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.
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.