Sunshine and Springtime

One thing that I have been trying to go recently is to get outside as much as I can. Being stuck in an office all day does make this tricky, but I am doing my best to get out and about in my lunch breaks and making the most of the lighter, springtime evenings and beautiful weather we’ve been having recently.

Last week, I took my bike for a spin and headed to Fishlake Meadows for a spot of evening birding. This was not just an excuse to get outside, but as Chris was away at football for the evening, I was hoping to see some Spring migrants before him and was going in search of Chiffchaff. If you’re not a birder, this may not mean much to you, but I had been craving my first Chiffchaff of the year singing its heart out in the sunshine- one of the true sounds of Spring. These birds aren’t much to look at, but their song is instantly recognisable. There is an excellent video on Chiffchaff ID from the BTO which I found invaluable last Spring (stick it out to the end for the song!):

I heard my first Chiffchaff in a patch of scrub before I’d even arrived at the meadows, and stopped on my bike to take a look. Despite a number of odd looks from passing motorists and being unable to pin down the bird in the shrubbery, I did manage to come across an unexpected male Bullfinch instead. Seeing this chap and his stunning pink colouring more than made up for missing out on the Warbler. I cycled on towards the meadows in the hope that I’d track one down there. Whilst I heard several more Chiffchaff, they all stayed out of view as I headed onto the reedbed. Most of the birds that evening were heard and not seen, but explosive bursts of Cetti’s Warbler and the squealing of several Water Rail were a delight and there was a real feel of Spring about the place. As the dusk closed in, I was treated to a mini murmuration of the local Starling flock, a Kestrel resting on an electricity cable and even a lone bat fluttering through. Just when I thought I’d not see anything else, I saw a Muntjac stag springing away from me before turning around curiously. Not anything to top Chris’s deer experience but wonderful all the same. Whilst some migrants have arrived, the Reed and Sedge Warblers don’t seem to have arrived on site just yet.

Saturday afternoon marked a return to Fishlake and this time, we couldn’t see enough Chiffchaff- they could be seen singing away all over the place. Although we didn’t see a remarkable number of birds, it was lovely to wander and enjoy the sunshine- Celandines in full bloom,  as well as lots of Brimstone and a single Tortoiseshell butterfly fluttering and basking in the sun. Nature really is a wonderful thing that we all take for granted.

I can’t wait for April and the Hobbies, Osprey and other migrants it will (hopefully) begin to bring to Fishlake. Hello Spring- lovely to see you again.

Jo

Four – Four

Some of you may remember from my top 10 post that Hawfinch is one of my 2012 target birds. Along with Ruff, it also features on Chris’s Top 10 (which although you don’t know, I do!) so we’ve both been itching to get out there and find one. Having seen reports of up to 10 of these birds at Lakeside Country Park in Eastleigh (pretty much just down the road), I knew that I had to make a trip. The two of us set off this morning and had our first ever Hawfinch success. Whilst another couple we met there were lucky enough to have seen a group of 5 shortly before we arrived, we did manage to see a lone bird twice- WOW these are gorgeous birds! Although I knew they were large they really are a massive finch in the flesh.

Neither of us had ever been to Lakeside before and its a lovely little Oasis tucked between Eastleigh town centre and Southampton Airport with a Country Park, lots of fishing, kayaking and a model steam railway. Given its fairly urban location, I was surprised at the variety of birdlife we spotted. On the water, we spied 5 Great Crested Grebe amongst the Black Headed Gulls, Coot, Mallard, Canada and Greylag Geese with a few Moorhen and Jackdaw rummaging around the grassy banks. Overhead, we saw a miscellaneous falcon (my money’s on Kestrel), Sparrowhawk and Buzzard soaring.

Just about to head home, we were given a boost when the same couple who had seen 5 Hawfinch told us they’d just seen 3 Water Rail all together (some people have all the luck) in the marshes below the Railway tunnel so we quick footed it in the right direction. Whilst we didn’t catch sight of the Rails nor the Woodcock that had previously been reported, we did see a resplendent male Reed Bunting singing his heart out from a shrub-top as well as the most amazing Green Woodpecker I’ve ever seen. Absolutely convinced he needed to sit atop a post and survey the grass, we saw him flit from tree, to booting a Magpie off a post and then from fencepost to fencepost giving us spectacular views of his bandit-like black mask.

Whilst we spied a late Winter visitor in the form of a Redwing, Spring is now most definitely in the air- lots of gorgeous blossom, 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebe (sadly no courtship display), a pair of Canada Geese getting rather fruity and lots of singing Chaffinch, Great Tit and our Mr Reed Bunting. My Spring highlight of the day was watching a pair of Long Tailed Tits at very close range gathering moss from tree trunks to line their nests with. Not a bad lot of sightings (plus 3 yearticks) for just over an hour!

A brilliant start to my weekend. Now I’m off out for a girly tea and cake session with friends.

Another trip (and some potential twitching) planned for tomorrow, so fingers crossed our luck continues. I’ve been having a great week so far, as well as my binoculars, I found out on Thursday that I’ve won another birdy prize- a signed copy of ‘The Biggest Twitch’ as our Bearded Tits scooped the ‘Best Bird’ prize from the Naturebites Bird Race!

Jo

If you’re a local and want to see a Hawfinch yourself (or miniature model railways are your thing), the Country Park can be found here: