Wednesday 29 November 2023

Warsash and Solent Shore

Wednesday 29 November

Jobs sorted and the sun actually shining albeit cold and cloudy outside, I decide to take a walk along the Warsash shore and on down to Southampton Water and the Solent.  The water was barely thirty minutes away from high tide so some very close Brent Geese, Redshanks and Turnstones as I made my way to the path alongside Strawberry Fields.  An as soon as I reached the first bushes a small number of feeding House Sparrows and a male Blackbird on the footpath ahead.  Overhead the first of very many Carrion Crows and a lone Greenfinch atop a distant tree.

Brent Geese Branta bernicla

Continuing on down to the School of Navigation a Robin or two in the nearby shrubs and bushes and a foraging Magpie whilst on the water itself the first Little Egret and a couple of Black-headed Gulls. Looking across to the Spit I could see a lone heron and many more Brent Geese as a dozen Canada Geese flew over me.  Once nearer the spit and with the sun behind me, I counted ninety resting Oystercatchers along with a few Wigeon and Teal plus a dozen Redshank.  However, it was the resting half-dozen Curlew that caught e attention.  On the open water out in the Solent a single feeding Black-throated Diver.

A few of the Wigeon Anas penelope

Reaching the Scrape I was surprised to see so few birds taking their rest during the high tide period.  Just a few Black-headed and a single Herring Gull along with six Shelduck, a Little Grebe, a trio of Mallard and hardly more than a handful of Teal.  A Moorhen made landfall on the larger island in front. Off the far left I found a few Gadwall but these were very much dwarfed by the twenty Canada Geese accompanied by a single Greylag Goose.  Then, right at the back of the water, I was able to pick out a half-dozen Snipe.

Distant Snipe Gallinago gallinago with a lone Teal Anas crecca

Moving on down to the Meandering Pool only produced a single Little Egret but in the trees to the back not only a single Woodpigeon and half a dozen roosting Starling but a score of sleeping Curlew in the back field.   But then, hidden away in the distant grass, a resting Roe Deer. Turning and making my way back home I came across a Kingfisher in the reeds to my right as I reached the Spit and then another Wren on the path as I approached Strawberry Fields.  Just the thirty species in almost three miles but good to be outside as the dry weather persisted with increasing cloud and a disappearing sun.

Record shot of the distant Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Greenfinch.

Very distant Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica

Sleeping Curlew Numenius arquata

A few on the 90 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus

Brent Geese and Wigeon in the lee of the Spit

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Cabo de Gata and Rambla Morales

 Wednesday 29 November

I note that Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group are back in my favourite Almeria birding site, Cabo de Gata; lucky people as I walk along the Solent shore at Warsash on Southampton Water in cold, cloudy weather, albeit the sun shining on the outward walk. A good selection of species seen and especially envious that I no longer see such birds as Iberian Grey Shrike and White-headed Duck.  You certainly need to enjoy these birds whilst they are around to be actually seen.

Cabo de Gata & Rambla Morales: Wednesday 29th November

Gilly and I set off early and headed south towards Cabo de Gata.  Our list began as we came off the motorway.  By the time we'd passed through Pujaire we'd logged Collared Dove, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Magpie and both Spotless and Northern Starlings.

Kevin had already arrived at the first hide having spent the night in the campervan.  He'd seen a pair of Hoopoes near the tower.  From the hide he'd added Greater Flamingo, Redshank, Mallard, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Yellow-legged and Slender Billed Gulls.  He kindly made us a cup of man! 

Greater Flamingos with a few Slender-billed Gulls (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

He spotted an Iberian Grey Shrike.  We scanned the water in front of us and saw what Kevin had seen. Gilly added a Kentish Plover.  We saw the first of many Stonechats.  I saw a Sardinian Warbler.  We were joined by Peter, Trevor and Val. Gilly found a distant raptor perched on a shrub.  We ummed and ah'd for a long time.  I thought it was a male Kestrel.  Unfortunately no one saw it fly off to confirm the identity. Whatever it was. it put 6 Eurasian Curlew to flight from the savannah.  Gilly logged a Chiffchaff.  A Grey Heron flew over.

Iberian Grey Shrike (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We had a coffee in the village then made our way to the beach opposite the second hide, checking for dotterel on the way without success.  Out to sea I spotted three adult Gannets.  As we walked over to the hide we saw Thekla Larks and some Greenfinch.  A flight of 4 Golden Plover flew over.  We didn't see any Stone Curlews on the savannah.  I did spot a single Barn Swallow.

We moved along to the public hide.  Kevin scanned the rocky causeway on the right and saw Shelduck, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.  I spotted a flock of flying Shoveler and a raft of Black-necked Grebes. Kevin found a Sanderling.  Gilly saw a Cormorant and Ringed Plover.  We departed via the church track seeing more Stonechats, Thekla Larks and Greenfinch.

The raft of Black-necked Grebes (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Peter headed off to Nijar whilst we made our way along the beachside track towards the Rambla Morales. 

We saw more Greenfinches and Stonechats.  At the estuary I spotted 5 Little Grebes and a Coot.  We walked towards the hump.  We saw a number of Greater Flamingos.  Near to them was a mixed raft of Common Pochard, Shoveler and White-headed Ducks.  From the hump I added a Moorhen and a Black-tailed Godwit. Trevor found some Dunlin.  We then departed, seeing a White Wagtail going through the short cut.

(From the top) Shoveler, Pochard and White-headed Ducks (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We saw 43 species in total.  A good days birding in good company.  Weather was hot & sunny, but was a bit chilly to start with.

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Sunday 26 November 2023

Blashford Lakes and Eyeworth

Robin Erathicus rubecula

Saturday 25 November

A most enjoyable morning's birding back in the New Forest at Blashford Lakes followed by a short stop at Eyeworth on the way home.  Leaving home no long after 9 the sun was shining in a clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight and no breeze at all.  On the other hand, the occasional fall of leaves and the very white countryside around me was most evident of the first real frost of the season, so plenty of layers at the ready!  And to think that nota week ago I had been in sunny Spain and able to do a little birding from our cruise ship with stops in Cartagena, Malaga and Cadiz.

Sunning Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo

Rather than the Tern Hide I went straight to the main reserve and headed down towards the Woodland Hide in the hop that it might be empty and chance to see some early morning feeders.  Both Robin and Blue Tit as I made my way along the initial footpath towards the Visitors Centre then a stop on the track just before the hide to check the small birds feeding atop the tall Alders to my right.  Initially, a small flock of Siskins but continued observation also revealed at least a quartet of Lesser Redpolls; a great start to the morning.  On down the to the hide itself and on my own to record the visiting Chaffinches, Greenfinches and many Goldfinches.  Naturally, both Dunnock and Robin were also seen and then along came the local Nuthatch and a couple of Blackbirds. A Magpie flew away at the back of the feeding station and a Long-tailed Tit was feeding in the tall trees as I made my departure.

Finch selection including (from top down); Chaffinch Fringilla colebs, Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, Siskin Carduelis spinus, Greenfinch Carduelis chloris and Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Passing the small pool to my right I noted  eight Mallards and once inside the Ivy South Hide chance to take note of the very many resting wildfowl.  Mainly Wigeon and Tufted Duck but also a fair number of Gadwall along with a handful of Shoveler and a single Pintail.  In addition, a single Moorhen but many more Coot long with a small number of Black-headed Gulls and a single Great Crested Grebe.  Both on the water and in the trees to my left a number of resting and sunbathing Cormorant as the Kingfisher flashed past a couple of times and to my far right a quartet of Mute Swans.

Male Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

Making my way back to the Woodland Hide I came across a foraging Jay and once in the Ivy North Hide picker up more Gadwall and Wigeon along with another Great Crested Grebe.

Jay Garrulus glandarius

On to the Tern Hide ross the road overlooking Ibsley Water where at least some of the Coots and Tufted Ducks were at this end of the lake.   Many more of both along with numerous Wigeon and Pochard at the far end but mot noticeably the great number of newly arrived Shovelers.  Three Herons noted at the far edge and a lone Buzzard resting atop a distant tree at the back of the water.  Following the large amount of rain these past few weeks no sign of any of the islands but a dozen or so Egyptian Geese were gathered together off to the far left.  Immediately on front of the geese amongst the Tufted Ducks, Coot and Wigeon I also managed to locate a lone Goldeneye.  Also at the far end a small number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a solitary Great White Egret.  Then, as I looked almost behind me to the left, not only a second Great White Egret but a Little Grebe.

Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca and Cormorants

Leaving the area to make my way home with a call in at Eyeworth I managed to find both Jackdaw and Carrion Crow further along the road and then taking the main road towards Fordingbridge noted the score or more Mute Swans on the flooded river  beyond Ibsley followed by a flock of forty Rooks grazing the field to my right.

Mainly Pintails Anas acuta

Once at Eyeworth for my fifteen minute stop many cars and a number of hikers out making the most of the sunny, if cold, weather.  On the pool a number of Mallard and a distant Moorhen.  The feeding area was, as expected, popular with the local birds and especially Chaffinches and tits, with a special note of the Coal Tit joining its Blue and Great cousins.  Robin, Dunnock and House Sparrows were also present before the arrival of the Song Thrush.  And the last birds of the day as I left for home a pair of departing Woodpigeon.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos

Birds seen:

Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Great White Egret, Heron, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll.

Male Blackbird Turdus merula

All of a whir Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

More Goldfinches, Greenfinches and a Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Nuthatch Sitta europaea

Sleeping Wigeon Anas penelope

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Thursday 23 November 2023

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Thursday 23 November

Whilst, with Jenny, I have been on a cruise to the Mediterranean Sea including stops at Cadiz, Malaga and Cartagena, Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group are once more out and about in the Almeria area following the former's return to Spain after having spent a few wet weeks back with relatives in the UK!  Indeed, upon arriving back in Southampton this morning after our twelve days, we were greeted with the news that there had been almost continuous rain whilst we were away - but today has been dry! Great day out for Dave and the Group and added a couple of my photos re all the reported Red-billed Choughs on view!

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 22nd November

Gilly and I have finally dried out after 5 weeks in the UK. Due to the weather we had no chance to do any birding whilst there.  Our first trip out with the group was to the Sierra de Maria....yes, we means both Gilly and I.  Richard and Juda met us outside our house and I drove us all using Richard's car.  The weather was clear and sunny, but as we climbed towards the mountains the temperature was dropping. Travelling from Velez Blanco towards Maria town I spotted five Griffon Vultures quite low on our left.  I also added a Song Thrush perched on a roadside tree.

We arrived at the meeting place, the La Piza forest cafe.  The last signs of frost on the fallen leaves was still visible.  Richard saw a Jay as we walked towards the cafe.  I saw a Collared Dove.  Some Crossbills and House Sparrows were drinking from the man made puddle.  I'd brought natural peanuts to fill the bird feeders.  Richard had mistakenly got salted peanuts which we couldn't use.  Remember someone had put Bombay Mix in the feeders.  That had gone only to be replaced by American hard gums.  Some very strange people in this avian world.  We were joined by Alan, Val and Trevor.  As we drank our hot, refreshing coffee we observed the first birds enjoying the nuts.  Gilly saw a Chaffinch, Richard, a Robin.  A Long -tailed Tit arrived, spotted by Gilly and I added a Great Tit before we headed off to "do" the loop.

We led with Alan & co following behind.  We saw nothing in the forest area.  Once we entered the open fields we spotted Carrion Crows, Corn Buntings and Spotless Starlings.  As we approached the village we added some Stonechats to the list.  We stopped for a scan.  Not seeing anything of interest we carried on along the track.  We saw small flocks of Linnets and more Stonechats and Corn Buntings.  Gilly added a Magpie and I observed some Woodpigeons.  We spotted a bird sitting on a rock not 10 metres from the track.  A male Merlin took off and eventually perched on a distant rock.  Alan and co were way behind so didn't see it.  Luckily I was able to point it out to them once they'd caught up.  Moving on we saw a covey of Red-legged Partridge.

