Wader spectacle over Hayling Oysterbeds.

Thursday 27th November 2014.

Birders enjoying the wealth of birdlife on the Oysterbeds.

I was working all day on Hayling Island, however, within my extra-long lunch hour, I took a stroll around Hayling Oysterbeds. It was a grey day, with the occasional burst of sunshine beaming across a high tide within Langstone Harbour. Almost immediately, on drawing up within the car park, I noticed the waders jostling for space in large flocks, as the tide was near its highest. There was hardly a ripple on the water as I made my way up to the reserve; armed with scope, binoculars and camera, I noticed a group of birders in the distance, containing a dozen souls overlooking the ‘Beds’.

Geese, Gulls and waders near the Oysterbeds.

Nice shot of a Brent Goose by the waters edge.

A pair of Rock Pipits was searching the shingle tideline to my left as I made my way up to the ‘Beds’, and a large gathering of mumbling Brent Geese were grazing on the last stretch of mudflat untouched by the upcoming tide. Behind these, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Curlew were pouring in onto the spit and provided a superb spectacle as I neared the area to view the harbour.

Rock Pipit.

Pair of Mergs on the 'Beds'.

On the ’Beds’ itself, up to five Red-breasted Mergansers swam, including two smart looking drakes. Nearby, three Little Grebes swam together, while on the shoreline, several flocks of Redshank were settling down to rest along with some Oystercatchers. From the viewpoint overlooking the harbour, a count of at least 50+ Great Crested Grebes was obtained, although there were probably even more around. Another raft of at least 20 Mergansers were also seen with others dotted around the harbour between the Oysterbeds and the RSPB islands.

Dunlin about to rest onto the spit.

More Dunlin pouring through along with Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover.

While checking out the waders on the spit, a pair of Sandwich Terns passed by at speed and, unfortunately, all my photos of the two birds came out blurred! A Harbour Seal had its head out of the water, but remained distant within the harbour. I couldn’t find any Goldeneye or the Black-necked Grebes, which was disappointing, but at least the waders present entertained as they flew past in tight flocks; with Dunlin easily being the most numerous.

Waders settling on the spit with Brent Geese.

Dunlin passing by at close quarters.

The walk back south along the Hayling Billy Line was rather quiet with only a pair of Goldcrests seen deep within the hedgerow, being noteworthy. There was still a few flowering plants by the Oysterbeds including White Dead Nettle, Smooth Sow Thistle and Annual Mercury. Not a great deal reported in Hampshire today, though a Black Redstart was found in Old Portmouth this morning. The drake Ferruginous Duck was still on Kingfisher Lake on the Blashford Lakes complex though there was no sign again of the adult Franklin’s Gull this evening.

Mixed flock of Dunlin, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher resting on the 'Beds'.

Clumps of White-dead Nettle were flowering still.

I have put the moth box out tonight, seeing it is going to be a very mild night and hopefully, not too much rain. Last chance saloon really as it will probably be put away for the winter tonight. Then I shall send my moth records for the year to Hants Moths. Unless I tomorrow, I had got 121 species of macro for the year, which is 13 more species than last year and the highest total for the garden.

Brent feeding by the Oysterbeds.

Colder morning in the Cemy.

Monday 24th November 2014.

Wren hiding in a Buddleia bush.

An early morning walk around Highland Road Cemetery before work with Scruff started the week off nicely. Overnight temperatures were down to single figures, causing a shimmering film of dew on the grass within the Cemy and a good number of birds to be seen also. I was hoping to be one of the first ones there, but a look around the Cemy exposed at least four dog walkers.

Smooth Sow Thistle.

The first notable sighting was a pair of Goldcrests in the conifers in the south west corner. Another pair were seen in the north east corner, high up within an Oak tree. Wrens were abundant this morning, with at least four individuals seen along with at least four Robins. The ever colourful Jays numbered at least four individuals along with plenty of other Corvids. The Great Spotted Woodpecker made a brief viewing as it flew past us and landed in the conifer on the east side of the Cemy, near the houses. There was no sign of the Green Woodpecker today, though.

Goldfinch.

