ‘birding’ on Wednesday.  I along with the rest of the Weapon Engineering Department of HMS DAUNTLESS spent the morning climbing Ben Arthur ‘The Cobbler’ located at the northern end of Loch Long not too far away from HMNB CLYDE ‘Faslane’.  After stopping off at Faslane’s AT Store for kit we headed off to Arrochar and the car park beside Loch Long from where the footpath to the peak of Ben Arthur begins. 

   Although I took my binoculars the birding on route to the summit was disappointing, due no doubt to the strong wind, and the only species seen above the tree line was the occasional Carrion Crow. 

The summit of ‘The Cobbler’ – Wednesday 25 Mar 09.  Photograph by Jim ‘Blood’ Reed. 

  However, on returning to the car park I noticed a number of corvids and waders feeding on the exposed inter-tidal zone created by the receding tide.  Spread out amongst the Redshank, Oystercatcher and Curlew were c20 crows of which five were Hooded Crow and two Carrion Crow.  The remainder of the crows were hybrids of the two that showed variable amounts of grey in the otherwise black plumage. 

   Another birding opportunity presented itself at the Duck Bay Hotel on the southern shore of Loch Lomond where we stopped for refreshments on the way back to Glasgow from Faslane.  Over a cup of tea and without the aid of binoculars I spotted a pair of Goosander on the loch and 31 Oystercatcher on a nearby jetty.  

   The days ‘birding’ doesn’t come close to the week Mark and Steve had during their week of Hampshire listing excursions but then some of us actually have a day job! 

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)

Water Pipits and Egrets at Lower Test Marsh

Had a very pleasant morning around Lower Test Marshes today. We timed it just right getting back to the car before the rains set in. The primary aim of the visit was Water Pipits and we were not disappointed. We had at least four birds, probably more as we saw quite a few unidentified pipits in flight. We got good views of two on one of the dead trees; we could see the rock pipit like upper features of the birds and the prominent wingbars. We then had a further two birds in the scrub around one of the pylons, both these birds were showing a hint of the pink flush they attain during the breeding season.

Water Pipits, Pylon and Southampton Container Terminal. Pipits centre left of scrub….Honest.

There was also good number of Little Egrets on the reserve. At least eight birds seen with six feeding together by the boardwalk as the high tide flooded onto the marsh.

Little Egrets, Lower Test Marshes, 27 Mar 2009

We also had six Cettis in good voice and a similar number of Chiffchaff. Mark also got Peregrine onto his year list as a single bird passed overhead. Another nice sighting we noticed was the number of both House Sparrows and Starlings on the edge of the marshes. Several of the Sparrows could be seen taking nesting material into an old barn. Many thanks to Paul Winter whose local patch this is and who provided us with a little local knowledge about the site. Lastly if your short of pictures for a blog entry one bird usually obliges.

Robin, Lower Test Marshes, 27 Mar 2009

Steve Copsey

Ring Necked Duck at Frithend

The journey from Alresford back to Frithend only took us about 25 minutes. Thankfully no hold ups on the way. After arriving we went straight to the larger of the two small ponds to the north of the path. We could immediately see the Ring Necked Duck in company with two Mallards. When we looked earlier there were two Tufted on this pond but they had now left.Ring-necked Duck, Frithend Sand Pits, 25 Mar 2009After about ten minutes the Mallards and the Ring-necked took flight and after flying right over our position completed a large u-turn and dropped down to the large sand pit on the other side of the path.We scanned the pit below and found that the Ring-necked had joined up with two pairs of Tufted, diving on the pit.

Steve Copsey

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Garganey at the Pond

After dipping at Frithend we decided to head to Alresford Pond to try our luck with the Garganey. We spent about 45 minutes at the main viewing point without a sniff.

We knew the duck was likely to be in company with Teal, and these were few and far between from where we were. Also we could not see the right hand corner of the pond as looked at from this vantage point. We therefore walked past the Globe pub and found another public viewing area. This only gives a very narrow field of view to the opposite corner of the pond. There were certainly no Teal in this near corner so we set up scopes and scanned. After a few minutes Mark picked up several Teal near some overhanging scrub at the far side. I then had a good look at this area and after a few minutes found the Garganey. We watched for about an hour and it barely broke cover, but we could see the bird feeding constantly, in among the overhanging branches. It may be the case that the bird is often in this area. If so the photos below should point you in the right direction.

