Thursday, 9 February 2012

Notes from Yesteryear (Part 1)

An archive of posts from my previous blog.. "Peter Jones's Hampshire diary" which resided for 6 years on the Surfbirds Blog site:

  (Text Only)

• Saturday, August 1, 2009 - Madeira 2009: Bats

A mixture of technical problems meant that I was unable to take any bat recordings until the final night of the holiday! However, my luck was in with both Leisler's and Madeiran Pipistrelle Bats easily detected about 5 minutes along the beach front from the hotel.


Madeiran Pipistrelle seemed very similar to Common Pip, with a peak frequency of 45KHz. They appeared to have a slightly faster call rate. A sample of the frequency division output is here.

Madeiran Pipistrelle Sonogram:



Leisler's Bats were calling from higher up the cliff face, and I didn't manage to see them. A sound file of the Frequency division output is here.

Leisler's Bat Sonogram:

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• Saturday, August 1, 2009 - Madeira 2009: Cory's Shearwater wav file


A very noisy colony of Cory's Shearwaters were calling every night form the cliffs above the hotel. A wav file of their calls is attached below:

Cory's Shearwaters over Calheta Beach Hotel .wav file
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• Friday, July 31, 2009 - Madeira 2009

Just returned from a super family holiday in Calheta, a quiet, sunny corner of Madeira. Saw just about all of my target birds for the trip, plus some other nice wildlife sightings. Highlights below:


Thursday 23rd July:
Stopped off at Lugar de Baixo which is a tiny freshwater pool. There was something different at this pool on each visit I made, but the best I could manage during the week were my first Common Waxbills. Other sightings were Common Tern, Yellow Legged Gull, Moorhen, Coot and Common Teal.


Friday 24th July 2009:
A trip to the Desertas Islands in fairly rough seas was very memorable with many Cory's Shearwaters passing close by and also a few Bulwers Petrels. Best of the photos are below. We did see a small number of Fea's / Zino's Petrels, but the views were usually very brief. On the Desertas Islands I got a photo of Berthelots Pipit, and also saw many Atlantic Canaries. On the return sailing back to Funchal, I was lucky enough to see a succession of Whale Blows, but they were too far to investigate further. We did encounter a group of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins at extreme close range.

Cory's Shearwater from the Venturas Boat:



Bulwer's Petrel:



Berthelot's Pipit on the Desertas Island:




26th July:
An afternoon drive into the highlands of Madeira between Calheta and Porto Moniz. Madeiran Firecrests were calling everywhere, but it took about 30 minutes trekking along a fairly spectacular Levada walk through dense woodland before I got reasonable views of 2. I could also hear Trocaz Pigeons, and frustratingly even heard their wingbeats as they flew, but was unable to see any here. Back in the open, Swifts were quite numerous overhead, and I eventually confirmed a small number of Plain Swifts, their deeply forked tail the most obvious feature. A probable Pallid swift also zoomed overhead.


With daylight fading fast, and low cloud making visibility into the valleys almost impossible, I decided to stake out the only wooded valley that seemed to be cloud free. After about 20 minutes, I was very fortunate to see two Trocaz Pigeons fly up from the valley and land in trees across the valley. Got superb views through the scope of these extremely shy birds. Despite the fact I was a good 500 yards away, they didn't seem to take their eyes off me, before eventually moving on.


27th July, I took the Madeira Wind Birds night trip to the breeding colony of the Zino's Petrels. Heard the birds calling thorughout the evening, and saw a couple fly past, but the views were not great. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience.

Around the hotel in Calheta, a couple of Monarch Butterflies made regular appearances, and an afternoon seawatch from the beach had a few Cory's passing by plus a couple of Bulwer's Petrels.
Cory's were nesting above the hotel and every night, their eery calls could be heard above the hotel. A batwatch on the last evening got me two of the three Bat Species present on Madeira: Madeiran Pipistrelle and Leisler's Bat.

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• Monday, July 13, 2009 - First Fox in the Garden, and more Hedgehog news from under the shed!

Another first for the garden this morning as a Red Fox hurdled the front garden fence and trotted past the kitchen window. Superb views of a really smart individual. I often wondered last winter what was eating the bread and food off the ground feeder. We have had Roe Deer in the past, but this winter I didn't find any Deer droppings, and suspected maybe a Fox.

More Mammals this evening, as we have been treated to the young Hedgehogs making their first steps into the big world. There are at least 4 of them, and were fun to watch as they negotiated the Children's toys and Wendy House. They are starting to get quite street-smart though, and soon disappeared back under the shed when they realised they were being watched.

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• Sunday, July 12, 2009 - Buff night!


Plenty of colour at the Moth Trap on Friday night. Two photos below of two of the more spectacular species. Species identified were:

Buff Arches, Small Emerald, Small Blood-vein, Small Phoenix, Clouded Border, September Thorn, Scalloped Oak, Common White Wave, Buff-tip, Yellow-tail, Black Arches, Common Footman, Buff Ermine, Cabbage Moth, The Clay, Smoky Wainscot, The Dun-bar, Common Rustic Sp., The Uncertain, The Snout.


Buff Tip:



Buff Arches:




A nice surprise whilst emptying the moth trap was a rustling from under the shed, then at least three young Hedgehogs emerged from under the shed. They should keep the slugs at bay for a few weeks.


Pleased with the results I'm getting from our new camera, a Canon EOS500d. It also has video, which I haven't yet used in anger, but the initial results look promising. One thing I have noticed is the battery life is not the greatest when compared with my previous EOS 350d, which would go weeks without needing a charge. Suspect the video mode drains the power quite fast. A spare battery is in thepost as we speak!
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• Thursday, July 9, 2009 - Hedgehog

This Hedgehog was an unexpected visitor to the garden this evening. Hedgehogs out in daylight is usually a bad sign, and we have had a few sick ones in the last couple of years. One we managed to save, the other 2 or 3 were too far gone. This one looked healthy enough, and has now found a quiet corner of the garden to continue his sleep. Hopefully he'll move on after dark.

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• Wednesday, July 8, 2009 - Nightjars revisited

Revisited the local Nightjars this evening. They showed well from 21:30hrs, and flew very close to me at one point giving me unbelievable views of their slow motion like flight. Took my camera, but didn't have much to work with. One eventually settled in a nearby tree. Quite pleased with the results (on ISO 12800 !), in fact I would go as far as saying the photo below holds a lot more detail than I could see through my Binocs! I certainly couldn't make out wing bars or feather detail at the time. Also felt afterwards, that I could maybe improve on that shot using a slightly less dramatic ISO setting, and the remote release to maybe grab a few shots at very low shutter speed. I refuse to use a flash on them, although scanning the google images of Nightjar, plenty of other photographers do. Let's not go there!


Hoping to have evidence of breeding success with these Nightjars in the not too distant future. From their behaviour at dusk it is difficult to work out if they have eggs or young, or even where their nest site is. I'll only know for sure when the fledglings take to the sky.


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• Sunday, July 5, 2009 - An afternoon of Wiltshire Specialities.

Headed North and out of the county Saturday afternoon to try and find some Wiltshire Speciailities. Couldn't have got off to a better start as I parked and opened the car door to see a Male Montagu's Harrier drifting through the adjacent fields! Had a superb view of him quartering the fields, until he disappeared behind a ridge. Didn't see any other sightings in the remainder of the day though so I was extremely fortunate there.


Next couple of hours were fairly dull with just Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, and the odd Yellowhammer. The afternoon was brightened up with plenty of Small Tortoiseshells along the tracks.


Towards dusk, the area became alive as the temperature dropped like a stone.. Two Hobbies flew over, a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling, and I heard a very distant Grey Partridge. Even later a Distant Barn Owl was seen briefly and a Fox trotted towards me.. I crouched down and tried a "rasping" sound that often attracts them closer.. Not this one, he just sloped off into the long grass. I didn't realise but the "rasping" sound had worked on a second Fox, and as I stood up, he bolted from about 20 feet away!! Later still, in near total darkness, a Tawny Owl emerged from the woodland I was staking out, which ended any hopes of a Long Eared I guess! Also a good number of Noctule Bats whizzed overhead. Finally, a few Stone Curlews were giving out their eery calls. One territory must have been close to where i had been scanning in the daytime.


No Quail today, despite being within earshot of decent habitiat for much of the afternoon and evening. Maybe this year isn't a particularly good one for this species?


On the journey home, I saw about 3 more roadside Barn Owls, and best of all a Badger near Mottisfont.
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• Thursday, June 25, 2009 - Garden "purple patch" continues with a White Admiral

It's all happening in June, and most of my excitement is from the garden! This lunchtime, a White Admiral glided through the back garden most unexpected, and three Ravens soared high over the village.

Checked out the birdguides free quiz at:   http://www.birdguides.com/iris/quiz.asp
Result below.. I'm "above average".. Hallelujah!
So.. for every 10 Pipits I see: two I get wrong, or more likely think "What the hell were those two!"
(No one likes to admit to getting anything wrong!)


A bit concerning that the average is only 1 more than a monkey randomly hitting keys! Would be interesting to know what identification criteria was being used. Apart from habitat, song, call, and time of year which weren't much help in the photos, I only know the pencil thin lines on the flanks as a diagnostic feature off the top of my head, but that was good enough 8 times out of 10!


Looking at some of the birdforum identification threads, I often wonder if people try to look "too" close sometimes, often citing really obscure, unreliable, or "almost impossible to interpret in the field" identification features, or even hallucinating things they want to see or hear. Worrying thing is we could all be unconsciously guilty of that! Did I actually hear a Nightjar two nights ago, or was it a central heating extractor fan?! (Luckily I saw them the following night, so the answer to that one is "yes"!)

Take a look at   http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=142133
and post num.18. I can see a thin bill.. but the other features, sure they depict a Willow Warbler, but can you make them out from the photos?! I'll give him the thin bill, but green upperparts, orange base to lower mandible, and emarginations on 3 Primaries?! Having said that, he is also correct by the look of it.
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• Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - Nightjar Success


This evening, I returned to the nearby woodland which had a churring Nightjar last night. Got there just at sunset and immediately had a Woodcock , and what looked like a Hobby in the distance. The Nightjar first announced it's presence by a series of wing clappings and brief views above the bracken. A few minutes later it was joined by a female and I got superb views of both birds hunting for Moths. The male occasionally flew into a dead tree and Churred. Captured in the mp3 file below, but needs the volume turning up high. There is also a nice series of Woodcock calls in the clip. The Spectogram snippet below contains the low frequency Churring of the Nightjar, and a higher frequency call of a Woodcock.


http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/uploads/p/petermk/16863.mp3

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• Wednesday, June 24, 2009 - Nightjar from the garden.

A real unexpected highlight last night that left my Girlfriend and I "high-fiving" in the back garden!

I was just finishing watering some plants, and heard a very brief burst of a Nightjar in the distance. Was extremely lucky that there was no traffic and the bird was emitting the loudest / closest burst of song just as I turned towards it. Called Kathleen, and sure enough, it was going full blast in the distance, but only detectable when there was no traffic, and only heard when cupping our ears to the source. Grabbed my recorder and headed off towards the bird, but it was too dark to go into the woods. The dog walkers' paths are hard enough to find in the daylight! Instead, I had to make do with slightly closer calling, a brief view of a Fox trotting into the village, and a Woodcock calling in the same woods. By listening from two streets, I was able to work out roughly where he was calling from.

Will have a better chance this evening, when I intend to head out at dusk, and stake out the most likely clearing. I have been here before in previous years with Nightjar in mind, but have never recorded one in this location before, and haven't noticed any historical records either. It's only midday, but I am really looking forward to this evening, and hopefully a glimpse of one of Hampshire's star birds..


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• Friday, June 19, 2009 - Mallard added to garden list, and Bubo lists

A new species for the garden list earlier this week when the Wildfowl jinx was finally broken with a Mallard scooting over the house. No idea where from, or where it was heading to!

Had a look at my lists on Bubo.org today. what is surprising, is the number of personal milestones I am close to reaching:
The Western Palearctic life list is just 10 species shy of 500, the self-found version 14 short of 450.
My British self-found list is an agonising 5 species short of 250.
I also know from memory that my world life list is just  "A couple of days out in Florida" short of 1000! However, I've been waiting 5 years for those two days!


One target I have reached is "False" UK400.. That is counting UK species seen anywhere in the world! This seems like cheating, but is relevant to me as there is no way I'm going to travel to see a species I have seen thousands of in Europe. It certainly makes me appreciate the dedication of people with huge "True" UK Lists, even if I don't aspire to the same goals myself. I stopped counting at 400, but suspect there are a couple more American species that I saw in Ecuador many years ago to be included. bubo summary page below..
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• Sunday, June 14, 2009 - Festoon at the Moth Trap

Had a decent session on the Moth trap last night. A downpour at dusk, and a cloudy night may have helped. First Insect to visit was a huge Hornet that was angrily prodding the lamp. He was later joined by a cat, so I decided to turn off the lamp until these unwanted guests moved on!

Left the lamp on overnight and had my first Heart and Club, Birch Mocha, and best of all a Festoon Pictured below, which was first noticed as a moth by my 5 year old daughter (I had seen it twice, and thought it was just a dead leaf or something!). Festoon is a nationally rare species, although it is present from Dorset East to Kent, and appears to be fairly well established in Hampshire.

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• Saturday, June 6, 2009 - No Glanville at Hurst

Finally made it out to Hurst Castle this morning, and despite a tiring walk from the Cut Bridge, and a thorough search, couldn't pick up any Glanville Fritillarys. Weather was windy, which is the only reason I guess for them not showing. Did see a few other Butterfly species: Common Blue, Small Heath, Large White and Painted Lady. Also saw a few Cream Spot Tiger Moths which were quite cool, and a Cinnabar.


This was a big dip as I only manage one trip to Hurst a year if I am lucky! Also, the Hurst Castle Fritillarys could be on borrowed time as their food plant is getting scarce. Apart from Hurst, the only UK Glanvilles are on the Isle of Wight! We'll wait and see what next year brings.


Sea-watching prior to the butterfly hunt was also a bit tame, though I did manage 2 Fulmars, 1 Peregrine, 4 Common Scoters, and Little/Sandwich and Common Terns. A decent number of Gannets near the needles was impressive. A quick count got at least 70.


A Raven was hanging around near the Castle amongst Carrion Crows.. difference in size is truly amazing.
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• Saturday, May 30, 2009 - Painted Lady migration hits the brakes, and a rare Moth

Took part in the UK Painted Lady migration survey this morning.. Weather was perfect, but guess what?! Yep, not a single sign of any migration. Unbelievable given the previous days' numbers, in two hours we had 1 Painted Lady fly North, then presumably the same one head back south a few minutes later! A shame if all the data from the last week wasn't captured in any structured form, but maybe I was just unlucky, and they are still moving around further North.

Ran the Moth Trap overnight, and although numbers were fairly small as is often the case, there were two new ones for me: a Small Fan Foot, and a fairly rare Moth.. A Barred Umber, picture below.
The Barred Umber entered the trap at about 11pm, and after realising how rare it was, opened the trap to get a photo or better look.. I probably won't do that again late at night, as I was immediately blasted with tiny flies and insects! The Barred Umber was still quite active and I only succeeded in moving it to a better position for a photo. Next morning I was able to study it in a nature viewer before releasing.. He didn't hang around. Looking at Hampshire Moths, this species is widespread but quite rare with only 8-10 records a year typically.



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• Monday, May 25, 2009 - More Butterflies, and a Hobby

The Painted Lady migration across England was very noticeable this morning.. A trip to Hilliers Garden Centre in Romsey saw 3 in a cluster of butterfly friendly shrubs. I bought one of the shrubs!


Back home, and we were averaging 180 per hour all afternoon, with remarkably constant numbers. Almost to the point that you could count 30, and look at your watch to see 10 minutes passed by, give or take! We put the shrub in the front garden, still in it's pot, and at least one Painted Lady visited it. I've now planted it next to a Buddleia for maximum effect in years to come!


Quite surprising that I didn't see a single Painted Lady yesterday in Dorest, and up Hod Hill.


Ran the moth trap last night to see if any unusual Moths were passing through, but no evidence of any migrant species. Did get 3 Lifers though! Orange footman, Foxglove Pug, and White-Pinion Spotted.


Early Afternoon, A Hobby was hawking distantly from the garden, and a distant Duck flew over which I failed to ID.. would have been a garden first whatever it was.. North Baddesley doesn't do Wildfowl and Waders!
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• Sunday, May 24, 2009 - Attention turns to Butterflies

Visited my parents' house in St.Helens and had great views of Bullfinch plus a Redpoll on the garden feeders. Sunflower kernels seem to be doing the trick for them with plenty of Greenfinches and Goldfinches there as well.


My garden is quiet these days but a Painted Lady was a nice surprise in the last week.


Spent the Bank Holiday weekend with the family, and we ventured into Dorset on the Sunday. A nice walk up Hod Hill, Marsh Fritillary was easy there. The first within a minute of climbing the hill, and several more good views of a beautiful insect. Celebrated with a pub lunch afterwards. Only 2 Southern England butterfly species left for me to see... Glanville Fritillary which are on the wing at Hurst as we speak, and Lulworth Skipper.
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• Saturday, May 16, 2009 - Summer Plumaged Knot at Keyhaven.

Headed to Keyhaven, first thing this morning. Weather was cold and overcast, but the recent East Winds had swung round to Southerlies, and despite heavy rain when I set out, 30 minutes nearer the coast the sun was threatening to break. Also, quite bizarrely, there was a high tide, despite the BBC tide table stating it would be low tide in the morning! Not sure if the weather influences the height of the tide, or maybe the wierd double high tide that the Solent experiences was in play, but it didn't make too much difference to my morning. A good reason for me not to get into sailing though!


A few species I missed from last week's personal record attempt soon raised their heads!.. Curlew, Turnstone, House Martin, Goldfinch all found within an hour.


A near certain Arctic Tern over the first big lagoon didn't hang around, and emphasised how tricky fairly distant Terns in flight can be for me. Elsewhere, Waders were at a premium this morning. Eventually latched onto a few small gourps of Black Tailed Godwit.. the last group included a nice Summer Plumaged Knot which I got good views of before it flew. Not much else around, and Passerines were particularly thin on the ground, although there was a noticeable increase in Sedge Warblers since last weekend.

As I was leaving good numbers of Birders were streaming towards the lagoons.. Never a good sign!
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• Wednesday, May 13, 2009 - Nightingale at the Dog Walkers' Field

Species we missed at the weekend continue to haunt me by appearing this week!

Green Woodpecker and Nuthatch have both been seen around the garden, and I received a message from another local Birder of a Nightingale singing in a corner of the nearby Dog Walkers' field. (The corner nearest to the private field I have been regularly checking for Nightingale!)

I stopped briefly yesterday evening but could only manage a Robin and a Greenfinch making a half decent imitation as they both sang in unison! This morning however, there was no mistake, as the Nightingale was belting out his beautiful song. The day can only go in one direction from here!
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• Monday, May 11, 2009 - Failed record attempt, and a Pectoral Sand!

A full on weekend in Hampshire trying to better my previous personal best of 89 species in a day. Logistics meant that we were running Friday night to Saturday evening, (so cheating a bit !), and in the end we manged 87.. two short! Some really common birds let us down too, including Blackcap, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, House Martin and Turnstone! The last three species to add to the list were Stonechat, House Sparrow and Collared Dove!

Reading that list, you might be thinking, "how did you miss those, and what DID you see?!"

Well, Friday evening, in the north of Hampshire, 4 Stone Curlews showed pretty well albeit distantly, and Yellowhammers, Grey Partridge, Skylarks, and Whitethroats all gave a nice evening chorus. No Corn Buntings though which was a pity. Hope they aren't declining even further. This particular area was a pretty safe bet for them in previous years.

Saturday Morning we headed into the Forest and done really well with great views of Wood Warbler, Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Redstart, and Garden Warbler, plus flyover views of Crossbill and Hawfinch and a heard Firecrest.

Keyhaven, just after high tide let us down for a really good total, with many waders failing to show on the day including Greenshank, CURLEW! and the recent Spotted Redshank. It was at Fishtail Lagoon that we had our quality bird of the day.. a very distant Wader leapt out as something out of the ordinary. I eventually got a prolonged view of it after collapsing my tripod to get below the wind, and thought Pectoral Sandpiper. The size was right, the breast streaking ended abruptly even at the extremely long range, but surely it couldn't be. Not in Spring!! At this point I bottled it completely thinking, "there's no way I'm putting that out to the news wires! but there is nothing else it can be! It's a Pectoral Sandpiper! Oh hell!!" It flew briefly, and I even got the black bar down the centre of the tail to confirm further, before losing it.

I contemplated going round the lagoon to a couple of other birders to discuss, then thought I'd just check my mobile for the day's birdguides sightings. Sure enough.. a Pectoral Sandpiper was already reported new in that morning. Quite ironic that I've now "found" the rarest bird on my UK self found list TWICE in 6 months!

I've read that this bird was initially down as a Temminck's Stint by the Original finder. People might think, "WHAT!?", but believe me, when it's just you, the bird, and a decision to make, it ain't easy. I got the ID right, but was seriously bottling going public!

Rest of the afternoon was fairly tame with a steady stream of new birds including great views of a Lesser Whitethroat, before Bieulieu Road let us down completely, and we ended up feasting on Steak in a pub instead of looking for Nightingales!

So, better luck at getting into the 90s next year!
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• Friday, May 1, 2009 - Tree Pipits on Baddesley Common

Took a lengthy walk around the common this morning.. had considered going further afield but the weather forecast seemed to hint at fog, which would have been really frustrating.

The Common was hard work as always, with plenty of quiet spells. Also got harrassed by the largest horse I have ever seen.. it was well over 6 foot on all fours! and kept licking my scope. Really annoying, really irritating. People moan about the barbed wire fence across the common but if it keeps that horse away from the footpath, then it is fine with me (I was the wrong side when i was getting licked!). There.. "horse" and "licked".. that should boost my hits for this page!

Most of the birdlife was along the furthest stretch of the common to the village. At least three Tree Pipits were singing, along with a Garden Warbler, and Cuckoo, new for me for the year. Only had a single fly over Woodlark today, and also a Wheatear is still on the common.

Other highlight was a Slow Worm on the path. Think he had been caught out by the sun going behind clouds as he looked totally dormant. Beautiful animal though.

One that got away was a very long tailed small warbler which flitted into gorse, but didn't re-appear. My initial thought was Dartford, but there was nothing to back it up. Later, I saw a Whitethroat about 50 yards away which could have been the same bird I guess.

Certainly struggling this year. When I think by this time last year I had found LEO, Montagu's Harrier, Osprey over the house, Firecrest, and Red Kite. It just doesn't seem to be happening for me this year.
I can ill afford  "the one that got away!"
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• Saturday, April 25, 2009 - Keyhaven

Up at 5am! out by 5:30am. Weather looking foul as advertised, with lashings of rain.
Arrived at Keyhaven at 6:15am to be greeted with blue skies and scorching sunshine!
I don't think I can blame the weather on not seeing much out of the ordinary this morning. As we know, it is in the lap of the gods whether we have a blinding day or not. The seawatching crowds down the road from me also had a (relative) stinker too this morning.

Still, Keyhaven was deserted.. not a soul about, except for the very occasional jogger. The first thing that struck me was that there seemed to be a few Whimbrel about. 6 got reported by someone else, which sounds about right. They were very mobile and very high profile, so it felt like more.

Plenty of other Waders including Greenshank, 1 Bar Tailed Godwit amongst the Black-wits at Fishtail lagoon, and bird of the day: a near Summer Plumaged Spotted Redshank. Also really close up views of Little Terns, lots of Sand Martins, a couple of Wheatears, a Lesser Whitethroat singing, and several Cetti's Warblers singing. Was put on to a Little Owl on a perch.. Wonder how many times I have walked past that one before!

Made a brief recording of a Lesser Whitethroat singing.. one of my favourite sounds of Spring:
http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/uploads/p/petermk/15458.wav
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• Friday, April 24, 2009 - The Rain King!

Blimey.. the Test Valley (the same Test Valley that struggles to bring down a Wheatear for weeks at a time if the weather is fine!) has had a Common Crane, Red-Rumped Swallow and Alpine Swift reported in the last week.. All single observer sightings, none staying put, and one birder seeing two of the three, if that makes sense!

The best birding decision I ever made was to quit the twitching scene, and all the controversy, crowds and tension, and believe me, these 3 have controversy ;).. They can be seeing Albatrosses and Penguins.. Unless I find it, it doesn't matter to me.
So it's good to be immune to stuff like this, but still quite amusing to read about the associated banter!

Meanwhile, a look at the weather forecast is certainly appetising for the weekend.. South / South East winds, clear skies overnight, followed by a band of rain coming in from the West on Saturday morning. Where to go? OUT! Anywhere.. just get out there!!

And this is where the non-twitching/find it yourself philosophy does get painful.. It's like you are out there, and sometime in the day, a plane is going to fly over Southern Hampshire and drop a couple of £1000 notes somewhere.. and I try to be the one who catches them.. no chance!

So, bring on the Rain. I expect to get drenched tomorrow..


7 minutes 44.. I rarely get to the end of this song, but what an amazing intro!
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• Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - Hyde Park, of all places!

One more try at the overgrown meadow for Nightingale on Sunday evening, but no joy. Really is a nice undisturbed area. I'm not sure if I am tresspassing to view it away from the road.. no signs, but still it feels uncomfortable climbing the gate! Once in position, I am out of sight to anyone which is fine! Did see a couple of Sparrowhawks engaged in a mid-air grapple briefly.

Best sighting this week was completely out of the blue: En route to a work meeting in London, I cut through Hyde park and noticed a really smart male Garganey on the lake. Ducks on inner London lakes can usually be taken with a pinch of salt (for example the Feruginous x Tufted hybrid, and the Red Crested Pochard on this lake, and just about every North American duck species in Regents park lake!), but I figured a Garganey in April could be genuine. Really stunning views whatever it's origin, and sure enough, it is reported on the bird alerts this evening, from a local London Birder who knows the resident escapees from his migrants on his patch.
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• Saturday, April 18, 2009 - Grasshopper Warbler and Wheatear on Baddesley Common

I've posted local news onto the village website forum for many months now. Two other locals visit the Common and miss quite a bit of the wildlife, so asked me to show them the birds they are missing. I agreed, slightly worried that either we'd see nothing, or half the village would turn up for a guided "wildlife ramble"!

Today was the day, and two keen Villagers turned up for a wildlife ramble with me! Spent a good 3 hours walking around the Common and Emer bog, and it went really well. The rain just about held off, and there was plenty of birds, most of which hung around long enough for the three of us to get excellent views through my scope.

From the offset, it was apparent that migration was in full swing today. A steady trickle of Swallows were battling over the common, and it wasn't long before we found a Wheatear in the grass. 2 Woodlarks overhead was a bonus, and we added all the expected species including superb views of a Woodlark, Chiff-Chaff, Willow Warbler, Linnets, Yellowhammers, a second Wheatear, and Stonechats. It was as if the birds knew there was a PR opportunity at stake!

I was taken to a good area for reptiles, and we saw a small family of Slow Worms, but no Adders. I was also shown a couple of nests that they had stumbled across last year.. A very low Green Woodpecker, and a ridiculously sited Blue Tit nest.

Highlight for me was a fairly faint Grasshopper Warbler reeling on the return leg, which my fellow ramblers unfortunately, couldn't pick up. So a good morning, and nice to do a little something to promote the local birdlife.
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• Thursday, April 16, 2009 - Green Sandpiper, Luzborough Lane

Have visited a small overgrown paddock a few times this week in the hope of hearing Grasshopper Warbler or Nightingale.. the field has held both briefly in the past but no luck so far this spring. In fact, a dawn walk to this paddock and around the Dog Walkers's field got me very little. A small group of Wheatears had been seen in the dog walkers' field a day or two ago.. I saw a brief tail end of one.

The day turned out ok though, with two Ravens over the house midday, and a smart looking, very distant, Green Sandpiper at the flooded field off Luzborough Lane. It took my 50x eyepiece to nail decent views of it. Nice that this pond has finally produced something after all the visits I have made. The water level seems to be holding up well this spring, so still time for more birds to drop in, especially since the Skidmore fields were completely dry last time I looked a couple of weeks ago. Surprised that Yellow Wagtail is such a rarity round the village, and indeed the Test Valley in general. This field probably has a good chance of one.
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• Monday, April 13, 2009 - Milk Hill

Decided to try my luck in the hills this morning, hoping for maybe some migrants. Started well enough with two Male Tawny Owls heard negotiating their territories just south of North Baddesley. Add to this a female heard calling last night, and it seems the Tawnys are busy at the moment.

Called in at Middle Wallop sewage farm, but a pre-dawn fog had descended and I struggled to see much. A Grey Wagtail was all.

Continued to Milk Hill in Wiltshire, but the fog was worrying. It did however, clear as I got to the car park and the hills looked beautiful, bathed in dawn sunshine. Started the climb listening to a distant Raven, and felt like the gamble had paid off, only to look behind and see a thick cloud following me up the hillside. Pretty soon, I was enveloped again, and the outward walk was written off with thick cloud obscuring everything except a few yards in front of me!
Cloud eventually lifted as quick as it had descended, and the stunning views continued. Unfortunately, there was a complete lack of Migrants, despite some extensive searching. Did manage loads of Yellowhammers, Skylarks, a few Linnets, a Tree Sparrow, and a decent flock of 25 Corn Buntings. The only Summer visitors on show were a couple of Chiff-Chaffs and a Singing Willow Warbler. Finally found a couple of Wheatears on the last descent to the car park, after 4 hours searching.
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• Friday, April 10, 2009 - Early Morning on Baddesley Common

Had a couple of hours early this morning on Baddesley Common and along Hoe Lane.

Wanted to check out the "New Pond" that has been dug in the north east corner of the Common. It is a decent size, I guess a tennis court size, and very bare and muddy around the edge. Bearing in mind the complete lack of any open water anywhere for about 5 miles in any direction, maybe it will pull something in.
All quiet today though, with just the local Canada Geese starting to home in on it. Pity it is just about impossible to view the pond without being right on top of it, but you never know. I've certainly seen Green Sandpipier and LRP in less suitable places!

