Saturday 13th December 2014.
There was a sharp frost on the ground when I arrived at Old Winchester Hill at 8am today, with Scruff on tow. I was greeted with an empty car park and as soon as I stepped out of the car, there were a good number of winter thrushes around, plus a few Bullfinches calling in the trees and bushes nearby. My mate John was busy this morning and so I ventured on my own (along with Scruff of course) around one of Hampshire’s premier sites.
I got my first decent sighting of Fieldfares this winter by the bushes near the entrance, with at least 10 birds being present feeding on berries plus around a dozen or so Redwing among them. The light wasn’t very good at first but as the morning wore on, the sun rose and though cold and fresh, the whole area was bathed in sunshine. A couple more Bullfinches were in the bushes as well, but were heard not seen.
The walk to the Fort was fairly quiet, but several finch flocks flew over including Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. A Green Woodpecker was flushed by Scruff from the main footpath, which it then flew off down the slope. To my left, a couple of Tawny Owls were hooting quietly in the roadside wood opposite the Hill. Yet again, Tawny Owl sightings have remained scarce this year for me personally, with only the one sighting in March this year.
More Redwings were observed in the bushes and over the fields to the south and to be honest, not a great deal to be seen along the footpath to the Fort area. I never saw one raptor this morning, which was unusual. Another absence were the Yellowhammers and Skylarks. Where had they all gone too? Never saw one during my two hours here! Nearing the Fort entrance, a flock of Chaffinches were seen within the neighbouring bushes along with several Greenfinches. Yet another couple of Bullfinches were seen briefly along with a pair of Song Thrushes, which quickly flew off over the fields.
Walking around the Fort, with Scruff on his lead, the sheep soon scarpered on his approach along the footpath. A scan over the fields, I picked up a covey of Red-legged Partridge in the distance in one of the fields. A large number of Gulls had gathered in the fields below the hill, mostly Herring Gulls from what I could see. Rounding the fort, a flock of 8 Meadow Pipits took flight then flew off south.
The walk back was a much quieter affair, but a large flock of Linnets were seen flying by the entrance of the fort. As I neared the entrance to the car park, I heard then saw my first Marsh Tit of the morning. The bird was briefly joined by a second bird but both were too busy to notice me while they were feeding. Better still, one individual showed ridiculously well by my car; showing down to just a few feet. The Fieldfares were still showing well by the car park, feeding on berries still, but this time in much better light. Pleased with this morning’s walk, we then headed back south, homebound. I wonder what will be discovered today in Hampshire?