Slasher on the case.

Keep looking at the scrub.

As if by magic, a Garganey appears……..Probably not the best Garganey shot you will ever see.


Without warning all the nearby Teal flushed to the centre of the pond. The Garganey followed them, so we both headed back to the main viewpoint and there about 50 metres in front of us was the Drake Garganey out in the open. A couple of birders we had met at the Spoonbill pitched up at the same time and also enjoyed great views.

Garganey, Alresford Pond, 25 Mar 2009

It was whilst talking to these two chaps that we discovered the Ring-necked Duck at Frithend was showing nicely on one of the smaller ponds. No time to waste, we wished them our best and jumped back in Mark’s Corsa.

Steve Copsey

Spoonbill at Farlington

After an early morning coffee during which we planned our route for day, we headed for Farlington Marshes.  Our target was at the very furthest point, the deeps.  Looking across the reserve we could see the bird, a fine looking Spoonbill.  We carried on and eventually we got reasonable views as it slept and every now and then showed us its formidable bill.

Spoonbill, Farlington Marshes 25th March 2009 (S Copsey)

Spoonbill, Farlington Marshes 25th March 2009 (S Copsey)
From Farlington we headed back to Frithend Sandpits, north of Borden, once again trying for the Ring Necked Duck.  A complete loop of the main pits proved fruitless but we didnt fully look at the two small ponds adjacent to the footpath, this was nearly costly as you will see when Steve adds the afternoon portion of the days events.  Next stop, Old Alresford Ponds
Mark C

Hampshire Loop

On Monday myself and Mark did a circular route of Hampshire hoping to catch up with a few new year birds. After dipping on the Alresford Garganey, we made up for it with a pair of Grey Partridge at Martin Down. We then dropped down to Blashford where we bumped into 40-50 Sand Martins over Ibsley Water. Plenty of Redpoll and Siskin still on site supported by several Brambling. We finished the day off at Barton on Sea. As dusk approached we had a splendid male Wheatear on the golf course quickly followed by the regular Short Eared Owl. We spent the evening in Milford on Sea. Fully recommend the Zaika Indian restaurant. Superb scran followed by a few pints at the White Horse.Treecreeper, Blashford, 23 Mar 2009Siskin, Blashford, 23 Mar 2009Lesser Redpoll, Blashford, 23 Mar 2009Song Thrush, Blashford, 23 Mar 2009

Steve Copsey

Goshawk in the forest

A full morning at Keyhaven saw nil migrants with the best birds being a Greenshank and a Spotted Redshank.  From here we moved up into the New Forest and a viewpoint overlooking mixed woodland.  After a short while we had a singing Woodlark but a couple of hours went by and the only raptors we saw were Buzzards.  Eventually whilst Steve was off looking for something to photograph, I spotted a large raptor in the distance.  Steve was soon back with me looking at the bird and we both agreed that it was a female Goshawk.  As I watched the bird get slowly closer to our position, through the scope, Steve spotted another bird coming in and the male was soon chasing the female over the pine tops until they both went out of sight.
We finsihed the day at Eyeworth Pond, where you can almost garauntee Mandarin.  This is also an excellent place to watch small birds feeding, with Marsh Tit a good bird to finish the day with.
Mandarin Duck (Female), Eyeworth Pond 24th March 2009  (S Copsey)
Mandarin Duck (Male), Eyeworth Pond 24th March 2009  (S Copsey)
Mark C.

House Sparrow colony thriving in Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland

   As I walked back to my car after my sea watch from Lossiemouth Harbour last weekend I came across a thriving colony of House Sparrows.  The birds had taken up residence in the cliff face of a road side cutting.  It wasn’t possible to get an accurate count because the birds kept flying to and from the landscaped gardens on the opposite side of the road and others were hidden from view in the crevices but 40+ would represent a conservative minimum. 

Cliff face that is resident to a colony of House Sparrow in Lossiemouth – Saturday 14 Mar 09. 