Elsewhere, the common was very quiet at the Checkpoint Charlie end, but more lively towards Emer Bog with Woodlark, Lesser Redpoll, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Green Woodpecker, a couple of Yellowhammers, Linnets, and Stonechats. Plenty of Chiff-Chaffs and WIllow Warblers singing too, plus a Mistle Thrush over.

Returned home along Hoe Lane, but the fields are very quiet now. The Dog walkers' field did at least have a Whitethroat, Blackcap, and Linnet plus the usual Kestrel , Stonechat, and Meadow Pipit.

Conditions overnight looked good to pull in some migrants, but maybe still a week or so too early.. seem to have been in a suspension between winter and spring for several weeks now!
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• Thursday, April 2, 2009 - Mass clearout from the garden!

Had a few glimpses at the garden yesterday, but it has suddenly gone VERY quiet!
Only 1 Siskin, and he was in distant trees. 2 Redpolls, including the Mealy eventually dropped in late afternoon, and the Brambling numbers have dropped from double figures down to 3. One of the recent Bramblings is pictured below, a really naff photo, but aren't they super birds.. even the drab ones!
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• Monday, March 30, 2009 - Owl Safari, Milk Hill, and some thoughts on the Redpoll.

Only had a chance to go out Sunday evening, so headed up north to the Wallop Sewage Farm.. just a few Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail. The surrounding fields were quiet too.

Thought I'd try Quarley hill at dusk, and it did at least produce a nice Silhouetted Tawny Owl. Also heard another Tawny, a Little Owl, and a Grey Partridge as darkness descended. The journey home, I couldn't add a single Barn Owl to the collection, despite stopping off  at a few locations with past records. I fear that their numbers are well down this year. Sure, they are still quite easy to see in the prime habitat, but the roadside birds seem to be non-existant. Our Chilworth bird seems to have gone during January / Early Feb. A real shame because that was a very easy bird to see, albeit usually just a short glimpse at the edge of the car headlights.

Also called in at Milk Hill up in Wiltshire over the weekend as I was passing by. Wind was a strong Westerly offering very little shelter, and the birds were thin on the higher ground. Just a small number of Meadow Pipits, looking very clean this time of year. The farm at the foot of the hill was slightly better with three Corn Buntings seen on the way up, and two Tree Sparrows seen on the way down. Also saw a Swallow, my earliest ever in the UK.

I finally got round to selling my  Kowa Scope on ebay last week to a Scottish chap. After chatting with him to resolve a query he had, I felt that I couldn't have sold it to a nicer chap. A true Birder thank goodness! You can't choose who you sell it to, but the market for a scope ranges from hunters to perverts to any number of wierdos!
He's already been down his local estuary with it today picking out Greenshank.. lucky devil! So hopefully he'll have as much enjoyment as I have with it.

Early indications on the Redpoll posted yesterday is that it looks good for a first winter Male Mealy Redpoll, although there is some (understandable) caution from another local birder. I am fairly satisfied it is a Mealy now. I've spent pretty much the whole weekend watching the bird, and genning up on practically every diagnostic feature keeping an open mind as much as possible. Despite this, I am still learning about this complex family, and how invalid a lot of the diagnostics are! I'm also leaning towards the notion that Lesser and Mealy are one species,  but won't let that spoil my enjoyment of a really smart garden bird. The garden feeders are now totally stockpiled with Nyger and Thistle head seed in an effort to keep the Finches around until my next day at home! There is talk of "Rostrata" hitting Hampshire feeders this week. Now that would be a result!

• Sunday, March 29, 2009 - Help! Redpoll


Still plenty of action on the garden feeder this weekend. Siskins back up to 6, and 4 Goldfinches, plus a group of Chaffinches on the ground tidying up the scraps. At least 2 Redpolls visiting as well. One in particular made me look twice, and grab a whole load of photos, three are posted below. I don't have any previous experience of Redpolls in early spring breeding plumage, but this had me wondering if it is a Mealy. Comments welcome!

I spent a good proportion of saturday trying to see this bird's rump, but it wasn't giving much away.. the brief flash I had, it appeared predominantly pink, but it was only a very brief glimpse.

In it's favour are the white flanks, and grey head.  Plus very feathered Tarsii (sp.!), slightly bullnecked appearance, unstreaked undertail coverts except for a single central streak.

Was difficult to judge it's size compared to Lessers but it did feed solely on the tray as opposed to the hangers, and spent a lot of the time "half in the tray" as in the middle pic. (The Lessers tend to get in and almost disappear inside the tray.

One thing against it being a pure Mealy is the hint of buff in the wing bar at the outermost point,




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• Thursday, March 26, 2009 - Garden Finch Explosion!

Checked out the local fields this morning, but no Wheatears, or anything else for that matter. A singing Chiff Chaff at the West end of Hoe Lane was about all I could manage.

Meanwhile the garden was providing all the excitement:

As well as the usual Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and Goldfinches, there are 5 Siskins, 3 Redpolls including a very smart male, and 12 Brambling (also with a very smart male amongst them).  That's pretty much maxed out for Finches, although I wouldn't mind trying to attract more regular Bullfinch and who knows, maybe even a Hawfinch next Winter. Serving suggestions welcome!

I suppose I can't have it both ways, and as long as the weather keeps the Finches tied down in the garden, there won't be too many spring migrants arriving.

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• Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - One that got away

One that got away this morning. A large Raptor heading North over the M3, somewhere between Basingstoke and Fleet. Looked very slim, and long winged, possibly light underneath. Suspect it was a male Hen Harrier, but impossible to be sure. A longer look would have been much more enjoyable than the M3 traffic that's for sure!

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a pal on how the internet was flawed in that you can only search using words. i.e. you couldn't put a photo in, and get an identification back. Not much has changed, but if you type "field notes" into a google search window, and search images, it is becoming quite adept at returning the correct bird, at least at a beginner's level. I tried with song thrush (Brown bird with speckled underparts UK), and Moorhen (black water bird with white undertail and red beak UK). Both came back with hits surrounded by a lot of junk.

However, the technique is less reliable with descriptions of people: I was visiting London earlier in the week and passed a well known ex-politician whose name escaped me at the time. I entered "ex-conservative MP Woman poisoned dwarf obnoxious" into google, and it drew a complete blank.. the name later came to me.. Anne Widdicombe of course! Disturbing painting here:  http://www.junemendoza.co.uk/image/ptcs-anne_widdecombe.jpg
Now wash your eyes and memory!

Still 2 Siskins visiting the garden, and a very vocal Nuthatch which must be breeding in one of the large Oak trees. We certainly haven't been treated to such extensively irritating calls from one in previous years.
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• Saturday, March 21, 2009 - Lesser Redpoll - A garden first!

Slept thorugh the alarm this morning, then was woken by one of our daughters, so got up and decided to check out Baddesley Common.

Whilst eating breakfast, I saw what looked like the rear half of a Redpoll on the feeder. I rushed to get a pair of binocs, but when I got back it had gone. Very fortunately, it returned a few minutes later.. not the brightest Lesser Redpoll I have ever seen, but a superb surprise, and nice to study one at such close range. My first garden redpoll ever (in 20 years of birding!). Thanks Emma for the wake up call!

Baddesley Common didn't have anything out of the ordinary, but it was nice to see Stonechats returning to the territories. At least 4 flitting around, plus 2 Woodlarks which was a welcome return to the Common. (Didn't see any there last year). In the wooded areas, Chiff-Chaffs were singing everywhere, and a Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer rounded off the morning nicely.

Particularly good to see some nice birds this morning as family commitments are going to cut short my birding for the next 3 (Yes THREE!) Weekends.
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• Thursday, March 19, 2009 - Garden Bramblings

Had a chance to skan the skies facing south form the house today, but not a great deal was happening. Local Buzzards soaring, and 2 Mistle Thrushes flew over. First Mistle Thrushes around the garden for a good while. Plenty of excitement from the back of the house though, with first two, then later eight Bramblings in nearby trees, and frequently disappearing into a neighbour's garden. Also a very showy Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Siskin.

Suspect the Bramblings have arrived since the weekend.
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• Sunday, March 15, 2009 - Buzzards and Ravens overhead.

Checked out the Luzborough Lane field a.m. and saw the pair of Shelducks on it again. However, drove past this evening, and the pool looked to have gone! Now today was quite sunny, but not enough to produce Sahara-like levels of evaporation! Suspect the farmer has ploughed through it, or I got fooled by the light. Not much else around in the fields. Quite a bit of movement overhead from the garden today, with several Buzzards and at least two Ravens. All were quite high up, and I couldn't tell if they were local birds, or others just passing through.

1 Brimstone, 1 Queen Buff-Tailed (Terrestris) Bumblebee, and 6 Siskins around the garden.

As I type, I'm hearing my first Common Pipistrelle of the year on the Bat Detector. Have wired the bat detector directly into the PC, so I can listen from my desk!
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• Saturday, March 14, 2009 - First Wheatear of the year, and an evening of Owling

Headed out late afternoon today. Fields along Hoe Lane were quiet with just a flock of Chaffinches and Linnets on a field of bare earth. The area has an abundance of ploughed up fields at the moment. Downside to this is that any grounded migrants could be in any one of a dozen fields, so some may slip through un-noticed.

Headed North to Middle Wallop. The Sewage farm was empty initially, but I later picked up 2 Grey Wagtails and two Pied Wagtails. One of the Greys was a very smart male. Nearby, on the airfield, a very distant Wheatear was in a feeding frenzy on the grass. A sure sign that he had just arrived. My earliest in the UK by 9 days, and again shows that the North Baddesley area often gets leapfrogged by much of the spring migration. Birds either re-fuel on the coast then fly straight over us, or keep going until the hills or bad weather stops them.

Headed to Shipton Bellinger for dusk. Quite a few Fieldfare in the bushes roosting and a vocal Red Legged Partridge. Also a distant Tawny Owl. On the journey home tried several areas and lanes that have been good for Owls in the past, but only a single, very brief view of a Barn Owl tonight.

6 Siskins still on the garden feeders (3 Males, 3 Females).
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• Sunday, March 8, 2009 - Skidmore, and the dark side of North Baddesley

Siskins are up to 6 on the feeders daily at the moment. March is always a good month for them in gardens, and 6 is about the best we've had this Winter. Elsewhere, the strong wind from the west, and Low pressure over much of Europe put paid to any excitement birdwise. Checked out Skidmore again but walked a bit further this time.. a flooded field visible from the M27 looked promising, and sure enough it held double figure Lapwings, plus about 20 Linnets. Pretty quiet otherwise, but the fields between Lee and North Baddesley all look pretty good for Wheatear in the coming weeks.

We're also due plenty of rain the next few days, so the flooded field at Skidmore which looks pityful at the moment might become more attractive to Waders by the end of the week.

Found the following youtube clip yesterday.. hard to believe this kind of thing is going on right here in the village!

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• Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - A couple of links added

Added a few links to this blog.. See the bottom of the right hand column. "Live Search Local bird sites" is a list of all the places I can think of that have warranted at least one visit since I moved to Hampshire. Plenty other places missing, which I can update fairly easily as I remember them. The Satellite view is really cool, and some areas even have a 3-d bird's eye view.
Also added a website with historical surface pressure charts.. Look at April 24th 2007.. the day when North Baddesley experienced a fall of Wheatears.. SHIT! The science works! That low would have brought down a satellite! So I'll spend the rest of Spring waiting for an identikit weather system over Southern England!
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• Sunday, March 1, 2009 - Sunday 1st March around North Baddesley

Got up early and headed straight out to some local venues. Weather looked ideal with the recent high pressures giving way to a low front overnight. Sure enough the weather was overcast and cloudy, but there was presumably nothing overhead to get brought down. Nice try though! Just hope we get similar weather in a month's time.

Baddesley Common was particularly disappointing. Just 3 Snipe, 5 Teal, and a small scattering of regular birds including Yellowhammer, Skylark and Reed Bunting. No Stonechats, no Linnets. Sometimes the place can be devoid of anything. Hopes were raised with a Lapwing over the Checkpoint Charlie paddocks, but it looked to be chasing a couple of crows out of airspace from a distant breeding area, as opposed to showing interest in the Common. (The breeding site next to the common has now been partly built on.)

Checked out Skidmore, but the flooded field was pretty dry and doesn't look too promising for the spring. Did see a decent sized noisy, flock of Redwings and a Grey Wagtail plus 3 Hares.

Luzborough Lane's flooded field however, looks good, and although only a couple of Mallards and a Black Headed Gull today, it is looking nice and muddy and will hopefully draw in a Wader or two before it dries up.

Finished up at Hoe Lane. Buzzardworld had 8 in, and there were plenty of Fieldfares overhead moving East, in the region of 150, and a few Starlings. 1 Marsh Tit was probably the only highlight of a very difficult morning!

Plenty of bare earth fields along Hoe Lane and towards Lee Village to keep tabs on in the coming months.

A Goldcrest has started to sing quite regularly from the trees beside the house.
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• Thursday, February 26, 2009 - Shelducks, Skylarks, and a new Moth for the Garden.

Still a few Finches around the neighbourhood. Mainly Chaffinches with a few Greenfinches and Goldfinches. A single Male Siskin too, but it is looking increasingly more springlike down here, and chances of Redpoll, or another newie to the garden list look to have faded, until the Sprin Migrants start to arrive.

Took a brief drive round the edge of the village and saw a couple of Shelducks in the flooded field off Luzborough Lane. This looks like it will remain nice and muddy for the next couple of months. Pity it is such a pain to view! Hoe Lane really has goen off the boil. Buzzardworld now has a thick layer of grass which looks to have put off the Buzzards, and everything else that was feeding there. The next field along, however, has just been turned over and is bare soil. A tight flock of 32 Skylarks were feeding in here, together with a few corvids, and Woodpigeons. A few Buzzards overhead, but they look to have dispersed now. I only counted 4 today.

Ran the moth trap until 11pm last night. Was pretty quiet, but there was activity. A fresh looking Common Quaker was easy to identify, but a Small Brindled Beauty took a while to confirm. It's plumage was intermediate betweenthe light and dark forms in my field guide which didn't help. Got there in the end though. Only other highlight this week was a pair of Ravens. With them being scarce in Hampshire, I'm not permitted to divulge whereabouts in the county.
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• Thursday, February 19, 2009 - Quiet along Hoe Lane and a Song Thrush in full song


Had a look at the flooded field on Luzborough Lane this afternoon, and had a quick scan of the fields off Hoe Lane. Absolutely nothing to be seen anywhere today!
Lapwing = 0,
Woodpigeon = 0,
Fieldfare = 0,
Redwing = 0,
Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Magpie! All zero!
Finches = 0!

You get the idea..

Did see Nuthatch and a Mistle Thrush to prove I was actually looking! A farmer was in the Buzzardworld field ploughing it, but there are 6 or 7 other fields all undisturbed, all teeming with birds until this mild patch has presumably encouraged them to move on.


Garden had a couple of very showy Siskins on the feeders and a Song Thrush in full song, which I recorded: Song Thrush
A bit faint, but decent quality from the Zoom H2's internal mic. Plenty of background noise.. Starling, Collared Dove, Blue Tit, a Dog! at least. Also had a look at the sonogram. The Thrush was the band of notes at 3KHz. Ok.. only a Song Thrush, but good practise for the future!

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• Sunday, February 15, 2009 - Barn Owls and Shelducks (!) at Stockbridge.

Afternoon / Early evening out today, and I couldn't decide between Blashford, Owls hunting on the Downs, or looking for wildfowl / Waders etc. in flooded fields along the Test Valley.

Chose the latter.. Don't get me wrong, Iove the local area, but it can be hard work at times! Tried the fields just north of Mottisfont, but they weren't particularly flooded. Just Fieldfare, a couple of Ravens and a Buzzard. Tried to capture some shots of the Fieldfare with the Canon and Scope, and they came out ok considering the distance. Telephoto lens would have just laughed!

Finished the afternoon at Stockbridge Marsh. A good area, but really popular with the local dog walkers. The Private lake to the south is frustratingly hidden from view from the footpath. The one flash of water I saw had 2 Shelducks, which made it even more frustrating wondering what else was out there. 2 Barn Owls were in the area.. one passing by really close, one hunting after dusk. also after dusk a few Little Egrets came into roost, a Water Rail called, and a few small flocks of Ducks and Geese flew overhead.

Alerted to a Redpoll visiting another Birder's feeders in the village, so hope yet, but time is running out this winter.
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• Friday, February 13, 2009 - Double figure Reed Buntings along Hoe Lane, and the village website starts to pay dividends!

A very brief look along Hoe Lane after work.. Still good numbers of Lapwings (100+), and a distant flock of Woodpigeons. Was pleased to discover that the Finch flock is still on the mid section, but has moved to a second Pheasant Cover about 100 yards north of the road.
Not so good here as the birds can't be seen on the floor. As there is little disturbance from traffic etc, they spend long periods out of view (suspect they have been there all along when I have visited and drawn a blank recently). Flock was mainly Chaffinches plus a couple of Goldfinches, with a decent number of Reed Buntings amongst them. I counted 10 Reed Buntings at once, but difficult to get any greater accuracy. Definately worth keeping an eye on this area for a Yellowhammer which are strangely lacking west of the village, or maybe something even more glamorous for the local area!

I helped the local village website developers a while back with a wildlife section, and in return got a Wildlife area set up in the village forum. For many months the forum consisted of just myself posting sightings! but recently a couple of other villagers have started to get involved. The groundwork has started to pay off with a report of a Firecrest on Baddesley Common.
Have hoped that the forum gets a couple of "I saw this very strange bird yesterday" type posts, which whilst wading through the Claims of Nutcrackers, Cranes, American Robins, and Cockatiels might unearth something genuine!
Finally, the garden still has 2 Siskins and a Brambling paying daily visits, plus Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker regularly dropping in. The Ground feeder is getting munched overnight on most nights. I suspect it is a Roe Deer but have yet to seee him this winter, or find any droppings despite regular checks.
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• Sunday, February 8, 2009 - 1000+ birds per hour!

Had a quick look down Hoe Lane to the West of the Village after lunch. Weather is much milder now, and although there was nothing unusual amongst them, there were an impressive number of birds in virtually all the fields:
Lapwing: ~300
Fieldfare: ~500
Redwing:~150
Starling : ~50
Skylark: 10
Buzzard: 3
Crow/Rook/Jackdaw: ~250

So well over a thousand birds per hour!
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• Thursday, February 5, 2009 - Garden Bullfinches, and an afternoon at Ibsley Water

A pair of Bullfinches were a nice surprise in the back garden this morning. Had a free afternoon, and headed to Ibsley Water. Stopped off on Hoe Lane to check out a field of Gulls. 60+ Herring Gull was a good count. Probably more than there were at Ibsley!

Ibsley had a hundred or so Lesser Black Backs, 2 Great Black Backs, 5 Common Gulls and at least one Yellow Legged Gull. The Yellow Legged Gulls aren't easy now with many of the Herring Gulls looking much smarter!
Plenty of Wildfowl with a few Pintails, Goldeneye, Pochard, and a single Black Necked Grebe the highs.
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• Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - More snow, and a garden Brambling

Lots more snow today. Had a good look at the parkland form the back windows and was pleased to see a Winter Male Brambling amongst the Chaffinches. He only showed 2 or 3 times during the day, but stood out even with the naked eye. Also a Coal Tit and a few Long Tailed Tits today.  The garden feeders were surprisingly quiet.

Had a drive along Hoe Lane at lunchtime, but very little in the fields. I think they were a little too snow covered, and the weather was still quite severe. Surprisingly the Chaffinch flock appears to have moved on from the Pheasant Cover.. maybe the bad weather has forced them into the village for food and shelter.
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• Monday, February 2, 2009 - Snowstorm brings a garden first!

The local area was hit with a decent amount of snow overnight. I done the morning school run, which was just about made bearable by a small flock of Siskins overhead on my return home.

Only other highlight was a long awaited garden first, as a single Lapwing flew south over the house. I've mentioned before that North Baddesley doesn't do Wildfowl and Waders!
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• Sunday, February 1, 2009 - Checking out the local farmland

Checked out Hoe Lane briefly on Saturday afternoon. Buzzardworld field was almost empty except for 4 Buzzards. The Pheasant cover visible from the lane had a major surprise with a sizeable Finch flock, the first I've seen round these parts this winter, and I don't recall seeing one last winter either!
The flock was mainly Chaffinches, about 250-300 at a rough estimate, and there were also 2 Brambling and 5 Reed Buntings amongst them.

Checked out the Hoe Lane area on Sunday morning, and the sightings were the complete opposite: no Finch flock, and Buzzardworld was heaving with Lapwings, Fieldfare and Redwings, plus 9 Buzzards.
Also saw a smart Male Stonechat, 2 Reed Buntings, a couple of hundred Starlings and a couple of hundred Wood Pigeons.

Checked out another Pheasant cover North of Hoe Lane which has held decent numbers of Linnets in the past but nothing doing this winter.

The garden feeders are still quite busy, with a few more Greenfinches this week. Good to see as they have been a bit scarce round the garden.
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• Sunday, January 25, 2009 - Hawfinch @ Dunbridge

Only had chance for a brief couple of hours outside this afternoon. Parked my car in Dunbridge, in the heart of the Test Valley, and took the footpaths South towards a couple of small lakes that looked ok on Live Search. The area was pretty good.. OK a huge crater existed along side the path where Gravel pits were being dug, but these were quite flooded, and looked like they might hold a Snipe or two.

It was fairly quiet as expected for late afternoon, the highlight was a single Hawfinch perched high in a deciduous tree, in a fairly large patch of mainly coniferous woodland. Cut short my walk and sat tight to see if any more arrived, but no joy. After 15 mins or so, I lost it as it headed deeper into the woods. Quite a bonus seeing one outside traditional areas, although the Test Valley has had a few this winter, at Romsey, Andover and Lower Test.

Also 1 Repoll, and Moorhen, Coot, Heron and Cormorant at the ponds. probably worth a regular wander round this area, but I doubt I'll get the chance ot visit too often. It also looked ideal for Bats with the woodland and nearby water.

Headed home happy, listening to this..
(Guess they aren't past it after all!)




Meanwhile, our first Siskins visited the garden today, (1 Male and 1 Female), in a frenzy of bird activity at the feeders.
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• Saturday, January 17, 2009 - First attempts at digiscoping


Whilst I enjoy taking photos with my Canon EOS350d, and a Sigma 170-500mm lens, the whole system is so heavy that I never consider taking it out with me these days! However, I'm beginning to realise that if you do most of your birding out on a limb from other birders in underwatched areas, then the majority of good sightings will be "single observer". So I've started to experiment with digiscoping through my Nikon Scope. It has been a long painful journey so far in just identifying the kit I need, not helped by the fact the Nikon zoom eyepiece is incompatible with the Nikon camera adaptor!

So, after purchasing a 30x eyepiece (which I needed anyway for a greater field of view), and a Nikon Photo adaptor, I've started to experiment using the Canon EOS350D and 18-55mm lens (which fortunately fits the nikon adaptor), coupled to the scope.

The shutter speed does suffer with all the layers of glass, but not that badly. The biggest problem is camera shake. I rattled off a string of shots at a distant Blue Tit, and the whole tripod, scope and camera was going off like a gatling gun. This youtube footage was the closest I could find.. Mad granny with machine gun. Looks like a remote shutter release is needed!

Got the photo below of a Squirrel, some might say I should have used the same kit as Granny above!
This was taken using the 15 second timer, so I could walk away and let the tripod "settle" before the photo was taken. Hardly practical, but at least it proves that if I can keep the damn thing still, then I'll get acceptable results at 30x magnification. It was also taken through a window which wouldn't have helped. Best of all, I save myself a few hundred pounds in not buying a Nikon Coolpix, and can continue using the eos350d, which is a super little camera. I'll take a trip out to Buzzardworld for some further testing.

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• Saturday, January 10, 2009 - Golden Plover on a frosty Hoe Lane

Just a quick check of the fields along Hoe Lane early afternoon. The frost is still hard down our way, and there were a couple of local surprises:

The Buzzardfield was virtually empty. No buzzards, and single figures of Lapwing and Fieldfare. However attractive this field is during the winter, it obviously loses it's appeal during cold snaps.

No sign of Buzzards anywhere today, but the Lapwings had dispersed to pretty much all the other fields along Hoe Lane. These fields are a bit smaller, maybe a bit more sheltered and usually devoid of birds, so the Lapwings may have sacrificed the safety of a huge open field for the more enclosed ones.

Other minor surprise was a flock of 33 Golden Plover in one of the Hoe Lane fields. I need to keep an eye out for Lapwings and Golden Plover over the house in the next few days!
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• Friday, January 9, 2009 - Beware: Egrets and Robins!

Noticed this on the Portland observatory website...
" ...we were driving down the Bill Road this afternoon when we noticed an egret leap up from amongst some horses beside Culverwell...surely a dead cert to be a Cattle Egret; after an emergency stop there was just enough time to grab a couple of record shots as the bird disappeared over the ridge into Top Fields. As you can see from the results  (of a A Little Egret) we were pretty disappointed!!"
I'm glad I'm not the only one who keeps falling for this one!

There is also a news story recently of a White-breasted Robin (AKA Partially Leucistic Robin) in Dorset. Searching the google images website for "White breasted robin" comes back with some birds that, if I stumbled across one of them, I would almost certainly faint with the initial excitement!
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• Sunday, January 4, 2009 - A testing afternoon

Late Afternoon and dusk in the north of Test Valley near the Wallops. Felt a few drops of snow at one point but it didn't feel particularly cold for once.


Not a great deal about. Test Valley can be tough going at times. Stumbled across a couple of Finch flocks with Chaffinch, Linnet and Yellowhammer, plus a single Reed Bunting. A few Lapwings and a distant flock of well over 100 Golden Plover that were spooked by something. Returning to the car at dusk a Blackbird was going absolutely bug in a small copse, so possibly a predator in there, but I couldn't see anything. I didn't see a single Owl this evening which is unusual for this area. It is often crawling with Barn Owls.
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• Friday, January 2, 2009 - Weymouth area and Blashford.

Enjoyed pretty much a full day out today, although got back home while it was still light for a change!

Day started well with a Barn Owl along Hoe Lane. Have only seen one other Barn Owl in this area despite many drives along the lane at dusk and in darkness, so it is pretty elusive.

Headed out to Weymouth in the morning. Figured Weymouth bay and Ferrybridge were worth a few hours scanning. Weymouth bay was fairly empty. After scanning from Nothe castle, the Pier and Preston Road the only bird of note was a Great Northern Diver seen fairly well. 3 Ravens, 1 Shag and a Rock Pipit also seen.

Ferrybridge was livened up with a good tally of over 20 Mediterranean Gulls, but not much else to sift through when I was there. Only 4 Brent Geese, of which one was a Juvenile. Did see a Rock Pipit here which looked good for a Scandinavian race bird. Looking at the Portland website numbers of Med Gulls are hitting 3 figures there at the moment.

Headed to Blashford Lakes mid afternoon after calling in at Radipole and seeing the Hooded Merganser.
Merganser was by the visitor centre and wasn't doing it's credentials much good by taking bread with an assortment of Mallards and Aylesburys!

Blashford is growing on me with each visit, especially when coupled with the wetlands and flooded fields along the Avon, north of the reseve, which I have yet to explore. I'd struggle to think of a better inland area in England, if you combine the New Forest sites within a few miles. Just wish the Test Valley had a few accessible lakes to save me a bit of petrol and time! Of the all star cast at Blashford this winter, I only managed the Black Necked Grebes today. Place was mobbed with other birders this afternoon -  Something I am not used to!
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• Wednesday, December 31, 2008 - 2008 Annual Review

2008 was probably the most productive, and definitely the most enjoyable year of UK bird finding I have ever experienced. 2007 was my first year in Hampshire and I had many fruitless days out, many to local locations that looked good on a map, but just didn't have the potential when visited. However, these initial visits enabled me to fine tune my trips this year, which together with a bigger than usual helping of good fortune, resulted in a few quality finds.

My trip to the Orkneys was hard work in dire weather, but I managed to come home with one highlight, and many enjoyable sightings.

What makes this year even more surprising is the paltry total of species seen.. 170.. a triumph of Quality over Quantity!

2008 Highlights:

1. Pectoral Sandpiper - My rarest UK find for many years, stumbled across it on the last morning after 3 days of torture in extreme gales and heavy rain. Luckily the optics held out for excellent views of this bird. A shame I couldn't find any other birders to share it with. I peddled like fury to the Sanday Ranger's house, but he was off-island. Also my first American find.

2. Montagu's Harrier - Pure luck with this bird.. A stunning male seen close, and at head height over the Downs in Wiltshire. One of those experiences when you are left thinking, "Am I dreaming, or did that really happen!"

3. Grey Phalarope - Another reward for persevering in adverse weather. Spent much of the time viewing this bird at Keyhaven in horizontal driving rain, the like of which I only ever experience along the south coast. Had previously spent the morning sheltering from the frequent showers (fairly successfully for once!), but gave up and took a soaking whilst enjoying this charismatic wader. First Phalarope I have found in the UK, but the experience has been slightly degraded with another 2 found at Keyhaven the same afternon, and a subsequent deluge of Phalaropes in the following weeks!

4. Long Eared Owl - Two Birds found in a very mature overgrown hedgerow, roosting near a Barn Owl. Unfortunately, I was unable to relocate then despite many return trips at dusk to the vicinity (and many other promising areas). They might be present in the Hampshire / Wiltshire Downs, but they sure aren't easy to locate! I won't hold my breath before seeing another one.

5. BT Diver, GN Diver, BN Grebe - Moving closer to the coast gave me an opportunity to find and study Divers and Grebes like never before.

6. The Downs: Quail, Stone Curlew, Short Eared Owl -  Stone Curlews were, if anything, more widespread this year in my limited experience. I was also lucky enough to hear a Quail during BTO atlas work. I have trouble finding a few farmland species in Hampshire, but Wiltshire has no shortage with double-figure Short Eared Owls hunting at Yarnbury a real unexpected highlight. Also caught up with my first Tree Sparrow and Turtle Dove since moving south, both in Wiltshire.