Red-billed Chough (PHOTO: Bob Wright)

We were again way ahead of Alan when we got to the cliff face.  As we got out Gilly spotted a raptor fly a very short distance into a nearby shrub.  We thought it might be a Sparrowhawk, but when we next saw it flying low and fast across the valley we realised it was a female Peregrine Falcon.  After Alan and co had arrived Val heard and then spotted a pair of Red-billed Chough.  We walked to the far side of the cliff but didn't see anything further.  We carried on, seeing a perched Kestrel.  Near the airstrip we encountered a mixed flock of small birds which included Linnets, Thekla Larks, White Wagtails and at least one Meadow Pipit.  Later on we added Northern Wheatears and a charm of Goldfinches.  Near the cave house village I spotted a male Blue Rock Thrush atop an electricity pylon.  Also seen were another pair of Red-billed Chough, a Magpie and a Little Owl seen by Richard.  Alan and co also saw one.  As we approached the hamlet there were two more, one on a roof, the second on a pile of rocks.  I spotted some distant Griffon Vultures.  As we watched the numbers increased to about 25.  We continued to watch them as we drove along the plain.  I spotted a Raven amongst them.  We carried onto the water trough area. A  Mistle Thrush flew off as we parked up.  Alan found a tree with a few Rock Sparrows thereon. 

Red-billed Choughs at Zafarraya (PHOTO: Bob Wright)

We made our way back to the La PIaza forest cafe for lunch.  As we ate we added both Crested and Coal Tit to our list.  It was a great days birding in good company and weather!  Trevor correctly guessed the number of species seen as 35.

Sending our best wishes to Mike, Kath, David and Myrtle.
Sorry, no photos today.  I forgot the camera! Duh! 

Sorry to see that Dave is finally catching up with me and adding a few "senior moments."  On the other hand, I regularly leave the camera behind so that I can see more exciting birds!

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Tuesday 7 November 2023

Hayling Island

 Tuesday 7 November

Female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyermalis

Off early in lovely sunshine but a very cold breeze to the "Billy Line" reserve at the Hayling Island Oysterbeds, arriving at exactly 9 o'clock as the tide was making its way out.  Once parked up at the northern end car park, I was able to pick out a small number of Black-headed Gulls along with a half-dozen Black-tailed Godwits and a handful of Redshank.  A Carrion Crow passed overhead and I was to see many more once further down the coastal footpath foraging on the outer banks of the abandoned oysterbeds.  However, the target bird for the morning was the long-staying female Long-Tailed Duck in winter plumage that had been present for the past week.  Would the duck still be on site as I made may way to the oysterbeds?

Curlew Numenius arquata

Once at the coast I was able to immediately come across very many Brent Geese and this first small flock was accompanied by a Curlew, Grey Plover and Turnstone.  Almost immediately a huge flock of Dunlin flew past and I was later to find a resting flock of at least 60 individuals.

Brent Geese Branta bernicla

The next large bed held almost thirty Shelduck and then on the following small, grassy bed where I found both a Greenshank and Heron along  with more Redshanks.  Indeed, most of these beds held an isolated Little Egret.  

Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Once again, on the more open bed I came across not only Dunlins but a score or more Grey Plovers.  The Carrion Crows seemed to be well occupied at the water's edge and it was soon time to arrive at the main water which would normally hold hundreds of Breeding Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls.  On this occasion, apart from the odd Little Egret and Black-headed Gull there appeared to be no bird life but then the passing solitary Great Crested Grebe.  I though the water completely empty as I approached what looks like an abandoned bus shelter but then, to my great surprise and pleasure, there was suddenly a lone bird n the water.  Yes, the visiting female Long-tailed Duck which had been busy feeding underwater.  Watching the duck for a considerable time she seemed to spend almost a minute on the surface followed by what looked  like two taps of the head on the water then a dive.  Each dive seemed to last for about thirty seconds so with this regular timing an opportunity to try and be ready for the next photograph.  Indeed, this was to be the last species seen on the walk before making my return to the car.

More shots of the female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyermalis

Making my way back I took time to pay more attention to the many Grey Plover and then another Herring Gull followed by a pair of Magpies near the pool on my right having reached the old "Billy Line" and a last look at the large oysterbed on my left produced a pair of sleeping Wigeon.

Grey Plover Pluvuialis squatarola

With time to spare rather than straight home arriving in Warsash I deviated to drive down Workmans Lane and take a walk along the bottom of the horse fields.  Lots of Carrion Crows about along with a couple of Rooks and a pair of Magpies.  Towards the far end of the main track the field on the right held a pair of Oystercatchers and, suddenly, a flock of about forty Linnets accompanied the odd Goldfinch (and even a Robin) appeared near the last major puddle on the track to drink and bathe.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

Time to check the main field on the right and, as expected, very many feeding Pied Wagtails and more Carrion Crows but also a handful of Jackdaws in the trees at the back.  A large flock of Starlings passed over as I made my way back to the car.  Strange to find some very large mushrooms growing in the grass next to the viewing point at the fence, some almost twenty centimetres in diameter, but would they have been edible? 

