|Spanish Sparrow and House Sparrow, Calshot, 28 January 2012|
With birding in Kent pretty settled I had discussed a day in Hampshire with Gary last weekend. On Friday he called me and asked if we were going: I quickly confirmed. So at 06:30 I picked Gary up and headed down the A3 to the Hampshire coast. We started at Warblington, driving down Church Lane checking the fields for a small white egret. Gary shouted 'There it is' and we stopped. Looking to the left there was indeed an Egret, but it was a Little. Scanning the field found three more, all Little's and all eating earth worms brought to the surface by the light drizzle. We continued on to the Church and made our way to the field at the rear. The cows had been brought in for milking and the Cattle Egret was nowhere to be seen. We checked all the fields several times and even looked in the farmyard, but no joy. Not quite the start we hoped for. A Chiffchaff along a small ride was the only highlight, giving great views as it fed in the small, streamside bushes.
We decided to give Hayling Island a look for the Shore Lark, and with the aid of an old Birding Site Guide located the southern end of the Oyster Beds. We initially scanned the water, which at low tide, hosted 7 Black-necked Grebe, and a dozen Red-breasted Merganser. At the pools we met two very helpful local guys who first showed us where the Shore Lark had bee hanging out and then located it for us. It spends its whole time on a small raised bank in the middle of the Oyster Bed and for us gave reasonable views from the bank footpath. A small group of Dark-bellied Brent Geese gave good views in the pool and an interesting Little Egret flew past showing apparently dark tips to its primaries. I am not sure if this was a plumage anomaly or mud caught on the feathers during feeding. Either way this feature could suggest a Little Blue Heron...
|Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Hayling Island|
|Little Egret, Hayling Island. Note the odd dark tips to the primaries.|
|Shore Lark, Hayling Island|
Next we headed along the A27 towards Southampton and then down to the boating lake at Gosport. Here we quickly located )in fact Gary had seen it before I'd even bought the parking ticket) the adult Ring-billed Gull and managed some close views until a rather inept photographer flushed it.
The next target was the wintering (or perhaps now resident) Spanish Sparrow that had been found in gardens at Calshot over Christmas. Though I've seen many hundreds of these abroad, I had never previously seen this species in Britain. We arrived at the site to find just a couple of other birders and had just missed the bird in the Russian Vine. While looking around the housing estate we missed it again, when it appeared on a feeding station in a resident's garden. When we managed to miss it a third time I gave up hunting and went indoors, looking through the kitchen window with the owners. They assured me it was sat in the honeysuckle at the back of the garden, unseen, And eventually they were proven right when it joined the mass of House Sparrow, and two Reed Bunting on the seed they had put out to attract it. Good views were had over the next hour or so when it occasionally came out into the open.
|Spanish Sparrow, Calshot|
At one point all the Sparrows retreated into the cover of the bushes, and this beast of a female Sparrowhawk crashed into the garden.
|A Sparrow's worst nightmare - the silhouette of a Sparrowhawk passes over|
After thanking the house owners and contributing to their collection for the Hampshire Wildlife Trust we drove north west into the New Forest. We soon arrivied at Hawkhill Enclosure and after a short walk found ourselves withi ten feet of the Dark-eyed Junco feeding on a seeded stump beside the path. Gary had seen this American visitor a few weeks ago but the views were poor - what a contrast to today, sharing the scene with just a couple of other birders.
|Dark-eyed Junco, Hawkhill Enclosure, New Forest|
In the trees above the Junco a couple of Common Crossbill gave great views as they stripped bark from the branches. A very pale Redpoll appeared briefly and a small group of Siskin flew over unseen.
|Male Common Crossbill, Hawkhill Enclosure, New Forest|
|Female Common Crossbill, Hawkhill Enclosure, New Forest|