Sunday, 8 February 2009

Fawley & Keyhaven Marshes

I can't believe I dipped it again. The Red-crested Pochard was reported 30 minutes before I got there, yet no sign on arrival at Badminston Gravel Pit, neither on any of the nearby lakes.

I was about to leave the area to move onto Keyhaven, when I had a hunch to go back to Badminston and view the pig field from a different angle. And what a relief!! There sat in a big puddle amongst Gulls was the Red-crested Pochard, yaaayyyy, about bloody time! I enjoyed watching the bird for about 2 minutes before it realised I was there, as did the Gulls, all of which made a quick get away after.

Well, there wasn't much point in sticking around any longer, ideas of visiting Beaulieu Road Station for the Great Grey Shrike were scrapped - maybe next week. So I headed in the direction of Keyhaven with Emma - god her list is improving quickly! Parking at Fishtail Lagoon we walked up towards the Avon Floods, with nothing really worth noting. However on coming back a Barn Owl flew out from the Avon Floods, and a flock of Linnets near Iley Point revealed the Twite, the second county tick of the day. The last 30 minutes of light were spent with the Barn Owl hunting in fairly windy conditions.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Warsash & Fawley

Another fairly early start to get down Warsash before Emma had to be in college for her drama rehearsals, the Long-tailed Duck showed well, even though it was in dull light, this is the first time I have had the oppertunity to photograph this species, so I was happy with any result. The Duck soon moved onto The Solent.

Shame the Pochard couldn't be as co-operative as this © Ashley Howe

I then went into College with Emma, and waited in the car for at least hours before she was done....thats what type of good boyfriend I am haha. But was rewarded with a second attempt at the Red-crested Pochard...that I dipped yet again.....but hey, there was Mallards!!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Fawley, Pennington & Hurst

What a fine start to the day today was, no sign of the Red-crested Pochard at Badminston Gravel Pits, though I think we had sussed out the right pit. Whipping out the local map we visited a few potential site that the bird could have gone to without any success, with nothing else worth mentioning.

Next to Normandy Marshes, where the Red-breasted Goose was grazing with...umm...Wigeon, before rejoining the Dark-bellied Brent Geese and showing pretty well. On Normandy Lagoon there was also a redhead Goosander, and on searching for the Twite there was an Avocet and Slav Grebe offshore.

Looks like we got it just in time in Hants before it headed East with the Brents to West Wittering © Ashley Howe

From Hurst before we left for home, a Red-throated Diver was the only thing worth noting, disappointing compared to totals that have been seen from there recently.

Little Egret by the car (c) Ashley Howe

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Tundry Pond

I had an interview at the Blackpool and Fylde College, but that wasn't till the afternoon, which meant we could take time in getting up there, so my Dad and I briefly stopped at Tundry Pond with a few handbrake turns and skids on the icey roads to help the trip more enjoyable. On site there was no sign of any of the 4White-fronted Geese in amongst the Greylags and Canadas. But the Barnacle Goose was still there.

Also in the area was 2 Egyptian Geese, that were noisey, brief and mobile and it wasn't long before they departed to the North, a drake Goosander was on the lake. Heading North Red Kite were just the wrong side of the border.

Again, in dull light, early in the morning, 2 Egyptian Geese by the lake before they quickly departed northwards © Ashley Howe

And for those who give a flying toss, the interview went well, and I recieved a conditional offer into a Wildlife Photography course.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


As part of the search for the Iceland Gull which was at Weston in the morning, I broadened the search heading back down to Southsea, where there has recently been decent numbers down there, including an adult and 2nd winter Glaucous Gulls.

On arrival the 2nd winter was just offshore feeding in the surf, as was 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls. Further up the coast between the pier and castle was a Red-necked Grebe with a Great-crested Grebe about 100 yards offshore.

The 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull, again the adult managed to elude me, and one of the Mediterranean Gulls © Ashley Howe

Unfortunately there was no sign of the Iceland Gull, and no one else was able to pick it up either.

Saturday, 31 January 2009


An early start with Lee to get down to Southsea Castle at first light, because I had to be at work at 9:00am in town. Fortunately the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull was sat on the beach behind the pyramids, showing well, but photographs were shocking.

The 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull photographed in early morning, dull light © Ashley Howe

A walk along the coast revealed that there were 3 Purple Sandpipers, and just offshore was a Great Northern Diver.

Monday, 26 January 2009


A brief visit to Whiteley to try and get Emma Waxwings, but their was no sign of any today, though we spent a good hour visiting each individual road. However year ticks included Blackcap and Treecreeper.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Beaulieu Road Station, Pennington, & Barton-on-sea

I took a well earnt Sunday off from work which allowed Emma and myself to do more glorious birding in Hampshire, well it could have been if it had stopped pissing it down.

