Blackcaps at Portchester Crem.

Thursday 4th February 2015.

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The male & female Blackcap by the car park at Portchester Crematorium.

I was working at Portchester Crematorium this morning and while waiting in the top car park in the comfort of my vehicle, I was watching the local bird-life searching for food just outside my car window. A pair of Dunnocks were busy chasing each other through the hedgerow and were soon joined by a pair of Great Tits.

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The male Blackcap.

It was interesting watching the birds go about their daily business but things got even better when a pair of Blackcaps turned up and fed on small insects they found literally just yards from my car window! I was hoping they would hang around long enough for me to take some photos using my iphone and thankfully, they kindly obliged. My iphone does not take the best of photos, so apologies for the quality of them. I watched the birds for at least 5 minutes but realised I had to go to work and so slowly got out of the car. This in turn flushed a Green Woodpecker that must have been on the ground on the opposite side of the fence! Nevertheless, two year ticks in a matter of minutes!

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A grainy photo of the female Blackcap.

Other sightings today included a drake Red-breasted Merganser in Portsmouth Harbour seen from the M275 northbound and a Common Buzzard at the Fareham turn off on the M27. Happy days!

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A lovely photo of a female Pied Wagtail which was taken by Dave Levy.

My first Diver of the year.

Sunday 31st January 2015.

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A near summer plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull (furthest at the back) in Langstone Harbour.

I had the opportunity to have a couple of hours birding this afternoon and I thought I would try my luck for the Red-necked Grebe off Northney Marina, Hayling Island. The bird was seen yesterday and early this morning, which raised my hopes, but, despite a lengthy search, there was no sign of the bird.

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Grey Heron in the fields opposite the harbour.

On a positive note, I did notch up three more year ticks, which included a Great Northern Diver within Emsworth Harbour; a Mediterranean Gull in near summer plumage among the Black-headed Gulls near the Langstone Hotel and several Knot feeding out on the islands among the Dunlin and Grey Plover.

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Dunlin and other waders out on the small island.

Though a grey and windswept afternoon, I felt as though I was the only one here walking through Northney Marina, an area I have not been to since I last saw the late Tim Lawman here, when we were all in search of an elusive Wryneck. However, the Marina was certainly much better than Port Solent and offered a lot of wading birds the opportunity to roost on the mudlfats there. In fact, among the many Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatchers, I found three Greenshank among them.

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Brent Geese flying past.

On the way to the Marina, I pulled over in the lay by just before the Hotel and checked out the wading birds and Gulls within the harbour. Oystercatchers, Curlew and Redshank were abundant here along with several Grey Plover. A fairly large Gull flock had flown off the flooded fields opposite and landed on the water. Among them, I found my first Mediterranean Gull of the year, which put a smile on my face. The field also held a Grey Heron and a Little Egret, though the rest of the birds had all had flown off.

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The Marina entrance at Northney.

After parking in the Marina car park, I got to the harbour wall to overlook the harbour looking north. Several flocks of Mergansers were out in the harbour and a few individual nearby also. A good scan with the scope revealed a Great Northern Diver swimming near the islands and, apparently, another bird was supposed to be present, though I never saw it while I was there. Out on the small island, good numbers of both Dunlin and Oystercatcher were present and among them, smaller numbers of Knot intermingled within them (my first of the year). I was busy checking the waders for Golden Plover, which was a good site for them, but to no avail.

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Oystercatchers and a Curlew flying onto the small muddy island within the harbour.

Large skeins of Brent Geese flew overhead from their resting grounds over near Warblington Cemetery over the other side of the harbour, but nothing unusual among them. I could see in the distance that rain was coming in and so I made my way back to the car. On the way back through the Marina, both Cormorant and Little Egret were fishing the shallow water between the pontoons.

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Racton Ruins in the distance, north of the harbour.

The RSPB Garden Birdwatch this morning.

Sunday 31st January 2016.

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This Starling was in full song above me upon the guttering.

This weekend is the big RSPB Garden Birdwatch and I decided to take part and do my hours worth at 8.15 this morning. The weather, however, didn’t play its part as a prolonged period of drizzle made photography difficult, but the few shots that did come out were not too bad. A total of 15 species were seen in and around the garden this morning and with a good variety of food for the birds to choose from, I was fairly pleased with the variety and with a few surprises thrown in.

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This male House Sparrow was busy preening in the drizzle.

