Saturday 14th January 2017.
Today, I went to a place I have never been before. Nether Wallop, a small village 7 miles south west of Andover and seeing it was going to be a bright sunny, yet cold, morning; I was hoping to be in for a treat. Birding chum, Geoff Farwell, gave me the heads up about this village and its winter birds he had seen recently, which really whetted my appetite and so early this morning, I made my way up to the north west corner of Hampshire.
Things were looking up as I saw both a male Bullfinch and a Red Kite from the car as I travelled north bound along the country lanes, just north of Romsey. Both species were year ticks and luckily, I was to see a few more this morning. Eventually, my Google Maps on my mobile got me to the village, but where do I park? The roads seemed too narrow to park anywhere, so I just followed the road up to Church Hill, passing The Church of St. Andrew, then finally pulling over by Berry Court Farm. A quick chat with a resident here got me the permission to park my vehicle at this spot and she even told me that the nearby barn held breeding Barn Owls this year!
Not knowing the area at all, I kept to the country roads and bridle paths to avoid any stroppiness from the locals and farmers. This paid off as I got fine sightings of the local Red Kites, with at least three seen together at times over the countyside. Looking down from Church Hill road, I could see a small river below in Wallop Brook. A Grey Heron stood in a field all by itself in the sunshine, probably resting after gorging on a large fish perhaps? Good numbers of both Redwing and Fieldfare were present here in the fields and roadside trees along with other thrush species, which included 4 Mistle Thrush, 6 Song Thrush and numerous Blackbirds.
I found some Yellowhammers by the bushes and hedgerows at Berry Court Farm, which were also year ticks and overhead, I heard a Linnet flying over but couldn’t locate the bird. In fact, there were at least 20+ Yellowhammers in the area and at least three, possibly four Bullfinches seen in the hedgerows along with around 50+ Chaffinches. A possible Firecrest was seen, but I just couldn’t get to see it properly as it flitted low down in a hedgerow and was mostly obscured from view.
As well as the Red Kites showing superbly in the sunshine, both Common Buzzard and Kestrel were present and gave good views. Geoff had a possible Merlin the last time he was here, but no sign of any this morning. Pheasants were in good numbers, but I couldn’t find any Partridges in the neighbouring fields, which was disappointing. I had a good look in the nearby Barn for the Barn Owls, but no sign of any. The trees within the small copse held good numbers of common finches and Long-tailed Tits, while both Blue and Great Tit were feeding on one of the feeders by the converted Barns on the opposite side of the road.
Though just the four year ticks seen this morning, it is always a pleasure to go to somewhere totally new. Nether Wallop is only a small village and took just under an hour to drive there from Southsea, but who knows what goodies could be lurking here way out in the sticks?
Yesterday, I was working in the Warblington area and I managed to catch up with the Cattle Egrets for a nice year tick. Up to four were present along with a single Little Egret, in the field just west of the church and easily viewable from the five bar gate. It was damn cold there as well with a biting north westerly blowing over, so I didn’t hang around long!