Mystery diver

So yesterday, I’m pretty sure I observed this happen…



Massive highlight to my birding year and this rounded off a fantastic weekend birding. I’m waiting for Chris to download our photographs from the weekend, but spotting a mystery bird from a distance to discover it was a diver was fantastic. I’m just deliberating if it was Great Northern or Black Throated! I’m with GND and Chris is thinking BTD.



Jo’s January Round Up

Wildfowl and Waders at Farlington

So, over one month into the Big Year- it’s time for our first set of monthly totals….

I can reveal that in January 2012, I saw 81 species of birds. Pretty chuffed with that total! Just going to gloss over the fact that my target list stands at an unimpressive 0/10. Oh dear- lots of birds but not the right ones.

The highlights for me were the Redpoll, Redwing and Bittern at Blashford and the wildfowl and waders at Farlington. Lots more birding to come this year and now my new glasses have finally arrived I can actually see the distance in focus again which always helps.

Chris- your January total please……..?


Preview- naturebites Bird Race

So yesterday Chris and I took part in the naturebites Bird Race. Whilst we were planning a big day out to the Festival of Birds at WWT Slimbridge, we put our travel plans on ice as we didn’t want to be travelling so far with potential for serious snowfall. Instead, we stuck closer to home and undertook the race in Hampshire. Whilst we weren’t taking the ‘race’ part seriously and really planning the day to see as much as possible, this was a fantastic excuse to get a load of biding in locally as we had 6 hours in which to see as many species as possible.


Full report to follow, but by far the most exciting event of the day was the appearance of a flock of Bearded Tit (one of my top 10!) during our lunch break, who stuck around for over half an hour! The photo below is terrible (shot on a mobile phone into the sun!) but it shows how close we were to these amazing birds. The couple of fat blobs at the top of the reeds are the tits, and the fuzzy silver thing is the lid of Chris’s thermos. Chris has much better shots which we will upload later on…




Today has also been full of birding surprises. I have a lot to fill you in on!


Keeping it local

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.

Boardwalk through the reedbed

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.

My Mute Swan companions
Mrs Swan busts a yoga pose for the camera

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.

Sunbathing Fox
Terrible photo of the Sparrow (see a better one here)

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!


Freezing February

I had a gorgeous lunchtime today in Winchester, with a lovely stroll over to Winnall Moors. Eating a hot lunch outside on a crisp, sunny winter’s day is one of my favourite things. The day was made even more special with a tiny bird bouncing in and out of an ivy covered tree. Keeping my binoculars firmly focussed whilst it bobbed about confirmed my suspicions- I had spotted a Goldcrest! A fantastic start to the February list and a highlight at the end of my working week.


Its rather cold, and whilst we were planning a big day out tomorrow to WWT Slimbridge, this may well be cancelled because of the snow. We’ll have a birdy day somewhere, just yet to be decided! In the mean time, here’s a video that made me smile of a frozen lake and ducks at Slimbridge. Enjoy….



On another note, we are officially over 1 month into the big year. January totals to come from us both soon.