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Male Blackbird on my garden fence.

I was starting to worry about the House Sparrows not feeding on the new feeder I put up last week; but after half an hour, they slowly came in to feed as did a Robin, which took a great liking for the sunflower hearts! Up to 5 Blue Tits came into the garden and some were even displaying to add to the excitement. A Goldcrest was seen briefly in my neighbours tree until flying off north and a Grey Wagtail flew south low over the rooftops, calling.

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The Robin eyeing up my sunflower hearts.

The Starlings were singing from the guttering and at least 20 House Sparrows were present around the garden and busy ‘chirrruping’ to one another in the Holly Tree’s. Just the one pair of Blackbirds popped in and a single Dunnock occasionally explored the flower pots near the feeder. The oddest sight was a pair of Mute Swans flying low over the rooftops heading south; probably making their way to Canoe Lake?

A late walk around the Cemy.

Saturday 30th January 2016.

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Blossom is now starting to appear on the Cherry Trees.

Becky and I were looking after our Grandchild, Isabelle, overnight and this morning, we treated ourselves to breakfast at the new Southsea Beach Café. Beforehand, there was a Goldcrest in my garden, what looked like a male bird though it was still dark and overcast first thing this morning. Still, always nice to see one in the garden. I bought a new feeder last weekend and I am surprised on how many sunflower seeds are left after the first week, for the feeder is still fairly full. I am wondering if the House Sparrows are struggling to get at the seeds?

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Surely the Council will chop this unfortunate tree down soon?

After dropping off Isabelle back over her parents house and also a few chores around the various shops, I took Scruff for a late walk around Highland Road Cemetery. It was 3.30pm by the time I arrived at the site and hastily walked around the Cemy before the gates were due to close at 4pm. I never expect to see too much here though when I do see something interesting, it always makes the trip here all that much better.

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One of several Goldfinches present this afternoon.

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And another that showed a bit closer.

This afternoon, there were at least four Goldcrests seen in the bare branches of the trees and I wasn’t surprised to see blossom coming out on some of the Cherry Trees along the footpath. Yes, ridiculously early, but this winter has been the mildest and wettest one on record! Good numbers of Goldfinches were present, singing in the trees among one another and the odd Greenfinch could be heard also. I would like to know where the Green Woodpecker has gone for I have still yet to see the regular bird here this year! Not a great deal else to report regarding the birds, but the Dog Fox showed again over on the east side near the perimeter wall.

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Mr Fox was back again and showing well among the gravestones.

I didn’t have long before the gates closed here, so I hastily headed home. In Hampshire today, all the usual suspects were present which included the Red-necked Grebe off Hayling and up to 3 Caspian Gulls and the adult Ring-billed Gull at Blashford Lakes. Final word goes to Winter Watch which I enjoyed this week. There seemed to be much more interesting content than previous series, even though it was on for only one week and the Golden Eagle / Fox fight was to me the highlight of the week. Well done to the producers of the show and all those hardy souls with the camera equipment up in the Highlands.

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A lovely shot of a female Stonechat Jim Walker took this week on Farlington Marshes.

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And its mate. Nice photos yet again, Jim.

A fine day in Madehurst.

Thursday 28th January 2015.

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The 12th century old St. Mary Magdalene Church in Madehurst. Apparently, the locals are very keen on their wildlife here, especially the bats in the belfry, which includes the rare Seritone Bat!

I was working in a tiny little hamlet deep within the West Sussex countryside today, within the grounds of St Mary Magdalene Church. After yesterdays awful weather, it was a clear blue sky that dawned upon us this morning and my day kicked off nicely with the sound of a Chiffchaff singing deep within the heart of Portsmouth, the south end of Fratton road to be exact! I was walking to work and passed the area near the roundabout where I had seen a Goldcrest only a couple of days before on the way to work.

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Female Kestrel by Dave Levy.

This morning, I was working in Madehurst; a small village I have never been to this morning and of course, I always keep an eye out for anything interesting. Though I never had my camera with me, I did take a photo of the 12th century church that was here. A Grey Wagtail flew over a couple of times and a Coal Tit showed well in the Yew growing at the front of the church. A Robin sang its heart out in the sunshine and a Pheasant was lucky not to be run over by myself as I drove back to my office! My first Red Admiral butterfly of the year flew past me and several Honey Bees were seen buzzing around close by!