A Great Grey Shrike has been reported daily for the last week at Beaulieu Road, though the weather had be considerably weather...typical first sign of bad weather and it had disappeared. Though a wet walk didn't go without a reward, a male Hen Harrier graced us with a fly-by, a Raven croaked overhead, Dartford Warblers were occasional, a Kingfisher was at Bishop's Dyke and a flock of 20 or Lesser Redpolls were in the Birches, and still there was no sign of the Shrike by the time we had got back to the car.

Next stop was Hurst...nothing....Avon Valley, Rock Pipit and Marsh Harrier were added to the year list. A walk along the coast from Keyhaven to Pennington to Normandy added Spotted Redshank, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Slav Grebes being the only birds worth noting...again the Red-breasted Goose managed to elude me, argh!
The sun beginning to set over Oxey Marsh, this time with the tide out © Ashley Howe
The dieing hour of the day was spent at Barton-on-sea where Emma finally got her Owlies (Short-eared Owls to people who aren't mentally challenged) which sat about the Golf Course for 30 minutes before we left.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Farlington Marshes

Not a particularly eventful afternoon, I finished work at 2 as usual, and straight down to Farlington again, hopeful of the Short-eared Owls a second time round. It wasn't to be, yet again, and so no added time was wasted here.

Only birds of note included a Merlin and the Avocets.

Friday, 16 January 2009


Ok, its taken me a while to realise this, but why the fuck haven't I pulled my finger out already and gone to see the Snowy Owl? Even my teachers at college were asking whether I had been down to see it, so I took this as an indication that they wouldn't mind me missing a days worth of lesson to actually go and see it.
2nd thing to think about; how to get down there, everybody in Britain has seen it already, hmm?
My reply to this is perhaps the craziest idea I have ever head: "Ok, sod it, i'll ride!!"
After work yesterday I prepared the bike for a big effort twitch, I don't know what made me do this, but this is commitment to the birding society. Hitching a series of Trains at 11pm from Eastliegh - Basingstoke - Reading - Penzance, I arrived the following morning at around 8am. The 10 miles or so North to Zennor were much more tiring than expected, no helped by the fact I was constantly climbing hills. A short break in between where I utilised my time by proding a freshly killed corpse in the form of a Woodcock. Approaching Zennor and I really which I had fixed my break before embarking on this trip. Tough tits I didn't.

On arrival it took me no longer than 10 minutes to locate the bird sat shoulder height in thick heather. What a relief when I realised I hadn't strained both testicles for nothing. Wow, I was expecting it to be this big! I sat tight for at least 2 hours just admiring the bird from a safe distance, in that time a few birders came and went, and the bird was becoming more active, reaching and stretching etc.

A heavily cropped image of the Snowy Owl, when sat like this, it doesn't make you realise just how big this bird is © Ashley Howe

It was just a matter of time before it flew - hopefully in my direction.

Does it now? Ok, it didn't fly past me, but it was close enough © Ashley Howe

The return leg was comparitably easier, managing to complete the ride in half the time it had taken to get their, however my next reward was a fanny-tastic full english breakfast before embarking on the 6 hour train up to Reading again.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Titchfield Haven & Farlington Marshes

I finished work at 2, so very limited on light left. Sticking to one side of Hampshire, Titchfield Haven was the first place we stopped at. As usual I couldn't be arsed paying to go in the reserve, and too stubborn to give Emma the pleasure of entering her first proper reserve.

To be honest there was no need, the drake Scaup was viewable from the bridge, and i couldn't care less about some plastic Barnacles which could be potentially counted on the hampshire year list. Best bird of the day was offshore: a juvenile Little Gull fed briefly on the surf before heading West.

North Binness Island had held Short-eared Owls all week, until today, where we and Dan Houghton missed the buggers....end of day.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Bursledon, Petersfield & Gosport

Fridays, I don't usually have many lessons, so I took the oppertunity to meet up with Mr. Fuller and do abit of touring around Hampshire. I had more lessons later that afternoon so we still had to be quick - Lee just bunked the whole day, oh how I wish my attendance wasn't so poor that I could bunk more lessons!

First port of call was Bursledon where Waxwings had recently taken up residency, eventually finding then, we used the car as a car as a hide to get closer. I only had my bins, but used Lee's 30D to get record shots.

Part of the 23 Waxwings which thought they could elude us by feeding somewhere else © Ashley Howe

Secondly, up to Petersfield, where the drake Ring-necked Duck was back at Passfield Pond, missing it the first time of passing because it was behind the island, lead us to find 3 Mandarin (2 drakes) and a Kingfisher. The Ring-necked Duck eventually showed well for us, but photos were shit as the light deteriorated as we headed North.

Heading South and the light improved greatly, Lee told me of this stunning Black Redstart in Gosport that he had recently seen, and so this was where we went next. He wasn't lieing. Possibly the most obliging Redstart I have ever seen, if only I had my own camera today.

How stunning is that? © Ashley Howe

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Hampshire Hatches

Another lifer up for grabs, this one just a UK400 tick however. My third of the year, and possibly the hardest so far to get. Not knowing that area of Hampshire well, Emma and myself took a gamble, meeting Lee and Andy (non-birding loser ;-).

