A Lesser Spotted Sunday Treat

Sunday marked another day of very leisurely birding. I would probably even go so far as to say that calling it ‘birding’ may be a bit of a stretch, more like ‘enjoying the sunshine with a pair of binoculars’. Being a glorious day, we decided to set out to Lepe Country Park to enjoy the weather on the Coast. When we arrived, we quickly realised that most of Hampshire had the exact same idea as it was absolutely heaving which was definitely not what I had been hoping for!

We managed to find a vacant bench looking over the Solent towards the Isle of Wight and enjoyed the sunshine whilst flicking through a magazine and snacking on lunch. Just lazing about was perfect and whilst my life has revolved around birding recently it was lovely to spend Sunday afternoon enjoying being outside but not just because I was birding. Not much to report on the birding front other than a couple of Long Tailed Tits in the brambles, some ducks and a couple of Canada Geese on an inland patch of water. Pretty much the only highlight was a Black Tailed Godwit– the first I’ve seen in its russety summer plumage probing away in the mud with its beak.

Whilst birds were few and far between there was a lot of blossom around the place which looked stunning in the sunshine:

After a stroll along the sea front, and a stop off for me to finally pick up some local Tide Tables from the visitor centre, we decided to head home with a detour via Hawkhill Inclosure, site of Chris’s deer experience last week. I wasn’t expecting to see anything of note as we just fancied a wander, but I ended up having my birding highlight of the weekend. We took a short circular walk to stretch our legs before heading back home, and the Inclosure looked absolutely beautiful in the bright Spring sunshine.

Having seen a few Chaffinch and Blue Tit on our way round, when Chris spotted something ‘bright green’ in the trees, we stopped to take a look and after a bit of searching a glorious Mr Siskin was revealed. The woods we were looking in seemed to have a fair amount of bird activity in them, so we decided to stop for a while and see what would be revealed. We didn’t have to wait long before we noticed a Great Spotted Woodpecker which we watched for a while and even saw drumming, which was great. Amongst the treetops Chris spotted a fine male Crossbill and we later spotted a female companion. One Siskin soon became several and there was obviously a resident flock residing along with a group of Chaffinch. Whilst looking for a mystery bird Chris had seen, I spied some movement along a knarled tree branch. On closer inspection the movement revealed itself as my first ever Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and best of all it was completely self-found. Like my Firecrest/Goldcrest fears, I always worried I would mistake this bird for its big, brash Great cousin, but this is far from the case. I knew that this was a small woodpecker but I was amazed at how small. This bird was amazing, shuffling along the branches, and definitely one of the best birds I’ve ever seen- a minature, more finely detailed version of a GSW!

On our way back to the car we came across several singing Chiffchaff (fast becoming our weekend soundtrack) and another flock of Siskin in the pines around the car park. A lovely way to end our day in the sunshine.

What a weekend of life ticks!

Jo

Advertisements

Spring Has Sprung

Well Winter certainly feels a long time ago. Today Jo and I headed to the New Forest to try and see another one of my top ten list, the Firecrest. We thought that this would actually be pretty tough, as not only are they pretty small but they are normally only around from April onwards so we may have been too early.

In reality, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I should probably add here that we prepared for finding them by playing what their birdsong sounded like using an app from the iTunes store. Misty (Jo’s family cat) got very interested in my iPad when the Firecrest came on and so it stuck in both of our heads.

We sat down at the first bench we came to and heard the same noise, so we just enjoyed the sun and waited for them to appear. When he did we got to see him for a good ten minutes, and they really are a damn funky bird. The Mohican just looks cool and if I was a bird then one of these would be near the top of my list.

In total we must have seen about 8 of them and I’m pretty sure that Jo enjoyed it as much as I did, I’m sure that she will blog on it later.

Also worth a mention is my first chiff chaff of the year (followed by another 6)

All in all a brilliant day especially with the weather, I hope you are all getting out and enjoying the weather, I’m still waiting for some of you to come birding with me/us (Toby!)

Chris

No Sight

So, I have now completed my first solo bird walk. As I said yesterday, I was hoping for the junco. However, it would appear that the bird has flown. I turned up at the carpark (after getting a bit lost) and was greeted by the sight of one other car. Suggesting that everyone else knew the bird wasn’t there, unperturbed I pressed on.