What might these Mushrooms be?

Taking another look in the nature reserve on the other side of the road I could seen that the many Carrions Crows had been joined by almost thirty Curlews who had come to rest along side the pond created in a dip following the recent heavy rains.   In the end, a most enjoyable and rewarding morning.

The resting Curlew Numenius arquata flock

Birds seen:    

Brent Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Goldfinch, Linnet.

The female Female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyermalis

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Pair of sleeping Wigeon Anas penelope

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Sunday 5 November 2023

Warsash and Solent Shores

Friday 3 November

The storms have disappeared and the sun is once more shining above in the light cloud covering.  Even the wind has abated and is hardly more than a light breeze so what better way to start the day than walk along the shore at Warsash and on down to the Solent and Southampton Water.  With the tide starting its inward journey as soon as I reached the slipway I had a single Curlew along with up to forty Turnstone between this point and the shoreline below Strawberry fields.  Also present were a few Black-headed- Gulls along with the occasional Oystercatcher and Redshank.  A Carrion Crow came to forage along the shore and a Robin was seen on the path in front of me.

Curlew Numenius arquata

Then it was on down to the School of Navigation and the shore line to the north of the pier provided the first few Brent Geese along with more Black-headed and the occasional Herring Gull.  Both Magpie and Mallard were recorded on the small inland pond behind the wall.  To the south of the pier very many more Brent Geese and Redshanks plus another Curlew.

Brent Geese Branta bernicla

Arriving at the Spit and mouth of the Hamble River I could now see well in excess of two hundred Brent Geese and the first of the wintering Wigeon.  A small flock of Woodpigeons flew overhead and many Carrion Crows were making their way to the feeding are on the Solent side of the Spit. Just the single Little Egret to be seen but  I did find the resident pair of Great Black-backed Gulls.  Along with the many Brent Geese at least 80 Dunlin were feeding as a massed flock at the water's edge plus more Redshanks. Then, making my way alongside the Spit, a single female Goosander was a very pleasant surprise and, looking out into the Solent, a single feeding Great Crested Grebe.

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Carrion Crows Corvus corone waiting their turn at the feast

Moving on down to the Scrape an almost deserted water with just a single Black-headed Gull,  the one Little Grebe and four Pintail resting on the main island. Next the walk through the gorse are to the Meandering Pool which, again, just held a single Black-headed Gull.  As I approached this water a flock of two dozen Curlew flew over me at out over the Solent and at the back of the gorse area a  similar number of Black-tailed Godwits came to rest just beyond the tree line.  But with the sun behind me on the return walk I was rewarded with a trio of Sky Larks, eight Meadow Pipits and a total of three Stonechats.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

By the time I got back to the Scrape a handful of Black-headed Gulls and a pair of Gadwall also on the island.  As I left I stopped to study the resting female Chaffinch on a small rosebud bush alongside a Meadow Pipit with both taking their leave as a male Kestrel came to hover nearby.

Male Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Back at the Spit I walked as far as possible to get a closer look at the two Great Black-backed Gulls feeding a fish carcase alongside a number of Carrion Crows with a background of Brent Geese and at least sixty Oystercatchers.  On the lee side the resting Wigeon along with 28 Canada Geese and a single Greylag Goose enjoying their company.

Canada Geese Brant canadensis with (nearest) Greylag Goose Anser anser as seen below with Black-headed Gull Larus riddibundus

Moving on I stopped to have a few words and compare sightings with fellow birder, George Baker who pointed out the Common Gulls amongst the mainly Black-headed Gulls.  Meanwhile, a lone Starling was posing atop a sign post on the opposite side of the Spit as I continued homewards and found a lone Feral Pigeon feeding on the shore and a pair of Dunlin at the path exit towards Newtown Road.

Common Gull Larus canus with Wigeon Anas penelope

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Goosander, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch.

Female Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Starling Sturnus vulgaris looking larger with the tail shadow

Curlew Numenius arquata

Redshank Tringa totanus

Pintail Anas acuta

A few of the 70 Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus seen today

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