7. Local birding - A strange year locally with hardly any of the 2007 migrants (e.g. Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler, Nightingale, Little Ringed plover) showing up. The local area did come up trumps though with superb views of Red Kite, Redstart, Osprey, Brambling, Siskin and Firecrest, all within 500 metres of the house.  Not forgetting the Buzzard field with a peak of 34 Buzzards in early Autumn which was quite a spectacle. This field has continued to provide interest with 100 Lapwings and 12 Golden Plovers during the December cold snap.

8. Butterflies - Was lucky to allocate some time for Butterflies and recorded three firsts in 2008: Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy, and Silver-Studded Blue.

9. Garden Moths - The garden moth trap continues to bring in small numbers with a good variety of species.. most nights produced "firsts", and the garden total broke the 100 barrier this year.

2009 targets:

Butterflies: Getting harder to add Butterflies to my UK list. Lulworth Skipper, Marsh Fritillary, and Glanville Fritillary are all present within an hour's drive. Glanville's might be easier now I know there is a ferry to the coastal hotspot, as opposed to a 4 km walk over shingle!

Bats: Only managed limited Batwatching this year.. detected the usual suspects from the back garden: Common and Soprano Pipistrelle, Natterer's, and Noctule. We are fortunate to have Serotines regular over the house and these gave good views on a couple of occasions. Should really devote some time in 2009 for Horseshoe Bats and maybe even Leisler's.

Birds: UK250 looms ever closer. Looking at my Bird Recorder database I've got there! but Bubo listing has me on 244 which I'll use as the official total. (Can not begin to work out where the discrepancy is, but suspect Monk Parakeet, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, and a couple of data entry errors account for the difference!). What is clear is there are still plenty of scarce birds out there to find! Yellow Browed Warbler, Water Pipit, Caspian Gull or maybe Green Winged Teal are probably the "easiest", with RB Shrike, Barred Warbler, Rosefinch, Red Breasted Fly etc all possible on the islands if I'm lucky enough to find myself there in the right conditions. Also missing are Sabine's gull, Leaches Petrel and Roseate Tern. Though I usually find it difficult to be seawatching on the "right" day! Finally Cattle Egret looks like becoming an easier target with one or two already seen in the Hampshire / Dorset area this winter.

Another priority is to change my photography equipment to a digiscope set up. I love my Canon DSLR and sigma lens, but it is just too bulky to take anywhere! so sacrificing a bit of quality for lighter weight will hopefully encourage me to take some photos again.

Best of luck everyone for 2009!
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• Sunday, December 28, 2008 - 12 Golden Plovers at the Buzzard Field.

Checked out the Pheasant cover along Hoe Lane just after lunch but they were very quiet. No Finches at all, anywhere! The Fields were more productive though with 12 Golden Plover the highlight (my first around the village despite seeing them in all compass directions beyond the local area!). Also good numbers of Lapwings, a few Fieldfare and the usual Buzzards (still in double figures, though they seem to be moving into the surrounding fields now.).

Went on to Ibsley water, and had a pleasant couple of hours in the Tern Hide scrutinising the Gulls. 1 Great Black Backed, and a few Yellow Legged Gulls about the only Gulls of note. Plenty of Black Headed, Common, and Lesser Black Backs to sift through.

Also from the hide:

3 Black Necked Grebes, 2 Ruddy Ducks, 2 Pintails, 3 Goosander, 2 Goldeneye, about 10 Black Tailed Godwits, and 1 Green Sandpiper.
Made a nice change to be at a freshwater lake. Reminiscent of Willen, Caldecotte, Foxcote, and Linford where I used to do much of my birding in Milton Keynes.
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• Wednesday, December 24, 2008 - Mystic Birder, and a Treecreeper

Have you ever had spells when everything you say seems to come true! I'm experiencing this on this blog recently..
My last post mentioned persecution of Hen Harriers, and the next day this happened right on my doorstep (albeit a difference species), which isn't good news:
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/hampshire/7796966.stm
I also looked at my previous blog entries, 19th October 2008, I was hoping a Marsh Tit would visit the garden this winter amongst the common tit flock, and lo and behold one did.. It is still being seen occasionally, but never hangs around.
Only interest today, despite good numbers of garden birds was a Treecreeper. I'll keep rubbing my crystal balls in the hope of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker or Hawfinch in the garden.
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• Monday, December 22, 2008 - Chilworth's Barn Owl returns

Brief view of the A27 Barn Owl sitting on a post between North Baddesley and Chilworth at 5:30 this morning. pleased to see it has returned this winter, as it can be just about the only bird sighting I have on some of the more wintry weeks!
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• Tuesday, December 16, 2008 - A foggy afternoon in the New Forest

Had a day off work for more Nativity play watching. This left me with the afternoon free, and I planned to head for Ibsley and Blashford lakes to check out the gull roost. However, the morning's fog lingered well into the afternoon and scuppered my plans. Instead I took a walk in the New Forest. This looked like a dead loss at first with the fog closing in on the open Heaths. However, once I entered woodland the visibility improved, and I got superb scope views of 2 Crossbills. Zoomed in on the male and got hypnotised by that wierd beak!

After a fairly uneventful half hour I stopped in a clearing and was lucky enough to see a Hawfinch fly past. Got good views of it perched in a bush, and heard one or two more calling. Have never heard their call before. Even crazier Beaks than the Crossbills!

Also suspect that the trees in the area were Hornbeams. I'm wondering if I can identify Hornbeams from Live Local aerial photos, and home in on other likely locations for Hawfinches! An initial glance where the Hawfinches were suggests the Hornbeams are lighter coloured than Oaks, and these were in a more open woodland fringe.. so there maybe some mileage in this. It's fun to follow crazy ideas now and then!

On the return to the car, I had superb views of a Male Hen Harrier. Heard a rumour a month or two back that game keepers were coming down South to take out Hen Harriers in their wintering grounds, to keep them from returning to breed on their land, and therefore disclosing locations in the winter could be bad news. Thought this was ridiculous at first, then thought that it is no more ridiculous than Southern birders going to Flamborough or Scotland for a tick! In fact, if the Game keepers are driven by money, then it is probably seen by many as a more logical motive than going long distance twitching.

Quite frustrating that most of my trips round Hampshire have to be kept obscure for one reason or another. You only have to see any one of a multitude of rare breeders, and the location has to be blurred out (or the species omitted from the diary entry, which would leave me with very little to write about!). So apologies if the locations are often a bit sketchy.
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• Tuesday, December 9, 2008 - Siskin and Redpoll on the Common

A couple of days off work to attend nativity plays and fix a few broken things at home.
Took my oldest Daughter on the school run this morning, and had a walk round Baddesley Common while my nerves returned to normal!

Common was fairly quiet. A couple of Siskins, and a Redpoll the highlight. Also, at least 6 Reed Buntings, which is more than I usually see there.

Called in at Buzzardworld on the way back, and watched a Raven drift over. 13 Buzzards and 72 Lapwings in the field with a few Fieldfares.

The garden feeders seem to have gone quiet again. Wierd. Did see a male Blackcap and a Goldcrest in the garden though.
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• Sunday, December 7, 2008 - A New Forest hat-trick

Ok.. Back to birds, and wildlife!

Had a couple of free hours today, but only from 2pm onwards, after a visit to friends.
Was torn between Blashford lakes or the New Forest, and decided the New Forest would give me an extra hour if I stayed after dusk.

Was fairly quiet. Afternoons, especially in Winter can be a gamble, but I did pick up a Redpoll twice overhead, and well after dusk a Make Hen Harrier passed over. The walk back to the car in near darkness stretched my navigation and GPS skills, with just a Tawny Owl heard. Had brief views of probable Woodcock. Did record a first in seeing Red, Fallow and Roe Deer within an hour. Always thought these were the three native UK deer, but I have read that Fallow is Non-Native? Native or not.. it's still a good Hat-trick!

Always amazes me, especially somewhere as busy as the New Forest, how the Red Deer go un-noticed and undisturbed. I must have passed close to this group on the outward walk, but didn't see them until twilight when they were on the move. Reckon there was one Stag and about 4 others.

Funny how the mind does you no favours when out at night.. I usually return to the car convinced either that I am being followed, or someone is waiting for me at the car! This evening, I remembered about a story many years ago of New Forest livestock being skinned alive in the forest, and stories of UFOs.. Got to thinking if it was just livestock they were after! Might swap the walking boots for running shoes in future!
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• Friday, December 5, 2008 - Rent-A-Cop

Strange week this has turned out to be!

On my way to work up the Motorway this morning (still in darkness), I pulled back into the middle lane after overtaking. A car overtook me,  then drove along level with me. I sensed it was there, but ignored it for a while. In the end I looked, and would you believe it.. it was a Police car! The Policeman driving it was staring me out at 70mph, and when I made eye contact, he sped off ahead of me. I honestly thought I was going to get pulled over, but he stayed ahead then turned off into a service station.
Either he was going to pull me over, but needed his breakfast; or he was mad that I didn't jump out of his way fast enough. Maybe it was a warning, or maybe he knew I was Gyrfalcon!

Ben Folds, as always, has the answer to all this week's events. For once without unrepeatable language.
This one is for all those.. well.. you know who you are ;) Whisper through your doughnuts!
(I should end by saying that the majority of Police and Internet Moderators are fine, reasonable people.)

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• Thursday, December 4, 2008 - Farewell to Birdforum, and a Garden Blackcap

Hello,
I got myself banned from Birdforums yesterday! I'm not proud of this. I'm quite surprised how easy it was to wind up the owners of the site to the point they were lowered to my level. Was also amused at the Stalinist attitude they take to delete anything or anyone that they don't agree with. Thank goodness they are only moderators of an internet chat room, and don't hold any meaningful power.

Birding is a great hobby.. No matter how people try to control you, be it by clubs, groups, nerdy labels to attach you to a particular tribe, and mock others, or forge a competitive element into the hobby. None of it actually matters. No-one can stop you from enjoying your hobby. The only thing that matters is going out with a pair of binoculars round your neck, and getting the I.D. right!

Of course, the other important element of our hobby is the welfare of our countryside, and wildlife. It is disappointing that such large forums and groups actually achieve so little in mobilising support and lobbying for this cause. I can't think of any examples from Birdforum, compared to the amazing work done by proact. Apart from the odd photographer who gets stoned for flushing a rarity! I might be missing huge volumes of work the forum does for conservation, who knows.

What I will miss is the Hampshire local patch forum, as that was always a friendly, fast moving chat room. Probably the best for local news round these parts. Ironically I can still read what is going on at the site. There will just be a small hole in local sightings from a 1/2 mile radius around North Baddesley! (I can also participate in the chatroom by the look of it! or watch Birdforum TV, search the site, and presumably donate money in support of the forum! i could also change my name and return as a whole new person. None of which I will be doing incidentally!)

Anyway.. had a very quick look around the neighbouring streets after dropping my daughter off at school this morning. Checked out the Starling flocks, but no surprises. Also seems like the berry laden bushes of a month or so ago are all now bare. Presumably the local Blackbirds and Starlings got there first. Nice to see the garden still full of birdlife. A very fleeting blackcap was good, and I'm told the Marsh Tit has returned a couple of times. The bird feeders are much closer to the house this year, so views are brilliant from the kitchen window. I've offset the feeders from the windows to reduce bird strikes.
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• Sunday, November 30, 2008 - Garden Marsh Tit, and a strange Woodpecker

Quiet weekend, mainly due to all the family suffering from various ailments. Did manage to scan the garden a few times.

Have been meaning to post on here how little birdlife there has been around the garden lately, the feeders haven't been touched for a couple of weeks. All changed today however with Goldfinches coming down to the Thistle Seed just after lunch. Topped up the other feeders just in time to catch a Tit flock moving through..

A Marsh Tit was the highlight, and a nice garden first. Hopefully he'll keep returning throughout the winter. Also logged feeding in the garden were:

Long Tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Nuthatch
Chaffinch (6)
Goldfinch (6, with a flock of around 30 in surrounding trees)
Greenfinch (3)
Blackbird,
WoodPigeon,
Collared Dove
Jay,
Magpie,
Wren,
Robin,
Redwing (1),
Blackcap (1),
Great Spotted Woodpecker,
Pied Wagtail.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker was most unusual.. it was an Adult Male, but had very dark, buffy underparts.
Figured this could either be Dirt, an unusual Pigment, Remnants of Juvenile plmuage, or the Hispanic Race (which is probably the least likely theory!). Didn't see him again today, but would like to get a few photos and try and solve this one.
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• Thursday, November 27, 2008 - The Late Show

A work trip enabled me to call into Yarnbury late afternoon on Wednesday. Weather was cold and fresh, with clear skies. Seemed ideal for Raptors, however, my hopes were dashed at the area of rough grassland when a JCB was working in the next field, and an army Helicopter was doing some maneouvre about 200 yards away.. couldn't hear myself think! Did, amazingly manage a Merlin, Buzzard and Kestrel, plus Corn Bunting and a few Yellowhammers.

Helicopter and JCB eventually moved on, and an Owl finally showed a good half an hour after sunset. So late that Short-Eared was probably the least likely species to emerge at this time! but Short-Eared it was, soon joined by a second for decent views. Was pleased to see a Little Owl on the way back to the car, in near total darkness. Lapwings flying low to roost through the darkness completed a eery, moonlit walk!

There were impressive numbers of Starlings all heading North throughout the late afternoon, and a few very distant flocks of Golden Plover heading East.

Hoped that 2 Owl species by 5pm would be a springboard to a 3 or even 4 Owl evening but, somewhat surprisingly, Barn Owl let me down despite driving for 2 hours over the Salisbury plains, and Cotswolds to my destination. Did hear a distant Tawny at my hotel.

Back in North Baddesley, 102 Lapwings and 29 Pied Wagtails were a good tally at the Buzzardworld field.
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• Sunday, November 23, 2008 - A few signs of winter, and a point blank Barn Owl

Ventured North to the Wallops this afternoon. Plenty of Fieldfares throughout the area, and a few Redwings mixed in. The sewage farm near Nether Wallop had a dozen or so Pied Wagtails, and a few Meadow Pipits, but I was unable to pick out anything else of interest in the works or surrounding area.

Did see 5 Little Egrets in a field of Cattle. I'm seeing more Little Egrets away from typical water habitats this year. While this behaviour is not unheard of, it does lead to a large scale disappointment when I confirm them as Little and not Cattle!

Elsewhere, I noticed a small area of rough grassland which looked ideal for raptors, but I stayed until well after dusk and only managed a single Kestrel and a very close Barn Owl (yes, they are totally silent!)

Had intended to wait for dusk at a strip of set aside which usually has a Barn Owl or two patrolling, and has given me plenty of success in the past with Hen Harrier, Peregrine, and Merlin. However, on approaching I saw a car driving through the field and parking next to the strip. It was a "Family Saloon", and my first thought was, "you should have stopped listening to the Sat Nav several fields ago".
Two blokes got out with a falcon and a terrier, which kind of ruined my plans for the stakeout. Always strikes me kind of funny how people in the middle of nowhere, engaged in perfectly normal, legal activities (!),  move so quickly when they are seen! I don't believe I look at all threatening, but I'll never know.. they were gone in a flash.

So fairly uneventful, but still quite early in the winter for farmland raptors I guess.
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• Friday, November 21, 2008 - Only time will tell!


Just been looking at more detailed proposals for housing in my area. Can't deny that some of the housing areas are pretty intrusive, and look like they will lead to queues, either on the roads, in the shops, or for school places. The Whitenap proposal in particular looks huge.

http://www.testvalley.gov.uk/PDF/Plan_PreSub(chapter%2015).pdf
Closer to my home, my heart sank at a proposal for 400 houses north of Hoe Lane, on the western edge of the village. On looking at the more detailed map, I can see why residents are horrified at even more houses being tagged onto the edge of the village, and the strain it is likely to place on the roads, and infrastructure.

There are, however, two bits of potential good news for the local wildlife, or at least, two bits of news that could have been much worse:
1. The Woodland on the edge of the village looks to remain untouched, except for increased access. This woodland has held a Firecrest, and regular Marsh Tits, so good to know there is a chance they will continue to hold decent birdlife. The woodland on the edge of nearby Valley Park seems to have adapted to a housing estate in close proximity. As noted previously, the locals are still getting Tree Pipits, Woodcock and Nightjar within earshot (Although a seperate, completely ridiculous housing proposal has been submitted for Great Covert!)

2. Creation of a woodland park on the edge of the M27.. Assuming this is well designed, then wildlife could benefit from proper management of this woodland which is currently largely birdless coniferous woodland, occasionally torched by youths. I should certainly benefit from being able to explore footpaths as opposed to hacking my way through dense jungle wondering if I am on private land!

Only time will tell!
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• Thursday, November 20, 2008 - Straight into darkness

Short days mean a return to the twilight zone for me!

Managed an hour after work this evening, under a fairly spectacular sunset. Buzzardworld had 15 Buzzards, and a stake out at the dog walkers' field provided a few small flocks of Thrushes including both Redwing and Fieldfare, and a whopping 39 Magpies heading to their roost.

Best of all, in near total darkness, was 2 Woodcocks low overhead. I was very fortunate as the first whizzed by, as a "probable". Just as I started to curse my luck, the second followed the same path giving superb silhouetted views.
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• Sunday, November 16, 2008 - A Weekend to forget!

Disappointing weekend as I was too shattered after work on Saturday to do anything.. My birding trip on Sunday morning got cancelled, and I had to cancel a local trip on Sunday afternoon after my daughter swallowed half a packet of Antacid tablets.

Did check out Buzzardworld at the West end of Hoe Lane in the afternoon, and counted 13 Buzzards. No Lapwings or anything else of interest there today. Winter has crept up quite quickly the last few weeks, so I should turn my attention to FInch flocks / Pheasant Cover / Owls / New Forest and a trip to the coast for Sea Duck and Divers.
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• Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - 1 Tree Sparrow, and a lot of hassle!

Had to sit an exam this morning! so rewarded myself on the way home by stopping off in the Pewsey Downs, for a brief walk along the wansdyke path.

Well it was supposed to be brief, but turned out to be a total shambles.. I took the wrong track up into the hills. (OK, I took the one marked "Private Road, no Wheeled vehicles", but thought this was just a deterrent to keep riff-raff out, and couldn't possibly apply to me).

At the top, I realised it wasn't the right track (with a car park at the top), so pulled over to ask a Farmer where I had gone wrong. He told me that this road was private, and not for wheeled vehicles, and suggested I should have taken a track that wasn't marked "Private Road, no Wheeled vehicles".

This was were it really went pear-shaped: I got back in the hire car, and went to pull away.. Stuck! Up to the Renault Megane equivalent of knees in incredibly sloshy mud. No matter what I tried, either rocking, revving, panicking and flooring it, or trying to push it, the result was the same.. huge wads of mud flying in all directions. The car was stuck fast on the only bit of level ground about an inch from the concrete road.

The farmer waited, as if to confirm I was totally knackered, then walked off over the hilltop with his dog!

I remembered an old trick from the Negev, when birders would get their cars sanded two or three times a day and get out simply by laying the foot mats under the wheels for grip (Too many revs and the footmats would spectacularly propel themselves 100 yards behind the car!). This car didn't have any footmats, so I tried the parcel shelf. No joy.  I tried digging the mud out with my glove, but still no joy.

Almost like a mirage, a very luxurious Range Rover then passed by with a fairly attractive blonde lady in. She agreed I was stuck, and proved very resourceful helping me try and rock it out, then offering to push it out with the Range Rover. But we abandoned this idea as it looked like the Range Rover's Registration plate was a going to snap, and I wasn't convinced the huge bumper wasn't going to dent the boot! So she went to get help while I agreed to look for her dogs that had gone missing in the hills.

The farmer returned from his walk, and helped me locate the tow point and hook that I needed to screw onto the bumper. Then the rescue party arrived.. another Land Rover, this time with rope, a tow bar, and a driver who knew his knots.. I was out in no time, and promised everyone I would never drive along this road again!

You might be thinking there aren't many birds in this blog entry.. There weren't many birds seen up to this point to be honest. The thought of waiting hours for the AA to come and pull me out was a major distraction.

The next track was the right one. A sign at the foot of the hill asked for 1UK Pound to use the road or get clamped. After everything that had happened, I paid up! Then I finally saw some birds.. pretty good too, with a solitary Tree Sparrow showing well amongst Chaffinches. My first since moving down south nearly two years ago. The hill summit had plenty of Crows drifting overhead, and a party of Fieldfares flew over without making a sound.. I don't recall ever seeing silent Fieldfares.  A few small flocks of Starlings, and a covey of unidentified Partridges was about all I could manage, but the views were superb, and at least I had forgotten about the exam!

The Downs around Pewsey are about 300 m above sea level, probably amongst the highest summits in Southern England, and you can drive almost to the top! The area looks brilliant for Vis-Mig, and maybe Ring Ouzel on passage, but birding the area is very time consuming. Time which can be better spent on the coast maybe. If you go there, just watch out for the verges!
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• Friday, November 7, 2008 - More Migration along Wood Lane

More signs of migration along Wood Lane this afternoon.  Managed a record shot, and was lucky enough to hear the distinctive "Ex-TERRRR-Minoit" contact call, (although I later discovered this was a nearby workman imitating the call). With Brum and Lady Penelope's car, plus a tardis seen recently, my fictional characters list is booming this year!
Pity the poor Buggers who received a call this morning to "help deliver an oversized object to TV Centre"
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• Wednesday, November 5, 2008 - A recent near miss!

All this talk of America reminded me of a recent near miss I had whilst birding. I've never been to the USA birding, and don't tend to do much twitching these days, so subsequently I don't have much experience of many US Species.
However, on finding myself in the Orkneys recently in the face of very strong, very prolonged North West gales, I figured I had a better than usual chance of seeing something of American origin. So amongst other things, every Golden Plover flock was scanned for one with dark underwings. All were pure white as you'd expect, until in one small flock, I saw a dark underwing and axillary just prior to them landing. I soon saw "the bird" on the ground.. It had a fairly obvious white supercilium, and looked "perhaps" more black and white on it's back compared to the European Golden Plovers. However, the wingtips didn't go beyond the tail. So I followed the bird in my scope for about 45 minutes, not really getting any closer to confirming what I was looking at!
Eventually, and without any prompting from myself (although in the freezing wind I was tempted to induce this!) the flock took flight to reveal underwings.. all 100% pure white!
My initial reaction was unprintable.. I then picked up my tripod and walked away feeling quite gutted. A trick of the light combined with a bird with a slightly more strongly marked head had raised my hopes, and it took 50 minutes in freezing cold to realise I was just looking at my 500th European Golden Plover of the day! However, looking back that evening, I felt quite pleased that despite the initial evidence, the appalling conditions, and the barely contained excitement turning to disappointment, I did (eventually) reach the right conclusion, and left the scene with the correct ID.

I began to realised that many of my "not so good" days in the field were actually not as bad as they could have been! If days are ranked:

Best Day - 1st: Finding something unusual
2nd: Twitching something unusual
3rd: Not seeing anything unusual
4th: Realising you have walked past something unusual without picking up on it!
Worst Day - 5th: Getting the ID wrong!

Most of my uneventful / not so good days are a"3", with the odd "4"! (4's" are ok, as they at least prove I was in the right place at the right time, giving myself a chance of finding something good.) Touch wood I haven't had any 5's for many years! Instead, I have a few 99% certainties that aren't on my self found list when they were.. well.. 99% certain!

The experience reminded me of the December 6th 2007, and October 30th 2007 entries of David Sibley's excellent blog:- http://sibleyguides.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2007-12-31T16%3A45%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=20 A really good read! A more recent entry with the "awareness test" is also an eye-opener!
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• Tuesday, November 4, 2008 - Long Tailed Tits at the Office

Quite surprised to see a group of about 10 Long-Tailed Tits outside the BBC building at White City this morning. Certainly not regulars in the area. They were calling and flitting about frantically as they headed along the one row of trees in about 5 miles. One passed extremely close to me, as if it was going to land on me.
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• Monday, November 3, 2008 - JUMP!


This was posted on the excellent "George Bristow's Secret Freezer" blog a while back. Think it is only fair to reproduce it on the eve of the US election.. I think you'd have to go a long way to find so many people making complete ar5e5 of themselves in 5 minutes!

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• Sunday, November 2, 2008 - Quiet morning round Hengistbury, and more local Lapwings

Originally planned to head west this morning, maybe to St.Alban's head, but instead just took a trip to Hengistbury Head. Place was really quiet birdwise with next to nothing overhead in the very mild conditions. on the ground there were only a few common species, and no hint of any migrants apart from a single Redwing, and one of the Robins looked distinctly "Continental".
Did hear a very unusual song coming from a wren. Reckon it was "plastic song" from a 1st Winter. It was obviously Wren, but not very good with bits missing!

If Hengistbury was anything to go by, St.Albans Head would have been a VERY long walk today!

Back in North Baddesley, Buzzardworld today had 92 Lapwings, and a Smattering of Starlings. Buzzards were just about in double figures.
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• Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - First Lapwings drop in

A very brief stop at Buzzardworld this evening, to see how many Buzzards are still using the field (numbers have tended to be highest in the evening). There were only 12, suggesting the total has dropped from the previous 20's and 30's being seen. There were however, 5 Lapwings: the first I've seen locally this "Winter"!

We get small numbers of Lapwings in fields around the village in Winter and Spring, but I have yet to record Golden Plover, despite it being quite numerous North, South and East of the area! My "Seen from the house" list is missing all Waders. I haven't even managed Lapwings overhead. We do get Woodcock fairly close, and I suspect an evening craning my neck out of the bathroom window in the direction of the woods would eventually get a distant one!

Coal Tits are already regular at the garden feeders which is nice, and a female Pheasant dropped in to the ground feeder a couple of mornings ago.
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• Sunday, October 19, 2008 - A local Whinchat

Hoped to go out and participate in the national Vis-Mig day. Had selected a wild looking, high altitude hill with panaromic views to the north, and set my alarm. However, I just couldn't be bothered to get up, and drive for 50 minutes! so instead had breakfast with the family, and went for a leisurely local visit to the various fields along Hoe Lane.

The Dog walkers's field had the pick of the morning's birds with a very pale, but nevertheless, smart looking Whinchat. Only picked it up on the return to the car, so was lucky to see it. Also in the field were 3 Stonechats, a Redwing, a Buzzard over, and a couple of small flocks of Goldfinches, Linnets, and Meadow Pipits.

The small woods on the West edge of the village had a couple of Marsh Tits showing well. Some lucky residents must be getting them in their garden, and with luck they may pay me a visit with tit flocks as the weather closes in.

The Buzzardworld field still has good numbers of Buzzards with 14 this lunchtime. Maybe an evening count is overdue to get the daily max.

Middle section of Hoe Lane was particularly empty today, and Toothill looked quiet except for a family of Mistle Thrushes in a brief stop.

Finally the garden had 4 Coal Tits this morning as birds start to return to the newly stocked feeders.
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• Saturday, October 18, 2008 - Crossbill over the garden.

Nice surprise this lunchtime as a Crossbill passed over the garden calling. Had a suspected Crossbill overhead about a month ago which caught me by surprise, and I couldn't be positive of the ID. This one was a cert.
Also a Grey Wagtail in the area calling fairly regularly.

Ran the moth trap through the week, and Brick was the only moth species in the morning.
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• Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - a Long weekend on Sanday

Just back from a long weekend on Orkney, the Island of Sanday to be precise. Sanday is the next island down from North Ronaldsay, and hopes were high for some quality bird finding. However, the dominant weather system was from the North West, and the tail end of an Atlantic hurricane! With that in mind, the chances of Yellow Browed Warblers, Barred Warblers etc. were much diminished (in fact I only managed 2 Redwings and a single Goldcrest as evidence of Scandinavian influx!), and instead the migrants on offer were Whooper Swans, Barnacle Goose, Snow Bunting, Greenland Wheatear, and best of all a Pectoral Sandpiper found on my last full day on the island.
Despite the truely dire weather, views of most birds were excellent, and I renewed acquaintance with many typical scottish species which I hadn't seen for a few years including Black Guillemot, Twite, Hooded Crow.
Was very impressed with the sheer volume of birds on the island.. Greylag Goose and Golden Plover must have been well in excess of 1000, closely followed by Starling, Snipe, and Wigeon.
Spent a lot of time seawatching but to little avail. A lot of seabirds were passing close by, but I was unable to improve on Red Throated Diver, Fulmar, Gannets, Great Skua, Eider, Kittiwake and Shag. did see a few Black Guillemots on the ferry returning to Kirkwall.
Only one bird was foolish enough to come close enough for a photo... Damn that barbed wire!
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• Saturday, September 20, 2008 - A Reed Warbler at Work

I often have the dubious pleasure of working from BBC White City building, in the heart of West London. The building is a pretty big steel / glass structure about 6 storeys high, but in the central courtyard is a split level of gardens which I've always thought: "I wonder if anything turns up in here". Often when the rest of the country is heaving with migrants, I'll take a morning detour via the garden area, which has a patch of heather / alpine about the size of a tennis court, a smaller area of knee high shrubs, and a few scattered bushes, and a couple of Birch trees. Looks good habitat, if only it was 20 times bigger and not enclosed by 100 foot glass walls.  Only wildlife I have seen in there up until yesterday was a Blackbird and a Rat!

Anyway, returning from the shop Friday afternoon past the garden, I noticed a nearby bush shake, and something dart into cover. Now a sharp eyed, focussed Birder may well have thought "Hmm.. an unstreaked Acro"! but all my meeting-fuddled, caffeine-deprived brain could manage was , "ooh! that looked very brown for a Chiff-Chaff!", and so I plonked myself onto a conveniently placed picnic chair, and sat and waited a while.

Didn't take long for the Warbler to re-appear, and it turned out to be a Reed Warbler.. too close for BInoculars, and superb views. Something you probably wouldn't look twice at in a reed bed, (but worthy of a good grilling in the middle of West London (particularly when the alternative was editting a database!).

So they can turn up absolutely anywhere, which we all know already! Unfortunately, I won't be back at White City for a week, so probably won't know how long it stayed.

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• Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - Lots of movement, and new arrivals

Quite a few birds seen from the house today.. A steady passage of House Martins flying East in the morning, followed early afternoon by a steady stream heading West!

