Thursday, 23 May 2013

Early March - 2013

To say March started with a bang for me was a bit of an understatement, another Patch Mega found its way into my notebook on the 2nd during a sunny saturday afternoon walk along the river. Taking my time as normal and giving the reed edge a good scan I totally missed the Bittern that erupted from the water edge about 3ft away, scaring me out of a good 10 years of my life, I quickly tried to setup my tripod, fumbling with my camera as this awesome mythical patch bird disappeared across the water meadows. As you can see from below I didn't manage a picture worthy of posting, but what a bird to have wintering on the patch about 300 yards from the front door.

This weekend also signalled the return of the Barn Owls to the water meadows, maybe I had just missed them throughout the winter but I manage to see two different birds hunting the long grass a good mile or so apart on both saturday and sunday afternoons.  

Distant Barn Owl
With my workload during the day starting to pick up due to our Tradeshow event at the NEC in April, finding time to visit Rooksbury Mill at lunchtime pretty ceased to exist, a trend that I still haven't had chance to remedy. So the odd evening I could sneak out on the river proved crucial in discovering the comings and going of spring.

Plenty of Duck life on the waterways with the Mallard Drakes starting to loose a little of the stunning colour they've held for most of the winter, Gadwall seem to be present in a lot higher numbers than throughout the past couple of months, showing up in groups of 6+ on various parts of the patch.

Mallard Drake
Gadwall At Dusk
The Goldcrests still seemed to be present everywhere as I counted a whopping 13 singing birds one evening on a river circuit walk, with the now daily increasing addition of Chiffchaffs that also got into double figures. The local Kestrels seemed to be quite active showing up quite often, along with a pair of Buzzards one with particularly pale coloration's.

One evening on the way home from work, I was positive I saw a lone Hawfinch rise up with the flock of Chaffinches feeding on the edge of the main road through the village, a quick look back for the next couple of nights confirmed that it must have just been a bloody big Chaffinch.

By the middle of the month a lot of Fieldfare and Redwing were showing up in the garden and around the fields surrounding the house, maybe fuelling up for there journey onwards, with several Redwing venturing quite close to the front room window for a stunning view one drab morning.

On the 16th Nat was down for the weekend so we took off down to Farlington Marshes, with reported sightings of Spoonbill & Red-breasted Goose over the past couple of days I thought it was about time I got some slight rarities on my year & county list. On a pretty drab day with plenty of rain in the air we soon picked up a white dot feeding on the far side of the reserve, Spoonbill or at least what looked like a Spoonbill. At this stage of the month there were still plenty of Brent Geese around Langstone Harbour as small skeins flew this way and that landing out on the mudflats and then coming back in again to feed on the grassy meadows.

If Brent Geese were still present in their thousands, Shelduck congregated in their hundreds, I don't think I have ever seen so many in one place. As we walked around to the far side of the reserve we spotted a strange Cape/Ruddy Shelduck hybrid sleeping in amongst the more striking commoners. This also gave us a better view of the Spoonbill now feeding on the shallow lagoon, brilliant to see it working its head back and forth bill under the water sifting through for food.

Incoming Shelduck
We encountered plenty of other species, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Stonechat, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Egret, Sanderling, Dunlin, Kestrel & Sparrowhawk, but two new year ticks came as we almost made it back to the car, a female/juvenile Marsh Harrier rising up from the reed bed and spooking the thousands of Brent Geese that were feeding nearby, quite the sight.

If one stunning raptor wasn't enough we caught a quick glimpse of a female Merlin zooming between bushes further down the path. No Red-breasted Goose but well worth the visit.

With stomachs rumbling, a quick stop in Pizza Hut replenished the energy levels as we drove around the expanse of Langstone Harbour to the Spinnaker Tower and the seafront at Southsea. Having seen the reports on going birding for most of the winter I suddenly had the urge to try for what would be a new lifer for me, having not taking the species of birds I've seen throughout my life to seriously until a couple of years ago, I still have no recollection of catching up with this species before, the Purple Sandpiper, a winter visitor to our shores and one that doesn't visit in huge numbers. 

With high counts of 21 and 27 recorded during the winter, but none posted for a couple of weeks I wasn't sure if my luck would be in or not. So braving the now brighter but defiantly blowier weather we wandered along the promenade right up to the castle and believe it or not just 3ft the other side of the railings, 3 tiny little Purple Sandpipers hunkered down in any cracks they could find sheltering from the bitter wind. 

I never once imagined I would see them so close, and had to admit I was shocked by how they were to find. So as usual another good days birding down on the south coast.

Purple Sandpiper

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