The only finches seen this morning were the Goldfinches, which showed well in the conifer within the south east corner. Still no Black Redstart within the Cemy, despite a good search, but maybe it has been and gone already? Collared Dove numbers are increasing here, with large flocks of the birds spread about the area. A lot of the nearby gardens have bird feeders, so I am not surprised their numbers are increasing. Blackbirds were numerous again, foraging in the wet grass, but no other Thrush species again. A lot of Redwing have been flying over at night (heard from my garden), but none have lingered here of late.

Dunnock.

The only fungi I found today was several clumps of Field Mushroom and one clump of Honey Fungus. One of the Squirrels present this morning looked as though it was descended from the albino individual that resides here; being a much paler grey version. A few plant in flower included several clumps of Smooth Sow Thistle, which stand about 3ft high!  Walking back home along the Albert Road, I found a Rusty-dot Pearl moth perched on someone’s front door; arguably, one of our most common moths at this time of year.

Jay.

Honey Fungus.

Fungi foraging by Woolmer Pond.

Saturday 22nd November 2014.

A grey and drizzly day at Woolmer Pond.

I was tempted to take a stroll through Denny Wood, in the New Forest, this morning, but opted a little closer to home by walking around Woolmer Pond instead. However, the weather forecast was poor all day and this morning was no exception. The low cloud produced occasional showers or drizzle, but at least it was mild, as Scruff and I happily explored the area.

Birch Polypore.

Smoky Bracket.

If I was to be honest, I went particularly looking for fungi, what with it being very wet throughout the week and I was confident in coming up with quite a few species. Yes, I kept a good eye and ear out for the local birdlife too. Despite the horrible conditions, there was plenty to look at. Almost immediately, I came across a female Bullfinch flitting about in the tall Willows beside the Pond and again was seen on the way back to the car.

Chanterelle species.

A scan over the Pond revealed next to nothing, but, thankfully, a pair of Egyptian Geese flew in; a species I have never seen before at this location. They landed on the Pond some distance away and were still there when I left. There was not an awful lot happening over the Pond, so I ventured into the Birch woodland, adjacent to the Pond. Here, a large gathering of Titmice (Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Coal) were flitting through the trees, along with around 5 Goldcrest and two Chiffchaff.

Chiffchaff.

There was plenty of fungi around with Birch Polypore being very common, growing at all different sizes. Other fungi present included Smoky Bracket, Beech Woodwart, Glistening Inkcap and Candlesnuff Fungus. The further I walked around the perimeter, the more fungi I found in the grassy areas. A Chanterelle species was found along with White Saddle, numerous clumps of Honey Fungus, Pestle Puffball and Conical Brittlestem. Back to the birds, two Crossbills flew out of the woodland, and flew off northbound, calling in doing so.

The pair of Egyptian Geese on the Pond. Not the sharpest photo as the inclement weather didn't make it easy for photography.

A Reed Bunting was seen near the Pond and a flock of Teal flew over numbering around 10 birds, until disappearing into the low cloud. A Grey Wagtail flew over briefly then disappeared into the distance. Another Titmice flock came through as I neared the Cottage. Again, there must have been at least three Goldcrest among them. By the small copse, I found a rather deadly Toadstool called the Sickener! Leave that one alone for obvious reasons! Very little moving around the Cottage area, though I did flush a flock of Mallard resting on the Pond, which rose higher and higher till lost in the gloom.

Glistening Inkcap.

White Saddle.

The walk back was again rather quiet, with just the usual birds being seen, however, I did come across at least two Treecreepers in the treetops. There were plenty of Blackbirds around but no winter thrushes today, which was disappointing. I came across a Bolete species of Toadstool, but it’s anyone’s guess what species it is. Though the weather was poor, I was glad to get out and so was Scruff, who was not looking forward to his bath later!

Long-tailed Tit looking all cute and cuddly.

Earlier this week, I found a Rusty-dot Pearl perched on the outside kitchen window. Though the weather has been quite mild this week, it has virtually rained every night; hence why I will not put the moth box on, although other ‘moth-ers’ have been getting some interesting moths.