In the distance 3 Buzzards were soaring for much of the morning, and another large Raptor looked subtlely different but was too far away to get anything on. A very distant Raven was slightly easier to i.d. as it soared high up in the sky.

Closer to the house, our first Grey Wagtail of the Autumn arrived, and gave us point blank views in the front garden. Also a few Jays are starting to appear looking for acorns, and the trees beyond the back garden were teeming with Blue Tits, Great Tits, a Coal Tit, Nutatch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and a Male Blackcap.
Very frustrating to see all the reports of East Winds, Wrynecks and Honey Buzzards sweeping the country whilst stuck in work.

Feel like doing this on the PC Keyboard!.... (TURN YOUR PC VOLUME DOWN FIRST!)
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• Sunday, September 14, 2008 - Garganey at Farlington

Had some free time Saturday afternoon, so without any obvious clues from the weather, decided to head for Farlington, and stake out the reed beds at dusk.

Afternoon there was pretty tame with 2 Whinchats, a Wheatear, a Peregrine making a fairly easy kill on the salt marsh, and a few Yellow Wagtails heard but not seen. My visit clashed with low tide so Waders were mainly miles out in the bay. Did see plenty of Black Tailed Godwits, and a few Grey Plovers.

As the evening drew closer, I settled down on the bank below the horizon, and scanned the freshwater lagoon and reed beds. Was lucky to see a Water Rail skip over a distant Reed bed, crash landing presumably in his roost spot, and a Green Sandpiper dropped in briefly.

Best find was a Garganey. Never confident with these in eclipse plumage, but a passing birder checked it out and agreed with me. A bit later another birder told me it looked like a Mallard, which it did, kind of! Well, they are both Ducks, this one was half the size, plus a few additional subtle differences. Even worse this Birder and partner stopped on the horizon chatting to me as dusk rapidly grew nearer, threatening to blow my cover which I'd spent the last hour sitting in wet grass, getting bitten to hell and back to try and become part of the scenery. They did however move on, and I can't blame them for seeing absolutely nothing as light faded!

Visited "Buzzard-World" on Friday evening, and only counted 17. Perhaps the rain forced a few of them into the trees, or maybe they are finally starting to move on.
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• Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - Two near misses

Slightly frustrating today as the best birds seen from the house were both tail end views and unidentifiable!
First was a flock of 18 Geese.. Most likely Canada's, but even they would have been an addition to the garden list.. we don't do Waders and Wildfowl from the house!

Also caught the back end of a large Raptor, that I'm not convinced was a Buzzard, but views were even worse.

Trouble with the Autumn Migration is that I can't see beyond the trees North of the house,  all the open sky is to the south. There is a fairly good flyway North / South through the western edge of the village which I'll write about on a quiet day! and it can be good in Spring fromthe upstairs windows.

Did see a handful of Hirundines going East to West in the afternoon, House Martins and Swallows.
Also this evening's Buzzard flock was 28 again. Managed to view the birds from South of the field but this started to spook the closest ones so won't do that too often.
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• Monday, September 8, 2008 - Hoe Lane Buzzards reach 33

Hoe Lane North Baddesley: The big gathering of Buzzards is still there, with 33 at 6pm this evening. A few were much closer to Hoe Lane today, so maybe they had been disturbed from the far end of the field which is out of view.
Tried to check from the next footpath along Hoe Lane but frustratingly, the hidden dip was still well out of sight! Might try from Toothill Road, but I suspect you can't even see the field from there.
Also checked out the huge Pig farm near Broughton today. Was hoping for maybe Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, etc., or even Stone Curlew as an outside bet. However, nothing of interest except a huge flock of Rooks and Jackdaws. Thought I heard a Water Rail, then quickly realised it was one of the pigs!
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• Saturday, September 6, 2008 - Grey Phalarope at Keyhaven

Weather looked seriously naff, with a low in from the Atlantic this weekend bringing floods and heavy rain. Decided to brave it and go out, and figured the chances of seeing anything smaller than a Starling were slim! So decided on checking out Waders at Keyhaven, and a seawatch from nearby Hurst "Cut Bridge". Also got there for dawn in the hope of something lurking in the reeds, but no joy on that score.

An early walk past a couple of lagoons didn't reveal too much apart from the usual waders. Knot and Whimbrel were the best I could find, plus several Grey Plovers. A Redstart was a good find in the conditions as he zipped across the lane into some trees.

The Seawatch was a similar struggle with pretty much empty sea, except for very distant Gannets. Did see two very close Ravens glide past.

Tried my best to dodge more rain, and failed. By this time my Waterproof trousers were inundated!

So back to Keyhaven.. Plenty of waders to sift through. It was a case of sheltering from the rain, then scanning the waders and moving into the next decent position before packing everything up and sheltering downwind of a bush while the next shower passed through.
I say showers.. these were horizontal bucket loads of rain that I often seem to encounter on the south Coast!

Eventually struck lucky with a Juv / 1st Winter Grey Phalarope feeding amongst Redshanks and Dunlin. Forgot about the rain avoiding tactics and got another thorough soaking while enjoying watching this pretty little wader feeding frantically in front of me. Texted it onto Birdguides, and recorded some field notes onto my mobile then attempted a digi-scope shot, but the mobile wouldn't play ball.

Eventually tore myself away from the Phalarope, a bird I have only ever seen twice before (1994 and 2000! both twitched), and got some small migrants on the way back to the car.. 2 Yellow Wagtails, a White Wagtail, and a Wheatear.

Only saw 1 other Birder, and pointed him in the direction of the Phalarope.


Listened to this for the entire drive home!


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• Tuesday, September 2, 2008 - Small arrival of Pied Wagtails.

Days certainly getting shorter, but I do have the chance to quickly scan the turf field near Chilworth on the way home from work most evenings. Was hoping for something to have dropped in after the rain, and it looked like a few Pied Wagtails have arrived. Double figures at least, and one looked like it may have been Alba, but the sun was against me, and it was distant, so it remains a maybe.

Only other interest was a Stock Dove. Bad news in that it looks like the grass is starting to grow again, which I suspect will turn it back into a huge birdless expanse. Shocking that these farmers make money instead of leaving optimum birding habitat ;)
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• Sunday, August 31, 2008 - Buzzards joined by a Peregrine

Scanned a few fields during and after the heavy rain today. Most were empty or filled with the usual Black Headed Gulls and Starlings, so it was left to the Hoe Lane Buzzards to rescue the afternoon.
Still 19 there today at about 4pm, so plenty of time for numbers to hit the high 20's after I left (Numbers have risen again since my previous post, to a staggering 37 at one point!). Scanned the surrounding area, and was pleased to find a Peregrine perched on a distant pylon. It was definately an adult, probably a male although it was a long way off. Nice find as we don't get many Peregrines immediately north of the M27, though sightings increase further north into the Downs. South of the Motorway, the Lower Test Marshes, Keyhaven and the coast get regular sightings.
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• Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - Buzzards back down to 8

Visited Hoe Lane twice yesterday to check out the Buzzard numbers.. First visit, en route to work was just before dawn, and there were precisely zero birds. Second visit was in the evening, and the Buzzards were present but back down to 8 birds, which has a nice symmetry about it.
Tried to check out Misselbrook Lane turf fields en route to work this morning, but it was still pretty dark and there didn't appear to be any birds there. Saw a couple of Bats indicating that I might be better advised to take my Bat detector out on pre-work trips for the rest of the year.
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• Monday, August 25, 2008 - Hoe Lane Buzzards

Checked out the Stubble field along Hoe Lane this morning, and was amazed to see 28 Buzzards from the gate.
Not sure where the extra 20 have come from, but quite an impressive site.

The Dog walkers' field at the North Baddesley end of Hoe Lane had 2 Juvenile Stonechats, but not much else.

Misslebrook Lane turf fields had a good number of Gulls this morning. Mostly Black Headed, with about 15 Herring Gulls, and a Common Gull. Couldn't see the Wheatears there today.

Kathleen (my Partner) got a fright last night when a pretty substantial Moth flew into her face! I managed to catch it after it settled on a curtain, and identified it as an "Old Lady". A first for me, so I was well happy!

Casbrook Common yesterday had a Lesser Whitethroat showing well with Chiff Chaffs, Blackcap and a Greater Whitethroat. Plenty of mud there, but no Waders. Figured there was a good chance of seeing a Green Sandpiper there. Area is old landfill by the look of it, with an abundance of Buddleia bushes. Must be heaving with Butterflies in the high summer! I only check the area out on Sundays when the adjacent workings are closed.
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• Friday, August 22, 2008 - More Buzzards, and a couple of Wheatears drop in.

Stubble Field had 8 Buzzards on the ground this morning. Had a feeling there was an 8th yesterday evening, but half the field is out of sight from the road, and a couple moved when I stopped the car.
Buzzard numbers must be pretty impressive around the village right now, presumably with juveniles boosting the numbers..
A very conservative estimate would be 12: 8 in the stubble field, 2 in Baddesley Common, 1 near Chilworth, 1 very pale bird along castle lane. Not sure if the birds often seen over Telegraph hill are amongst the birds currently  residing in the stubble field. May try and use the 8 birds on Hoe lane as a starting point for a record attempt of North Baddesley Buzzards this weekend!

This evening, the Turf fields off Misselbrook lane had two Wheatears.
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• Thursday, August 21, 2008 - North Baddesley, 21st August pm.

Watched a 4 year old girl come a whisker away from beating her Mum on Mario Karts Wii and decided to grab my binoculars and make a run for it before I got hammered by the Hi-Octane infant!

Some Turf fields between Chilworth and North Baddesley have been filling up with birds each evening for a while now, but I've yet to find anything out of the ordinary there..

c. 100 Starlings,
a few Black Headed Gulls, plenty of Rooks and Jackdaws, plus a single Pied Wagtail.

All were discretely hidden behind a brow until a Buzzard disturbed them. On the other side of the lane was a Spotted Flycatcher.

Also had a Raptor to thank for flushing a Tit flock through the garden. The Raptor was a Sparrowhawk, and the Tit flock contained at least 20 Long Tailed Tits.

Elsewhere, I was quite pleased to pick up a Redstart on Baddesley Common, plus another Spotted Flycatcher. At dusk, a field of stubble on Hoe Lane had 7 Buzzards on the ground.
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• Sunday, August 17, 2008 - Using Zoom H2 to produce sonagrams.

Really pleased with the results below captured using my Zoom H2 recorder and it's built in mics. Both birds were calling fairly faintly against a backdrop of windy weather, and although the calls were faint to listen to, the sonagrams are fairly clear. Top one is a Chiff Chaff (with smooth increase in pitch and harmonics clearly visible). Bottom one is Willow Warbler  (with a flat start and sharp increase in pitch, plus no harmonics equating to a very clear note).


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• Sunday, August 17, 2008 - Signs of Migration at Milk Hill, Wiltshire

Headed up to Wiltshire's highest peaks (!) in the hope of seeing some hilltop migration. At the end of a very long and tiring walk, I had seen just enough to make the walk and early start worthwhile!
Highlights were 2 Wheatears, a Spotted Flycatcher, and 2 Willow Warblers. Most numerous bird was Swallow: Many were grounded and feeding over a sheep field, others were passing through. Amongst them I managed 2 House Martins, and a Sand Martin.
Quite surprised by the number of Kestrels in the area. Must have been at least 6, and even better a Juvenile Peregrine made a brief appearance fighting with Kestrels and a Rook before engaging in an extensive pursuit of a pigeon. The Pigeon narrowly escaped by swooping into a barn after what must have been a white knuckle ride into the clouds and back!

Surprised I didn't bump into a Redstart or two up there. The habitat looked good in places, but there are so many similar looking hills across the Downs. I suspect most of the more interesting migrants make it through un-detected.

Scanned the skies for about an hour once the thermals started putting up Buzzards, and the local Gulls and Crows started to move, but not a great deal was passing through. Did see a very interesting looking distant Raptor that may have been a Marsh Harrier, but alas, it dropped over the horizon before I could clinch the ID.

Also in the area, 3 Crop circles and a large number of Pagans(?). Some of whom were on the top of a hill doing a wacky dance.

Stopped off at the Nether Wallop Sewage works on the way home. A small finch flock of about 20 birds was feeding along the track. Most were Linnets including one immaculate male, with a few Greenfinches and a Goldfinch.
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• Saturday, August 16, 2008 - Balearic Shearwater and Spoonbills in Dorset.


Long day at Portland Bill, Ferrybridge and Middlebere (all in Dorset) in which I saw 56 species in all.

Seem to have more than my share of quiet days at Portland! today being a particular struggle. Did manage 4 Balearic Shearwaters off the bill, plus 3 Common Scoters and a Great Skua. On the land there were a few Wheatears, but nothing else of note.

Ferrybridge was good: 1x 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull, plus Knot and Sanderling the highlights. The Sanderling was coming out of Summer plumage and threw me for a few seconds. Lots of Dunlin and Ringed Plover to sift through and a small flock of Sandwich Terns.

Finished the day at Middlebere.. took a while to find the hide overlooking the lagoon.. (if you keep to the main track, It is just past the National Trust cottages).
This was the most enjoyable part of the day for me with 5 Spoonbills, 5 Avocets, Black Tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Yellow Legged Gull. Spent a good two hours in the hide which makes a change from constantly on the move!
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• Saturday, August 9, 2008 - Quiet overhead, plus a pretty smart Moth

The skies overhead were typically quiet yesterday in a strong North West wind. One small Falcon flying strongly West looked like a Hobby, but only gave a glimpse before dropping behind distant trees.

Ran the Moth trap overnight, and a Black Arches was the undoubted pick of the catch. See picture. Also a Setaceous Hebrew Character and Shuttle Shaped Dart were new ones for me.


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• Friday, August 8, 2008 - Is it a Bird?!

Saw a news story today about a small unmanned plane being trialled to survey crop density over farmland. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7547504.stm
I can see it now: Report of a White Stork over farmland was in fact a plane!
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• Thursday, August 7, 2008 - In your dreams Mate!

Had a couple of birding dreams in the last two nights! First involved a Hoopoe and Red Backed Shrike found in an animal enclosure at Marwell Zoo. Second was a White Billed Diver at an unknown location resembling a boating lake. The Diver in particular was gut wrenching when I woke up to find it wasn't real! Hopefully I will revert back to my usual dreams of falling off cliffs, taking A levels with no revision (even though I gave up exams 20 years ago!), realising I've gone to work naked etc.

As far as real life goes! I've had more than my share of good fortune finding birds this year, but can't help think there is another decent sighting left in me this year! Guess that's what keeps us all going, and setting the alarm at ridiculous times at every opportunity, especially in Autumn!

A few minutes in the back garden last night got me a Common Pipistrelle and a Serotine on the Bat Detector.
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• Sunday, July 27, 2008 - Silver-Studded Woo-Hoo!

Headed to Beaulieu Heath with my 4 year old Daughter in search of my first Silver Studded Blue. Surpisingly, I found one within 5 minutes despite my daughter wanting the toilet and complaining of being hungry. Even more surprising I got really good close up views of both the upper and underwings without my Daughter spooking it or treading on it. Quite a smart insect.

Also had a decent view of a Dark Green Fritillary as we headed back to the car. Daughter is now well into Butterflies and found a Red Admiral in the garden later in the day!
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• Saturday, July 26, 2008 - I guess that's why they call them the Blues!

Called in at Silchester Common after work on Friday. Was hoping to see my first Silver-Studded Blue, but was quite surprised not to find any in a couple of hours of bright afternoon sunshine. Did however, realise quite late that I hadn't covered quite a large area of the Common, and this might have been where their stronghold was. Did see a nice Grayling, Little Egret, and 3 Dartford Warblers.

Ran the Moth Trap overnight and had more success. Waved Black was a big surprise as it is classified as Nationally Rare, although has experienced a population boom in Hampshire in recent years by the sound of it. 7 Firsts including Fanfoot, Dusky Sallow, Dun-Bar, September Thorn and White-Spotted Pug, bringing the garden list up to 100. This garden never brings in the big numbers, but always has a good variety. A Hornet in the trap was a less welcome visitor!

Heard a probable Crossbill fly over the house in the afternoon, but didn't see it unfortunately.
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• Friday, July 18, 2008 - Swifts passing through, and a Hobby overhead.

Noticed a slight change in the local bird scene yesterday: A decent flock of around 12 Greenfinches was quite noticeable over the gardens, and a trickle of Swifts throughout the day signalled the start of Autumn for me! All were heading West. Had I been able to pay more attention to them throughout the day, I'm sure the numbers would have easily been into 3 figures.
A bit of quality was added by a Hobby drifting high over, early evening. A first for the "garden", making up for a probable that got away earlier this year.
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• Sunday, July 13, 2008 - Curlews in Cheshire, and mass carnage at home

Final BTO survey of the year had a surprise in the form of singing Tree Pipits in the gap between North Baddesley and Chilworth. Some lucky residents in Valley park would be able to hear them in their gardens!

Spent a week camping in Cheshire, near the Welsh border and Wrexham. Birding highlights were a group of 4 Curlews regularly passing overhead, and presumably breeding nearby. Tree Sparrows were harder to see this year, but I managed one, plus a single Spotted Flycatcher. Also Purple Hairstreaks were easy to see at the top of a mature Oak tree.

Returned home to see a Collared Dove dead on the conservatory roof (presumably after flying into a window), and a Squirrel dead in the stream (presumably drowning a couple of inches of water)
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• Thursday, June 12, 2008 - A good night at the moth trap

No birding highlights lately, but a good session with the Moth Trap overnight.. 13 species of macro moth which is a slight improvement on previous weeks, and of these, 7 were "lifers"! listed below:

Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula)
Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis)
Marbled White Spot (Lithacodia pygarga)
Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis)
Marbled Brown (Drymonia dodonaea)
Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata)
Blotched Emerald (Comibaena bajularia)

Next month or so should bring in the big catches.
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• Sunday, June 8, 2008 - Quail, Grizzled Skipper, and Mother Shipton

2nd of my three BTO tetrad surveys this morning. This one on the Hampshire Downs in the north west of the county. Had an excellent start when I got to the furthest point of the survey square and was just about to turn round and start the survey: I heard a very short, very distant burst of Quail in between the Skylark songflights. Was very fortunate as the Skylarks could easily have drowned out the call, and once I had turned round to start the survey I'd have never heard it.

So the survey got delayed by half an hour as I continued walking to get  closer to the call. Managed to track it down to a field but still fairly distant, and very difficult to pin point where the call was originating from. I've heard people talk about Grasshopper Warblers "throwing their voices" and it being hard to trace the origin, and this was equally tricky.

The highlights of the survey were two Stone Curlews in a pig farm, and better still, 3 birds in a recently ploughed field showing really well. Also a couple of Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Linnets, and good numbers of Skylarks. Three Small Blue Butterflies was a surprise too.

After the survey, I headed to Danebury and caught up with Grizzled Skipper at last! This Butterfly has eluded me for the last few years. With their fairly short flight season, and weather dependancy, I  struggle to see too many species in a year. I think a butterfly yearlist would be an amazing challenge!  Also saw my first Mother Shipton's Moth. Quite a smart Moth despite being named after an old Hag!
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• Sunday, June 1, 2008 - BTO atlas survey - Home stretch! and one that got away.

The final round of BTO Atlas "timed visits" is in June, so I got off to a good start by completing one this morning.
Weather was rainy, but held off for the first hour, and apart from having to shelter under some bushes for 15 minutes, I got round relatively dry! The showers certainly didn't have any effect on the bird activity, there was never really a quiet moment during the survey.

Whilst sheltering from the worst shower, a bird flew past fairly distantly, looked like a female Blackbird or Thrush. As it disappeared into the belt of trees it looked to have a green rump.. Only bird that seemed to remotely fit would be a female Golden Oriole, but unfortunately it didn't show again, so one that got away. Either that or I'm going colour blind!

What I did see was a very distant single Stone Curlew, feeding in a pig farm paddock. Also a few Grey Partridges, a Corn Bunting, and decent numbers of Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Linnets.

Closer to home, a Cuckoo was calling yesterday, clearly audible from the garden. A family of Robins are nesting in the vicinity of the house.. The adults permanently scouring the garden for caterpillars out of the oak trees.
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• Monday, May 26, 2008 - Turtle Dove on Salisbury Plain

Haven't ventured into the New Forest or the Coast this spring, and with the prospect of Bank Holiday tourists, I decided to nead North once again on Sunday afternoon.

Some superb scenery on Salisbury Plain, but the birding was hard work. Highlight was a Turtle Dove at Imber Range Path, my first for nearly 3 years in the UK, and a couple of Corn Buntings. Also saw a couple of Fallow Deer and a fox.

Headed to Yarnbury which had a good selection of Raptors in the Winter, but nothing late afternoon. Weather was starting to get very wintry so I headed back into Hampshire. Headed to an area that looks good for Stone Curlew, but is impossible to survey in the daytime. I arrived after dusk, and listened from the footpath but no calls. Only Lapwings and some Skylarks. Also saw 1 Barn Owl and a Common Pipistrelle.
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• Friday, May 23, 2008 - A Hobby gets away

A very distant falcon seen from the garden just eluded me adding Hobby
to my "seen from garden" list. Would have probably counted it, if it wasn't for so
many Red Footed Falcons around at the moment!

Not a lot else being seen by me this week. The moth trap has brought in some
interesting insects with Poplar Hawk Moth, Peacock Moth, and Cream
Wave. Pretty decent quality, we don't seem to have many abundant species
here.. Brimstone is always recorded, usually within a couple of minutes of
the light going on! but usually just a single moth of this species.

Had a look on the BUBO listing website today.. Added a European Self
found life list.. which I am proudly sitting on top of right now.. The
fact no one else has entered a "self found list for Europe" is the main
reason, but I'll take glory in any shape or form! ironically, it is
probably my best achievement as I have travelled to virtually every corner of
the continent in search of birds.
I'd also like to hit 250 self found UK species, and am currently 8 short. As
you'd expect the last 8 will be tough. 

The next few years might see a couple of additions in the form of an
armchair tick for Monk Parakeet (assuming they have a population boom
around Elstree), and Great Bustard (assuming they take off, and I eventually bump into one
near the re-introduction area!). Looking at the other more likely species I'm
missing, it looks like I need to spend a lot of time gazing out to sea! Cory's
Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, Leaches Petrel, Grey Phalarope to name a few. My other
option is to hit the coast in search of rarities, but this is easier said
than done! Even at the hotspots.
Failing that, a week in the Shetlands or outer Hebs would no doubt help
my cause!
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• Saturday, May 10, 2008 - Moths, Bats and Duke of Burgundy. (No Birds!)

Ran the Moth trap Wednesday night and recieved a shock the next moring with about 8 Cock Chafer Beetles inside.. really gross looking things, and together with a fairly lively Wasp made emptying the trap no fun at all! Not too many moths inside, but my first Pale Tussock and Muslin Moths made it worth while. Need to think about changing this trap somehow as most of the moths seem to sit outside it, and the trap gets a pretty small catch at the moment. First sign of sunlight and I may be missing the odd Hawkmoth or Geometridae.

Also experimenting with my bat detector: Have now purchased a Zoom H2 to record from the Detector. A good feature of the H2 is that is can be used to record directly into the PC via USB. So with a 10 metre Phono cable from the detector into the H2, I can sit in the house at my PC running Audacity Software, while the Detector is outside picking up bats! Was quite busy last night with Common Pipistrelle, Natterer's, Noctule and Serotine all making regular appearances.

Called in to Noar Hill on Saturday afternoon and was lucky enough to catch up with about 4 Duke of Burgundy Butterflies. Got excellent views in the bins of this first for me. Was surprised how small they were, which tells you that I didn't do my homework too well!
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• Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - Bank Holiday local round up

The Moth trap didn't live up to expectations.. Just a Pebbled Hook Tip and a couple of unidentified Pugs the next morning!

Also, the farmland around the village was struggling to produce anything after the rain on Sunday. 5 Lapwings on territory about the only highlight, plus plenty of Whitethroats, and a few Swifts and House Martins overhead.

Listened to the bat detector in the evening, and picked up Noctule, Serotine and a few Common Pipistrelles from the garden.

Strange thing about this Spring locally is that I have seen some nice passage migrants (e.g. Redstart, Firecrest, Red Kite, Osprey), but haven't seen a single passage species that I saw locally last Spring (e.g. Nightingale, Grasshopper Warbler, Wheatear, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, or Little Ringed Plover)!
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• Saturday, May 3, 2008 - BTO Timed visit.

Completed my "Early TTV visits" for the BTO atlas survey this morning.  Managed about 35 Species on farmland in the North West of Hampshire, the highlights being Stone Curlew, 2 Corn Bunting one of which was singing in someone's garden, albeit on the edge of a large Crop field. Also plenty of Yellowhammers, 4 Grey Partridges, and many Whitethroats. Also a noticeable passage of Swallows throughout the morning, all heading North.

Sewage works at Middle Wallop had a couple of Grey Partridges in the adjacent field, but not a lot else.

Running the Moth Trap this evening and it promises to bring in a bumper catch. Already a few Pugs clinging to the window and walls, and a very smart Lunar Marbled Brown picked up.
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• Sunday, April 27, 2008 - Portland Bill, a few Bats and a Firecrest.

Friday:

Spent most of the morning at Portland Bill.
Weather was very overcast with some mist and a light South / South West Wind.
Most of the day's excitement was from the sea watch, but I fancied the walk from Southwell to the bill and back, so missed out on Pomarine Skua, and one or two other sightings. I did see a good passage of Gannets offshore, Fulmar, Kittiwake and a small number of Manx Shearwaters really close in during my brief seawatch.

The grounded land birds wasn't that bad, just missing the bit of quality that you hope to find at the Bill.. let's just say I've had worse days there! My tally for the morning was:

14 Wheatear, 2 Tree Pipits, 1 Siskin, 2 Chiff Chaff, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 White Wagtail, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Whitethroats.
Overhead there was a strong passage of Swallows which was probably the most memorable part of the day for me. I managed a single Sand Martin, and a single House Martin amongst them. The Swallows were all flying with the wind.. something I don't recall ever seeing before. I am more used to seeing them battling against a wind, no matter how strong it is.


Saturday:

Ran the moth trap overnight. Pretty quiet!  the highlight being a Pebble hook tip. Also 2 Hebrew Characters, and a smart looking Brimstone. Later on in the day an Early Tooth striped showed up on a wooden fence. Towards dusk an Early Thorn made an appearance. This had obviously been brought in by the moth trap but gone undetected through the day. Had a brief look along Hoe Lane after shopping but nothing noteworthy. spent the evening out on the back patio with the bat detector! Was a good night for Pipistrelles with constant passes of Common Pips picked up on the detector. A Noctule passed over which doesn't happen too frequently from this garden ( we get more Serotines).

Sunday:

A day of DIYing, but did take the binocs out during a trip to B&Q (sneaky!) and had a look along Hoe Lane. Stopped off at the East end to scan a sheep field but not much there apart from a Stock Dove and Mistle Thrush. Woodland on the other side of the road was filled with birdsong, and I picked up a Firecrest singing high in the canopy. Eventually got a good look at him, and better views as he came down to head height. As this is an area I haven't checked before, I've no idea how long he has been there, however he was constantly feeding, and was probably a freshly arrived migrant. No sign of him later in the day when I went with sound recorder to try and record the song.
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• Tuesday, April 22, 2008 - Male Redstart South of North Baddesley

A quick scan on Hoe Lane after work this evening.
Pheasant Cover on Hoe Lane was quiet again with just a few Blackbirds rummaging in the soil. Dog Walkers's field was also quiet but a smart looking Male Common Redstart near the horse paddocks was a nice surprise. Watched him for 10 minutes catching insects. He looked very bright in the sun.
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• Sunday, April 20, 2008 - Red Kite over North Baddesley

Checked out a few fields around North Baddesley this afternoon..
Tried the area of paddocks around the Golf Course along the Chilworth Gap, the flooded field on Luzborough Lane, and the mixed farmland north of the A27 near Halterworth. Very little at any of these areas, although 4 Lapwings guarding territories was good to see.
Headed along Hoe Lane, but again not a great deal about. West end of the lane has a very overgrown area that is probably only good for Linnets and Goldfinches right now. Rest of the West side is Oil Seed Rape, so not much potential.
Last winter's Pheasant cover at the central section looks good, but nothing there today.

So it was left to the Dog Walkers's field at the Eastern end to rescue the afternoon, and it duly obliged with a superb close view of a Red Kite at tree top height along the edge of the field. It then gained height and drifted north with a Crow in close Proximity (this was around 4pm). There was also a small flock of Linnets and a Stonechat on the field.

Still haven't seen a Wheatear yet this spring!
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• Saturday, April 19, 2008 - The Full Monty

Paid a visit to one of my favourite parts of the Wiltshire Downs on Thursday. Too far for a day trip from home, but as I was en route to my parents back in Merseyside, I was able to stop for an hour or two. I was hoping that the migrant Wheatears etc. that are presumably flying straight over North Baddesley and continuing North at the moment might be landing about 40 miles north, but this didn't prove to be the case!

Headed to an area that looked promising on Live Search, but the distance from the lay by to the "promising area" was further than it looked! In addition, the cold Easterly wind that has hit us for the last couple of days was extremely cold along the hilltops. Birdlife was fairly minimal with just a Lapwing, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard, plus two Marsh Tits. The habitat did improve at the end of the walk with a nice sheltered hillside and cows grazing, plus a line of trees and bushes.. looked ideal for Chats, and maybe a Ring Ouzel, but not a thing today.. However,  I caught a glimpse of what looked like a gull disappear down into the valley. What followed left me totally speechless as a beautiful Male Montagu's Harrier drifted up and elegantly glided past me at pretty close range. Followed him for about a minute before he dropped down over a hill and out of sight.

What with Long Eared Owl, 2x Osprey, and now the Montagu's Harrier, I feel like I have had about 5 years of Birdwatching good fortune this year!

Returned back to Hampshire via the M40 this morning, and had the typically awesome views of Red Kites along the Motorway.
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• Thursday, April 17, 2008 - BTO Survey - Chandlers Ford

A quick walk for my 2nd local BTO atlas survey this morning. Still clear skies, still no migrants around, but good to see that the local Whitethroats were displaying this morning on wasteground. Also a couple of Stonechats, a Meadow Pipit, and 4 Linnets there.