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The immature Shag on Canoe Lake by Mike Wearing.

I have added some more photos of some of my friends who kindly let me publish them on my blog. Again, many thanks guys. Of note, in Hampshire today, is the return of the Barn Owl roosting in the familiar tree to the west of the Canal Path near the Posbrook Floods. It was frequented by a Tawney Owl recently! Blashford continues to entertain with both the Ring-billed Gull and 1st winter Caspian Gull in the Gull roost, plus all the usual goodies there. Even the Yellow-browed Warbler is still frequenting Eastleigh Sewage Works still.

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Jay photographed by Jim Walker.

All quiet in the Cemy.

Sunday 24th January 2016.

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One of several Goldfinches within the Cemy.

An early afternoon stroll with Scruff around Highland Road Cemetery didn’t provide many birding highlights today, but despite the overcast conditions, it was a pleasant dry walk around my local patch again. There wasn’t too many dog walkers present, which is always a bonus, plus I even bumped into a budding young lady birder in which we had a long conversation about the ecology of the Cemetery. It was nice meeting you Helena if you are reading this.

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The fallen Silver Birch from last week is still blocking one of the footpaths.

Still the Green Woodpecker is eluding me here this year but a few Goldcrests put in a brief appearance in different areas of the Cemy. A flock of distant Brent Geese flew over Southsea, seen from the Cemy whilst talking to Helena and Goldfinch numbers were into double figures. Apart from the mentioned, both Robin and Wren were seen as well as the usual Blue and Great Tits. I couldn’t find any Toadstools today and there was nothing new among the few flowering plants still on show. A Grey Wagtail was seen this morning flying over the rooftops by my house. I have also bought a new bird feeder, which I have quickly put out today.

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Fieldfare by Dave Levy up in Basingstoke.

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A male Sparrowhawk with a Starling by Dave Levy.

At nearby Fort Cumberland, a female type Black Redstart was reported today but all was fairly quiet on Portsea Island. Some of my birding chums have put up some good photos of their recent sightings and have allowed me to put on my blog. Many thanks guys.

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Water Vole at Titchfield Haven by Jim Walker.

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This beautiful image of a female Kestrel by Dave Levy.

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Grey Wagtails battling it out by Dave Levy.

A stroll along the seafront.

Saturday 23rd January 2016.

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Isabelle and Becky enjoying the bracing weather at Southsea seafront.

It doesn’t look as though I will get any serious birding done this weekend as I have the pleasure of looking after my gorgeous granddaughter, Isabelle. Even this lovely girl comes before my birding, but I got the best of both worlds today when Becky and I took her to the seafront for a stroll in her pushchair. Though it was dry, there was a cold wind coming in off the Solent; but wrapped up warm, we took a walk to South Parade Pier and back.

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Wood Pigeons were feeding near the Cafe by Canoe Lake.

Of course, I took my camera along with me just in case something unusual should turn up, but all I saw was the usual common birds to be seen. There were a few photo opportunities of which some of them came out reasonably well. I thoroughly checked the larger Gulls on the Solent and on the beach for the lingering Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, but no diamonds there I’m afraid. A male Pied Wagtail done its very best to disguise itself among the pebbles, but it was no match to my sharp eyesight! However, something interesting was bobbing out on the sea some distance away while we were having a hot chocolate in one of the café’s. However, after checking my photos, it turned out to be a small discarded bottle of some sort!

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This Mute Swan was drinking the fresh rain water by the edge of Canoe Lake.

Back by Canoe Lake, there were a couple of Long-tailed Tits flying around the vegetation near the Café and a Greenfinch flew high overhead. Not a great deal else to report although some idiot let her small barking dog get too close to the local Mute Swans by the Lake. Some people are simply so infuriating!

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This Black-headed Gull was near full summer plumage on Canoe Lake.

Earlier this week, I finally clocked my first Redwing of 2016, but there were no new year-ticks to add to my yearly total. In Hampshire, Blashford Lakes seems to have the largest variety of interesting birds; while locally, the Penduline Tits are still entertaining on Titchfield Haven and the very long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher is still residing on Pennington Marshes.

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The male Pied Wagtail on Southsea beach.

Spoonbill over the Marshes.

Sunday 17th January 2016.

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The immature Spoonbill was a nice surprise this morning.