   I do not know if the colony existed before the steel mesh was secured against the cliff face providing protection from rock fall to passers by.  However, the local House Sparrow population has obviously benefited from its installation provided any broods are raised out of pecking range of any predator species that manage to gain a foothold on the mesh. 

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open) 

Whooper Swan at Insh Marshes RSPB – Saturday 14 Mar 09

     Due to there still being an hour and a half of daylight on my return to Nethy Bridge following my visit to the Moray coast I decided to head South down the A9 to Kingussie to visit Insh Marshes RSPB. 

   For my first visit to the Scottish Highlands last year I took the train to Aviemore and then got a bus to Nethy Bridge.  On that occasion I saw a large number of Whooper Swan on the marshes from the train between Kingussie and Aviemore.  Although that was a little earlier in the year I thought I’d try my luck aware that if the swans had been present over the winter that they may have moved on. 

Whooper Swan (5 adults and a juvenile) Insh Marshes RSPB area Saturday 14 Mar 09.  Very pleased with this shot.  With the camera in auto I knew that it would overexpose the shot to overcome the dark conditions, to achieve 18% grey, washing out the plumage detail of the swans.  Therefore, I selected aperture priority, the widest aperture available and set the exposure compensation to -2.  The shots on auto look brighter but the swans are just a uniform white.   I regret not taking a shot at -1 since the difference between 0 and -2 are pretty drastic. 

   From the hide in the vicinity of the information centre on the hill that overlooks the marshes there were no swans to be seen.  However, there was a flock of c100 Greylag Goose that noisily took flight from the fields on the far side of the reserve.  Although three swans were visible from the roadside at the village of Insh they turned out to be Mute Swan.  I carried on along the road and when I got to the T-junction on the other side of the loch I was very tempted to turn right and return to the B and B.  However, with still some daylight remaining I turned left and drove back down the other side of the marshes.  I didn’t have to go too far before I spotted six swans beside the embankment of the railway line.  Pulling in to the side of the road I grabbed my binoculars from the passenger seat and was rewarded with the sight of Whooper Swan (five adult and a juvenile).  After admiring the birds and taking a few photographs in the fading light I called it a day and headed straight back to Mondhuie B and B. 

 Good birding,

 Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)

Titchfield Haven

Paid a visit to the Haven today with my folks as they are down from Yorkshire for a long weekend. The east side of the reserve was full of birdsong. At least five Chiffchaff among the more common birds. One that stood out was a singing Garden Warbler. I am pretty sure of the song but I could not see the bird, so I am not 100%. However I was listening to Blackcap yesterday and I am sure I heard Garden Warbler. The only worry is how early the record is. The earliest ever is only two days previous back in 74. I will be interested to see if any more singing birds are recorded in the next few days. Plenty of Commas and Peacock Butterflies on the wing.Comma, Titchfield Haven, 19 Mar 2009Peacock with my Dad, the Butterfly is the small black bob on the boardwalk.

The Scaup was showing well from the river hide. Along with Pochard, Tufted, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal and Gadwall. We had Shoveler and Wigeon on the scrape so all in all quite a nice duck selection on the reserve.Scaup, Titchfield Haven, 19 Mar 2009The main scrape held a couple of Avocet pairs along with a small number of Med Gulls to go along with the numerous Black-headed. I took the above picture on the main scrape last April but I like it and thought I’d put it in the blog. A single Ruff feeding on the mud was a new bird for the year.Teal, Titchfield Haven, 19 Mar 2009.

Steve Copsey

Fort Gilkicker Crows and Gulls

Whilst the wife was attending a clinic in RNH Haslar, I took the opportunity to pass a few hours down at Fort Gilkicker. I had a packed lunch with me which I shared with the dog on the slope of the Fort itself. As we ate a Carrion Crow joined us hoping for a few scraps, unfortunately the dog had other ideas.Carrion Crow, Fort Gilkicker, 18 Mar 2009A little closer.Several Small Tortoiseshell were on the wing.

After a relatively quiet walk around the area I sat down for a coffee by the larger Golf Course lake. After a few minutes a Great Black-backed Gull caught my attention. It appeared to be wrestling with half a flat fish.Often the bird would drop the fish from height in an attempt to soften it up.After about an hour the bird had finished most of it’s meal.

Steve Copsey