The Birch woodland adjacent to the Pond.

Franklin’s Gull safely added to my Hampshire list.

Tuesday 18th November 2014.

Overlooking Ibsley Water and the Tern Hide this afternoon.

With news of a Little Bustard at West Bexington, Dorset, this morning, I thought there was going to be a ‘twitch’ this morning. It has been 12 years since the last one was found on UK soil and to the dismay to one and all, the bird flew off never to be seen again! I had the afternoon off today and so I thought I would try my luck back at Blashford Lakes for the Franklin’s Gull, which was now being reported on a daily basis.

Some of the large crowd of birders present today.

Needing the Franklin’s Gull for a Hampshire tick (after seeing two in Dorset many years ago), I waited along with the 40 or so other birders overlooking Ibsley Water, till the shout eventually went up at 4pm that the bird had been located among the throng of Gulls present. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect, with no wind and a cloudless sky. All we needed now was the Gull to reappear.

Cormorants fishing together on Mockbeggar Lake.

Arriving in the car park by the Tern Hide at 2pm, I popped into the Hide, which was already packed and though Mike Wearing was present, our conversation was brief and so I headed back outside to climb the embankment overlooking Ibsley Water. In all honesty, I had a much better view from here, although I couldn’t find the Long-tailed Duck Mike had mentioned earlier, which would have been nice. However, there was a very good supporting cast present, nonetheless.

And again!

Before my 2hr vigil overlooking Ibsley Water, I took a quick look on Mockbeggar Lake to see if I could see the Great White Egret, but I couldn’t locate the bird. Apparently, it was spotted by someone walking the footpath leading to the Lapwing Hide on Mockbeggar Lake. I did see a strange sight of a group of around 15 Cormorants fishing together in one long line over the water, as if all fishing together. I bet the fisherman are really pleased with this! A Kingfisher flew low over the water and at least four Little Egrets were seen on the water’s edge. Unbeknown to me, I parked up close to a Bee’s nest and on return to the car, I carefully made sure not actually got in the car! Phew!

Some of the large Grey Heron flock flying over Ibsley Water.

Overlooking Ibsley Water, I carefully checked all around the west side of the stretch of water for the Long-tailed Duck, but to no avail. It was present this morning but no sign this afternoon. Two Black-necked Grebes had been reported and it didn’t take long for me to find these birds. Good numbers of both Great Crested and Little Grebes were present on the water. I was joined by another birder, who was also here for the Franklin’s Gull, waiting patiently with me as we both checked the water for anything interesting. I found the two drake Ruddy Ducks (another year tick for me) among the wildfowl and pointed them out to the birder next to me, who told me that he hadn’t seen any for years. Not surprised as they do not get any protection from the RSPB now!

More Grey Herons coming into roost!

Goosanders were gathering in good numbers and by the days end, at least a dozen were seen on the water. Among the usual Grey Lag Geese, at least 7 Egyptian Geese were counted around the water’s edge. Wildfowl included Pintail, Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard and at least two female Goldeneye (my first of the season).  Waders were restricted to just Lapwing but I did see at least two Green Sandpipers this afternoon. An unusual sight of 40+ Grey Heron taking off from the west and then most landing on the islands upon Ibsley Water. I think this must have been the largest ever flock of Grey Herons I have ever seen!

By 3.45pm, the birders present numbered at least 40 individuals and counting. A chap next to me told us all that someone had tried to kill himself by ‘overdosing’ in one of the Hides nearby and the Police had closed off the Hide, which might have been the Goosander Hide! The only raptors seen were Common Buzzards with at least five seen flying high over. One was feeding on one of the islands, with a big group of Magpie’s in attendance. The Gulls now, which were mostly Lesser Black-backs, were gathering in huge numbers yet again. Among them were smaller numbers of Black-headed, Herring and Common Gulls, but eventually, the shout went up that the Franklin’s Gull was back.

Grey Herons settling down on one of the islands with Cormorants.

