Thursday, 21 February 2013

First's For Me - 27th Jan

So I get a message late on the saturday afternoon from Joe at - This Isn't Portland Birding asking if I fancy going for some unusual Hampshire visitors the next day. Bewick's Swan, Tundra Bean Geese & Green winged Teal all possibles. With the sun out and shining by midday we arrived at the Avon floods at Harbridge, after geeing himself up Joe did manage to drive through the puddle that flooded the road, and we quickly found our way around to a roadside field covered in Mute Swans.

Ditching the car on the side of the road we were soon peering over the 5-bar gate into the corn field beyond. Turns out the dairy farmer was also present spreading the field in a fresh covering of cow shit. As if the smell of the country wasn't enough to contend with, a chainsaw started in the hedgerow on the opposite side of the field causing the majority of the Swans to take flight and disappear. I did manage to pick out 3 Bewick's in amongst the blur of white. I must admit the sound of 35 or so Swans wingbeats at close range is quite something.

The Bean Geese had been seen in the same field the night before, but no sign on this occasion so we spent quite a while scanning the distant floods, and trying to pick out the Greylag & Canada Geese to no avail. Plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing & Starling all making use of the extra waterways.

We braved the flooded road again and parked up on the Bridge to have a good look from a different angle. The Bewick's reappeared no more than 70 yards away and gave some nice views, my first outside of the Slimbridge grounds.

Giving up on the Geese we drove the mile or so down the road to Blashford Lakes, Joe had spent the majority of Saturday afternoon scanning for the Green-winged Teal so thought we would have another bash from the Ivy north screen. Finding a GWT in amongst c.2000 other Common Teal isn't an easy task, and after an hour or so we gave up. Plenty of Canada Geese, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot and the odd Pochard also on the Ivy lake.

Walking back towards the car we picked up the two Black-necked Grebes on the Rockford lake, at a relatively viewable distance along with some more Pochard, a dozen or so Goldeneye and a lone Kingfisher. The pathway back to the car also brought a couple of Bullfinch the male look stunning a top the nearest tree.

From one side of the Forest to the other, I had been meaning to visit Mercer Way in Romsey for some time in the hope of seeing the wintering flock of Hawfinches. Numbers logged on GoBirding had peaked at 35, so hopefully the chance of seeing my first had pretty good odds. We turned up in the middle of this housing estate and headed over to a small park area of rough grass and a few trees beside the canal. I must admit I wasn't overly confident that the UK's most illusive finch would be here in abundance.

Spying a group of birders over the far side we headed over, they were watching a Brambling low down in the brambles by a nearby puddle. Joe's finely tuned ear soon picked up the call of some birds in a small clump behind us, so we left the small group to there brambling and soon picked up 4 or 5 Hawfinch in amongst the trees. Its not until you see this bird in the flesh do you realise how huge they are. Several came and went, flying in and out ever 2 or 3 minutes, occasionally dropping down to drink from a muddy puddle.

Unfortunately getting photographs isn't the easiest, although they were quite prone to sitting proudly on the branches of certain trees, there always seemed to be a lot of debris in front of the bird. So no clean photographs, and I apologise for the quality of this one but I had to post, my first ever Hawfinch!

So not a bad day out all in all, 2 new 'Lifers' for me in the form of Black-necked Grebe & Hawfinch, and Joe even managed to catch up with the Green winged Teal a week or so after. Joe's GWT

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