The rest of the survey was pretty quiet, with nothing out of the ordinary. Looks like a good week to get the breeding surveys out of the way with very few distractions!
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• Tuesday, April 15, 2008 - Calm before the storm!

This April seems to be going the same way as last year with clear nights, sunny days (albeit with a few heavy  showers thrown in), and very little birding excitement around the village. Either the migrants are passing straight over, or are biding their time on the continent. Looking at the longer range weather forecasts, I don't think we'll have too long to wait before a few migrants start to drop in.

Nothing noteworthy in the skies today despite a fairly good scan in the morning. A Buzzard having a scrap with a Kestrel about the only sighting. Did have a heart stopping moment when I thought a Black Tailed Godwit was flying past the house.. turned out to be a Woodpigeon with a long straight twig coming out of it's beak.

Headed over to Baddesley Common early evening.. Can safely say that this site has hit rock bottom this week with not even a Stonechat to be seen. A Little Egret was still knocking about along the boggy Western edge, and a Little Grebe was lurking in the largest pond in Emer Bog. There are quite a few recently ploughed fields West of the common, between Baddesley and the Luxborough pub. At least one had a couple of Lapwings visible as I drove past, so maybe worth a quick scan in the next few days.

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• Sunday, April 13, 2008 - BTO Atlas Breeding Survey (Lots of Skylarks!)

A Little Egret in a horse paddock was the only surprise during a lunchtime walk around Baddesley Common. A few Migrants have arrived though and it was good to hear Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaffs calling throughout the Wooded areas.

Sunday morning, I ventured north for a BTO survey. The morning started well with a Cuckoo, Grey Wagtail, and Willow Warbler around Middle Wallop Airfield. Was fortunate that the mist cleared just as I started the survey, and I subsequently saw good numbers of breeding farmland birds on the survey..

Skylark 56, Corn Bunting 5, Lapwing 9, Grey Partridge 2, Barn Owl 1, Linnet 14, Yellowhammer 13.

The Skylark count is my biggest ever in the UK, beating 52 in the same area last February!

Also, found a small collection of Owl Pellets by the side of the footpath, and looking up noticed  that I was standing under an "Old crow's nest" which set alarm bells ringing! However, on closer examination the pellets looked more like those of a Barn Owl.. Black and glossy, and fairly thick.
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• Sunday, April 6, 2008 - Quiet around North Baddesley

Plenty of snow first thing this morning. Well, plenty by Southampton standards! Checked out some local venues after lunch, but the area immediately west of North Baddesley seems to be having a quiet period so far this spring. The flooded field on Luzborough Lane looks good, but nothing of note today. The West and Central sections of Hoe Lane were totally devoid of birds too. However, the Dog Walkers's field at the Est end of Hoe Lane at least had some wildlife.. 2 Kestrels hunting close to the ground, 2 Stonechats, 1 Chiff Chaff, and a small flock of Meadow Pipits.
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• Saturday, April 5, 2008 - 2nd local Osprey, and some garden sightings

A week off from work, which started well with an Osprey seen high over Skidmore on Monday morning. Was circling a thermal with Buzzards for comparison, and drifted South West into cloud.

Rest of the week, was spent around the house.. Highlight was a female Brambling in the garden on Wednesday (my first ever April Brambling!) and 5 Siskins still visiting the feeder until Thursday.

Ran the Moth trap and got some new species.. Frosted Green, Brindled Beauty, Small Quaker, and Clouded Drab. Haven't ran the moth trap very often in the early spring, so much of what I find is new for me.
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• Thursday, March 27, 2008 - Osprey over North Baddesley

Noticed from early this morning that there were "bits and pieces" flying over,  all viewable from the front windows, and all originating from the South and East into a very mild North West Wind.

First up were a couple of Buzzards at 8am haeading West, too high and too purposeful for the local birds. These were soon followed by a Cormorant which is fairly unusual here, a very high and very large looking corvid, and a Grey Heron. 56 Woodpigeons headed over, and eventually the local Buzzards and Kestrels made an appearance in the local airspace.

Highlight of the day was an Osprey gliding over the house in a perfect Northerly direction just after 10am. Looking on the OS map, I suspect this bird came up Southampton Water and continued North, possibly via the Itchen for a short spell. Although only a brief sighting, this was a real bonus, and good to know that not all the migration goes straight up the Test Valley missing the house by about 2 miles!

Morning continued with 3 more Buzzards very high, and apparently moving East to West.

• Sunday, March 23, 2008 - North Salisbury Plain.. Night Safari!

Went out in search of Owls along the Northern edge of Salisbury plain in a fairly brisk north wind. Wasn't quite as successful as previous evenings, but still managed about 6 Barn owls, and 3 Tawny owls. The highlight was a Badger seen well along a minor road.

Started at dusk just North of Tidworth, but the area I chose was very quiet. In hindsight it probably gets a fair deal of disturbance from Tank maneouvres so perhaps wasn't the best choice. I think this slow start while the light was still good ruined all hopes of a large number of sightings. On the subsequent route, I managed to find some good locations for future daytrips.

Earlier in the day, briefly visited the Sewage works near Middle Wallop Airfield.. The recent Pied Wagtails were joined by a few Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches.

A garden Brambling was last seen on Friday, and the Siskin numbers seem to be well down now. Perhaps 4 or 5 birds left.
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• Monday, March 17, 2008 - Around Middle Wallop

Spent Sunday afternoon / evening around Middle Wallop in a fairly strong North / East Wind, and drove home after dark via Mottisfont.

A fairly sheltered field near Middle Wallop airfield was full of Starlings and Fieldfares. Plus a few Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. Wasn't able to pick out anything else amongst them, but the nearby sewage works had a reasonable number of Pied Wagtails. This is the first decent looking sewage farm I've found in Hampshire for birds! Most others are either out of sight, or "sealed".. This one looked ideal for Wagtails and other Migrants, and might be worth checking out more frequently despite the obvious down side.
In nearby bushes were 2 Chiff-Chaffs. Could have been migrants, but difficult to say with certainty. I don't see many wintering Chiff Chaffs round these parts, but if there are a few, then a sewage farm would be a good place for them. Headed to farmland west of the Wallops near dusk, and saw 2 Grey Partridges, 2 Barn Owls, 2 Foxes and 2 Roe Deer.. all showing really close. Also 2 Linnets flew over and a few more Yellowhammers were in the hedges. A few Lapwings started to call after dark. Guess there could be an outside chance of hearing Stone Curlew, but no such joy on this occasion.

Drove home via some back roads and was able to add 1 more Barn Owl and 3 Tawny Owls. Braked to avoid a Hedgehog in one of the villages, and briefly held up a car behind me while he scurried to safety. Hedgehog disappeared into the verge before I became a victim of road rage!

Have devoted March to searching for Owls, and have 1 weekend left to go searching. Salisbury Plain, West of the Avon could be my next stop, or the north of the New Forest. The weather for next weekend looks appalling, with snow forecast even for Southampton! If I can time my trip to be after the worst of the weather it could either be very slow, or really good! Not sure how a thick layer of snow would affect the sightings. Suspect there will be less activity, but a better chance of seeing them.
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• Sunday, March 9, 2008 - Marsh Tit and a Badger's Sett

Waiting on some real bad weather to hit us overnight / tomorrow morning, but this afternoon was very mild, so I headed into North Hampshire. Went on one of those walks that you begin to wonder where all the wildlife is! Scenery was ok, but very little birdlife..best I could manage was a Marsh Tit. Also found a Badger's Sett which looked like it could be watched from about 100 yards east, therefore usually downwind of the Badgers. Saw the run of flattened grass from the sett into the nearby woods, complete with bristles caught on the barbed wire.. all classic signs! I took the bristles off the wire, so next time I pass there, I should be able to confirm that the sett is still in use, if new bristles have been snagged.

Spent dusk at the BTO tetrad, and *may* have heard the Long Eared Owl hooting in the distance. It was very faint, and not conclusive. Also heard something that might have been wing clapping shortly afterwards! Then the rain started, and other than a point blank Barn Owl heading back to his shelter, the day was finished. So still not sure if the Long Eared Owls are resident on this tetrad.. returned about 4 times with no conclusive evidence now. If they are still in the area, they are one elusive species! and sadly it looks like there isn't much chance of getting prolonged views, and studying these birds. Won't give up just yet though.

Remembered to take the bird feeders down this evening.. the last high wind completely emptied 3 feeders, leaving thistle seed all over the garden.
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• Friday, March 7, 2008 - Garden Finches

Plenty of activity from the back windows of the house.. 4 Bramblings the highlight, plus good views of Coal Tit, Nuthatch, and still plenty of Siskins, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, and a single Greenfinch. Hard to believe I didn't see a single Siskin or Brambling in the local area last winter.
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• Sunday, March 2, 2008 - Owl watching along Hampshire / Wiltshire border

Decided a while back to go out on a few evenings in March, and see if I can find any Long Eared Owls in the North Hampshire / Wiltshire Downs. Fortunately, I stumbled across a couple on my BTO Survey a month or so back, so I'm not as desperate to find any now as I might have been!

Last night seemed like a good evening to try a few localities. I was hoping that after the poor weather we had on Friday, Owls would be active this evening, and this proved to be the case with numerous sightings of the commoner species. Did a circuit of the Wallops - Grateley - Collingbourne - Salisbury Plain (East of the Avon) - Danebury. The GPS taking me along some very minor roads, with waypoints marking stopping points to listen out for calling birds. Suspect it was too windy/cold for birds to be calling, plus they were pre-occupied with hunting. I didn't hear any calls between dusk and 22:30hrs.

Totals seen were as follows:

Barn Owls: 9 Seen thoughout the North Hampshire / Salisbury Plains area. Most on Roadside posts, or hunting in fields. Some excellent views.
Little Owl: 1 perched on a post East of Palestine Village
Tawny Owl: 2 seen. One near Mottisfont, 1 at Toothill.

The Little Owl means I've seen/found all 5 regular UK species this year.
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• Sunday, February 24, 2008 - Garden Brambling, and still Short Eared Owls at Yarnbury

I'm still having a really good run of sightings, despite not much time spent out Birding.. A Brambling feeding on spilt birdseed on the front garden path was a really good surprise this morning. He didn't stay long, but suspect he may return with the local chaffinches. This is my first Brambling in this Garden, or indeed in any of my gardens.

Revisted my BTO tetrads Friday evening after work, but no sign of the recent LEOs or indeed any other Owls. Even failed to see a Barn Owl, but did have nice views of a Tawny Owl along Hoe Lane on the edge of North Baddesley as I returned home. Was surprised how small and lean this one appeared, though I suspect the cold windy weather may have given him a more compact posture!

Ventured out into Wiltshire on Saturday afternoon: Yarnbury Castle still had a few Birds of Prey, though not as spectacular as my previous visit.. 4 Short Eared Owls, and a single Buzzard this time. The Buzzard was very distant, and the Owls spent most of the time in distant fields, but I did have a couple of very close passes... One circled low, right over my head "Barking". Also about 20 Corn Buntings, and 4 Grey Partridge.. 2 of which lacked any dark markings on the underparts. maybe a late brood from last year, just making the transition from juvenile to adult plumage?
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• Sunday, February 17, 2008 - North Baddesley / Valley Park Atlas Survey

Completed my winter BTO Atlas surveys this morning with a cold walk around my local tetrad. No real surprises, and the numbers of birds were fairly low again. Did see a few Siskins, and a Single Brambling on the edge of the Valley Park Housing estate. A Woodcock flew up from a woodland path in an area where I know they are resident.

Last night at Dusk.. Took a walk along the bridleway in the North of Hampshire that had roosting LEOs last weekend, but it didn't look good. The hedge had been cut through the week. Not drastically cut, and I daresay the hedge is still thick enough in places to hold them, but further evidence that this hedge is perhaps not the most sensible place to roost! Saw a single Barn Owl.

Listened out for calls in nearby woodland but nothing. May have heard wing clapping at one point, but not 100%. Did hear a few Lapwings and Golden Plover in the distance. Still early in the season for LEOs calling I guess, so I will give it another try on a couple of weeks.

Noticed a Wigeon on a small pond that could probably attract allsorts of unusual birds for this predominantly farmland area if it was watched regularly.
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• Friday, February 15, 2008 - Test Valley Housing development plans, and the Siskin invasion continues

Have finally seen detailed plans for long term housing development in Test Valley:
http://www.testvalley.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=6516
The Dog Walkers's field looks to have escaped the bulldozer! so hopefully it will continue it's run of decent sightings. Suspect this area has been saved by the fact pylons run through the middle of it! 500 Houses are planned in an area north of Hoe Lane, which is presently livestock and woodland, but with limited public access. I haven't seen a great deal of wildlife the few times I have ventured into this area.

Also, the woodland south of the village which has one or two decent areas (a roost of Woodcock, and a very overgrown area where I have heard Nightingale and Grasshopper Warbler) is likely to be converted into a Country park in time. This will make access easier, but hopefully keep the birding hotspots undeveloped. I will make sure the developers are aware of the good birding areas. A lot of the woodland earmarked for the Country Park appears remarkably empty in terms of wildlife, possibly due to the fact that you have to scramble through hawthorn, and jump small streams to get into the woods at present, so your mind is occupied on picking your way through the area, and not getting lost! A couple of paths through it may improve it's birdwatching potential.
Siskin numbers have hit 25 in the Garden this morning.
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• Thursday, February 14, 2008 - First Blackcap, a lucky Siskin, and a rather boring Moth!

A male Blackcap in the back garden was a first for this winter. We also had a very smart Redwing in the area today.
On the feeders in the front garden, we rescuscitated (sp.) a very lucky Siskin who flew into the kitchen window. He looked like a gonner at first, but seemed to come to his senses and later flew off quite strongly. We don't get many window strikes, Woodpigeon was the worst as it felt like a brick was coming through the window. Have moved the feeders to an angle from the window now, so hopefully any birds that do hit, will be dealt a glancing blow as opposed to a head on collision.
Slightly better news from the kitchen window was 2 Dotted Border Moths last night. A first for me, though they were nothing to write home about! Looking at the fieldguide, the wingless females look like they don't have much going for them either!
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• Sunday, February 10, 2008 - BTO Winter Surveys part II

Part 2 of my BTO winter Atlas surveys on the Hampshire Downs.
Weather was superb.. I finished the walk in my t-shirt, and with slightly sunburnt cheeks!

Bird numbers were noticeably lower than the early winter survey, with nowhere near the quantities of Thrushes, Crows, Finches etc. Although there were hundreds of Gulls in the fields.

Undoubted highlight was 2 Long Eared Owls roosting near a Barn Owl in an area of thick hedgerow along a bridleway. Saw them really well in flight, and after completing the survey(!) I turned off the bridleway at a junction but was unable to relocate them in the dense hedgerow. My first "self-found" Long Eared Owls ever.. anywhere!

Returned just North of the the area at dusk, and found a good viewpoint of the fields with some decent looking hunting habitat, but no sign of the LEOs. Did see 4 Barn Owls and a Female Merlin. Drove along the surrounding lanes but no joy. May return in a few weeks time at dusk, and see if they are calling. A few small copses in the area look suitable for breeding. Did notice a crow's nest high in the hedgerow near to the roost, but I hope they aren't dumb enough to nest so close to the bridleway!

Other highlights were 6 Grey Partridges, 3 Bramblings, and a Corn Bunting.

One strange fact from today.. I walked for 4 hours, and didn't see anyone else within 300 yards of me!
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• Saturday, February 9, 2008 - Garden Siskins on the up!


Added two more feeders full of thistle head seed to the bird feeder pole, and immediately had an increase in Siskins and Goldfinches visiting.. now get up to 6 Goldfinches, and 10 Siskins at a time. The squabbling is most entertaining. The local Siskin flock is now up to 20, and they have started spending much of the day sitting in the nearest Oak tree calling.



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• Sunday, February 3, 2008 - Need more Bird Feeders!

Kept a close eye on the garden this weekend, and am noticing the Siskins increasing in number.. 7 at once was the highest count. Outnumbering the Goldfinches now. Looks like the 2 seater seed feeder is getting a bit stretched so I might need to get a 4 seater to cope with the demand!

A Greenfinch was the only new addition to the garden feeders this week.  We have a small group of 5 or 6 in the neighbourhood, but this is the first one this winter to succumb to the feeders.

Overhead, a few more Buzzards than recently, and occasional flocks of Rooks moving over between farmland. 40 was the best count, and one looks to have stopped off in the street for a day or two.

Hoping to visit the North of Hampshire Next weekend for part 2 of the Atlas Survey.

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• Sunday, January 27, 2008 - Short Eared Owls and more, Salisbury Plain area

Went for an afternoon walk on the edge of Salisbury Plain this afternoon, between Chitterne and Yarnbury Castle. Most of the walk was pretty dire, the farmland being farmed to within an inch of its life, and practically zero wildlife! However, at just about the furthest point from the two roads bordering the area, I saw a distant patch of long grass, and another field of stubble which looked more promising. The long walk paid off with immediate views of a Short Eared Owl and a Ringtail Hen Harrier. Saw a couple more Short Eared Owls in the distance scrapping with Crows, so headed round the edge of the grassy field to some cover and watched the show!

Must have been double figures for the SEOs.. Saw 8 simultaneously, but they were coming and going from all directions, and dropping into the field. Suspect 15 was a more realistic total. Some were really close, and I had my first ever views of one perched! The Hen Harrier showed well in the distance and a Peregrine passed over. Final bit of excitement was a female Merlin perched in a bush for several minutes before launching itself across the same grassy field and acrobatically swooping for a kill. With all the birds of Prey in the area, there were surprisingly a few passerines! 3 Stonechats, 4 Yellowhammers, 12 Corn Buntings, and a few flocks of Starlings.

Either I was very fortunate today, or Salisbury Plain is a pretty good area for Birds! Might try again soon, and see if other parts are as productive.
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• Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - Garden Siskin and Jackdaws

Only excitement this week is from the garden, where we had our first Siskin, a Male, put in a brief appearance on the seed feeder (containing thistlehead seed). I missed it on the feeder, but was fortunate to see it as it flew up into the oak tree. Hopefully, he'll become a regular for the next month or so.

Most afternoons, we get a fairly decent sized flock of Jackdaws pass overhead en route to their roost. Lately they have taken to stopping off in the top of nearby Oak Trees. Quite a deafening noise, and a pretty cool sight. Caught the tail end on camera..


Recent increase in reports of wintering Short Eared Owls prompted me to head across to the dog Walker's field at dusk between showers but no joy today. Habitat looks so right for Owls, and the with the previous sightings of Hen Harrier, Merlin, and Barn Owl in the field, I'm almost surprised not to find a Short Eared patrolling the field!
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• Sunday, January 6, 2008 - Black Necked Grebes off Lepe

Went to Lepe Sunday afternoon.. The highlight being 2 Black Necked Grebes offshore. Also a couple of Adult Winter Meditteranean Gulls, and a Red Breasted Merganser.

Headed down the road to Calshot Marshes, which looks like a superb place for migrants in the scrub south of the Power station, the bushes within the power station perimeter, and more bushes between the power station and oil refinery. As you can guess, it's not the most scenic place to go, and was fairly quiet today. I did see a huge pre-roost flock of Starlings wheeling over the skies before heading to roost on the Eastern edge of the refinery. Surpsied nothing was hunting the Starling flock, or over the saltmarsh. Not a single Bird of Prey to be seen.
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• Friday, January 4, 2008 - Another Barn Owl

Yet another local Barn Owl.. this one on the roadside between North Baddesley and Chilworth before dawn this morning. Didn't notice any Jewelry, Cravat or Tiara, so I guess it was from the North Baddesley side of the tracks!
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• Thursday, January 3, 2008 - Raven over Hoe Lane

Ventured out at dawn for an hour.. Despite there being no frost or snow on the ground, a strong easterly was really unpleasant!
Not a great deal around. Two Kestrels seemed to be hunting everywhere I looked, and I counted the Magpies out of their roost for a change (32).
The local Buzzard was circling and calling quite early and the surrounding Farmland had a few Thrushes. Seeing more Song Thrushes than usual this winter.
Dog Walkers's field had a single Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, and a steady trickle of gulls overhead presumably from the Test Estuary heading north to the fields and open countryside North of Romsey.

Lunchtime was slightly better further along Hoe Lane with a Stoat running across the lane with a catch, and a Raven slowly passing overhead.
Fields here had more Redwing and Fieldfares, with a large flock of Corvids (mainly Jackdaws and Rooks) plus 7 Stock Doves. Next field had a small group of 11 Pied Wagtails, and a Skylark.
Pheasant covers are all still high with maize so not much chance of seeing any Finch flocks. Did see 4 Red Legged Partridges on the edge of one strip.


Garden highlights: A Roe Deer is still visiting overnight to polish off any bird feed at ground level. Goldfinch numbers are now up to 8 (almost a flock!), and 2 Nuthatches are ever present from the kitchen window. First Redwings of the winter, other than fly-overs, arrived in the street today.
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• Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - Happy New Year and 2007 Review!

Happy New year to my dedicated gang of three subscribers, plus anyone else who happens by!
Hope 2008 is full of Birdwatching surprises for you all.
This blog entry has a review of 2007's personal highlights, plus my aspirations for 2008..
First of all my review of 2007 as a top 10 of wildlife experiences during the year:
1.Stone Curlew. Despite being one of our rarest breeding birds, there are a few pairs in Hampshire / Wiltshire, and I was fortunate enough to find a very distant breeding site in the late spring. Even more rewarding was an adult and fledgling feeding in farmland at dusk. Felt very privileged to watch this species at fairly close range, and hope to see them again in 2008.
2. Local patch! On the weekend we moved into North Baddesley, I took a walk to the closest field to our house and was delighted to see Stonechats there. After many visits in 2007, I've been able to add Hen Harrier, Barn Owl, Woodcock, Merlin, Whinchat, Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler, and Nightingale. Living within walking distance of such a good area has been a big highlight for me this year. Let's hope that the next wave of houses built in the village is kind to the birding hotspots around the village.
3. New Forest Specialities
Baddesley Common and the surrounding area has a good selection of the New Forest's specialities including Woodlark, Nightjar, and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The other specialities such as Firecrest, Redstart, Crossbill, Hawfinch, Raven and Wood Warbler are fairly easy to catch up with in the New forest. Had some good woodland walks in spring 2007.

4. Keyhaven
a Few Sunday afternoons/evenings were spent at Keyhaven with some fairly impressive totals of birds. Best being Peregrine, Merlin, Ruddy Shelduck, plus the sheer numbers of Waders.

5. St.Albans Head:
Had 3 or 4 enjoyable walks around the Head and Winspit Valley in 2007. Didn't really get out of 2nd gear with sightings, but saw plenty of common species migrating, and some good spectacles of visual Migration overhead.

6. Hengistbury Head:
Only visited here once, but did find a Firecrest, and Ring Ouzel, plus lots of overhead migration of Finches. Should probably return here if I want to have a good chance of finding a Yellow Browed Warbler in Autumn 2008!

7. Bats:
Had my best ever views of Serotine over the back garden this year, and the nearby Barbastelle territories have given me my first prolonged views and recordings of this very rare mammal.

8. Divers / sea birds:
Not used to seeing many Divers living inland, but moving nearer to the coast has given me a few more chances to see them. Have had good views of Great Northern and Black Throated Divers, plus Pomarine Skuas and Manx Shearwaters. Need to venture to the coast this winter and catch up with the sea ducks and grebes, many of which I haven't seen for a few years.

9. Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary.
Saw a couple of pristine examples this year, and also added Grayling to my list in 2007.

10. Back to the Hampshire / Wiltshire Downs: this time for good numbers of Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge and farmland birds. Always great to see farmland birds doing well in areas despite the population crashes of the last few years. A BTO survey in the winter got me Winter finch and Thrush flocks, Golden Plover, Peregrine and a Male Hen Harrier.

My hopes for 2008:
I'd like to continue to find my own birds this year. Hopefully with one or two scarce or locally rare ones thrown in. This is mainly down to luck, but hopefully with some well timed trips to Portland and the coast, plus some surveys inland in underwatched parts of Hampshire and Wiltshire I may strike lucky.
I'd also like to see Horseshoe Bats again at some point. I only managed 1 brief look for them around Corfe Castle in 2007 and drew a blank. East Dorset certainly looks ideal for them.
Finally, I'd like to add a few more Butterflies/moths to my UK list.. Glanville Fritillary, Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Grizzled skipper, Lulworth Skipper, and Silver Studded Blue spring to mind. The garden moth trap will be getting more use this year too ;)

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• Friday, December 28, 2007 - BTO Atlas sightings

Here are the totals from the recent BTO atlas survey (2 surveys on adjacent squares near Palestine and Over Wallop): 46 species seen in all, 30 of the more interesting records listed below:
         Red-legged Partridge                        16                                     
         Buzzard                                            5                                       
         Hen Harrier                                      1                                      
         Sparrowhawk                                  2                                      
         Kestrel                                             4                                      
         Peregrine                                          3                                      
         Lapwing                                           38                                     
         Golden Plover                                  195                                   
         Black-headed Gull                            197                                   
         Lesser Black-backed Gull                36                                     
         Woodpigeon                                    871                                   
         Meadow Pipit                                  6                                       
         Pied/White Wagtail                           16                                     
         Skylark                                            46                                    
         Blackbird                                         33                                     
         Fieldfare                                           161                                   
         Redwing                                           19                                     
         Song Thrush                                     18                                     
         Stonechat                                         4                                       
         Brambling                                         1                                      
         Chaffinch                                          47                                     
         Goldfinch                                         46                                    
         Linnet                                               119                                   
         Jackdaw                                          44                                     
         Magpie                                            3                                       
         Carrion Crow                                   2                                       
         Rook                                               16                                     
         Starling                                             1050                                 
         Yellowhammer                                 20               
Biggest surprise was only recording 16 Rook, despite seeing many hundreds here in the past.             


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• Wednesday, December 26, 2007 - Evening Owl hunt at Horsebridge, Test Valley

Headed to Horsebridge late afternoon.. A scan of Live Local appeared to show some decent Owl hunting territory along the Test Way South of the Village. This was backed up by Two Barn Owls seen from the main road last week.

Walk was fairly quiet south of Horsebridge in Late afternoon, a few flocks of Tits and Fieldfare, plus a Goldcrest about all there was. Quite an impressive movement of Gulls along the Test late afternoon, mainly Black Headed with a few Herring, and Lesser Black Backs. Ducks were flushed from the Test a few hundred metres from the footpath at one point, and I picked out a distant Shoveler and probable Teal amongst the Mallard as they wheeled away.

As the light faded, a Hare made an appearance, a Sparrowhawk swooped by, a Buzzard drifted over, and a couple of Kestrels hunted over a huge field with a long strip of long grass. Kept my eye on this strip but no Owls as darkness fell. Did however, get a glimpse of a Barn Owl on a smaller rough area, but this was almost in total darkness. What happened to Barn Owls hunting in late Afternoon?! and what happened to Little Owls! I've seen one in 12 months in Hampshire.

All in all an enjoyable evening. Next time I will try north of Stockbridge.
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• Thursday, December 20, 2007 - Barn Owl in North Baddesley

Went for a short walk just before dusk to the nearby "dog walkers's" field on the edge of the village. Wasn't expecting a great deal, more hoping for a bit of quality, maybe an Owl!

Field was quiet, just a couple of Meadow Pipits, a small flock of Linnets over and a couple of Kestrels.. one was mobbing a Buzzard. There is also a Magpie roost to the East of the field, and a steady trickle of about 20 Magpies headed in the direction of the roost. Popped my head through a gap in the hedge and scanned the adjacent farmland.. quite a bit more activity here with about a hundred Thrushes, mainly Redwings feeding in the open, plus 12 Roe Deers and a single Fox. Staked out the wasteground until it was dark, then headed back home. Struck lucky about halfway across the field when a Barn Owl passed close by and continued hunting around the field. Got superb views, and also good views of a Woodcock overhead. Woodcock looked like it had come from the "roost" I stumbled upon last winter. Kept an eye on the Barn Owl for a few minutes figuring if anything else was in the field he would find it first, but had to be content with just the one Owl, my first within the village, and quite a surprise as we are in real Tawny Owl country. Maybe there is hope for finding a Little Owl in the nearby farmland after all!

The Garden feeders are popular as you would expect this week. Highlight was a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeder, and a slight increase in Chaffinches and Pied Wagtails.
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• Sunday, December 16, 2007 - BTO Surveying near Over Wallop

Spent the morning doing BTO atlas surveys near Over Wallop.

The day got off to an excellent start with 5 roadside Barn Owls seen en route to the survey square (this was in pitch darkness).
The surveying was good fun in freezing weather, and there were some pretty impressive sized flocks of Starlings, Thrushes, Wood Pigeons and Corvids.


Bird of the day was nearly "the one that got away"! I was on a footpath bordered by two walls of bushes, and just looked up to see what looked like a Male Hen Harrier drift overhead. It was gone before I'd even registered it, so I panicked, braced myself, and dived through a small hole in the hedge! Luckily my head emerged "Field-side" with various bits of me impaled on thorns, and I was treated to superb views of the Hen Harrier scrapping with a Juvenile Peregrine at fairly close range. Safe to say the Hen Harrier won! although I was surprised at the size of the Peregrine.. should have been a close match for the Harrier, but the Peregrine was squealing, and for once looked like a coward!

Was also good to see a couple of decent sized flocks of Golden Plover, about 200 in all, and a flock of Chaffinches in Palestine Village contained a good proportion of Brambling, although they were a few hundred metres outside my survey square.

Not sure where the Corn Buntings and Grey Partridges I have seen quite frequently in this area were, but hopefully I can pick them up on future surveys. Will post species totals if I can extract the data out of the BTO database.
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• Sunday, December 9, 2007 - Garden highlights

Not a great deal happening this week, was tempted to head for the coast but the weather, although stormy enough, didn't seem to be in a consistent direction to blow anything in. Did record my first Fieldfares over the house through the week, not sure why they are so rare here, and the garden feeders attracted Goldfinches within 24 hours of putting them out this year.. Am trying "Thistle heads" instead of Nyger seed, as they look to attract a wider range of species including Coal tit, which is an occasional visitor, and Siskins, which we are yet to see.