Struggling at first to find the bird, a kind chap next to me let me look through his scope so I could locate the bird. When I found it, I then managed to get on it using my scope and enjoyed picking out its plumage details. Among the Lesser Black-backs, behind the spit, the bird began preening and bathing in the water, occasionally flapping its wings, revealing a dark mantle and upper wing. The white crescents by the eye were visible as I happily watched the bird climb on board my Hampshire List, which now stands at 291 species. After 15 minutes, helping others get on the bird, I made my way back to the car and then back home. Though I didn’t manage to grab a photo of the Franklin’s Gull as it really was too far away, there are plenty of photos on the Hants Birding website for anyone to view.

Kingfishers on Hilsea Lines.

Sunday 16th November 2014.

One of the ponds at Hilsea Lines.

It was a last minute decision as I was driving northbound up the Eastern Road, that I would give the Hilsea Lines a try. This part of Portsmouth was in the News for all the wrong reasons, when a couple of lady dog walkers were stabbed by some Psychotic kid earlier in the summer! No such problems this morning, though there were a few dodgy people around. I arrived at Hilsea around 11am and it was raining, but though overcast, the rain soon relented.

Dunnock.

It has been many years since I have walked along here, taking me back to my Schooldays when I used to walk to Farlington Marshes from the bus stop at Hilsea. Amazing how things look so small here now compared to when I was younger. The first stretch of water I came to held over 40 Coots, 4 Moorhen, 10 Little Grebes and a female Tufted Duck. A Kingfisher flew past, calling in doing so as it sped off west low over the water.

Common Buzzard.

Bat boxes within the woodland.

Robin, Blackbirds and a Dunnock were seen in the bushes and a healthy flock of Long-tailed Tits were rummaging around the trees opposite. Crossing the road, I walked through the woodland beside the next pool. I came across another flock of Long-tailed Tits (15+) and among them were at least 2 Goldcrest and 2 Chiffchaffs seen. Another Kingfisher flew east low over the pool and another female Tufted Duck was swimming on the water. I came across a large clump of Honey Fungus within a small copse, but surprisingly, there wasn’t much fungi present along here.

The railway bridge along the Hilsea Line. This brought back many memories as I used to live near here on the Highbury estate when I was around 9 years old!

Reaching the end of the woodland, I took a quick look within Hilsea Creek to check the waders on the mudflats. Grey Plover, Redshank and Dunlin were present and a Little Egret was seen wading in the shallow water. A Cetti’s Warbler was singing deep within a hedge, but despite waiting for around 10 minutes, the bird didn’t show. A Common Buzzard flew overhead, heading west low over the woodland and at least four Song Thrushes took flight and flew off strongly.

Dunlin and Redshank within Hilsea Creek near the Eastern Road.

One of the three Kingfishers seen this morning.

Not an awful lot else seen on the way back to the car, though a small group of three Stock Doves perched together was noteworthy. I came across the big Long-tailed Tit flock again and saw the Chiffchaffs high up in the tree. Nearing the railway bridge, I caught sight of my 3rd Kingfisher of the morning, flying over the opposite side then landing on a bush. Scruff really enjoyed the walk here, though he got totally filthy in all the mud, though he had a lot of canine friends to play with. It will be interesting when we get a cold spell in what might be lurking here.

Stock Dove.

Later this afternoon, I found an interesting micro moth flying about in my back garden. On further scrutiny, it turned out to be a Psychoides filicivora, a species I think I have come across once before.

Psychoides filicivora.

Candlesnuff Fungus growing in the woodland on the Hilsea Lines.

A late surprise turned up in my garden this evening, when Jackie came in to tell us there was a Frog in the back garden. I grabbed my iphone and found the ‘Toad‘ (yes, it was actually a Toad), and picked him up to show both Becky and Trevor. After a few photos, I then took it back outside to where I found it.

The Common Toad from my garden.

Toadstools and birds in good numbers within the Cemy.

Saturday 15th November 2014.

Mute Swan flying north as I arrived in the Cemy.

I took Scruff for another walk around our local patch, Highland Road Cemetery, this morning; despite the large ominous black clouds to the east, which threatened a deluge of rain at any moment. Thankfully, the rain kept off during my walk and it was noticably quite mild for this time of year, with very little wind. Surprisingly, there was quite a variety of both birds and fungi within the Cemy this morning; the latter due to the amount of rain we have had this week, making the grass very damp to walk on.

