Saturday 6th February 2016.
Shovelers and Wigeon on Ivy Lake.
As my wife went into work this morning, I made full opportunity in taking myself down to Blashford Lakes for the morning to catch up on all they had to offer. The weather was looking indifferent with heavy rain and strong winds forecast for today, however, the rain didn’t arrive to late in the evening, which was a bonus.
A male Siskin in the Rlashford Lakes Centre car park.
Blashford Lakes needs to be planned carefully if one is to see as much as possible there, so I kicked off first for Kingfisher Lake for the wintering drake Ferruginous Duck (or Fudge Duck as it is not affectionately know!). Parking up at the end of Hurst Road, at the Ringwood end of the A338, I quietly got my binoculars and scope out to view the Lake through the wire fence and trees. Though they had chopped a lot of the ivy away to help viewing, it still wasn’t perfect and it took quite a while to finally nail my quest.
Snowdrops in the reserve car park.
It was 8am in the morning and it was overcast, blustery with the threat of rain and now I had to go through tons of wildfowl on the Lake, looking for a small brown duck! It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it! Good numbers of Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard were present here with smaller numbers of Tufted Duck, Pochard and Shoveler. A few Great Crested Grebes were also present and while searching for the main star, a superb drake Goosander flew through and landed nearby in the south west corner of the lake. This was my first for the year and was to be one of 10 new year ticks today.
Fallow Deer, including this unusual white stag, was seen in fields at the back of Mockbegger Lake.
Eventually, the drake Ferruginous Duck gave itself up as I found it swimming close to the tree island in the centre of the Lake. The bird was very busy diving and so I only had several seconds to clinch the ID of this diminutive duck, Happy with my sighting, I gave the area another good sweep through the binoculars to check that I hadn’t missed anything and then packed my stuff away for a trip to the rest of the Lakes.
Hebrew Character moth was the only moth I found within the Centre moth box.
This Dotted Border, a new moth for me, was found on the back of the Centre resting some distance from the moth box.
It was still some way from 9am, the opening time of the reserve, so I took a drive up Ivy Lane to view both Ivy Lake and Rockford Lake for the possible Great White Egret. Parking up in a lay by (awful for parking here), I checked through the viewing screen overlooking Ivy Lake, but no sign of the Egret, nor was there any sighting on Rockford Lake either. So my next stop was to be overlooking Mockbegger Lake and try there instead. Some small birds took off from the side of the road on the opposite side of the Lake and so I pulled over. From here, overlooking a large area of horse paddocks, a flock of around 20 Redwing and at least 30+ Pied Wagtails were found in the nearest field, as was a couple of Pheasants. I was hoping to find some Fieldfare, which was normally a good sight here for them, but had to make do with my first Nuthatch of the year instead. I was happy to settle for that.
Good numbers of Siskins here on the Woodland Hide feeders.
I was surprised to notice that the viewing screen overlooking the east side of Mockbeggar Lake has gone and a lot of new fencing has been put up. Was this to stop visiting birders from parking here or simply some new form of reserve management? Nevertheless, I made my way to the Reserve Centre as time was ticking and was pleased to see a male Bullfinch by the side of the road (another year tick). Parking up within the larger of the car parks, I made my way to the Centre as a Common Buzzard drifted low over the woodland. I had an idea pop into my head about asking if I can view the Moth Trap here, and the chap present kindly allowed me to go through the moth box around the back of the Centre. Here, I found just the two moths: one Hebrew Character and one Dotted Border, which was a ‘lifer’ for me personally.
Treecreeper near the Woodland Hide.
I was hoping to tell the chap what I saw but there was no sign of him. Oh well! Next stop was to be the Ivy North Hide for the Bittern. I enjoyed the large numbers of Siskins on the feeders as I made my way into the woodland and then followed the track to the Hide. A Goldcrest showed well beside the footpath but little else till I arrived at the Hide. I spent a good while here, but the Bittern did not want to show, though I did spot my first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year, sat on a small buoy on the far side of the lake. Very little else was seen through the side window bar a small flock of Teal and a pair of Coots. The wind was now really whipping up and the chances of seeing the Bittern was slim to none and so I made my way back out of the Hide to try my luck for the Bramblings from the Woodland Hide.
Elf Cap Fungus growing beside the main footpath.
I added a confiding Treecreeper to my year list as I made my way to the Hide and enjoyed more Siskins in the trees. A Great Spotted Woodpecker showed well in the trees when I arrived by the Hide and searching among the many Chaffinches by one of the feeders, I soon found a delicious looking male Brambling perched in a nearby bush. This was to be one of around four birds present (three males and a female), again, my first of the year, but where were the Redpolls? I had to go inside the Hide to find them and though it took a while, I did see a couple of gorgeous male birds on the Niger seed feeder. As usual, someone with a big camera and lens was propped up by the entrance of the Hide when I entered.
Long-tailed Tits clambering on a small feeder beside the Hide.
From here, good numbers of all the common woodland birds came down to feed and both the Bramblings and Lesser Redpolls gave superb views. A male Reed Bunting was also seen in the nearby vegetation and large numbers of Long-tailed Tits were busy occupying a feeder containing a nutball. Quite comical with such a large number on the feeder (see photo). After 15 minutes or so, I made my way down to the Ivy South Hide. Along the footpath, some visitors were admiring the scarlet Elf Cap Fungus growing beside the main footpath, which was my first for the year.
A male Brambling below the main feeder by the Woodland Hide.
A different male Brambling with a darker head.
I had the Hide to myself when I arrived, well at least for ten minutes or so, until a group of young children arrived with their young mum! From here, good numbers of Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal were present on the Lake. Pochard were abundant over on the far side and while searching the reedbed for possible Bitterns over on the far side, my first Kingfisher of the year was seen flying from one branch to another. Though it is nice to see young children enjoy themselves, no matter where they are, there is only so much noise I could take within a Hide and so excused myself to take a walk around the back of the reserve.
Wild daffodils growing within the woodland.
More Siskins, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests and commoner finches were present, but nothing out of the ordinary as I made my way back to the car to take a drive to the Tern Hide. Though there seemed to be a lot of cars within the car park, there was only one other person within the Hide. The wind was making the water very choppy, but still the light was fairly good despite being overcast. Both Slavonian and Black-necked Grebe were supposed to be present here but the buggers did not show during my stay here. Some close Tufted Ducks and Wigeon passed just in front of the Hide and a group of around 7 Goldeneye, which included 5 gorgeous drakes, were not too far away.
Goldeneye on Ibsley Water from the Tern Hide.
The only year tick I saw from here was a solitary Grey-lag Goose which was grazing on the east side of the edge of the Lake. A drake Goosander swam from west to east within the centre of the Lake and a female was seen sleeping with Wigeon on the far side also. Good numbers of Lapwing were resting on the spit along with around a dozen Herring Gulls; but no sign of any potential Caspian Gulls among them. There have been up to around three birds present in the late afternoon roost along with the Ring-billed Gull, but no sign of either species this morning. A fellow birder soon joined me and although I never got his name, he was attempting to cycle around the UK to see as many species as possible just using his bicycle for transport. Good on him.
A drake Wigeon with Tufted Duck in front of the Tern Hide.
It was now midday and I said my goodbyes to the small crowd that had now gathered within the Hide. Reflecting on this mornings birds, I was pleased to get up to 10 new year ticks in just three and a half hours. Apparently, both the Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe were seen this afternoon along with the Caspian Gulls.
A calling Wigeon from the Tern Hide.