A Nuthatch is visiting the feeders quite regularly at the moment, and we get occasional glimpses of a Wood Mouse around the garden.
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• Sunday, December 2, 2007 - Seawatch at Portland

Spent the morning at Portland. Weather was suitably atrocious for seawatching, and I spent the first 3 hours of daylight holed up between beach huts south of the Bird Obs. Really sheltered from the elements there, and the scope didn't require cleaning once, the horizontal rain was missing me completely.

Best birds were a Pomarine Skua (Dark Morph) heading South West, and a couple of Divers, one of which was an Adult Winter Great Northern Diver. Plenty of Gannets, and Kittiwakes, plus 1 definate Razorbill, and several auks sps.

Closer to the beach huts were a couple of Rock Pipits, and I got a very brief glimpse of a Purple Sandpiper.

Got soaked heading back to the car, and Ferrybridge was extremely difficult to scan. Did manage a Pale Bellied Brent Goose (my first pale bellied, although I suspect I saw a few many years ago, before people took much notice of races!). A really smart bird, wouldn't mind seeing more in slightly calmer conditions.
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• Friday, November 30, 2007 - The most important list!

The important list to me anyway... The list of birds I haven't found myself in UK!

The Bubo listing site is looking really good ( http://www.bubo.org/listing/ ). Have entered my British Self-found list on there, and can run a report on the "easiest" species missing from my list, based on others's lists.

Top one is Rock Dove, which everyone has seen except me! I suspect people are counting Feral Pigeons, or eveyone has been to the Outer Hebrides! Apart from that, the list of target "finds" has some fairly easy species (or at least easy now that I am within 30 mins of the coast). Some species that a trip to North Uist would probably solve, and a whole host of scarce and semi-rares that if I'm lucky will stumble across one or two. Good thing is I've seen all but one of the list below either twitched, or in Europe, so am fairly familiar with them. Difficult part is finding them!

Target list:

Rock Dove
Long-eared Owl
Roseate Tern
Lapland Bunting
Common (Mealy) Redpoll
Yellow-browed Warbler
Water Pipit
Long-tailed Skua
Pomarine Skua
Black-necked Grebe
Great Northern Diver
Bean Goose
Cirl Bunting
Grey Phalarope
Barred Warbler
Richard's Pipit
Montagu's Harrier
Leach's Storm-petrel
Cory's Shearwater
Temminck's Stint
Common Crane
Common Rosefinch
Red-backed Shrike
Marsh Warbler
Sabine's Gull
Pallas's Leaf Warbler
Icterine Warbler
Ring-billed Gull
Corn Crake
Ortolan Bunting
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Greenish Warbler
Red-throated Pipit
Tawny Pipit
Pectoral Sandpiper
Rough-legged Buzzard
White-tailed Eagle
Black Kite
Surf Scoter
Savi's Warbler
White-rumped Sandpiper
European Serin
Rosy Starling
Etc..
As you can probably guess.. not a lot else going on this week!
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• Tuesday, November 27, 2007 - Brambling at Casbrook Common

Called in at Hippenscoombe Bottom, Wiltshire, on the way back form a business trip. Unfortunately, the fog descended about a mile from the layby, and was thick, right along the ridge. Did see a Marsh Tit, but was unable to scan the valley which was the whole point of going there.

Decided to cut my losses and continued towards home, the fog cleared about a mile the other side of the ridge. I stopped off at the lakes just north of Casbrook Common. Not much on the lakes, but a big Finch flock feeding amongst Pheasants in a field of Maize warranted a closer look. About 500 chaffinches, and 100 Goldfinches, and the highlight: a single Brambling. Brambling is a strange bird for me: totally fed up with seeing them during holidays in Lapland, yet can't get enough of them in the UK! This was my first for a couple of years, in what looks like the start of a good winter for them. This one was a smart Winter Male.

Seeing the abundance of birds in the Maize field prompted me to call in at Hoe Lane to see how the Pheasant Runs are looking, but the Maize here is still unharvested and about 7 foot high.
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• Sunday, November 25, 2007 - BTO Atlas early Winter visit, Chandler's Ford

Finally managed to pair up 3 hours of decent weather + no family commitments + no work this morning, and although I personally felt shocking after a flu jab (yep!) decided to do my "early winter visit" to my local BTO atlas square. The square includes a bit of Valley Park, Great Covert (which is renowned for Nightjar and Barn Owl), Some Turf Fields that are always full of birds, an excellent patch of wasteground, and the very east corner of Emer Bog.

This is the trickiest square of the three I have signed up for as the range of habitats is probably into double figures, and the survey wants a representative sample of all habitats in one hour. Think I just about cracked it today, the hardest habitat to enter was the housing estate! Spent the second hour of the survey scanning the unwatched corners of the square.

Highlight of the morning ironically won't make it into the survey as it was a "fly over" Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but birds that did make it were Siskin, Stonechat, Linnet, and plenty of small flocks of Thrushes, Corvids, and Tits. Finished the survey at one of the farms where I know there is a small colony of House Sparrows, so got them on the count!

Next survey for me is a double-header of two tetrads on the Hampshire Downs. At least there are only a couple of habitats there, and by scoping large areas of farmland, I should be able to do a fairly comprehensive count. Downside is I'll need about 5 hours to complete this survey.

Printed off the survey forms for today, but wouldn't recommend using these in the field, they were a bit cumbersome compared with just writing in a notebook. Also the method of estimating numbers of species in the square based on the percentage that you survey is a bit strange, but the numbers I ended up with didn't look too ridiculous. i suppose as long as it is done consistently across the UK, and the same each year then the trends will still emerge.
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• Monday, November 19, 2007 - Selsey Bill

Always a danger at this time of year that before you know what has hit you, it's the end of the year, and about 3 months since you saw any birds! Finding it very difficult to combine free time with daylight, and suitable weather. However, did manage to spend a few hours at Selsey Bill on sunday morning in a strong South wind. Didn't have any joy finding the White-billed Diver, and seawatching was difficult but did manage a couple of very distant Pomarine Skuas. Two Divers passed very close, but flying away from the watchpoint, and therefore near impossible to identify. Decided to move a couple of hundred yards west of the regular watchpoint and tucked myself into a small sea wall. Was soon rewarded with good views of a Black Throated Diver flying past. Went quiet after that with very little of note. Closer to the shore were a couple of Red Breasted Mergansers, a few Eiders, Common Scoter and a Med Gull.

Not much else to report on.. just seen a Swan fly over the office in White City which would have been good to get the binocs on! Put it this way.. I wouldn't be too surprised if a Whooper turns up at Barnes WWT later today!
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• Wednesday, November 7, 2007 - Waste Ground field at Dusk

Headed to the waste ground field, that has hosted a Hen Harrier for the best part of a week, just before dusk in order to try and see the Harrier again and also see if any Owls were hunting on this obviously rodent rich ground.

No joy on either score, the best I could manage was a Tawny Owl calling in the distance, but to be honest, it is more surprising if you don't hear a Tawny Owl in these parts!

Did see a very approachable Fieldfare, a small flock of Pied Wagtails over and 18 Magpies heading for a roost.

Best the garden has had to offer recently is a Nuthatch, Coal Tit, and a Grey Wagtail on the roof!
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• Sunday, November 4, 2007 - Hen Harrier back on Hoe Lane

Quite a nice surprise this morning to get a very brief view of the Hen Harrier back on the waste ground off Sylan Drive.
Also bumped into another birder local to the village who had seen it once or twice towards the end of last week. Looks like the bird is spending a lot of time sat in the Hawthorn bushes and long grass. Although the field gets a lot of dog walkers, they nearly all follow the same circuit, so there is plenty of undisturbed areas. Spent some time investigating an unusual call at the south east corner of the field, but couldn't see what was making the call. Plenty of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and a few Redwings in this corner today.
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• Saturday, November 3, 2007 - Feathered Thorn

Weather forecast was very mild last night (12degC), so I ran the moth trap. Fairly quiet up until 10pm with just a single November Moth (Sp.), and to be honest the skies were clear and there was a distinct chill in the air. (You know its cold when you find yourself warming your hands by rubbing them in front of the moth trap bulb!).

However, left the trap running and despite almost overlooking it for an Oak leaf, found a very smart Feathered Thorn at the bottom of the trap.
  

p.s. Welcome home Steve McCormack


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• Thursday, November 1, 2007 - All quiet on Hoe Lane

Ventured out before work this morning. After the Hen Harrier excitement earlier this week, I had no problems getting out of bed, and also had no problems deciding where to go!

However, with low cloud and drizzly conditions, there was very little to write home about. Buzzard, Kestrel, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, and a couple of flocks of Thrushes heading North East. Mainly Redinwgs (~100), and Fieldfare (~10).  
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• Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - Hen Harrier in waste ground at Hoe Lane

Went for a walk just after dawn to the waste ground field. This field seems to get decent numbers of birds migrating over, and today was fairly typical with small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfare heading north. Also a steady movement of Woodpigeons moving South.

Was thinking "forget scarce birds.. Woodpigeons and Thrushes.. THIS is what local birding is about", when a Hen Harrier headed low over the field mobbed by a crow. It shook the Crow off fairly easily, and headed straight towards me. I was hidden from view, and got super views of it hunting. Wasn't long before the local Buzzards, and a couple of Jays got wind of it, and it was soon lost to view. Saw it again about 10 minutes later.. this time heading off north. Quite an amazing record for a "Dog Walkers's Field" right on the edge of the village.

For the record counted about 300 Wood Pigeons, 70 Redwing, and 50 Fieldfare, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Pied Wagtail, and 3 Skylarks overhead. Plus Meadow Pipits, Stonechat, Bullfinch, and Song and Mistle Thrush on the ground.

Ended the walk in slightly embarrassing circumstances when a "Lollypop Man" helped me across Rownhams Lane!
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• Sunday, October 28, 2007 - North Baddesley waste ground before the heavy rain

Went for a short walk around the Waste ground field on the edge of North Baddesley before the rain got too persistent. Was very overcast with a strong South westerly wind, but there were a few common birds dotted about.

Small flocks of Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, and a single Stonechat in the field with a couple of Alba Wagtails and about 10 Redwings migrating fairly low overhead. Round the edges of the field were a couple of Bullfinches, Long Tailed tits, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Got home just before the worst of the rain.. looks like a good day for seawatching from the car today, but not much else!
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• Saturday, October 27, 2007 - St.Alban's Head

Spent the morning on the Dorset coast at St.Albans Head. Walked to the Head, then along the coastal path to Winspit Valley. Returned via Worth Matravers.

First 30 minutes after dawn were very quiet with just Meadow Pipits overhead, and resident corvids in the fields. Gradually picked up as the morning progressed with really close views of Raven, Peregrines, and a Male Sparrowhawk. Plenty of migration taking place as well with Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Linnets and Goldfinches battling against the wind along the cliff top, plus a smaller number of Alba Wagtails, and Siskins. A few Chiff Chaffs, Goldcrest, Blackbirds and Chaffinches in the valley, but didn't manage to find anything out of the ordinary amongst them today.

Sea was fairly quiet with 6 Brents, a Gannet, and a few Auks, although I didn't spend a great deal of time watching the waves.
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• Thursday, October 25, 2007 - Thurshes arriving in small numbers

A small influx of thrushes to the garden and local fields this week with 10 Blackbirds devouring the berries off a bush in the back garden, and the Wasteground on Hoe Lane hosting a Redwing, Mistle Thrush and several Song Thrushes. Rest of Hoe Lane is fairly quiet.
Also in the garden was a decent flock of 20 Woodpigeons all beneath a single Oak picking off acorns with 2 Jays, a TreeCreeper just over the fence, and a small group of Skylarks overhead. Also occasional Redwings heard overhead in the late evenings.

Ran the moth trap overnight on the 24th in slightly cooler conditions to previous evenings but still managed two moths.. a Black Rustic, and a "November Moth". This one looked like a Pale November Moth according to my field guide, but positive identification is only possible by scrutinising them under a microscope.
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• Monday, October 15, 2007 - Scarce Moth, and Dipping the Diver

A fairly quiet weekend. Ran the moth Trap Friday night and got 5 moths of 4 Species. Three were new for me, the best of which was a Cypress Carpet. This is a recent coloniser to the South Coast, and luckily I caught it in my "nature viewer" at the second attempt! Didn't realise how many species are on the wing in October and November, and with the fairly mild climate in South Hampshire with double figure overnight temperatures I reckon I can keep clocking up new species for a few more weeks at least!

On the birding side, I ventured to Selsey Bill on Saturday, but the White Billed Diver had gone AWOL. This is a species that ran rings around me in Norway two years in succession. I have at least 2 probables (One flying away form me, one landing out at sea virtually on the horizon in a heat haze). Will get a definate one of these days. Still, the children enjoyed playing on the beach there!

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• Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - Local news, plus a mystery mouse

Monday night started very clear and crisp.. This morning I woke up to very heavy cloud and rain, which would hopefully bring a migrant or two down. Headed for the local wasteground field for an hour after work plus a good scan of the fields between North Baddesley and the River Test.

Not a great deal about: several Buzzards in the fields, a few Chiff Chaffs and a Grey Wagtail at Skidmore. The wasteground field on Hoe Lane had a huge flock of at least 200 Goldfinches which seem to have sprung up from nowhere.

Overnight, the moth trap had 2 Blair's Shoulder Knots and a Black Rustic, both new for me. Plus a couple of Large Yellow Underwings and wasps.

The falling acorns are still bringing in plenty of wildlife to the garden.. 7 Jays in the garden was a superb sight, and a fairly showy mouse visited yesterday. See pic. taken by Kathleen.  Wood Mouse? Any comments on its ID would be welcomed.
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• Sunday, October 7, 2007 - Marsh Tit on Hoe Lane

Spent a couple of hours at the fields along Hoe Lane this morning. The Wasteground field had a few Meadow Pipits, Song Thrushes, and Blackbirds, plus two Redwings, and a Chiff Chaff as well as the resident Stonechats, Goldfinches, Kestrels and Buzzards.

Further along Hoe Lane, the recently ploughed fields now have a layer of grass and don't seem as attractive to the feeding Crows and WoodPigeons, and numbers were well down. Did however find a nice Marsh Tit near one of the Pheasant Covers, my first on the Western side of the Village. Also, saw a distant finch flock which I may venture into Mountbatten woods to check out in the near future.

Closer to home, 3 Roe Deer, at least 6 Jays, and many Rooks have been venturing into the garden and surrounding Oak trees in search of Acorns, and 2 Grey Wagtails are feeding along the stream.
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• Monday, October 1, 2007 - Hengistbury: The ones that got away!

A Yellow Browed Warbler, a few more Ring Ouzels and an Osprey were the half expected "other decent migrants" to put in an appearance at Hengistbury yesterday. One of the Ring Ouzels was in an area about half a mile away from where I saw mine in the direction I saw it flying!

Interesting that the place is experiencing a lack of passerines today, either everyone is at work (don't believe that for a minute!) or it just proves how difficult it is to find something out of the ordinary, even when the odds are fairly well stacked in your favour.

Yellow Browed is a personal bogey! I have seen one years ago, but have dipped on several in Well's Wood over the years, and came so very close to finding one of my own a couple of Autumns ago.. got a fleeting glimpse of a leaf Warbler, with a white wingbar, but couldn't nail it down, and couldn't track it down. More dipping yesterday!
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• Sunday, September 30, 2007 - Firecrest and good numbers of migrants at Hengistbury Head

Spent Sunday morning at Hengistbury Head.. The first time I have been there birding. Got there just before dawn, to be greeted by the continuing North/ East Winds, a slightly denser layer of cloud cover, and occasional showers. Weather seemed almost perfect for migrant hunting.

Plenty of Migration overhead with mainly Meadow Pipits, Swallows and House Martins. A bit of variety with a few small groups of Siskins, about 10 Redpoll, and a single Crossbill. 2 Sparrowhawks were hunting over the woods. On the ground were lots of Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Tits. After about 15 minutes scouring a particularly lively patch of light woodland which was crawling with Chiff Chaffs found a really smart Firecrest. It seemed to just appear out of nowhere, and gave superb views for about 10 minutes.

Headed into Wick Fields next. More Chiffchaffs, Cetti's and a distant Water Rail calling, and then a point blank, split second glimpse of a Ring Ouzel whizz past into some dense bushes, calling noisily.. the primaries were strikingly silver, but unfortunately I couldn't find him again despite waiting a good few minutes. Hindsight, I suspect he carried on flying and I was watching an empty bush! Also saw a pretty smart Lesser Whitethroat.

Didn't seem to be too many other Birders there, but wouldn't be surprised if some other decent migrants are found there today. Shame it is just across the border in Dorset!
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• Friday, September 28, 2007 - Farlington, Tichfield, St.Albans Head and Arne

A last minute change of plans left me with two full days to birdwatch, and for once the weather looked excellent, with a decent prolonged North / North Easterly Wind. A bit more cloud or rain overnight would have been perfect, but we'll settle for a decent wind!

Decided to go to old WInchester Hill, Farlington, and Titchfield on the Thursday, then, with slightly cloudier conditions overnight headed to Dorset on Friday. A Greater Yellowlegs was found on Wednesday afternoon at Farlington which guaranteed the place would be teeming with Twitchers, but I went along anyway! and no, I didn't see the Yellowlegs along with the majority of the crowd..

Old Winchester Hill looks good.. a strong passage of Swallows headed over form first light, and at ground level good sized flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches with a few Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits  and Yellowhammers amongst them. Farlington was packed with Twitchers, and plenty of decent birds on the marshes: Peregrine, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler, Bearded Tits, and a good selection of waders including Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Avocet, Ruff, Greenshank, Knot.

Headed to Titchfield Haven after lunch and despite a slow start it eventually produced the goods.. was about to leave the reserve in search of birds on the frying pan lake, when a Lifeguard's Helicopter flushed eveything from the frying pan onto the reserve lakes! This saved me a 2 mile walk, and best of all, 2 Spoonbills that have been in the area for some time now flew  over and landed in one of the reserve's lagoons. Got great views, plus decent views of Common Sandpiper, Black Tailed Godwit, and a Marsh Harrier briefly. Off the sea wall I was alerted to a distant Arctic Skua harassing Terns, and also saw a small Flock of Eiders and a few Dark Bellied Brent Geese. A huge flock of Hirundines was gathering over the distant trees.

Friday, I decided to head to St.Albans Head. North wind was still in evidence but fairly mild compared to some days at St.Albans head! Overhead migration was in evidence from dawn with a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits heading West, along with 6 Alba Wagtails, 2 Yellow Wagtails, and 14 Siskin. Also later on 8 Golden Plover flew west. Meanwhile, a few hundred Swallows and House Martins, plus a single Samd Martin were all heading East (work that one out!).

On the ground were many Skylarks, Goldfinches, Linnets, Chiff Chaffs and Blackcaps, about 4 Wheatears, good numbers of Stonechats, and a single Whinchat, plus a Female Merlin, Spotted Flycatcher and a Grey Wagtail. My first 5 Redwings of the year were on the coastal path showing really well. Quite a busy morning, although Winspit valley was as quiet as I have ever seen it.

Spent the afternoon at Arne overlooking Middlebere lake. A nice challenge identifying waders in flight as they headed past the hide: apart from the obvious Black Tailed Godwits, Avocets, Dunlin and Curlews, picked out a couple of Knots and a single Bar Tailed Godwit. Finished the day with superb views of a Dartford Warbler, and several very close Sika Deer.
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• Monday, September 24, 2007 - Wheatear still on Hoe Lane, plus a Weasel

A fairly brief scan across the Hoe Lane fields this lunchtime. Still plenty of Black Headed Gulls, Wood Pigeons and Rooks, plus at least 1 Wheatear, and a few Stock Doves. Was alerted to a lot of disturbance in a distant field with everything taking flight and through a cloud of Wood Pigeons saw a ball of Woodpigeon feathers dispersing and floating down to earth! Must have been a couple of seconds too late to see the predator responsible. Also saw a Weasel scurry across the lane.
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• Saturday, September 22, 2007 - Wheatears and Lapwings in local farmland

The fields around North Baddesley are starting to hold fairly large numbers of birds as they are harvested and ploughed. In addition to the Black Headed Gulls, Wood Pigeons and Corvids.. Midweek saw 6 Lapwings plus a few Stock Doves, and today 3 Wheatears and 3 Herring Gulls were in a field being ploughed.

Headed north to Chilbolton and saw a couple more Wheatears, plus 3 Stonechats, several Meadow Pipits, a Willow-Chiff! and 3 Buzzards. Area round the Satellite dishes does seem to draw the Wheatears in on passage, but I'm finding it difficult to move up a gear to scarcer migrants.

Finished the day at a fairly large gravel pit just north of Casbrook Common. Little Grebes look to have bred here, and the banks look much more overgrown with vegeation since my last visit. A Tufted Duck was looking quite bewildered to be the only duck on the water. Also a single Snipe in the area.

Overnight Moth trap had some more goodies in: A Frosted Orange was the pick.. Smart looking moth (See pic). Also a Svennson's Copper Underwing to complement last weeks Copper Underwing, and a few Large Yellow Underwings, Lesser Yellow Underwings, Brimstone Moth and Small Emeralds.

 
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• Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - St.Alban's Head, Keyhaven, and the first Roe Deer in the street.

Hard slog today at St.Albans Head in the morning, and Keyhaven p.m today.
St.Albans was quite impressive with a very prominent overhead movement of Meadow Pipits and Swallows. Also every bush had a Chiff-Chaff, but the wind was quite severe, and it was difficult to find anything else of note. One of the Resident Peregrines caused havoc when passing over a field of crows and a lone Tree Pipit called overhead. Contemplated seawatching but gave up fairly soon.. St.Albans Head seemed to be too high for my liking.. making it difficult to scope without missing large chunks of sea.

The coastal path and Winspit Valley were fairly quiet.. A few Sandwich Terns headed West, and more Meadow Pipits over. A few Chiff Chaffs and also Blackcaps and a Whitethroat in the valley.

Headed over to Normandy after lunch. A work party was out in the marsh which put paid to any waders on the lagoon, so I hot-footed over to Keyhaven. Have never walked from Normandy and was surprised to see yet another area of small pools.. these were more "reedy" and looked good.. Today they were empty though!
Highlights at the Keyhaven end were a Whimbrel, several Grey Plovers, and a couple of very smart Snipe, plus the usual high number of Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank and Dunlin. A Pintail flew over but I couldn't relocate him on the deck.  Surprised to see no Greenshanks or Knot today.

Was awakened last night to be told a Roe Deer was feeding outside the front path. There are plenty of Deer in the adjacent Woods, but never imagined they would enter the village, and walk up the street after dark.
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• Monday, September 17, 2007 - Peregrine high over Baddesley Common

A very high, very distant Peregrine rapidly heading south was the only notable sighting of a sunday morning at Baddesley Common. Plenty of common species to filter through as usual.. The Chiff Chaffs seem to be increasing in numbers all the time, and overhead there was a decent passage of Swallows heading south. The large paddock near Green Lane (Tom: Chat's Corner?!) had a few Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails in it.

Amazed that Yellow Wagtail is so scarce round these parts. Have yet to see one around the village. Spring passage for me amounted to two in a paddock near Romsey, (and three much further afield at Portland Bill). Slightly better on the coast where I've seen several small groups this Autumn, usually in flight.

Ran the moth trap in the back garden on Friday night and added about 6  "lifers".. Have never ran a trap so late in the year, so if I can keep it running for another month, a few more new species should drop by.. From memory: Oak Hook Tip, Square Spot Rustic, "The Snout", Rosy Rustic and Copper underwing were identified, the latter after about 30 minutes research / scrutinisation! also the usual Brimstone, Garden Carpet, and a nice Small Emerald.
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• Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - Spotted Flycatcher outside the house

The birds "seen from the house" list struck 50 this morning with a very showy Spotted Flycatcher in the upper reaches of one of the adjacent oak trees. Watching him between keystrokes! Pretty good total for 8 months, but I think it will come to a grinding halt very soon!
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• Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - All quiet on the coast, plus another "Garden first" gets away!

Taken up a new hobby of driving past rare birds without stopping to see them! So far my "unintentionally avoided list" includes Red Backed Shrike, Spotted Crake, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Purple Heron, Roseate Tern and Spoonbill. Wouldn't mind if I'd actually seen any of these this year! When I did get to do some birding on Sunday afternoon it was fairly quiet this weekend.. Testwood lakes had a Common Sandpiper, Sand Martin and very little else, but it did have a hide so I could sit down for an hour! A very brief Merlin was the only highlight at Normandy, and Keyhaven was also fairly uneventful. Lots of Waders to scan through but I could only manage Grey Plover and Knot amongst the many Dunlin, Redshanks, Greenshanks and Black Tailed Godwits. As darkness descended, I staked out one of the lagoons which had about 3 Water Rails calling. Also picked up a couple of Snipe, but nothing else came out of the reeds to feed. One or two Reed Warblers were settling down to roost in the reeds beside me.

Also had yet another probable Raven sighting over the street.. am I ever going to nail one! This one was being pursued by a crow, but I was in the car and couldn't pull over in time to confirm it.. so do 3x 99% certain sightings equate to 1 definate sighting!! (Previous sightings were from inside the house.. the birds were flying off at a bad angle for identification. Also, the double glazing magnifies birds making it difficult to get a true picture of the size!)
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• Friday, August 31, 2007 - Baddesley Common, and Hedgehog rescue!

Baddesley Common is still full of birdlife, but unable to find any quality this morning amongst the many Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaffs, Blackcaps and a few Goldcrests. Also seemed to be an abundance of Robins this morning.

One or two of the Chiff Chaffs and Willow Warblers were in full song which was surprising.

Still, the numbers made for an exciting couple of hours, and the common is such a big area that the more unusual birds could be out there somewhere. However, the weather seems to have improved, and together with clear skies and a full moon, we may have to wait for the next batch of interesting birds.

A Roe Deer and Fox showed well this morning.

Also, we found another sorry looking Hedgehog lying in the gutter near the house yesterday afternoon. Had a good look at this one and he seemed fine, so we moved him to a sheltered area of bushes, and covered him up with leaves etc. Happily this one seemed to recover ok, and we caught a glimpse of him scurrying away later that night.
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• Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Raven @ Baddesley Common

 Went to Baddesley Common for an hour after Dinner. Hoped to find a couple of ponds on the western perimeter according to Live Local aerial photos, but could not see either from the reserve, and if the ponds still exist are out of bounds on farmland by the look of it. Struggled to find any birds initially apart from a Bullfinch and high altitude House Martin, but decided to persevere into the woodland and scrub along the western edge.

First bird was a very flighty Redstart that shot across the path and into some bushes, this was closely followed by a very vocal Marsh Tit. A Raven croaked overhead and a Spotted Flycatcher showed well in the upper branches of an Oak. The evening was completed by a very large Tit flock with Willow Warbler, Chiff-Chaff, Goldcrest and Blackcap in with the Blue, Great, Coal and Long Tailed Tits.

Finally a plug to a local Birder's website with some good pics and excellent sightings page for Hampshire: http://www.geocities.com/stevethebirder/frontpage.html
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• Monday, August 27, 2007 - Long day chasing migrants

Had a full day to myself today, so after looking at the weather forecasts, headed to St.Alban's head. Was going to go to Portland, but St.Alban's Head looked to have a bit more cloud overnight. First Wheatear was within a couple of minutes of leaving the car, and there was a good selection of common migrants on the outward walk to the Head. Counted 5 Wheatear and 4 Whinchats, plus 2 Yellow Wagtails, 1 Tree Pipit overhead (the call has stuck in my brain!). Also Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Sand Martin amongst Swallows.

Walk along the coast was fairly uneventful except for a couple of Shags out at sea, but the return through Winspit Valley was excellent with more Whatears and Whinchats at the bay, and an abundance of birds in the valley including Spotted Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, 2 Tree Pipits and another Yellow Wagtail overhead.

Called in at Stonehill Down for more Wheatears and Spotted Flycatcher.

Then I took a gamble on the bank holiday traffic, and drove to Keyhaven. Staying in the car for the worst of the midday sunshine. Keyhaven was busy with people for once! and I didn't see anything out of the ordinary today despite seeing a lot of species. Best Birds were 5 Whinchats, 2 Wheatears, about 7 Yelow Wagtails, A Dartford Warbler and a Hobby overhead. There is a Wryneck on the reserve, but it wasn't showing when I was there. Also numbers of Wildfowl were up on previous weeks with a flock of 13 Wigeon, and many Teal. The only waders of note were 2 Juvenile Knot.

Finished the day watching a young Fox cause mass panic amongst the Tits near the balancing lake. With a bit of "Pishing" the flock came very close, and took several minutes to pass by. Managed to pick up Willow Warbler and Chiff-Chaff, plus a Goldcrest amongst the Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits.
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• Friday, August 24, 2007 - All quiet on the Common

Found myself in Emer Bog just after Dawn! Place was tranquil.. a bit too tranquil for my liking with just a Water Rail and Tawny Owl calling. Had a fairly thorough look around the Common, but not a lot about today. 10 Mistle Thrushes over, very little in the open areas with 2 Stonechats about all I could see. I did end the walk on a relative high with a few Blackcaps, loads of Chiff-Chaffs, 2 Goldcrests and a Whitethroat in the scrub near Green Lane.

Have overlooked the scrubby area near Green Lane in the past, but looks good for Warblers with plenty of cover and bushes full of berries. The best bits of the Common seem to be the corner nearest to Emer Bog, Checkpoint Charlie (corner nearest the Village) and the footpath linking these two areas, and the scrubby area near the Green Lane Entrance. Quite a walk to cover these bits! and if Emer Bog is added, you are talking about a good 3 hours to do the area justice.
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• Thursday, August 23, 2007 - Learning all the time!

Any long suffering visitors to this blog, with incredibly good memories, will remember an entry on 13th April which included a Mystery bird flying over.. Passerine, average wing and tail proportions, not many visible clues but had a "buzzy" flight call. Well yesterday, it suddenly dawned on me that it was a Tree Pipit! Really obvious in hindsight, but not something that entered my mind back in april.

