Apologies in advance as this is a rather delayed posting. With a load of days leave to use up before the end of March, I booked a long weekend last week, so enjoyed two days of pottering around not being at work, and managed to fit in a spot of birding along the way.
Thursday began with me waking up to the realisation that everything I needed for working from a different office the following Monday was sitting on my usual desk. As I didn’t fancy a trip into work really early on a Monday morning just to collect my things, I decided to use it as an excuse to visit Winchester and have a wander around Winnall Moors. Considering this reserve is just minutes from my office, it is ridiculous that I’ve only visited once before and that even this was on a weekend. The reserve is a beautiful oasis of calm amongst the city and when walking through you would have no idea you were in such an urban location. I visited on a beautifully sunny and slightly crisp winter day which was perfect weather for exploring the reserve.
Whilst the reserve itself covers quite a large area, only about a third of it is open for public access. This isn’t a huge area, but just perfect for a couple of hours of exploring. Most of my walk round was uneventful, but being such a glorious view I settled down on a bench made from old logs to enjoy the sunshine and see what might come my way. Overlooking the river and with Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe gliding past, I had no idea that I would soon have company. The pair of Mute Swan below decided to waddle out of the water right in front of me and settled down to preen and pull an interesting variety of poses. By the time I was ready to move on, these two had completely dozed off. As I was enjoying the sunshine, I was treated to a cluster of Long Tailed Tits bobbing about in the trees and a lone Green Woodpecker swooped in. In the bright light, its green colouring was even more intense than I remember noticing before.
The best part of the day for me was a falcon of some kind flying high in the sky over the reserve. Whilst I’m 95% sure this was a Merlin (certain it wasn’t a Kestrel, Hobby or Peregrine), I can’t include this as a tick as I don’t know for definite that’s what it was. Whatever type of bird it was, it was very entertaining to watch it fly past until it became to distant to focus on. A later arrival from a very definite Peregrine was an added bonus, and as entertaining as always to observe.
Friday involved some very deliberate birding, or more specifically twitching (sorry Chris!), with a trip to Calshot to catch sight of the Spanish Sparrow. This was prompted by an email on the HOS mailing list letting the subscribers know that a local birder would be on site for a couple of days to point others in the right direction and invite them into one of the houses to view the sparrow dining with its House Sparrow mates in the garden. The hospitality on site was really lovely, and whilst everyone when I visited were very friendly, I have heard that this has not been the case with all visitors, in particular those from outside the county which is a real shame. I do feel bad saying this about a bird Chris missed out on, but he is a beautiful bird. When seen side by side against our ‘normal’ sparrows, he really does seem like the king of his local patch.
My photographs of the sparrow are nothing to write home about, but my Mum did spot this beautiful fox basking in the winter sunshine, and for once I did have my proper camera with me.
I don’t think I can provide a better description of Sunday’s birding activity than Chris’s description of our expedition here, but I will say that it was a great moment to see someone enjoy their first Kingfisher sighting and I am becoming more surprised by the week at how much Chris is enjoying his new hobby. If I’m honest I wasn’t really expecting the initial enthusiasm to last more than a week or so- I have been very pleasantly surprised! Fishlake Meadows is beautiful, so enjoy the following few shots.
I would have said looking forward to the next weekend’s birding, but being halfway through it I know that its managed to top last weekend already (and I’m managing to cross off some of my top 10!).
Update on this weekend to follow soon!