The landscape was so different to the last junco attempt, it was a bleak, almost winters atmosphere and I couldn’t blame the junco for moving on, if I was a bird I’d have done the same. Here’s a picture of me at the ex junco site (I know I don’t look great but the sun chose that moment to come out and the quickly retreated)

20120317-141235.jpg

I decided to move on, there was nothing fluttering and I could hear lots of noise. I managed to see robins, chaffinches, wood pigeons, magpies and the crowning moment some goldcrest! One thing I did notice today was that if you see one type of bird you will see two, and every type I saw had its mate with them, this was pretty useful as at other times of the year you only see one or the other, the downside is that they are often quick moving or having sex, swings and roundabouts I suppose!

I had one other bird encounter on my way out of the car park, when I saw a male and female stonechat performing what I imagine was a courting dance, Mr Stonechat was looking pretty cool, but I couldn’t stay around to see them longer as I was stopping cars from getting into the car park (sorry new forest drivers)

One thing that made me genuinely happy on the walk came after I was cursing a bird for not landing, meaning I couldn’t identify it, I turned around and was greeted by this sight..

20120317-142721.jpg

There were 27 deer staring right at me, probably wondering who the hell I was talking to (I did it regularly today) they stayed around for the next 10 minutes and I just sat down and watched them. It really made me realise how much I have fallen in love with the outdoors and being in the middle of nowhere.

In birding terms it wasn’t a great showing, with no new year ticks and I’m no closer to Jo and her score, however it has rejuvenated my desire and should hopefully stand me in good stead going forward.

*i would also upload the video I took of the deer but my phone won’t communicate with the iPad so bear with me! I also couldn’t find my camera so made do with my phone one which is why the photos aren’t great quality.

Speak soon!

Chris

Once More into the breach

Well finally I can see light at the end of the tunnel at work and actually have some time to blog. This will only be a quick one though as its late.

Tomorrow will mark a massive step in my big year as I attempt to kick start my enthusiasm for it, something that has taken a bit of a knock with work stress and long hours. Jo is away this weekend and everyone who I would normally see is busy doing various exciting things, so the stars seem to be pointing me towards heading out for my very first solo birding adventure. The Collins is packed, boots are clean and I have the Junco in my sights (one Jo hasn’t seen)

Wish me luck readers!!

Chris

Finally..

Hello Dear Readers,

 

After what seems like a month since I last did a proper post (oops, it actually is!) I suppose that I best start with the number of birds that I managed to see in January as a few of you are now demanding to know. In total, between January 1st and January 31st I saw 76 unique species of bird. I won’t get too birdy on you all (mainly as I will get something wrong and be corrected by Jo!) but here are my favourite birds of January and a little bit of a reason why.

  1. Bittern – This is the top of my list purely because some people can go years without seeing one, and the first time I go into a hide at Blashford Lakes there is one staring up at me, not only that, but when everyone thought that it had disappeared I looked to my right and it was sat out in the open trying to swallow an entire fish. One man commented to me that I may as well go and “retire from birding” as views won’t come better than that. (I sometimes feel like he was right and maybe I have peaked too early in my birding career
  2. Kingfisher – This would have been an epic spot on any day, but the fact that it came at the end of a disappointing walk around Fishlake Meadows made it even better. I know that Jo was amazed by my reaction to seeing them (two in one, just like a bus) but it really was like seeing a bird from a different country. You can’t describe just how bright the colours are, I managed to see three that day in total, and one more since, and they are still brilliant every time you see one.
  3. Greenshank – For all you birders out there this won’t be a particularly special sighting, indeed for Jo I’m sure that it wasn’t great, but, what makes it special for me was that Jo and I really worked together to identify it using the Collins Book (my copy that Jo subsequently dropped in the mud) it must have taken us about 10 minutes to finally confirm it, but it left me really happy that we were able to use skills that before January I had never used.
  4. Bearded Tits – Not only a funny name (you all know it is!) they also look wicked, also seeing Jo so happy to see a bird that she has been looking for for years made it extra special. We have pictures of them and just how close we were eating our lunch to them made it amazing.

I didn’t think that I would have made it to such a number in one month, especially my first, but its mainly down to Jo helping me and dragging me out. I have a feeling that the subsequent months won’t be so spectacular, however there are over 10,000 left in the world for me to see so fingers crossed!