I was expecting a walk around Farlington Marshes at 8am today with John Goodall, but the weather put paid to that with persistent rain falling and so we both cancelled our proposed trip. However, by 10am, it was a lot dryer and so I made my way to the reserve. Despite the rain abating, it was still damn cold when I arrived (about 3 degrees). I could see a few hardy souls were braving the elements around the seawall as I made my way towards the Lake area.

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My first Song Thrush of the year. At least 5 were seen this morning on the reserve.

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Redshank, Grey Plover and Teal in the Sluice channel.

I was expecting to notch up quite a few year ticks this morning and I was pleased to get 11 more on my year list. John Goodall had a good day here yesterday with sightings of Marsh Harrier, Avocets, Bearded Tits, Slavonian Grebe and two Short-eared Owls. This certainly whetted the appetite and it didn’t take long for me to grab a few year ticks on route to the Lake. A pair of Stonechats were near the sea wall along with a Song Thrush; both in search of insects in the grass. Overhead, skeins of Brent Geese were flying over including large flocks coming in from the football fields to the north.

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There is nothing quite like a skein of wild Geese taking off all at once. And Brent Geese are no exception.

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One can get really close to the Geese here.

The Lake held good numbers of my first Pintail of the year and also a pair of Common Snipe were added shortly afterwards. The nearby reedbeds held brief sightings of both Bearded Tit and Reed Bunting, but the overcast conditions were inadequate to get a reasonable photo of either. It was low tide within Langstone Harbour and though I had already seen the Avocets from the Eastern Road Bridge, they still showed well, albeit distantly, from the harbour wall. Good numbers of Redshank, Grey Plover and Dunlin were also present, but no Knot among them. Grumble!

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Shoveler in one of the pools.

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The footpath leading to the Point Field.

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The flooded Deeps area.

It was bloody freezing walking around the south section of the marshes, but at least the bird life kept me entertained. Another pair of Stonechats showed well by the barbed wire fence and good numbers of Brent fed on the grass within the fields close by. The flooded fields held Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal and I constantly checked the grass for any sitting Short-eared Owls; but none were to be seen today by myself. I checked the channel out in the harbour for the drake Velvet Scoter but there was no sign. A few Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye were in the channel but little else.

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Dunlin feeding in the harbour.

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This Robin (one of at least 20 seen this morning) was down to about 3ft away from me.

Passing the Deeps area, I was amazed to see so much water here. Great for the wildfowl I suppose, but there was very little inhabiting the area and even the reedbed was very quiet. A large Starling flock (200+) was feeding in the field with the Geese near the Blockhouse, making quite a din as I walked past. Yet another pair of Stonechats were present here and further on near the Information Centre, another pair were found. These birds incredibly let me get as close as six feet away from them. I even had to put the camera on macro setting to focus properly! Suddenly, everything took flight within the fields and carefully checking for a passing raptor, I found a 1st winter Spoonbill flying east high over the reserve and into the harbour. That was a nice bonus and as the song goes, ‘I never expected that’!

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Another shot of the Spoonbill.

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A flock of Common Snipe over the reedbeds near the Stream.

The sodden trek to the Lake from the info Centre held a few notable birds. A couple of Goldcrests showed well and a male Kestrel perched nearby on the Double-Ponds area. A couple of Water Rails tantalisingly called deep within the brambles there, but never showed! Grumble again! The Stream area held a single Little Grebe and a small selection of Gulls but nothing new for the year. A flock of around 10 Common Snipe flew low over the reedbed several times to keep me entertained. I came across the pair of Stonechats again, the same pair I first bumped into as I made my way to the seawall. Sadly, the remains of a headless Brent Goose was lying on the grass and it looked like an adult too.

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Female Stonechat.

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And its mate.

All in all, a nice walk round and I notched up 11 species for the year, which puts me on 82 species for the year.

Foxes showing well in the Cemy.

Saturday 16th January 2016.

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The pair of Foxes showed well this morning.

Winter is finally back with a vengeance as overnight temperatures plummeted to below freezing last night. I have some jobs to do today, but I got up early anyway to take Scruff for a walk around Highland Road Cemetery. Again, it was a clear overnight and the pathways had a frost upon them as we entered the Cemy around 8am.

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Hi, again.

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This Vixen was walking about the back gardens.

