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!

Chris

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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.

Jo

 

 

Its been a long time, i shouldn’t have left you…

Hello readers,

I have not died of red wing overload (a common birdwatcher ailment) i have just been extremely busy with work and seeing family. Right, where to start…?

The red wings stayed for 2 days then buggered off, they didn’t fancy saying hi to Jo but were very happy to see me, result. I have seen no birds whilst travelling to work or indeed at the weekends, c’est la vie.

Two weeks ago, Jo and I went on an organised walk to see some red kites,  when we pulled up it felt like a really badly organised school trip but this time it was hard to figure out who was the teacher, we were quite obviously the pupils (i had the worlds smallest binoculars (error that keeps being repeated!) however, once things were kicked off by the walk leader this turned out to be one of the best birding experiences of my life.

The people on the walk were much more chilled than the people chasing the junco and were genuinely interested in any birds, this meant I didn’t feel stupid asking what the birds were that flew past, also i got to use other peoples scopes and got to actually see the birds (this has led to me looking for scopes on eBay daily) Seeing 70+ red kites just chilling and messing around was awesome, however I was more amazed by seeing a short eared owl just chilling on a post and a partridge that didn’t want to move in case it got eaten by it. Although we still reduced the average age by at least 10 years there were still at least 7 other women to go with the 30 men…

We saw a load of other birds, however it has been that long that I cannot really remember what they were, so this is where I really really need to get up to speed with writing them down (waterproof notebook after payday I think!) Last week and weekend were a write off, due to a visit from my brother and sister in law, however the golf course (somewhere Jo won’t be) on Sunday morning provided me with a green woodpecker and another unknown bird.

I am going to have to rely on weekend trips in order to get a good number of birds, and really do need to get back in to it.

I must also confess that I am now a fully signed up member of the RSPB, mainly for the free gift, however it also means that I get to go to all the RSPB reserves for free at the same time as helping keep the birds going so that I can actually spot them.

I apologise for the lack of humour in todays blog, I will be back on form with my next one, football (a hard fought 0-0 draw) has taken it out of me and I am genuinely annoyedIi have forgotten birds, I fear that I really am taking this too seriously….

Chris

P.S Sarah, i am disappointed that you are team Jo despite me provding you with the motivation, i am consoled however, by -the fact that members of “Team Chris” are having T-Shirts made up displaying their affiliation, so i’m sure that I will get over it and I would still love for you to come on a walk with Jo and I xx

Missing my birding companion

Farlington Marshes (spot the egret!)

 

With Chris busy with visiting relatives all weekend, on Sunday I braved the world of organised ornithological walks and joined a HOS walk to Farlington Marshes and took my Mum along for company.

Farlington isn’t that far away from home, but its one of those places I’ve just never been to. Whether this has anything to do with it being very close to the motorway or too close to Havant I’m not quite sure. While I’m quite sure there are some nicer parts of town,  my only experiences of Havant are of the decidedly grotty station and nearby Probation office, so it hasn’t registed as a destination of choice even though I know its a real haven for wildlife. Setting off at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, I was looking forward to a day of notching up ticks that Chris hadn’t yet got.

For the first time amongst a group of birders, two things happened that were quite bizarre: there were about as many women as men (and some of them weren’t just tagging along with their husbands) and I wasn’t the youngest one there! This meant a different group of people than I was used to, but all in all it was a good day. When its freezing cold and reasonably windy, being out on the coast doesn’t make for a warm trip, but I wrapped up and braved the elements for over 4 hours. I added a lot to the year list, and I have discovered that being amongst experts is crucial in determining what the different waders are. These birds (mostly brown and on long, stick like legs for those who aren’t familiar) I find impossible to get my head around, so having others there who are able to tell and even describe the differences was a real bonus and gave me a boost while Chris was stuck at home.

Whilst I saw some brilliant new birds that I’d never knowingly seen before, as well as a lot of more familiar species, I couldn’t help but feel like I was cheating by going along with a group of strangers. Whilst we are in competition, my favourite birding moments often involve the two of us frantically trying to establish together what we’ve just seen. It may not be the best method in terms of seeing lots of different birds, but it is a lot more fun and there’s something exciting about working out what I’ve seen with someone I know so well. Whilst I had a lovely few moment discussing the merits of Stonechats with another lady and relished the mutual disappointment of most of the group when we missed out on a Bearded Tit that the walk leader had found, its not the same.

Chris, I’m looking forward to some mutual birding next weekend please!

Jo