Also, after reading the text in Lars Jonsson's (sp.) Birds of Europe, I'm a bit happier with the very scruffy Pipit I saw in the Purbecks a couple of weeks ago, and eventually concluded was a Tree Pipit.. Birds of Europe goes into a bit more detail for the alarm call.. a Tsup, (with two dots above the "u"! ) which sounds about right, but a call that I haven't got on any of my CD's. Thinking about it, in my experiences it is quite unusual to see a Pipit sit on top of a bush repeating it's alarm call for several minutes.. most take flight at the first sight of you, utter a couple of calls if you are lucky, and disappear over the horizon! So I have completed a hat trick of Tree Pipits this year.. the full song, a flyover call, and an alarm call. Just need to remember them all for next year now!
Cheers,
Peter
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• Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - Water Rail at Emer Bog.

Quick look round the village this evening.. Plenty of Stonechats and Whitethroats on the wasteground off Hoe Lane with 3 Kestrels and 2 Buzzards overhead. A couple of Swifts passed over.
Emer Bog was quiet.. A couple of birders looking for the recently reported Spotted Crake at the most obvious area of exposed mud. I joined them, as this place looks just right for something amazing to come sauntering out of the reeds! but again no joy. Did hear a Water Rail, and a Tawny Owl. Rained quite heavily after dusk which just about ended any hopes of seeing something on the way out of the reserve.
South Coast looks to be getting a fair number of decent birds passing through now, so the next month should be fun.
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• Wednesday, August 22, 2007 - Welcome to the 21st Century!

Am experimenting with a Twitter pop-up on the Blog.. Looks quite powerful for entering info via SMS from the outdoors. Downside is it seems to be a bit slow, especially if you hammer it with news!
With the many dodgy sightings that come with the rare bird news services, I can see things going full circle in the future with a return to local and national grapevines using tools like twitter, and birders subscribing to their friends and people they trust! Check out www.twitter.com .
 The networking already exists in places like birdforum (www.birdforum.net)
Also, added my "UK self found list" to Bubo listing (www.bubo.org/listing/ ) Don't have the time, money, or motivation to see 400 species in the UK (especially when it comes to species I've seen fairly regularly in Europe), but would like to "find" 250 species. Was on 240 according to my birdrecorder database, but after listing everything on the bubo web site, I seem to have lost 4 species! Haven't had chance to work out what they were, or where they went!
Often see small groups of Ring-Necked Parakeets in the Shepherd's Bush/White City area on the way into work, but was surprised to see a flock of 24 overhead yesterday morning. These birds know how to increase their numbers!
Finally, are we in for some decent rarities, on the east coast at least.. wind direction, which is about the limit of my bird predicting skills!, shows a shift to North and North-East winds for the rest of the week. We haven't had a prolonged South / South East Wind, which presumably would benefit my local area, for ages!
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• Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - Hobby over Baddesley Common

Evening spent on Baddesley Common avoiding the relentless barrage of Soap Operas on TV as much as hoping to see any decent birds!
The whole area was very quiet.. 1 Hobby high overhead was the highlight and dozens of Warblers, mainly Chiff-Chaffs were frantically calling and feeding throughout the reserve. A recent Fall after the rain perhaps? Certainly no other migrants to back this theory up, and I don't get to walk the common often enough to notice the comings and goings.
Did explore the extensive scrub and woodland to the West of the main track for the first time. Gets far too boggy in Winter to go off the footpath. Certainly potential in this quiet corner of the reserve, and also potential in the fenced off  fields East of "Checkpoint Charlie".
First visit that I haven't seen a Stonechat!
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• Monday, August 20, 2007 - Ruddy Shelduck and Garganey at Keyhaven

Headed to Normandy Marsh this afternoon, then drove to Keyhaven and had a long walk covering the entire Keyhaven to Oxey marsh area. Walked outward along the coast and returned along the inland footpath.
Best birds at Normandy were a couple of Juvenile Knot feeding amongst the many Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, Greenshanks, Redshanks, and Black Tailed Godwits.
Keyhaven Marshes were also brimming with Waders. 4 Knot here, plus 6 Grey Plover, 2 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Whimbrel together with large numbers of Black Tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone.
Apart from the waders, 2 Swifts, a Juvenile Peregrine, and a Dartford Warbler (that I nearly walked into on the path) were highlights.
As is often the case at Keyhaven, the best was saved until last when I scanned a small lake along the inland path (now known to be the balancing lake). A superb Ruddy Shelduck was roosting on the far bank, and 2 Garganey eventually gave themselves up. By this time it was almost darkness, and I just had enough light in the scope to pick out the size, shape, and supercilium to clinch the id.!
Got back home, to find that just about all my sightings had been seen earlier in the day on HOSlist, so quite pleased that I hadn't logged on before going out. Looks like a lot of people are scanning the marshes now after a fairly quiet couple of months.
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• Friday, August 17, 2007 - Always the optimist!

Tried something different this morning, set the alarm ridiculously early and headed for Emer Bog in the dark.. Positioned myself behind a tree overlooking a muddy open area of bog in the distance, still in darkness, and waited.. As dawn started to break, a Mallard departed the bog, and a few minutes later a couple of Water Rails were squealing further into the bog. A Tawny Owl called and a Roe Deer barked in the distance. Not that much to show for an early alarm call, but sometimes you have to try these things.. Who knows next time I could be sitting here writing about a Marsh Harrier , Bittern or maybe even a Spotted Crake!
Might try the early approach at the Lower Test Marshes next time. Got to work 10 minutes late!
Picked up a Hedgehog on the green near the house a couple of days ago. Managed to get some advice from a Hedgehog carer, but it was to no avail as the little fella died yesterday. At least he went in a warm box with the option of plenty of food and water I suppose. One of these days I hope to successfully send an injured wild animal back into the wild, but I think the Hedgehog and the young Blackbird that flew into a window this year were both beyond repair sadly.
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• Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - Bird Atlas Goldrush!

The BTO Bird Atlas project is recruiting at the moment (http://www.bto.org/birdatlas/).
Unlike many other surveys where there is a fairly small sample of grid squares to be monitored, this survey is a free for all with the whole of the UK up for grabs, and I expect a mad dash has already taken place for grid squares on prime habitat, nature reserves and migration hotspots! (However, birders can still contribute by making "roving" sightings in any of the grid squares)
I arrived at the "grab a tetrad" party fairly late, but even so was surprised to see much of the North Baddesley / Romsey / Southampton and Winchester areas almost fully subscribed. Even the fairly innoculous looking grid square that my house falls in was snapped up! However, the few remaining squares in my area did have some reasonable sites. Skidmore was still up for grabs, but felt that I haven't been there that often to be able to do the square maximum justice, and would hate to incur the wrath of any veteran local patch birders there! So I chose my square (SU42a) which includes a small section of Emer Bog, and Body Farm (small colony of House Sparrows ;) ). Plus Great Covert which has Nightjar and Woodcock, a couple of fields that have a small population of Lapwings, and a few turf fields that are always patrolled by Crows, Wagtails, occasional gulls etc. Down side is a housing estate on the east side which I will need to walk through at some stage. Surveying starts in November this year, and continues for 4 years.
So own up.. who got Baddesley Common?! And more importantly, who got Toothill/ Hoe Lane!!
I also looked north to the Hampshire Downs area, and it was a different picture here sadly, though hardly surprising as I average 1 human being per visit to parts of the Wallops, Grately, Chilbolton etc. SU23, where I go for a few walks only had 2 grids taken, so I volunteered for another 2 squares. With each square being 2kmx2km this will be fairly heavy going to cover the area, but it is always good to put something back into this hobby. SU23 is now up to 5 squares, so getting near the 8 squares required to give it a representative sample of sightings.
Spent some time on Birdforums, earlier in the week. Amazed at the hostile sniping, and aggresion that takes place in the rare bird forum compared to eveyrwhere else.. Not sure what conclusions can be drawn there! Did get accused by someone who's job is "trader in dead animals" of bullying him on the Bats forum.. Thought that was the least I could do in the brief time before he was banned!
As for birds.. had brief scans while passing a couple of areas.. Nothing in the Great Covert area (except for 1 Buzzard), and nothing on a rain swept Danebury Hill (that's right, absolutely nothing!). Returned to Danebury on the way home from a work trip, and only had a couple of Buzzards and a fairly large gathering of swallows.
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• Sunday, August 12, 2007 - National Moth Night

Think I got the date right! Anyway, ran the moth trap last night for the first time in 2 years, and the first time since moving to Hampshire.
Quite a modest catch in the morning with a Pine Hawkmoth the highlight. A few were un-identifiable until I can upload pics to the PC top analyse further. Just quite happy that the trap wasn't full of Hornets or Large Yellow Underwing moths (seem to specialise in flying into my face!)
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• Saturday, August 11, 2007 - An afternoon in the Purbecks

Afternoon/evening trip into the Purbecks. Was hoping to see Lulworth Skipper, but no joy at Stonehill Down. What a superb view though! Did see Hobby, Buzzard, Yellowhammer and a few Meadow Pipits, plus a Pipit with a very different alarm call to Meadow Pipit. Plumage wasn't giving any clues as it was a right mess! Suspect it was a Tree Pipit.
Headed to Corfe Castle in the evening to look for Greater Horseshoe bats but drew a blank here as well! Did however, see a few Serotines, a Noctule, Common and Soprano Pipistrelles and a couple of Natterer's. 5 Species is ok for one evening.
Closer to home, pretty certain I have a small colony of Purple Hairstreaks in the Oak trees behind the house. Behaviour, habitat and flight times seems to fit perfectly but I am having no luck actually getting one in the binoculars to confirm.. August can be a frustrating month!
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• Monday, August 6, 2007 - New Forest, and Skidmore


Spent most of the weekend in the new forest, camping.
Weather was extremely hot so most of the time was spent looking for shade in the deep forest. Despite the weather and time of year a few typical New Forest species were seen including Redstart, Marsh Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Buzzards, Nuthatch and treecreeper. Had plenty of Crossbills overhead, and also a Raven, and decent views of Nightjars as we returned home from the pub!
Ventured out into Shatterford on Sunday morning but the birdlife was very limited with only a very distant Dartford Warbler of note. Did however see my first Grayling Butterfly, and also Silver Washed Fritillaries and a few commoner species.
Monday evening, I had planned to go to Keyhaven, but decided on a more local venue, and after a quick, fairly fruitless scan around the nearby field on Hoe Lane, I intended to go to Baddesley Common. However, some really dark rainclouds forced me to change my plans again! and I ended up skirting the bad weather, and headed to Skidmore. Spent an hour or so walking the Test Valley way, and had a very productive time seeing Hobby, Barn Owl, Green Sandpipier, Grey Wagtail, and two Ravens high overhead.
Yet to find out what I have missed at Keyhaven and Baddesley Common!
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• Thursday, August 2, 2007 - Whinchat, North Baddesley

Quite a few local sightings this week, the birding highlight being a male Whinchat on the field near the house. Was amongst a family party of Stonechats, and wasn't immediately obvious.Perseverence paid off though and got good views. Field was fairly quiet with just Kestrel, Female Sparrowhawk, Whitethroat and Dunnock. Also saw a Stoat and several Roe Deer on How Lane.
3 species of Mammals in the street this week.. a Common Pipistrelle flying up and down in bright sunshine on Tuesday at 1pm! a Brown Rat where the stream leaves the village, and a young Hedgehog stuck while foraging in a bin bag. Also saw an adult Hedgehog this evening.
Went to Mottisfont, and was lucky enough to see one of the Barbastelle Bats.
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• Sunday, July 29, 2007 - Ravens and Redstart on the Wiltshire Downs.

Headed north for a morning's birdwatching/walking. First stop was Testcoombe where I had stumbled on a good spot for Wheatear late in the spring. Made a repeat visit to see if any early individuals were passing through, but the area were I saw them was out of view from the footpath due to another field of Poppies, now known to be Pharmaceutical Poppies. This location is probably best left until next spring now. The early morning wasn't a total waste though with a Hobby passing overhead and a couple of juvenile Stonechats.
Headed across the border into Wiltshire and went on a superb walk across the Downs near Chute. Scenery was fantastic.. like a mini- Yorkshire Dales. Best of the birds were a Male Redstart, at least 4 Ravens, a similar number of Buzzards, and 8 Kestrels.. the Kestrels were everywhere!
Did have TWO unfortunate incidents with dogs which was unusual, especially at 7am. The first was a large slobbish man who couldn't control 1 dog, let alone the three Labs he was out with. After the dogs ran into the back of my legs three times in the space of 5 minutes I was getting a bit fed up with it all, so decided to stand still and stare at him.. This seemed to work - I didn't see him again!  Funny, the owners who let their dogs run out of control are always the same ones that don't carry any poop bags! Barely 200 yards further on, another Labrador type dog was loose in a field disturbing cattle, with no sign of any owner anywhere. A few minutes later I could hear the distinct calls of a farmer going absolutely ballistic in the distance. Didn't see that dog again either! 
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• Saturday, July 28, 2007 - Wheatear and Whinchat at Baddesley Common

Up early for a walk round Baddesley Common. Quite a lot of bird activity, and not a soul around at 6am for a change!
First highlight was a juvenile Wheatear at Checkpoint Charlie. Very distant, and not giving much away until a brief flash of its tail as he disappeared behind bushes. Didn't see it on the return walk.
At the other side of the Common near the entrance to Emer Bog was a very dull looking Whinchat together with a couple of Stonechats for comparison. Again, the Whinchat didn't give much away and disappeared from view.
Small family gourps of Whitethroats, a flock of 35 Goldfinches, and the usual Yellowhammers and Linnets were also on the Common. Had a brief look into Emer Bog and stumbled on a fairly large compact tit flock. Took a good 30 minutes to sift through the birds, and got the following rough totals:
Long Tailed Tit (25), Blue Tit (20), Great Tit (5), Nuthatch (2), Treecreeper (1), Coal Tit (2), Goldcrest (2), Willow Warbler (2), Chiff Chaff (1), Willow-Chiff(10), Blackcap (4),
Was fortunate to eventually position myself in the perfect spot with the sun behind me, and the flock moving past in front of me.
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• Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - Wheatear at Danebury

Called in briefly to Danebury Hillfort Tuesday 8a.m.
Best bird was a Wheatear perched on the trig point at the summit. Also plenty of finches and Yellowhammers in the bushes.
Danebury got off to a good start in the spring with a very early Wheatear, which prompted me to make several more visits, but I never managed to improve on that initial sighting! I'm now in a slight dilemna whether or not to check it out regularly in the Autumn, or try higher summits north of Andover.
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• Saturday, July 21, 2007 - Bolderwood and Normandy

Thanks for heads up on Secateurs/Arsonists at Lower Test, Tom.. Does look like a brave decision to put such an extravagent hide so close to a town.. always nervous about opening hide doors in such places, you never know what is going to be inside!
Popped in to Bolderwood Saturday afternoon, and spent some time sifting through a Tit flock which contained mainly juvenile Coal Tits, a couple of Blue Tits, Treecreeper and a Goldcrest. Also watched a Spotted Flycatcher in the canopy, and saw some close up views of Fallow Deer.
Then headed on to Normandy marsh, which is the continuation East of Keyhaven/Pennington marshes. The main lagoon is pretty awesome with a large number of very noisy Black Headed Gulls. Also seen were Black Tailed Godwit, Greenshanks, Common Sandpiper, and several Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Little Terns, and Common Tern. A Barn Owl hunting at around 8:15pm was a nice end to the day.
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• Thursday, July 19, 2007 - An evening at the Lower Test Marshes

Summer evenings might not have many birds around, but at least I can get out after work!
Ventured to the "Middle section" of the Lower Test Marshes, from the Salmon's Leap Pub. Quite an amazing Nature reserve surrounded by Motorway, Docks, busy roads, and the constant background noise of traffic and sirens! Plenty of dog walkers too, but some places seem well designed to cope with large numbers of general public. This is one such place, and felt like I was watching the wildlife undistrubed. Think the flooded fields and boardwalks ensure that everyone follows the same path.
Best birds were the regular Peregrines perched on their usual pylons, and I was lucky enough to see a Hobby in a dead tree eating a small bird. Could have been a Reed Warbler, certainly a Passerine as opposed to Hirundine. Best views I've had of a Hobby this year too. The Lagoons were fairly quiet, the best being the southernmost lagoon with a hide which was locked. Can't complain as I am not even a member of the HWT! but this out of sight lagoon did seem to have the pick of the birdlife with Little Egrets feeding in the shallows. Fortunately, there were sufficient gaps and knots in the fence to scan the pool, and the dense wall of vegetation had a few small gaps that I could peer through. Was rewarded with a Green Sandpiper. Might take my secateurs along next time to make my own peep hole ;)
Northern area of the reserve was quieter, with just Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Stock Dove despite extensive scanning of the marshes and dead trees. Did however hear an incredibly loud "HUEET!" call in dense woodland which I suspect was a Redstart.
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• Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - Results of the Bat Detector recordings

Analysed the bat detector recordings from the edge of the campsite last week. Approximately 4 hours of recording yielded plenty of Noctules but little else. Only 2 Common Pipistrelles and just a single Soprano Pipistrelle. With so few hits on the detector, I'm relieved I wasn't listening real time! Took about 1 hour to analyse via the PC. One or two of the Noctules were calling at really low frequency, that could probably be heard by my children. Will post the Noctule's sound files here when I get a chance.
Had hoped to go out in search of Lesser Horseshoe Bat which is common in Clwyd, but a real mega in Cheshire. Figured I had a chance on a patch of Cheshire where the border is on the Welsh side of the Dee in case the Dee is a barrier to their spread. Unfortunately, the weather was very cold and showery and I didn't get the chance to put my theory to the test.
Thanks To Ed for the info about the poppy like crop. I suspect it was Linseed.. If I said it was Opium, no one will ever believe anything that is written on here!
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• Monday, July 16, 2007 - One or two surprises at Keyhaven

An enjoyable walk round Keyhaven on sunday evening. Was going to title this entry "Who let the ducks out?" as the first couple of lagoons had a few dodgy specimens including 2 Black Swans, 2 Speckled Teals, and the usual not quite pure mallards!
However, by the end of the walk had seen a good number of Waders and one or two surprises.
In addition to the Speckled Teal which I had never seen, or indeed heard of before, there was also a Little Egret with completely yellow legs, and a male Stonechat with a virtually black breast. however, I'm happy they were "just" a little Egret, and "just" a very worn Male Stonechat!
A Dartford Warbler popped out of the gorse bushes for a few moments, and a Willow/Chiff gave an all too brief view to determine what species it was. A Rock Pipit feeding along the shoreline gave a much better view. Most of the usual Keyhaven species were present and showing well. 15 Little Terns was a good scope full, but no Sandwich Terns today.
Waders are returning in good numbers now, with higher numbers of Dunlin and Redshanks since my visit a month ago. Also saw 2 Common Sandpipers, and 3 Greenshanks. Of the 20 or so Black Tailed Godwits, most were in superb summer plumage, one was in non-breeding plumage.
Returning back to the car in the fading light was the most eventful part of the day, the last lagoon had an abundance of Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Dunlin, plus plenty of wildfowl. All very nervous as a Fox stalked the bank. I dropped below the horizon so not to distract them further, and sneaked past without causing any additional disturbance. The Godwits in particular were very vocal. in the distance, a Roe Deer with a Fawn nervously made her way out into the marsh. Once out of earshot of the roost, I heard a Nightjar Churring which was a total surprise! With the high wind it was impossible to determine which area the churring was coming from, and the bird had stopped by the time I got to another, potentially closer viewpoint to listen from. Driving out of Keyhaven village, a Tawny Owl showed well perched on a telegraph pole.
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• Saturday, July 14, 2007 - Spotted Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow nr Wrexham.

Had an enjoyable week camping near Wrexham. Birding highlights were Spotted Flycatcher and Tree Sparrows around the site, and also Tawny Owls in nearby trees.
Other wildlife around the campsite included a large number of Purple Hairstreaks at the top of an Oak tree, and Natterer's, Common Pipistrelle and Noctule Bats. Left the Bat detector running remotely for a few hours so maybe more bats when I have chance to analyse the tape.
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• Friday, June 29, 2007 - Stone Curlew and Corn Bunting on the Hampshire Downs

After a tough week at work decided to reward myself with an evening on the Downs a few miles north of Stockbridge. First site was a nice field of new plough last time I visited, with a few Lapwings holding territory. By this evening, the field was about 2 foot high with a crop I'd never seen before, which looked like a light purple Poppy! Anyway, birdlife was predictably fairly low. I was very lucky to see a flock of 15 Lapwings fly up, presumably spooked by something. On the return journey I bumped into 2 juvenile Marsh Tits, something I'd never seen before.. one was about 2 metres from me, totally oblivious until an adult appeared and warned him off.
Went to one of my favourite sites for an hour before dusk, and set off on a fairly long walk. Highlights were 5 singing Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Bullfinch, Grey and Red Legged Partridges. One fairly small bare area had over 700 Rooks feeding on the outward walk. The return walk at dusk, the Rooks had gone, and  I was lucky enough to see a Stone Curlew and fledgling feeding in the same area. Have a feeling the fledgling was hiding in the nearby Corn Field all day, and came out into the open area at dusk. Great views.. The fledgling was reminiscent of a Wheatear at long range in shape and posture! Also heard two more Stone Curlews calling at dusk. Hard to believe they had a breeding success with so many Rooks in the area!
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• Tuesday, June 26, 2007 - Barn Owl and Water Rail the highlights of a soaking at Keyhaven, plus Testwood Lakes on Saturday

Ventured out to the Lower Test Marshes early on Saturday. Testwood lakes looks very popular with local dog walkers, but the bird hide and scrapes is suitably off the beaten track, and was very peaceful. Highlights were a family of foxes out in the open in nearby fields, two cubs vying for their parents' attention. On the reserve, an artificial Sand Martin bank was looking very popular, with a decent sized flock in and around the nest holes. Also Shelducks, Little Ringed Plover, Grey and Pied Wagtails, Little Egret and Lapwing all showing fairly well.
Returning home, stopped off at Redbridge to scan the marshes closer to the estuary. Not much here, except for a few Black Headed Gulls, and a single Yellow Legged Gull. Had a chat with another local birder who had seen 5 Green Sandpipers and heard a few Cetti's Warblers in the section of the Marshes between Redbridge and the Testwood lakes. Sounds like it is worth visiting, if I can find a suitable place to park.
Sunday evening I ventured over to Keyhaven in atrocious weather.. so bad that my waterproof trousers failed, and every sighting was a struggle. Foolishness was kind of rewarded with Little Tern, Med Gull, Redshank, Water Rail, Ringed Plover, and Eider. During a break between showers I saw a Barn Owl hunting over the marshes. By the end of the evening the only thing I possesed that was dry enough to wipe my optics was a Five pound note! Fortunately, by this time there was nothing left to see so I didn't have that dilemna!!
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• Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - Local Nightjar

Went out for an evening walk along footpaths east of North Baddesley on Tuesday evening. Had earlier been on the receiving end of a fairly heavy storm, but weather had improved back to "hot and muggy" a couple of hours later.
Turf Fields were full of Crows and Rooks feeding in the dug up strips as usual, but the only other additions I could find were Pied Wagtail, Skylark, House Martin and Swallow, plus a family of Mistle Thrushes. There were also a large number of Meadow Brown Butterflies settling in the long grass.. part of a swarming activity or perhpas just a good place for them?  Certainly more than I have ever witnessed in one place, probably 50 in total.
As dusk fell, the nearby Woodland, had good views of Woodcock passing overhead, and a fairly distant Nightjar churring was a highlight. Didn't see him, and he sounded quite a long way into the covert. Also heard a brief Tawny Owl call.
No further sign of the Grey Wagtail in the street, was lucky to see him last week. We did have some sad news in the back garden as a newly fledged Blackbird flew into a window and died shortly afterwards.
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• Friday, June 15, 2007 - Grey Wagtail

Local birding tends to get very difficult in June and July, but there's still the chance of the odd surprise. Yesterday morning, I heard a Grey Wagtail from the house. With a small stream running past the house, this was a fairly long overdue sighting. Went outside to investigate and saw the bird, which was a female, fly up the street and perch on telephone wires. Could also hear a very vocal Nuthatch in the nearby Oak trees. Nice to see the "Garden" list moving on slightly after coming to a grinding halt at 40!
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• Tuesday, June 12, 2007 - Woodcock, and more bat files

 Went for a walk mid-evening to the edge of the village. Stonechats and Whitethroat breeding in the field of waste ground, which is now virtually head height with grass! At least two Roe Deer were making their way through the grass virtually undetected. Also watched a Buzzard drop from the top of a pylon onto some prey, which it looked like he caught. Too far away to identify what he caught. A Kesrel also scored, as I watched him disappear into private woods with a small mammal in his talons.
Hung around the small heath / bracken area until 30 mins after dusk and saw plenty of Woodcock overhead. Looks like there is a healthy resident population right on the edge of the village, and with a bit of luck could probably add one to my Garden list (albeit pushing the boundaries slightly!).
Also, the area damaged by fire a couple of months ago is now completely regrown.
Some more local bat echolocation:
Serotine:
http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/uploads/p/petermk/3768.wav
 very irregular beats. Sounds like a bad jazz drummer!
Power spectrum below peaks at high 20's (Approx 28KHz, when x10)


Pipistrelle:
 http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/uploads/p/petermk/3769.wav
 Much faster beats, two species in neighbourhood: Common and Soprano.
Common Pipistrelle power spectrum, peaking at 45KHz:


 Soprano Pipistrelle Power Spectrum, peaking at 55KHz:


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• Sunday, June 10, 2007 - Evening on Downs, and Barbastelle

Saturday early evening on the downs, near Broughton.
Yellowhammers, Corn Bunting and a Few Lapwings, plus Linnets, and Whitethroats.
Later, at dusk, headed to a small pond near the "Mottisfont Bats" SSSI. Was lucky enough to pick out a Barbastelle amongst the many Natterers and Daubentons Bats feeding over the water.
Natterers were whizzing inches from my face, which was fine, but a Tawny Owl that glided silently past me within a couple of metres got my heart racing!
Very brief sound file of the Barbastelle attached:
http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/uploads/p/petermk/4909.wav
And sound analysis: 
Which shows the peak power at approx 35KHz (need to multiply the graph by 10 for true reading).
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• Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - More Nocturnal stuff

No sign of Nightjar in suitable habitat around North Baddesley last night. Did however see good views of a Woodcock, Roe Deer,  Common Pipistrelle, and Natterer's Bats. Also heard a Tawny Owl.
Earlier in the evening I saw Stonechat, Linnet, Cuckoo, Yellowhammer and a single Woodlark.
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• Sunday, June 3, 2007 - Bentley Wood

A fairly intense weekend looking after my two children by myself! Turned my attentions to Butterflies.. My previous house in Milton Keynes was within an hour of some good sites for all the Hairstreaks, Wood White, Purple Emperor, and one or two other decent speceis. Seems Hampshire is prime real estate for Fritillaries, and Bentley Wood (a 20 minute drive away) has a very impressive butterfly list.
I visited on Sunday morning with children, and got frustratingly poor views of Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. Managed to return on my own in the afternoon once the children were offloaded, and eventually got superb views of several nectaring. Looks like I am too late this year for Pearl Bordered (spent too much of May birding!), but definately one to return for next year.
Saturday I visited the coast in search of Glanville Fritillaries at a known site on the south coast, but the pram wouldn't go far enough along the pebbles to the habitat, so I had to give up!
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• Friday, June 1, 2007 - Portland and St.Albans Head

Decided to take a whole day off work and spend the whole day out birding.
Visited Portland in the morning which was enjoyable, though not spectacular! In a decent South Wind, and overcast skies there was little in the way of grounded Passerines. A Wheatear and 2 Yellow Wagtails all I could find amongst the many Linnets, Meadow Pipits, and Skylarks.
The rocks at the Bill had at least 2 Peregrines, Rock Pipits, many Guillemots and a few Razorbills. The light was so good that telling the auks apart was no problem, even with the naked eye. There was also a decent passage of Manx Shearwater at very close range. I counted 20 in 50 mins all giving excellent views, plus Gannets, Kittiwake and Fulmar.
Ferrybridge seemed really quiet: 5 Ringed Plover and 4 Dunlin plus a Little Egret all I could see there.
I then headed onto St.Albans Head, the GPS taking me via a spectacular winding "mountain pass"! through the Purbecks Firing ranges. The day nose dived slightly here as I got caught in an almighty rain storm. Did see Peregrine, Shag, Fulmar and Kittiwake but the sea here was much quieter with no visible passage. St.Albans Head and "Winspit Valley" looks excellent for birding but I was there on the wrong day! Also looks like a good habitat round Corfe for Horseshoe Bats with plenty of cow fields and hedges linking field and woodland, so a combined evening Birdwatch / Batwatch may be in order here.
Returned home via Blashford lakes more out of interest than expecting to see a great deal (The GPS again excelling itself.. this time trying to take me home via a ferry?!).. Eventually found the visitor centre, by which time it was closed, but did see Hobby, Bullfinch, Common Tern and Sedge Warbler whilst searching the area.
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• Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - Night Manoeuvres

Got into a pattern of evening / night time trips recently.. Seems once you get into this pattern it is difficult to switch back to going out at Dawn!
Best birds seen were plenty of Tawny Owls, some really close up views, and a very distant Nightjar heard from near Eyeworth Pond.
An evening at the North Baddesley Church saw plenty of bat activity: Common Pipistrelles looked to be emerging out of the church, and two probable Brown Long eared Bats also emerged. Best sighting though was two Serotines hunting high over the Oak Trees outside our house.
Eyeworth pond had good numbers of Daubentons, and a trip to the Mottisfont area in search of Barbastelle was unsuccesful, but enjoyable with close views of Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubenton's.
Also seeing plenty of Foxes, but no Badgers so far. 
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• Sunday, May 20, 2007 - Wheatears still moving through

Weekend started well with Woodcock, Woodlark and a Spectacular aerial display by a Noctule Bat over Emer Bog.
Spent Sunday afternoon on the Hampshire Downs. Found a good place near Chilbolton that had a healthy population of breeding Lapwings and Skylarks. Approximately 16 of the former, 12 of the latter.
Also in the area were a group of 7 Wheatears, 2 Linnets and a Kestrel.
Called in at a few areas that I won't be returning to! Then finished up at "Jack's Bush" near Broughton. A public foopath here started fairly average but improved away from the road with a huge field of Set aside and a large field of new plough. Highlights here were 4 singing Corn Buntings, several Yellowhammers, 3 Grey Partridges, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Stock Doves and another Wheatear.
Nice to see Corn Buntings are a bit easier to find than I was expecting.. So far, Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher, and Tree Sparrow are proving to be very difficult down here.
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• Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - No joy!

