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.