A Warbler A Day

A Warbler a day keeps the doctor at bay – Wildlife sightings from Hamsphire and beyond

Both Ends of the Test Way

Thankfully I appeared to miss the rain that was forecast this weekend and was able to take some nice nature walks. On Saturday I went up to Coombe Gibbet, where the Test way starts, in search of Ring Ouzel and Wheatear, neither of which were around. Fortunately there were plenty of Red Kites flying low over the downland, giving excellent views. A couple of Ravens flew over the southern slope. All along the ridge there were singing Skylarks and some Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers and Linnets were also seen . After lunch I went in to Hungerford and walked to Freemen’s Marsh. This was alive with singing warblers such as Blackcap and Chiffchaff. I got my first brief glimpse of a Sedge warbler for this year but the best was a Lesser Whitethroat. I was alerted to its presence but its rattling trill and after 5 minutes of searching finally spotted it as it flew between bushes.

Yesterday was not so great for birds, mostly seeing the usuals. However I did find an interesting moth at the security light of my flat. My first ever Streamer, a very attractive Geometrid moth.

Today I went to the other end of the Test Way in Totton. I started off at Goatee Beach, Eling where in amongst a distant group of Mute Swans there was a Black Swan. The bushes and trees around the picnic area held plenty of warblers including my first Whitethroats of the year. I next headed to the Lower Test Marshes Nature Reserve. Walking along the southern boardwalk to the hide I saw very little but coming back there were some little beauties. From one of the viewing screens I saw a Cetti’s Warbler flying into a bush. My best view this year clearly seeing its russet back and rounded tail. This was surpassed a few minutes later as I spotted a bird landing on one of the rails along the boardwalk. I got it in my binoculars to find it was only a House Sparrow but then immediately a second landed next to it, which was unmistakeably a male Whinchat. Lovely! My route round the reserve then took me to the Northern boardwalk where I got a nice view of a singing Sedge Warbler before walking back though the woods where I spotted a Jay, a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper as well as a getting a glimpse of either a Stoat or a Weasel. I ended the day a Testwood Lakes where I saw several Sand Martins and my first Little Ringed Plover of the year. It was also a good day for butterflies with plenty of Orange Tips flying as well as all 3 species of Cabbage White, Brimstones, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells.

Warbling in the Spring Sun

I’ve enjoyed another sunny weekend in Hampshire. Yesterday I went to Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve. When I arrived it was high tide and resting on the shingle bank by the harbour there was a small flock of Turnstones and Sanderlings. The scrapes were as usual dominated by the very noisy and very argumentative colony of Black-headed Gulls. However in amongst were some nice waders; a flock of Black-tailed Godwits, resplendent in their copper summer plumage, and half a dozen Avocets. The woodlands and scrub were good for warblers with several singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. I even saw a Cetti’s Warbler flying between bushes, twice. I ended the day with a walk around Hook with Warsash where I saw my first Wheatear of the year, a very handsome male.

Today i went on another of my regular walks from West Down, Chilbolton along the Test Way to Wherwell and back across Cow Common. As with yesterday there were loads of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing, many of them giving good views. The walk ended with my first Willow Warbler of the year singing its lovely song from the top of a birch tree. Whilst on the common I saw a Red Kite flying low at the same time as distant high-flying Buzzard. It was also a good day for lepidoptera. 5 species of were seen, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock, and Green-veined and Large White. I also got a glimpse of an Orange Underwing moth flying up into a birch tree on West Down.

The swallows return

After a couple of brief glimpses of Martins I finally got my first clear view of a Hirundine today as at least 1 swallow was flying around the stables across the road from my flat. Several pairs usually nest there so hopefully this is the first one arriving back for the summer. In other news this week I saw a pair of Blackcaps today on Bury Hill and yesterday my first Orange Tip of the year.

Nocturnal creatures in daylight!