Heading in the general direction, we could hear the Geese, trying to navigate around the wooded area and river was subsequently harder. Attempting so flushed several Snipe, Woodcock and an individual Jack Snipe, before finding a 'fairly' safe crossing. Covered in ice, I balanced myway across the bog, only to get three quarters across, and the amusement of the others, falling through, and drenching myself. I wasn't going to be stopped though, and so was rewarded with distant and lucky view of the Tundra Bean Goose. Unfortunately this was only thing we had time for...

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Saltholme, Cleveland

A slow journey North because Mick didn't want to sleep in the car when it was as cold as it was. Taking about 10 hours from Kent at about 50mph...what did I care, I slept throughout....but the intervals I was awake for I saw no more than 3 Barn Owls and a Little Owl at a piss stop.

Arriving just after first light, there were some dodgy claims, which turnt into nothing, a few false alarms, and it looked to be turning into a nightmare. I love it when I get the wrong idea about twitches.

A Gull flying over, had the Evans crew fussing as to whether it was or not, neither could decide what they had seen. While this was happening a man drove up the road, shouting out his window "It's round the back, turn left at roundabout at the bottom".

The Rush was on, having dipped the first Glaucous-winged Gull, there was no messing, I have never seen Lee and Mick move so fast back to the car, reckless driving was the name of the game, over taking by driving down the right-hand side of the road got us there a tad quicker.

On arrival, the GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL was sat behind the tip, with just a couple of Herrings Gulls, in the ten minutes before the rest of the crew arrived, it was amongst around 100 Gulls and it was mostly obscurred, before eventually giving itself up again to the masses...

Thank God!! Never thought this one would come so quickly...!!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Rainham Marshes, Folkestone, Hythe, & Isle of Sheppey

An early start at Rainham Marshes with the 2 Penduline Tits along the reeds at Aveley Pools. A brief look for the Serin drew blanks, before heading South East down to Folkestone Industrial Estate. A dodgy dealer approaching Lee and myself attempting to sell knock-off goods prevented us for photographing the Waxwings straight away.

The second Penduline Tit canj ust be made out on the bullrush behind, unfortunately this image was taken under terrible light © Ashley Howe

But at least 20 birds were together, which soon disappeared. We soon relocated the birds. Showing well and come down onto the berries to feed offering some great photo oppertunities.

Once they came down onto the berries, then some decent photo oppertunities came along © Ashley Howe

Onto Hythe where the Night Heron was still showing very well. Unbelievably at the same site as the Green Heron in October. We were there for a good hour and did the bird move once? Nope!!

The Heron didn't change from this pose for a whole hour! © Ashley Howe

In this time the Glaucous-winged Gull in Cleveland was confirmed, and we new we weren't going home later...

We continued the day with Dungeness, where we were basically too lazy to go anywhere so went into the visitor centre and left again. There were 3 Bewick's Swans along the road on the way out, as was a Marsh Harrier.

Up to Isle of Sheppey and the Rough-legged Buzzard, performed the best that i had seen it in the fast 4 years of visiting the island. A load of Marsh Harriers, and a Barn Owl were the only notable birds seen. Although it was unbelievably cold and it was threating to rain, neither of us could bear the element much more than necessary.

The journey up North began...

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Blashford Lakes

WHAT AN AFTERNOON!! After a late night at new years; a tad pissed leaving Emma slightly over the limit the next morning. We didn't leave till midday; probably shouldn't have gone out at all with all the alcohol consumed.

However it was well worth the effort, first port of call was the bewick's Swan. We connected with ease at Ibsley water meadows. 2 Adults and a single juvenile together. Further up the road, i had a tip off that there was a Caspian Gull on Mockbeggar North Lake. And infact the gen was correct with the adult still on there today.And a cracker it was too.

Trying all the lakes with access there was no sign of the Great-white Egret, but we were successful in picking up a few easier birds around the lakes including Green Sandpiper. Back on the actual reserve it took several minutes for the Bittern to show well enough for me to clap eyes on it, even Emmas beat me to it...

Leaving the hide, heading in the direction of the feeding stations there was a Firecrest showing well. From the feeding stations there was a mealy Redpoll with half a dozen or so Lesser Redpolls. Brambling, Siskin and Marsh Tit all visited the feeder in our presents.

Walking round to Ibsley Water the Great-white Egret happened to catch my eye on Rockford Lake on the near side, lucky to get this one out the way so early in the year!

On Ibsley Water, there was mostly the usual stuff with decent numbers of Goosander, especially as the afternoon progressed. Another Green Sandpiper flew past, which i got the Ingram crew on to with their new years day total - smashing the existing record further. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was also from the hide, the 2 Black-necked Grebes, although abit distant. A flock of Black-tailed Godwits flew in last thing, that was the last thing we got before heading back to the car and grabbing a fish 'n' chips on the way back.