The Green Woodpecker was high on my wanted list this morning, for I still needed the species as a year tick; but no diamonds this morning but made do with a pair of Foxes running about the gravestones instead. In fact, they both showed really well, albeit distantly as they occasionally sat down and even sat beside one another at one stage down at the southern end of the Cemy. Like them or loather them, I think they are gorgeous creatures and will argue vigorously if anyone says otherwise. The Foxes seem to show well early morning here and I wasn’t at all surprised to see them, which is always a pleasure.

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Goldcrest in the Chestnut trees.

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Some premature Daffodils braving the frost this morning.

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Honey Fungus growing in the usual patch within the centre of the Cemy. A lot of sawdust and wood chippings have been here for most of last year.

Several Goldfinches were seen within the treetops and the occasional Greenfinch was also seen. A couple of Wrens showed briefly in the vegetation as I walked around the Cemy and a single Goldcrest was hanging around with a few Blue Tits near the band of Chestnut trees on the east side. One of the old Silver Birch trees has finally succumbed and the top half of it was lying down on the footpath near the Holm Oak clump of trees. Its downfall was probably due to the Dryads Saddle fungus that was growing on its bough over the years. On the subject of fungi, I found a large clump of Honey Fungus growing on one of the smaller paths, while nearby, a small clump of Daffodils were flowering beside a grave!

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The rising sun reflecting on a nearby church.

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The old Silver Birch which finally succumbed to old age and fungus damage.

Though the temperature was around the freezing mark, it still was a nice refreshing walk around my favourite part of Southsea. Hardly any dog walkers this morning and plenty to look at as we strolled slowly round.

Hayling Oysterbeds & Budds Farm on my day off.

Thursday 14th January 2016.

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A gorgeous but cold day over Hayling Oysterbeds.

Due to a House Insurance claim I am making at the moment, I have got some chaps coming over this afternoon to dry out one of our walls. Hence, I have taken the day off for them to arrive this afternoon, but this morning, I decided to take a walk around Hayling Oysterbeds and also a chance for Scruff to stretch his little legs.

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Brent Geese on the Beds.

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One of two Little Grebes on the Oysterbeds.

There was a clear blue sky to brighten things up but the temperatures have plummeted this week to just over freezing. Lorries are getting stuck in Scotland, but they can keep the snow up there, thank you very much! Nevertheless, there was a blustery westerly wind blowing in off Langstone Harbour when I arrived. After wrapping myself up to be as warm as possible, Scruff and I then made our way to the reserve. Going for the Red-necked Grebe at nearby Northney was tempting or even the drake Velvet Scoter near the islands by from Farlington Marshes was also tempting; but I plumbed for the Oysterbeds instead followed by a trip to Budds Farm afterwards.

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Oystercatcher feeding along the shoreline.

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The colour ringed Greenshank feeding along side a Herring Gull.

The Oysterbeds were fairly quiet to be honest but I was notching up quite a few year ticks on my walk round. Grey Plover was added, with many Dunlin, Turnstone and Redshank in attendance on mudflats. Shelduck were also new for my year list along with a nice group of Gadwall seen on the Beds. A lone Greenshank was close enough for a decent photo, but it quickly flew off as I was about to point my camera onto it. Most of the wintering Greenshank here are colour-ringed and this individual was no exception.

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Little Egret fishing in one of the creeks.

A few Little Grebes swam on the main pool along with a small number of Brent Geese, but I could find little else bar a close Oystercatcher searching for food on the shoreline. The Hayling Billy Trail leading back to the car park was fairly quiet too. A few Goldfinches and the odd Goldcrest were seen but disappointingly quiet.

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Redshank on the mudflats.

My next stop before returning home, was Budds Farm. Here, I could pick up some more year ticks and they came thick and fast. Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon were all quickly added. A pair of Grey Wagtails flew close by but there was nothing unusual among the Gulls both on the pools and Sewage Treatment Works. After 20 minutes or so, I decided to check the harbour where I found several Goldeneye and at least one Black-necked Grebe out in the harbour. There were at least half a dozen Great Crested Grebes bobbing about on the choppy water along with small numbers of Mergansers too.

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Drake Gadwall on Budds Farm.

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Teal on Budds Farm. I had a careful check of all the Teal on Budds Farm for a possible Green-winged. No diamonds!

On the drive back home, at least 30 Avocets were seen close to the Eastern Road Bridge within Broom Channel. I did see them yesterday whilst working. Numbers of these birds are nearing 50 now and with this cold blast coming our way, maybe they might well exceed that.

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Budds Farm.