I spent another few days in my Essex homeland and as usual managed some birdwatching on the marshes fringing the river Thames. I mostly saw the usual selection of winter wildfowl and waders – Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pochard, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits. At Bowers Marsh there was a sizable flock of Avocets. From the hide at Wat Tyler Country Park I was shown a pair of Snipe, however the Jack Snipe that had been there earlier in the week was not to be seen. Neither were the Cetti’s Warblers or Bearded Tits, though they were heard. I had better luck with raptors. At Rainham Marsh I saw Peregrine flying out across the river and a distant Marsh Harrier. I got a better view of one the next day as flew slowly along the river at Coalhouse Fort. The most surprising bird seen during my time in Essex was a couple of very early House Martins, recognisable due to their white rump, flying over the saline lagoon at Bowers Marsh. However this sighting was trumped by seeing 3 foxes in 2 days, one in my parents back garden at 9 in the morning, the others both seen in the middle of the day at Wat Tyler CP and Tilbury Fort.

I broke up my journey back to Andover with a walk round Frensham Little Pond. More good birds were seen, this time of a woodland and heathland variety – Brambling, Siskin, Crossbill, Woodlark. I also saw a species of day-flying moth which I had never seen before. 3 Orange Underwings flying around birch trees, their foodplant. The most astonishing sight though was actually at the car park where at 2pm there was a bat, probably a Pipistrelle, flying through the trees. Amazing!

Redpolls, Warblers and Other Small Birds

I’ve had a another successful weekend birdwatching. On Saturday I went again to Blashford Lakes nr Ringwood. The first birds I saw on the feeder by the car park were 2 Redpolls, one of which appeared definitely larger and paler. I am 95% certain it was one of the Mealy Redpolls that have been seen around the reserve all winter, though not previously by me. unfortunately there were no experts on hand to confirm it. From the Woodland Hide I saw plenty more Redpolls, all of the Lesser variety as well as some very smart looking male Siskins, a Coal Tit, a Reed Bunting and a Nuthatch. From the Ivy Lake hides there were still fair numbers of Teal plus the odd Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard and Great Crested Grebe. However the Garganey that was seen the day before did not make an appearance. In the afternoon I walked across to the hides overlooking Ibsley Water. On the way there I heard, and then saw, my first singing male Blackcap of the year to go with the many singing chiffchaffs. On Ibsley Water there were lots of Shovelers, a dozen or so Pintails and 3 Goosanders. From the Goosander Hide I spent several minutes watching a pair of Little Grebes diving to catch a variety of items to eat. Disappointingly the were no Sand Martins yet at the nest bank. From Blashford I drove through the New Forest to Eyeworth Pond where the resident Mandarin Ducks were showing nicely. I walked up on to Longcross Plain, seeing my first Treecreeper on the year as well as some Meadow Pipits and Stonechats.

Sunday morning I went for a quick stroll around Rooksbury Mill. In a bush by the small ponds next to the mill I saw not one but 2 Kingfishers, the larger female appeared to be eating a fish which may well have been presented by the smaller male as a pair bonding gift. A couple of minutes later a pair of Sparrowhawks glided over head. Not bad for a 20 minutes walk.

An Unexpected Firecrest

Today, as work had taken me down to Totton, I ended the day down at Goatee Beach nr Eling Tide Mill. I expected to see waders and gulls, which I did, but nothing special. However in a small tree by the beach I spotted a small bird flitting through the branches. My original thought was Chiffchaff but then I saw its back which was a much richer green than would be expected. Firecrest maybe? After peering into the tree for a couple of minutes I got brief but clear view of the bird’s wide pale eyestripe. It was definitely a Firecrest. It’s strange how on Saturday I heard several Firecrests singing in a well-known site for them but got no views and then today I see one when I least expect it. Bur what a pleasant surprise it was!!

A Raptor Walk

This afternoon I went on a guided walk organised by the Hants & IOW Wldlife Trust. We met at the top of Nuthanger Down nr Sydmonton. Th main purpose of the walk was to look for raptors. It did not prove to be difficult as several Red Kites flew low over the nearby fields and at one point at least 20 Buzzards were seen spiralling in the distance. In fact it was the small birds that were most interesting, particularly in a ploughed field and its hedgerow. several Skylarks were seen flying low across the fields, flocks of Linnets and Fieldfare were feeding and in amongst a flock of Chaffinches in the nearby trees were a few Bramblings (a year tick) and Yellowhammers.