Once Bittern always amazed…

Decided that I better post whilst it is fresh in my memory,

This weekend was the best birding weekend I have ever had. ( I realise that this isn’t a massive claim as I have only had 3) As Jo has stated I was up for a nice early 7am wake up before getting to the lakes about 8am. In reality it involved a joint agreement to roll over and go back to sleep.

When we set off at 10ish we stopped off for Breakfast at Ringwood; an epic Bacon Roll with a Poached Egg which got me set and ready for the day ahead. We arrived at the lakes about 10.45 and settled down in the first hide that was occupied by two middle aged men muttering to each other with all the awkwardness of two teenagers on a first date. It was enjoyable to listen to but then I needed to settle down to some serious bird identification!

I must apologise to Jo here, I think that I must have asked her if the same type of bird was a ‘goldeneye’ at least 6 times, until I finally found one, the first bird off my top ten list! 1-0 Team Chris! We moved on to the various hides as the day went on but the main attraction was number two on my list the Bittern.

There was a buzz in the hide as soon as we walked in, people had just seen it, a moment of panic followed for me as firstly I didn’t understand where they had seen it, and secondly and much more troublesome… I had no idea what a Bittern looked like. Think needle in a haystack with other people who knew what they were doing and thats roughly were I was.

Then, we saw a rustling in the bush and a massive neck appeared. Its actually a pretty cool looking bird when its got its neck out. However I do think it looks a bit constipated when it is walking along, but that is probably just me!

What Jo neglected to mention is that it is me who spotted it for the second time. Everyone was looking at the spot where it had previously been, until I decided to look without the binoculars and spotted it stood in the open, the excitement that I shouted “THERE IT IS” still surprises me to this moment, however it sums up the genuine happiness that I got from seeing it again, its something that I never thought that I would experience when I started the year. Anyway, the result was that we all saw the Bittern looking in the reeds and pulling out a massive Perch which it took about 2 minutes to figure out just how to swallow the fish. The pictures that everyone took (except me) were very good, as you can see from Jo’s earlier post, there was even someone there who had birding business cards to hand out for when we wanted photos (i’m not even joking)

Anyway, the result was an excellent day with over 30 different species of birds seen, red polls and bramblings were a close two and three to the Bittern and the score currently stands at 2-0 to Team Chris.

In other news, I have purchased a waterproof notebook that apparently will even work underwater, not sure how true that is but i’ll give it a go. I will also be getting in to digiscoping soon, so some close up pics should follow. I can’t wait for next Sunday now, finally getting some proper enthusiasm, Greg, Jim and Toby watch out, your walks will follow soon!


A joint trip to Blashford

This Saturday, we decided to go all out on the bird front and planned a proper trip to Blashford Lakes, a Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve with hides, feeders and a visitor centre.  Having only been once before, going to bed early on a Friday night so that we could get an early start on the bird front was our intention. The alarm going off at 7:00 on the next morning wasn’t quite the relaxed start to the weekend we’d hoped for, so we reset the alarm and went back to sleep, eventually leaving the house around 10:00. Throw in a detour via Waitrose and an unexpected breakfast coffee at Boston Tea Party (the best coffee I’ve had in a LONG time), we weren’t exactly heading out in a hurry. Although this didn’t put us in pro-birder territory, it was a perfect start to a birding weekend.

Chris watching Ibsley Water


Through the woods


Whilst there were a lot of highlights, the best part of the day by far was a beautiful Bittern appearing right in front of our hide, and despite nearly choking on its lunch, it put on quite a show.  I know this made the day (if not the year) for Chris, so I’ll leave him to fill you in on the encounter. What I will say, is the whole experience reminded me of just how lovely a community there always is amongst a group of birders. People are always happy to share whats about and point things out to you. Without the company in the hide, we may never have seen the Bittern skulk out right in front of us. These birds are mega camoflaged and really elusive. Unless you see them move you’d never know they were anything more than a bunch of reeds!


Spot the Bittern (sorry its fuzzy but I’d forgotten my SLR- typical!)


Ivy Lake


Chris may now have a favourite bird in the Bittern, but I have a couple of new favourites too. Although they weren’t hanging out in my garden, I did spot a flock of 16+ Redwing eating on the ground (sorry Chris!), and we were both fairly mesmerised by a tiny group of Lesser Redpoll. The male Redpoll looks flushed across his throat and chest as though he’s very easily embarrassed and both males and females have a lovely little red cap, a bit like the a ones worn by cardinals. Hopefully I’ll post more on these beauties later in the week. They’re inspiring me to sketch so watch this space!


Back home for a warm (bird) mug of tea


All in all a brilliant day out and about. This big year is making me really enjoy spending as much time as I can outside. If all the weekends of 2012 are as good as this one I’ll be very content.