Field Mushrooms - Agaricus campestris.

Honey Fungus.

Most of the leaves on the trees are down now from the trees, which makes spotting any birds within the Cemy much easier. A lot of Black Redstarts have been reported around the coast locally, including two at nearby Gunwharf today! So I was hoping to find one hopping about the gravestones this morning, but to no avail. I think the rarest bird I saw this morning was probably the Mistle Thrush which was flying around and landing on the tallest trees.

The Mistle Thrush this morning.

Blackbird and Dunnock sharing the same tree.

The walk quickly kicked off with an adult Mute Swan flying low overhead as I was unpacking my camera and binoculars. I quickly reeled off some photos as it disappeared northbound over the rooftops. Several Blackbirds were seen in the trees and on the ground, but still no winter thrushes yet, although we really do need a cold snap to bring them in.  A flock of four Goldfinches flew over, while a couple more were within the trees near the Mausoleum.

Goldcrest near the Mausoleum.

It wasn’t long before I came across my first Toadstools, which were now quite tall and abundant. In fact, I came across at least four more species of Toadstool including several large clumps of Honey Fungus and Field Mushroom.

Lactarius species.

To be ID'd.

A pair of Goldcrests were seen near the Mausoleum among the Blue Tits and showed well enough to get a few decent images, unlike the uncooperative pair in the northern end of the Cemy. There was no sign of any Woodpeckers today, and even the Jays were elusive but at least two were around. Robins numbered at least three birds and a Dunnock was seen in the south east corner (not often seen here).

The albino Squirrel was showing well again this morning.

The albino Squirrel showed again near the Mausoleum, by which time, I had Scruff firmly on a lead by then (the bugger nearly caught a Squirrel earlier!). Not an awful lot else to report, but I will have my hands full in trying to ID the fungi I found today. My friend, Geoff Farwell, text me this evening to say that he done some birding in the Upham area of Hampshire. There, he saw 3 Common Buzzards, 2 Woodlarks, 65 Fieldfares, 140 Herring Gulls, Raven and 2 Siskins. In Hampshire today, the Franklin’s Gull on Ibsley Water returned to the Gull roost late afternoon along with a Long-tailed Duck, Black-necked Grebe, 8 Goldeneye, 8 Yellow-legged Gulls and a flock of 25,000 Starlings!

Another seawatch off Southsea seafront.

Saturday 8th November 2014.

Oystercatchers on the beach.

I met up with John Goodall early this morning by the car park at Southmoor, hoping to view yesterday’s Grey Phalarope. Despite a lengthy search throughout the area, there was no sign of the bird. The weather was awful with a strong southerly wind blowing into our faces and the occasional rain shower to go along with it. The tide was slowly on the rise within Langstone Harbour, but viewing was very difficult with the strong blustery wind to check the harbour properly.

We even took a stroll around Bedhampton Slipway and then north up the stream to see if the Phalarope could be hiding up there; but no diamonds. Several Little Grebes and a couple of Great Crested Grebes swam on the choppy water, but little else of note. Braving the wind again, we checked the harbour by the islands but still came up with nothing bar a few Mergansers out on the water.

By 8am, we decided we had enough and so made our way home. Seeing it was still fairly early, I grabbed myself a bite to eat then proceeded down to Southsea seafront to put in another spell of seawatching. The wind and rain was relentless at times, but I persevered and notched up a few notable sightings. Despite getting wet, I picked up a Great Northern Diver flying east over the Solent, which was a good start. A small group of four Oystercatchers were on the shoreline in front of me, while the usual Pied Wagtails and Starlings came by also. Gulls were dancing over the surf on the shoreline, but no decent ones among them.

