Saturday 1st March 2014.
The roosting Tawny Owl in Mark Ash Woods. Keeping ones distance, good views can be obtained of this delightful creature.
What a way to start a new month with 7 new year ticks. I picked up John Goodall at the Farlington Marshes car park early this morning and spent the day in the New Forest area. My goal was to visit Mark Ash Wood near Bolderwood today because of the prospect of picking up at least 4 year ticks here. The forecast today looked very good with unbroken sunshine and little wind and though there was some fog deep within the Forest, John and I had a very nice day ahead of us.
Dawn over Farlington Marshes and the start of a beautiful day.
Mandarin Ducks and Mallards on Eyeworth Pond this morning.
Before we headed to Mark Ash Wood, we dropped in on Eyeworth Pond for possible Mandarin Ducks and Marsh Tit, a good stronghold for both species. The car temperature read -1 degrees here and I was being wary of the ice on the road. We quickly checked the Pond and almost immediately, came across the Mandarins. In fact, I counted 14 drakes and 8 females in or around the Pond; easily the largest number I have ever seen on here, although they kept themselves over to the far side of the Pond.
This Common Buzzard quickly took flight after searching for earthworms just before the turning off for Fritham.
Where were the Marsh Tits? Despite hanging around by the car park and even taking a walk through the woods along the main footpath, there was no sign of any of the birds. Usually a very reliable site for them, the best we could muster were a single Nuthatch and a single Treecreeper within the woodland; but at least these were year ticks for John. A couple of Redwings were seen within the woodland and several Stock Doves were calling overhead. A single male Grey Wagtail was found by a small stream and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits were seen in the trees. Pleased with the Mandarins, we then made our way next to Slufters Inclosure for Crossbills.
This superb female Merlin was happy to pose in the sunshine beside the clearing at Slufters Inclosure.
Walking along the footpath, it didn’t take very long to find our first Crossbill; a female bird perched in an Oak tree, which soon flew off over the woodland. Goldcrests were busy chasing small insects within the Pines, with many males singing deep within the woodland. Moving on, we took the path leading past the large clearing where we had several Siskin over and singing Woodlarks somewhere in the distance. In fact, I picked up a very distant bird flying high over the woodland and helped John to view this year tick for him. There was a small copse nearby which held Marsh Tit the last time I was here, but no sign of any this morning. Instead, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker were seen within the woodland as well as a small flock of Fieldfare. Out on the clearing, a pair of Stonechat were seen and a superb female Merlin was seen perched up in a tree overlooking the clearing. A perched Woodlark was seen along the footpath and showed very well. Just before we got back to the car, three Crossbills flew down from the trees, to take a drink in a nearby water filled furrow, beside the main footpath.
Another photo of the Tawny Owl - my third Owl species of the year.
After having a refreshing cup of coffee, we made our way to Mark Ash Wood. Having never been to this location, we eventually found it as we parked up in the layby. Some chap was not so fortunate with his car as he had to call the RAC out to pull him out of a ditch. I spotted another birder who kindly showed John and I, where the Tawny Owl was roosting. The bird was showing very well some forty feet up a tall tree preening itself in the sunshine. Fantastic. I did not see a Tawny Owl last year, so hopefully, I can earmark this site for the future.
These Little Grebes were calling to one another in front of the Goosander Hide.
The same chap who showed us where the Tawny was also told us that he had seen the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker earlier and giving us directions, John and I went in search. It didn’t take us long to hear the bird ‘drumming’ nearby and after a short search, I found the bird within woodland on the opposite side of the road. I did get a better view of him but it was quite flighty; but I was more than happy in seeing it; the first of this species for at least 10 years! Unfortunately, John dipped on the bird but we also found a gorgeous male Brambling among the many Chaffinches and at least two Hawfinches in the top of the trees, calling often. What a superb area and I am sure to come back here again in the near future.
Making our way back through the Forest via Fritham, I decided to pull over by Blackgutter Bottom for possible Dartford Warbler. This also used to be a good site for this species but with the burning of the gorse on both sides of the road, sightings of Dartfords here have been few and far between. And today was no exception. Not a single bird heard or seen and really, nothing else of note either bar a group of 5 Common Buzzards soaring high in the sky together. So we headed off to Ibsley Bridge to eat my lunch. Overlooking the flooded fields, I picked out a drake Goosander north of the road but very distant. A small flock of Lapwing were with Black-headed Gulls on some of the islands and a pair of Grey Lag Geese were seen with the Mute Swans.
Common Buzzard perched near the Goosander Hide.
After our lunch, we parked up in Ellingham Lane and took the path to the Goosander Hide at Blashford Lakes. From the Hide, we were quickly onto the drake Red-crested Pochard (another year tick) and then checked out the rest of Ibsley Water. At least a dozen Goldeneye were present, including a gorgeous drake. Numbers of wildfowl are reducing now but still a good variety present including around 10 Pintail resting on the islands. John found 3 Egyptian Geese on the far bank as well as a pair of perched Common Buzzards on fence posts close by. Great Crested Grebes were doing their courtship dance on the water and Little Grebes were dotted all around the water. The only waders present were a single Redshank on the spit (as well as a female Goosander) and a single Oystercatcher on one of the islands.
The drake Red-crested Pochard feeding on vegetation.
Our final stop was the Woodland and Ivy South Hide. John still needed both Siskin and Lesser Redpoll for year ticks and the Woodland Hide duly obliged. There were dozens of Siskin around with many singing in the trees. We didn’t actually go into the Hide (it looked full up with dudes!) and so looked from the outside at the feeders. Some very pink male Lesser Redpolls showed well on one of the Niger feeders, while the more commoner woodland birds were also in good numbers. The footpath leading to the Hide held Scarlet Elf Cap Fungus which was blooming virtually everywhere. This was a first for me and very pleased I was too. It honestly looked like bits of curled up red plastic!
Scarlet Elf Cap Fungus growing abundantly near the Woodland Hide.
Nothing out of the normal was seen from the Ivy South Hide but it was still nice to check out all the wildfowl present here still. A Grey Heron flew over along with a ‘sinensis’ race Cormorant. The Bittern and Great White Egret has not been seen all this week so they probably have now moved on, along with the female Smew. Suddenly, a rather nasty headache kicked in (too much sunshine?!) and so we decided to make our way home. John had notched up around 15 year ticks while I got 7. A good day.