I went birding with my friend Greg at the start of February. He has new eyes (lasered) so in order to get his monies worth we thought it a good idea to see what he could see. It was a strange day; I am definitely not an expert, and I never managed to get to the bottom of what Greg thought of it, I probably endlessly annoyed him with my banging on about certain birds (my highlight was a goldcrest) and the hardest part was missing Jo. This may sound soppy, however it is purely because we have a very unique bird sense of humour, we personify them, its hard to explain, imagine Walk On The Wild Side, with just birds, if you are very unlucky some of you may get to experince this some day. However Greg was definitely not on the same wave length! (Sorry Greg)

I think that birding with different people will be something that I will need to get to used to over the course of 2012 (any volunteers living in Hampshire are eagerly encouraged!) but part of me just wants to make it a joint effort, hopefully when work quietens down I will get back into the competition, the new binocular purchases that we both made today should help,  I am just struggling with identifying the differences in certain types (especially waders) however I have finally nailed my tit identification  (stop sniggering at the back) so that is a step forward!

More about todays trip (to WWT Slimbridge) will follow when it isn’t so late.

 

Chris

 

 

 

New Forest Snow :)

So Chris and I had a 3 day weekend this week and had decided to spend the Friday on a rescheduled trip to WWT Slimbridge. Yet another overnight snowfall on Thursday* put paid to that plan, so instead we had a lovely relaxed day nearer to home, albeit with a lack of birding. It was just lovely to spend a chilled out day together ahead of a busier weekend.

Whilst I’ve been on 2 HOS walks this year, Chris has only come to the Red Kite walk, so I was actually really surprised when he agreed to accompany my Mum and I on a walk from Shatterford in the New Forest. Honestly, I’m convinced it was only because Chris didn’t want me to spot anything I’d not seen already without him seeing it too. Again, Chris and I brought the average age of the group down quite considerably, but I am still warmed every time I go on a group by how friendly everyone is and how willing they are to share their time and knowledge with others. I also quite like how excited other birders often are by having young, enthusiastic birders with them. Its really lovely to feel so welcomed.

The walk started brilliantly, with Goldcrest feeding in a pine by the car park which also had Treecreeper having breakfast on the trunk of the same tree. There must have been at least 6 Goldcrest which was lovely to see and some were even feeding on the ground, which no one in the group had seen before. Seeing such tiny birds on the ground right out in the open didn’t seem right as my mental image of Goldcrest is a tiny fluff-ball hiding amongst foliage and seeming altogether more shy and reclusive. A fantastic start to a lovely day. The walk continued with success- pairs of Crossbill (another of my Top 10) collecting nesting material and taking it up high in the pines for construction was gorgeous to watch, with one particular pair showing really well and deciding to have a pine cone snack for all to see on the only leaf free branch. My favourite moment of the morning was watching Mr Crossbill scoffing the seeds from a pine cone so greedily that he lost his grip and dropped the cone. I love slightly comical birding moments.

Once the Crossbills had given up putting on a show, we headed off for the main attraction of the walk- Great Grey Shrike. This bird is regularly reported in the area and had been seen the day before, so we set off towards its most recent haunt. Within seconds of arriving, the walk leader had spotted the Shrike high atop a distant shrub, surveying his surroundings and looking alert. Success. I never thought tracking down a bird would be so easy, but he was so far away I don’t think I’d ever have spotted him was it not for the more experienced birders there too. At this point Chris was seeming quite disheartened so telling him at this point that this was another of my Top 10 crossed off felt pretty mean, especially considering someone else had pointed it out to me. More Goldcrest appeared, bobbing along a pine hedge and again feeding on the ground- the cold must be leading them to desperate measures!

The walk later threw up a load more winter visitors and woodland species, with Siskin, Redwing,  and Mistle Thrush all seen before lunch. Chris had his birding moment of the day after lunch, when he spotted a lovely male Stonechat by himself, which I think he was pretty smug about. Although he didn’t say it, I could tell he felt excited for spotting something that the other birders hadn’t spied first. Adding Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and this time a pair of Stonechat before returning to the car rounded of a great day out in the forest. The residual snow and cold weather made for a bleak day on the moorland areas, but really highlighted just how beautiful the New Forest really is and reminded me how much I love spending my time outside when I can. Going back to the office on Monday morning was a bit of a come down after a wonderful day out and about.

Jo

*Note to self: next time I want snowfall, plan a trip to Slimbridge. The two seem to correlate at the moment!