Visibility over the Solent was poor at times and what with the rain making my scope lens bleary, patience really was a virtue. Between the showers, I picked up a flock of 5 adult Kittiwakes going westbound through the Solent and a Sandwich Tern also passed in the same direction. Singles of Brent Geese passed through during my 90 minutes here and lots of the usual Gulls passing by, hoping to find an easy meal in the surf. The blustery conditions was worthy of a Petrel, but that was spotted further along the coast at Hurst Castle, where a Leaches Petrel was seen! Up to 5 Red-breasted Mergansers were seen, with a pair seen heading west and three birds heading east. The sun soon broke through and made viewing near impossible, so I headed back to the car. A couple of Rock Pipits were feeding on the sodden grass at the back of the Pyramids with the Starlings.

The occasional Brent Goose passed by.

The Franklin’s Gull was still present in the evening roost on Ibsley Water, Blashford Lakes yesterday, along with the Grey Phalarope and a Caspian Gull. At Hersey Nature Reserve, on the Isle of Wight, a Siberian Stonechat was found and is spending its second day there. I am hoping for a Phalarope to be refound today; my guess it will be found on Hayling Oysterbeds?

An hour seawatch off Southsea.

Friday 7th November 2014.

Another weatherfront moving westwards through the Solent.

I spent an hour or so ‘seawatching’ from the shelter on Southsea Seafront this morning, after finding out that a Little Auk had been seen flying past both Hill Head and Selsey Bill earlier this morning. A strong westerly was blowing over the Solent and with squally showers now and then, conditions looked good for a seawatch. But, as expected, little went past during my time here.

Shelduck flying west low over the Solent.

The waves had whipped up a lot of shingle on the promenade again (that will keep the Council workers busy!), which made it a bit slippery underfoot. The tide was up within the Solent, but as mentioned earlier, little was moving through. No Little Auks this morning but a couple of flocks of Dunlin flew west low over the waves, close in. A pair of Shelduck flew west also and a Cormorant flew close in and landed near the shoreline.

Black-headed Gulls bobbing on the sea.

There were quite a few Gulls loafing on the sea among the rafts of seaweed, but nothing interesting among them.  I spotted a pair of Rock Pipits at the back of the Pyramids near the car park and a pair of Pied Wagtails showed well with the Starlings on the Promenade.

This showy male Pied Wagtail posed nicely in front of the shelter.

Unbeknown to me, a Grey Phalarope was frequenting Langstone Harbour close in by Southmoor. I am too busy to go for the bird, so I am hoping it might be present first thing tomorrow morning. Another Grey Phalarope is on Blashford Lakes as I write this!

A typical winter’s day at Eastney.

Thursday 6th November 2014.

Turnstone flying over the harbour entrance off Eastney.

As per most of my birthdays, I like to spend a little time birding and so I took Scruff for a walk around Eastney Point this morning. Much colder of late, I still managed to get away with wearing just a jumper as we walked up to the Hayling Ferry Terminal from the car park. The tide was up within Langstone Harbour and some of the cars near the jetty were in danger of being swamped!

Starlings and House Sparrows by the car park.

It's bath time!

The usual Starlings (about 100+ here) and House Sparrows were by the Burger Van as we passed by. I checked the harbour looking west but I couldn’t find anything bobbing on the choppy water. It really did feel like a winter’s day, with an overcast sky and a strong breeze blowing as I checked out a Ringed Plover sat on the spit. A scan over the harbour looking north revealed very little, apart from the roosting Turnstone on some of the moored boats within the harbour. A Skylark flew low over heading west, which was unexpected.

Female Merganser flying out to sea.

Walking back towards the car, we made our way slowly to the outfall. Remains of last night’s fireworks littered the beach as well as the usual garbage left behind by the ‘pigs’ that cannot be bothered to take their rubbish home. The usual roosting Gull flock held nothing exciting among them, with just a mixture of Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls to look through. Along the shoreline, a group of three Sanderling were searching the pebbles for any tasty morsels; sometimes happy to just sit in the occasional burst of sunshine.

Two of the three Sanderling.

Not a lot to see around by the Point and so we made our way back to the car. A pair of Oystercatchers flew from the Hayling side of the harbour entrance, to land among the Gulls. A single female Merganser flew low out to sea, of which I was lucky to get a photo of it. I was hoping for a Black Redstart to be lurking about near the Outfall despite all the builders getting on with completing the new Sewage Outfall here.

Common Gull.

Nearing the car, I caught sight of a female Sparrowhawk flying in off the harbour entrance and heading straight towards all the Starlings, which consequently fall flew up in panic as did the Gulls and a few Wood Pigeons. I found a wing of a seabird on the beach which I hope to get identified on the Hants Facebook page. Watch this space.

Oystercatchers coming into land.

I found this wing on the shoreline at Eastney. I put a photo of it on the Hamphire Birds Facebook page and it believed to be of a 1st winter Brent Goose.

The elusive Franklin’s Gull reappeared late afternoon in front of the Tern Hide, Blashford Lakes. Little Auks have been reported recently, mostly off the east coast of the UK, but one was reported in East Sussex yesterday. Hopefully, a few will grace our shoreline soon.

Franklin’s Gull a no show on Ibsley Water.

Tuesday 4th November 2014.

Sinead, Becky and Isabelle (being pushed) walking through the woodland at Blashford Lakes this afternoon.

This afternoon, Becky, Sinead, Isabelle and myself explored Blashford Lakes, but not before a nice spot of lunch in the Alice Lyle Pub. Fully refreshed, we made our way to the Lake Centre and took a stroll through the woodland to the Ivy South Hide. The weather was nice and bright now after some heavy rain passed through earlier and my goal was to hopefully see the Franklins Gull, which has been turning up within the Gull roost on Ibsley Water the last few evenings and will be a Hampshire tick should I see it. I have seen two of this species before; one in Dorset off Weymouth Beach and a second on Radipole Lake.

An Earth Star.

A large mixed flock of Siskin and Goldfinch flew over the car park as we started walking through the woodland. I was also keeping my eye out for fungi and soon came across a group of Earth Stars, a new species of fungi for me. After pointing them out to the others, I soon caught up to them (don’t really think they were interested!). Also, the footpath was good for Common Puffball’s and Sulphur Tuft toadstools.

Common Puffball's.

As we entered the Ivy South Hide, there were at least four people present peering out of the windows. Baby Isabelle was a tad noisy, but the attendance was patient as we settled her down and viewed out of the windows. In the half an hour we spent there, we saw some close Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebes, while both Wigeon and Gadwall were seen more in the centre of the lake. Cormorants were abundant as they fished the shallow water, while others were resting high up in the neighbouring trees. I checked the reedbed opposite for a Bittern, but none were present (found one here this time last year!). A few Shoveler were also present and giving us a couple of flybys. Unfortunately, no sign of any Kingfishers, but the water below us held a lot of fish passing through.

Great Crested Grebe passing close to the Hide.

As it neared 4pm, we made our way back through the woodland to the car park. A Great Spotted Woodpecker showed well high up in the trees, which Sinead picked out for us. My next move was to park up near the Tern Hide to view the Franklins Gull when it came into roost. Pulling up in the car park, I told the ladies to wait in the car as I spoke to a fellow birder who told me that the Hide was totally full of birders. I therefore joined a group of birders stood high up on the hill behind the Hide to view Ibsley Water. A Green Sandpiper caught my attention as it briefly flew towards the lake then disappeared from view.

Female Tufted Duck in front of the Hide.

Joining the other ten or so other birders, including Bob Chapman, we waited for the Gull to appear. During our wait, a small flock of 6 Goosander passed overhead and landed somewhere on the Lake. The Gull roost was enormous, with easily at least 5 to maybe 8 thousand Gulls present and more pouring in. I only had my binoculars on me and so hoped someone present might pick the bird up. The huge Starling flock had gathered over the countryside to our left in the distance and put on quite a display, which was something my wife wanted to see. Maybe another time. Apparently, 12 Yellow-legged Gulls were picked out this evening, but no sign of the Franklins Gull whatsoever this evening.

Heads I'm in. The female Tufted Duck diving in.

The light was fast disappearing by 4.45pm and so, reluctantly (though it was getting very cold now), I made my back to the car to make the long slow journey back home along the M27 in the rush hour traffic! I shall try my luck again for the Franklins Gull should it reappear soon.

Cormorant flying away from us.