A couple of hours on the Downs again yesterday evening. Scanned an area which looked ideal for Stone Curlew but no joy. A few common species showing well including Red Legged Partridge, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, and Stock Dove. Also an abundance of Hares and a Roe Deer. The Hares done a good job of tearing round the entire area and would have flushed anything interesting in the vicinity!
Also called in at a location close to home which has seen Nightjars in previous years. Only had chance for a very brief scan and listen but no joy there also! Suspect there is more suitable habitat further into the reserve, but I didn't fancy venturing in there on my own in the pitch dark last night.
Nightjar would be a great bird to find locally, and I'm hoping one or two areas around the village might turn up trumps in the next couple of months.
Well, it would get boring very quickly if they were all easy to see!
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• Sunday, May 13, 2007 - On the Hampshire Downs

11th and 12th May:
2 evenings spent on the Hampshire Downs..
First evening, was a disappointment: the only sighting of any note was Grey Partridge. Weather was lousy, and the sites I visited weren't particularly easy to birdwatch in, so it was back to the OS map!


Second evening was much better having learned from the previous night's mistakes!
Best of the birds was a group of 3 adult Stone Curlews and 2 Fledglings. Watched at a fairly long distance, and I later listened to their eery calls in the fading light. Was a pretty good area: There was also a healthy population of Grey Partridge and a Singing Corn Bunting, plenty of Yellowhammers, Skylarks, and Roe Deer in the distant fields.

Certainly a hot spot for birds, as much of the surrounding farmland seemed fairly devoid of birdlife.
Now I need to try and find the same species but closer to home!
 
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• Thursday, May 10, 2007 - Tree Pipits @ Baddesley Common

Got up early and had a very peaceful walk round the Common, and Emer Bog. At least two singing Tree Pipits this morning, one showing really well on top of a conifer tree, the other singing but out of sight. Also 5 Woodlarks including a group of 4 together which was a surprise, (all were adults). My previous best here was 4. Cuckoo, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Lapwing, 2 Buzzards, Stonechat, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Linnet, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Long Tailed Tits plus a Roe Deer in quite an enjoyable couple of hours.
Not hearing any Reed or Sedge Warbler here at the moment.
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• Monday, May 7, 2007 - A year's supply of Tawny Owl Sightings!

Had a quick look at a couple of local areas Saturday morning. Convinced myself there was absolutely nothing about, then spent the weekend doing DIY!
Monday early morning, I headed for the New Forest for a few hours despite the weather being fairly poor.
Highlights in Bolderwood area were at least 4 Tawny Owls flying up from the track at various points. Suspect there were youngsters involved, but they were very well spread out for a single family, probably about 1 mile apart. One that did show well after landing was a nice adult. Best views I've had of a Tawny for a few years. Further on a Fox was causing a commotion in the forest. As he stalked off, another Tawny Owl flew up from the undergrowth. Quite a bizarre walk.

Also in the forest were a few Redstarts (superb views of a male), a couple of Wood Warblers heard, a Marsh Tit and 2 flyover Crossbills.
Tried some short walks from other car parks in the forest and heard at least one Firecrest, which I couldn't see unfortunately. Dozens and dozens of Goldcrests. I might take my bat detector out and record the two songs for analysis of the spectrograms! The bat Detector gets absolutely swamped by Robins and Blackbirds in the early evenings, so crests will be just the right frequency for it I should think.
Hoe Lane's Lapwings have fledged with at least 2 "balls of fluff" running round the field!
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• Sunday, April 29, 2007 - Going for the Ton!

Went for a much needed day out to the New Forest and Keyhaven. Turned into a superb day, seeing 85 species, which is just 4 short of my best ever total in the UK.. I'm not too good at accumulating massive day lists! One day I would love to break 100 "self-found" species in a day in the uk.
Today I had the luck on my side, but not the local knowledge of Hampshire (everything is new to me this year). Also, I would have been pushing my luck on the family side, if I'd stayed out 'til after dusk!
Commonest species I didn't see were Treecreeper, Goldfinch(!), Yellowhammer, Jay and Sparrowhawk. With more time I could have almost certainly added Woodlark, Marsh Tit, Tawny Owl, Woodcock and Mandarin. Maybe next year I will try for 100 a week or two later in the year to try and add Hobby, and even Nightjar to the equation. I'd also need to find a reliable territory for the likes of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and Firecrest.  I'll also go better prepared with a checklist, and tell loved ones I'll be back at midnight!
Today's highlights were superb views of Crossbills, Wood Warbler, and Redstart in the New Forest, followed by a three hour walk around Keyhaven. Highlights here were Little Terns, Merlin, and Peregrine, with lots of other nice views of summer plumage Black and Bar tailed godwits, Greenshank and Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Eider, plus a White Wagtail.
Returned to North Baddesley to see my first Swifts of the year (I seem to be a bit slow picking these up compared to other migrants).
Yesterday went for a family walk to Danebury, the highlight being a Stoat going hell for leather across a huge open field giving ample opportunity for a good view!
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• Thursday, April 26, 2007 - Human-Yellowhammer!

Was alerted to this story today:
http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/visualart/story/0,,1998114,00.html
Really bizarre! I challenge anyone to tell me the video clip of "Yellowhammer" isn't hilarious!
(As you can guess.. its all work and no time spent outside this week!)
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• Tuesday, April 24, 2007 - April showers bring down Wheatears and Whinchats

The Weather finally broke here last night, and a couple of showers followed by some overnight rain raised hopes for some grounded Migrants in the area.
Had hoped to get up early and check out Baddesley Common, but our oldest child had a few nightmares in her sleep. Couldn't face getting up at 6am!
Did however, manage to check out a couple of local sites before work:
Calvelease Copse which has had Grasshoper Warbler and Nightingale so far this spring was fairly quiet. One Whitethroat singing was all I could find there.
Went on to the West end of Hoe Lane and was pleased to see the Wheatear numbers up to 5. Could be more as they were fairly difficult to pick out in fairly long weedy vegetation.
Almost as an afterthought, I stopped off at the Weedy field at the East end of Hoe Lane. This area has been quiet for about a month now. A pair of Stonechats and a pair of Linnets were seen well near the paddock. Decided to walk to the pylon for a good view of the rest of the field and in no time found myself almost surrounded by Wheatears! counted 4, and best of all a superb Male Whinchat popped up onto a bush.  This was probably the most colourful Whinchat I have ever seen. Looking at google, the only picture that comes close is at the following link:
http://birds.co.il/photogallery/birds/whinchat.jpg  A real stunner!
Noticed another Wheatear on the boundary hedge in the distance so skirted the hedge to see if anything was on the crop side.
This was the epicentre! By now the Wheatears had regrouped and I counted 7 Wheatears and 2 Whinchats in the hedge and dropping into the field.
Whitethroats singing on Hoe Lane suggesting these have arrived in force.
Let's hope this foul weather continues to the weekend!
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• Monday, April 23, 2007 - Wheatears on Hoe Lane

Looking after children for much of weekend, so managed to get out for a couple of walks, but not able to do much scanning!
All the same, on the bird front, it was quite enjoyable. Highlights being 2 Wheatears on Danebury Down, and even better, another 2 at the west end of Hoe Lane. One of these looked like a Greenland race bird.
Sunday late afternoon, I ventured out to a few sites West of the River Test. 3 huge, recently ploughed fields near Woodington were worth a good long scan, but alas nothing out of the ordinary on them. Also went along a very obscure Public footpath out of Carter's Clay, past an area which looked good on Live Local. Had a chat with the farmer who backed up my hunch telling me of his wildlife friendly policy, in contrast to much of the surrounding area. One field had a couple of Lapwing territories, and there were also two Yellow Wagtails showing really well. Unfortunately the best looking area, with a small lake with an abundance of bare mud round the edge was out of view from the footpath. I'll Maybe ask if I can have a peep next time I see him! Always good to chat to farmers as they chalk up a lot of hours "in the field" on their land. Peregrine and Red Kite have been seen occasionally over this farm.
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• Thursday, April 19, 2007 - Nightingale brightens up a cold morning

Tuesday 17th April:
A brood of at least two Moorhens, and a Mallard family on various puddles this afternoon look to have taken advantage of the early spring heatwave, and looked old enough to cope with any deterioration in the weather. With plenty of time for a second brood, it looks like they could have a bumper breeding season. At the other extreme, I'm keeping tabs on a Fieldfare that has not moved off a 10m square of weedy ground in the middle of a field on Hoe lane for about a month now! His companion has long gone, and so too have the majority of Fieldfare in the North Baddesley area. He has still got some way to go before he makes headlines.. the latest in Hampshire was 23rd May, and I think one spent the summer in the New Forest last year? I just have a funny feeling that for a reason unknown, this one ain't going very far!
My wish for something unusual to visit the garden has backfired spectacularly as a racing pigeon crashed onto the conservatory roof yesterday and is now in the shed. Turns out he is from Fareham, and his owner is going to come over to collect him!
Thursday 19th April:
A very cold dawn walk round Checkpoint Charlie was fairly quiet. Linnet and Stonechats as per usual. Also a Reed Bunting, and a couple of Buzzards in the area.
Couldn't see the lone Fieldfare in Hoe Lane so maybe he has actually gone!
Highlight of the morning was a Nightingale singing in the same area that the Grasshopper Warbler was in last week, off Rownhams Lane. Obviously a hotspot!
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• Monday, April 16, 2007 - 100th entry. Annual review!

Wow, my 100th entry! In this post:
* Some news from New Forest
* New Bat to garden list.
* Review of 2006!

New Forest:
Spent yesterday with family in the New Forest. Highlights were Marsh Tit, and Mandarin. Which wasn't bad considering the children were well noisy!
Back garden bat watch:
A noctule just after sunset was the latest addition to the bat species in the garden, and overhead. Brings the total up to 5, which is pretty respectable. If the nearby brook retains some water during the summer, then Daubenton's could be possible, and Brown Long Eared Bats are probably in the area, but a devil to see. Any additional species would be unbelivable!
2006 Review:
2006 turned out to be my last year in Milton Keynes, (although I had no idea I would be moving out until November time). We also had our second baby hit the scene in 2005, so sleepless nights, and serious parenting were common throughout the year. Despite a trip to the Scillies in late September this was the lowest total of species I have seen in a year for about 15 years!
However, it was also one of the most enjoyable! I decided to devote much of the year to visiting underwatched and previously unknown sites in the Milton Keynes / North Bucks area. After many evenings studying the OS maps and live local, and going on recces of promising places, I narrowed it down to a shortlist of about 10 sites that were both easy to park the car, and had good habitat. Best finds were Quainton Hill, which immediately stood out as a super place to go birding, and gave me some great North Bucks finds in the first half of the year (Raven, Red Kite, Ring Ousel, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Whimbrel, over 20 Wheatears together). Coincidentally, this site is hitting the headlines this spring with at least 5 Ring Ousels.
My other good find in 2006 was a colony of Corn Buntings that I stumbled across by accident, when checking out another unwatched area. The end of the year, and my last trip out birding in North Bucks, I recorded 56 Corn Buntings, which made the headlines of the North Bucks monthly Bird Report. This was the first time I'd had a sighting in the headlines for many months, and was a really nice way to bow out of the local scene.
2006 I fulfilled a lifelong amibtion and visited the Scillies, with 3 good friends. Although the birding wasn't classic, and we failed to see the rarest of the migrants on offer (Bonelli's Warbler, Ortolan, and Tawny Pipit), we did see a good selection of migrants, and had the bonus of finding our own Wryneck and Hoopoe.
The worst moments of 2006 were a day trip to Little Paxton where we saw nothing and got soaked in a cloudburst about 100 yards from the car! I also had my worst day ever in Norfolk, when the weather changed to a sunny, Westerly wind at the last minute and instead of seeing migrants, along the north norfolk coast, we saw absolutely nothing! 1 Whinchat, and an Arctic Skua about all we had to show for several hours fruitless searching. We saw a Lesser Whitethroat and a few other Warblers at Little Paxton on the return journey, which doubled the day's excitement!
2007, and I'm living in Hampshire, about 15 minutes from the New Forest, 30 minutes from the coast and 1 hour from Portland Bill. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do this area any kind of justice. So far I have enjoyed the local birding, and found Merlin, Woodcock, Stonechat, and Grasshopper Warbler within walking distance of the house. Plus Woodlark, Little Ringed Plover and many breeding Lapwings within a short drive of the house. Spring migration has been a slight non event so far, and after a single early Wheatear at Danebury, I spent a few mornings on the Downs trying to Emulate Quainton Hill! It was not to be unfortunately. Hopefully this was just down to this year's barmy weather causing all the non-breeding migrants to continue over without stopping along the Test Valley! Whatever the reason, I won't be waiting to find out, and my next opportunity I will be heading straight to Portland or Keyhaven!
As for the New Forest: well at this rate, it will take many years for me to become familiar with even a fraction of the forest, but the time I have spent there has been very enjoyable.
Good Birding Everyone! Here's to another 100!
Peter
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• Saturday, April 14, 2007 - Little Owl the highlight of a morning on the Downs

Visited Danebury at Dawn, but not a lot to be seen. Thought I heard a Ring Ousel call but could not locate anything other than a Blackbird with two white feathers on it's back, in a kind of crescent shape! Pity that this place hasn't built on from the promising Wheatear sighting about 3 weeks ago. Still plenty of Fieldfares around, and good numbers of Chaffinches, Song thrushes, Blackcaps, and Yellowhammers.
From here, called in at Sparsholt which was a nice area. House Martins were building nests on the walls of the college reception, and at the Fishery there were Red Legged Partridge, Grey and Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Moorhen, Mallard and Black Headed Gull, plus some Lapwings in the surrounding fields, and best of all, a Little Owl in the distance, but scoped well as he flew from post to post.
Spent a further hour at Farley Mount. The huge field south of the monument was full of Skylarks. Quite an impressive sight, and more Lapwings. Nice to be in countryside that is brimming with displaying birds. Also present were good numbers of Buzzards, 2 Red Legged Partridges, and a couple of Blackcaps.

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• Friday, April 13, 2007 - Aaahh.. Grasshopper!

Early morning walk from house to waste ground field, Scanned towards Toothill. Across Rownhams Lane into Calvelease Copse, and back home.
Was starting to reach desparation about the lack of variety in this area recently when all was forgotten as a Grasshopper Warbler started reeling in between the traffic noise on Rownhams Lane. Managed to put the traffic behind me and heard him properly, but could not see him. He's chosen a super place to sing from.. totally undisturbed, and I've been expecting something half decent to turn up in this small area of scrub for a while now.
This is my earliest Grasshopper Warbler by a few weeks, mainly due to me living 100 miles further south now!
Rest of area still pretty quiet except for Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaffs, plus the occasional Blackcap. have been some fairly severe fires in the copse. The Bracken is all but burnt to a cinder in the open areas, but the woodland proper is still nice and boggy in places.
Also equalled my previous garden list with a singing Chiff Chaff, 40 species in 3 months here as opposed to 40 in 3 years at the previous address!!
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• Wednesday, April 11, 2007 - Plenty of Warblers and a few Swallows

Plenty of summer visitors now establishing territories on the Common. Willow Warblers, Chiff-Chaffs and Blackcaps all disputing territorial boundaries. Linnets, Stonechats, Lapwings, Skylarks and Blackbirds all very prominent, plus a mystery "buzzing" call overhead that I need to find out what it is. Have a feeling it is something fairly common, with a flight call that I'm not familiar with.
Also 4 Swallows over Hoe Lane looked to be staying in the area as opposed to migrating north.
Lunchtime at Skidmore had more Chiff Chaffs, and Blackcaps, plus 2 Shelduck on the flooded field (which looks to be rapidly drying up!)
Myotis Bats around the house are Natterers. Watched them gleaning insects off the Oak trees last night, and also had close views of a Soprano Pipistrelle which feeds along the airspace over the back gardens.
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• Saturday, April 7, 2007 - Garganey still at Timsbury. Nothing on the Downs!

Had a morning in the Upper Test / Hampshire Downs. Weather was scorching, and blue skies, and as a result the birding in South Hampshire looked to be pretty poor all round. Did manage to see the pair of Garganey at Timsbury shortly after dawn, together with a few Gadwall, and a Redshank.
Danebury Down was really brimming with birdlife, but aside from a Willow Warbler, very little of note. Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Fieldfares, Chiff-Chaffs, Yellowhammers and a single Redwing. I was very surprised not to see a single Wheatear despite a thorough search of the huge grazing field (which was full of Fieldfare!), and other promising areas.
A similar story at Broughton Down. Lots of common birds, but no joy.
Checked out more lakes near Stockbridge.. Tow Lakes. Same old story! fisheries, can't even see water form the footpaths! Looks like the fairly popular Ringwood lakes, or the Lower Test are my closest freshwater lakes.
Returned home via the Lapwing Territories, and they look to be on Eggs now, or very close.
Also checked out an ex-landfill site on the edge of North Baddesley. No footpaths, but a track followed the edge of a turf field which is worth keeping an eye on. Also a very dense field of hawthorn and scrub had a nice male Stonechat standing watch.
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• Friday, April 6, 2007 - Backyard bats and Baddesley Common

Re-positioned Bat detector at the side of the house, parallel to stream, last night and had a constant stream of Myotis bats passing through. Really difficult to identify which species with just the sound files, so went outside to see if I could see them. Unfortunately by this time it was too late and activity had ceased.
Will try again this evening. They will either be Natterers or Daubentons, and depending on their behaviour I should be able to positively identify them. Will be interesting to see where they are coming from: possibly a roost were the stream goes into a tunnel. Also a few Common Pipistrelles, but no Serotine.
Had a walk round Emer Bog and Baddesley Common first thing this morning, but not a great deal to report. A few more Linnets than previous visits, and a Singing Blackcap together with plenty of Chiff Chaffs. Also two Small ducks took off from the Bog. Sun was in the way, but after a couple of fly pasts, was satisfied that they were Teal. Noticed a small layby in the village near to the footpath to the common, so can make a few shorter visits in future just concentrating on the Common, and Checkpoint Charlie.
Plenty of Lapwings displaying in fields around the village.
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• Thursday, April 5, 2007 - Homing in on a record!

First Swallow of the year for me, Whizzed over the house this morning heading due North! Also a small trickle of Passerines migrating north. Look like they are following a line just West of the village, so too far to identify or hear calls fro mthe house, but at least a sign that birds are moving now the stiff north wind has eased. High hopes for the weekend!
Swallow brings the garden list to 39, and just one short of equalling in 3 months what it took 3 years to see in my previous Milton Keynes garden! Time is running out for this particular milestone.. I need one more species to get to 40 before the 13th April. Willow Warbler is the obvious candidate for number 40, and I'm also keeping a lookout skywards for a Hobby, Wader, or something else big and easily identifiable passing overhead! Also the stream behind the back garden has turned up nothing yet apart from garden birds having a drink, so a Grey Wagtail, or Mallard is a more distant long shot.
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• Monday, April 2, 2007 - Golden Plovers at Farley Mount

Was looking after the children today, but did manage two nice sightings: both Plovers, both from the car!:
En route to the dump a Little Ringed Plover was feeding on the edge of a very small puddle at the entrance to Casbrook Common where I took a wrong turning! and at Farley Mount (Pitt Down to be exact), there was a very impressive sized flock of Golden Plover circling high over the fields. A very rough estimate would be about 400. My first Golden Plovers since moving south, and well overdue. Suspect they had been disturbed from a field that was being ploughed and contained a few Crows, Lapwings, Gulls and Buzzards. Quite a sight.

Farley Mount looks like another good area, with a mixture of Woodland, grassy hillsides, and farmland.
Stopped off on the way home to check out a lake near Ampfield.. guess what? You can't see this one either! However, I've been looking at Sparsholt College on the maps, and a footpath runs past their fishing lake, plus the area looks quite open, so I will maybe try that in the future. Also Tow lakes near King's Sombourne looks like they could be visible from footpaths.

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• Saturday, March 31, 2007 - Little Ringed Plovers save the day

Another Possible Raven from the front window, on Wed am. looking over towards Rownhams (where one was seen the previous day!), the bird was at a terrible angle for identification, and very distant therefore no real pointer to its size, but he did have a very prominant "beard", and very long tail. One of these days I'll see him flying in a slightly more northern direction, and will nail him for certain!
Also one reported slightly north of the House, so I am literally surrounded by them at the moment!

Visited Crampmoor Fishponds as they look great on live local.. Unfortunately, the adjacent footpath didn't offer much of a view, and the pools in view didn't look very promising. May be worth an evening trip later in the year to listen for Warblers etc, and see if many bats are in the area.
Sadly many of my local haunts through the winter are just about finished for the year now: The luxborough lane flooded field has dried out, and the pheasant covers on Hoe lane are empty and birdless.
Also my woodland feeder got nabbed the day I went to take it down for the year, presumably by a Squirrel for dissection at his leisure!

Saturday, I had the whole day to myself, so hit Danebury Down at dawn.
Fairly hard work, and the lack of Summer migrants in the UK at the moment was a theme throughout the day. Did see 130 Fieldfares and a few Redwings. The Fieldfares were in a large stony field, the Redwings in small bushes at the top of the fort. Not much else about: a few Yellowhammers, a Linnet, Pied Wagtail, and several Stock Doves. Also about 5 Chiff Chaffs singing.
Headed to Stockbridge Marsh where there is a large lake on Live Local.. Again the lake was out of bounds to the public, and there was no way I could get anywhere near the shore. A lot of Chiff Chaffs here, and a Cetti's Warbler singing was compensation.
Called in at Casbrook where there is a large open lake, again fenced off! but this one you can at least see the water, something of a rarity in this part of the country. 2 Sand Martins were the first for the year for me.
Stopped off at nearby Timsbury, and scanned the flooded fields. No sign of the Garganey present here. Several Lapwings, and a few Coot was all I could manage. Skidmore, near the village of Lee was the highlight of the day. The flooded field here had 2 Little Ringed Plover on the bank. Wonder if this little pool is going to be worth visiting until it presumably dries up later in the year! Certainly a very early morning visit would be worth while as I suspect any larger waders would fly as soon as the walkers/horse riders and cyclists pass by on the bridleway. The 2 LRPs however, were unfazed by the passers by. Also met one of the local birders here, and had a nice chat.
After lunch headed to Redbridge area of the Lower Test, but don't think I'll make this one of my regular haunts.. Couldn't hear myself think for traffic for one!
Finished the day exploring a fairly birdless piece of grassland and scrub between Calvelease copse and the Hoe Lane wasteground field, which like so many places round here looks to have potential!.. did manage to find a couple of holes in hedges to make a very nice circular walk from the house to the Copse, the grassland and scrub, then the wasteground field. No Stonechats today, but a few Fieldfare and Red-Legged Partridge in an adjacent field.


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• Tuesday, March 27, 2007 - Backyard Bats

Two species of bat picked up on the bat detector last night.. first was a Common Pipistrelle, 2nd was almost certainly a Serotine. calls peaking at 27KHz, and seemed to be all "chips", no "chops". call duration, and intercall gap also seemed right for a Serotine, but would love a second opinion over the coming nights just to be 100% certain. Also, not sure of the status of Serotine versus Noctule in my area. Hoping they are both fairly numerous.
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• Saturday, March 24, 2007 - Mandarins over Baddesley Common

Early morning walk around Baddesley Common. Still amazed at the number of dog walkers out before 7am!
Bird front was fairly quiet. Plenty of Meadow Pipits, at least 32, at Checkpoint Charlie. Somewhere local, a lake must have been getting some disturbance, as the more unusual sightings were a Canada Goose, and 2 Mandarins Flying over.
Back home, a Great Spotted Woodpecker has started to come to the feeders. Have seen him in the nearby trees quite regularly, but this was the first time we have seen him in the garden.. Incredibly close!Goldfinches are up to 4 on the feeders, and are probably the most abundant visitor now.
Rest of the weekend fairly uneventful locally. Stonechats nest building, Buzzards displaying, the odd pair of Lapwings displaying / fending off crows in one or two fields. The South coast in general seems to be fairly slow at the moment... Give it a week or two ;)
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• Friday, March 23, 2007 - First Wheatear of Spring

Called in at Danebury Down late morning for a brief look around. Looked like a super place with plenty of grazed open grassland, varying densities of bushes around the hilltop, and a small wood. Plus an awesome view in all directions. Plenty of Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings around the fort, and best of all a nice Male Wheatear in one of the more open fields. Two Buzzards engaged in aerial combat as I returned to the car.
Was a very difficult place to birdwatch in.. little hillocks everywhere with birds out of view behind them, and virtually everything I saw in this brief visit had already seen me coming. Suspect a slower paced walk round the lower path with a few stakeouts may be my best chance.
The surrounding area is probably my best chance of finding a Hampshire Corn Bunting.
The Wheatear is my earliest ever in the UK! beating last year's first sighting, on Quainton Hill, by 2 days.
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• Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - Back to Winter

A quick look round Luxborough Lane and Hoe Lane first thing in freezing conditions was hardly worth bothering with! A Lapwing and nice Male Bullfinch about the highlights. Male Blackcap still regular in the back garden.
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• Sunday, March 18, 2007 - Alba Wagtail, and Broughton Down

A fairly distant Wagtail looked like a good contender for a White Wagtail on Hoe Lane this afternoon. Was on the ground in a flooded field, but the distance plus wind, made viewing difficult. Certainly had an obvious contrast between Glossy black bib / Crown / Nape, versus a lighter grey back. Grey back also contrasted strongly with black primaries. Primaries had white edges. Couldn't see the rump though, and the flanks looked dirty at one point, but eventually put this down to the wind blowing the feathers out.
Field also had Fieldfare in, and is worth checking out if I'm driving that way. The nearby Pheasant covers will be just about finished until next winter now.
Went on to Broughton Down to see if this place is worth keeping an eye on in the coming months. Only took about 20 mins to get there, and the climb to the down would keep me fit! Took a wrong turn initially and found myself surrounded by huge fields of Oil seed, and probably the worst birding habitat in Hampshire. However, eventually found the Down nature reserve and was quite impressed with the habitat of the steep north slope. Grazed grassland with many bushes. Will definitely return in search of Redstarts, Ring Ouzels, and Wheatears! Today there were a few Fieldfare, Skylarks and Roe Deer plus Hares in the large crop fields viewable from the top.
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• Saturday, March 17, 2007 - More Chiff Chaffs, not a lot else!

Another walk round Emer Bog / Baddesley Common first thing.. there are some serious insomniacs amongst the locals,, not used to mixing it with dog walkers and joggers at 7am! Hope I don't have to get up much earlier to be the "first" to walk the footpaths.
A couple of Chiff Chaffs singing was about the only highlight this morning. Plenty of Yellowhammers singing, and a few Stonechats as usual, plus the usual woodland dawn chorus.
Heard a Roe Deer barking, which I've never heard before.. what a wierd noise, sounded like an elderly man clearing his throat.
Goldfinches are now fairly regular on the garden Niger seed.
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• Friday, March 16, 2007 - First Chiff-Chaffs

Not able to venture out at all this week due to work, but did manage an hour or so this morning.
Highlights in Calvelease copse were the first Chiff Chaffs heard singing, they could have been here for up to a week by now, and at least 3 were present. Also 3 Treecreepers in area. I had, surprisingly, not seen any treecreepers in this area before today, so either they migrate into the area, or have kept a very low profile over the last couple of months.
Sad news that the area of woodland nearest to the Village had a fairly large fire blazing in it this afternoon, caused by locals idiots. Seems to be a favourite hobby here.
Waste Ground had 3 Stonechats. Three of everything today.
Also on local travels found a Kestrel's nest high up in a tree. Was fortunate to be standing still when they visited the site.

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• Sunday, March 11, 2007 - Night Time Safari

Popped out to Bucket Corner for dusk. Quite an enjoyable hour, started with two Roe Deer nervously venturing into the marshy field. Although 200 yards distant, one was clocking me straight away! They soon got distracted as night fell by two foxes in the area. One of the foxes trotted towards me, and stopped about 20 metres away, before moving downwind of me, sensing danger, and bolting.
Two Woodcocks passed overhead "roding", and at least three landed in the field to feed.. One passed low right over my head, and landed quite close. By now the bins were struggling in the dark, but I did hear a Tawny Owl hoot in the distance. Owls seem to be at a premium in the area, but I suspect Tawnys are well represented.
Finished the evening picking up a Common Pipistrelle on the Bat Detector. Spent a few minutes watching him circle overhead.. another sign of spring!
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• Saturday, March 10, 2007 - Birding around the Village

Have added a file to the photo album showing a map of the best birding areas I have found so far round the village:   http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/albums/petermk/Nthbad02.jpg
Key:
A: Emer Bog: SSSI. See Tom Jordan's website for a full description: http://pic6.piczo.com/HampshireBirder/?g=30445017
B: Baddesley Common: Hampshire Wildlife Trust site adjoining the Bog. A mixture of Common/grazing grassland, woodland and scrub.
C: Checkpoint Charlie: Western edge of Baddesley Common. Public Footpath follows a narrow corridor of barbed wire fencing, with Grazing land either side. Good potential for migrants hopefully.
D: Mountbatten Park: Fairly dense woodland
E: Calvelease Copse: Woodland, and marshy grazing areas bordering a golf course. Popular with local dog walkers! Woodcock here in Winter at least.
F: Hoe Lane East: Large field best described as "waste ground" Small paddock in North West corner good for Stonechats. Again popular with dog walkers so likely to get high level of disturbance.
G: Hoe Lane: Pheasant cover and grazed fields to north of lane viewable from road, has been good for Fieldfare (e.g. 356 in late feb), Starling, Redwing, and Reed Buntings in winter 2006/07
H: Hoe Lane West: Stubbly field, and Pheasant Cover. Good for Red-Legged Partridge, small flock of Chaffinches.
I: Ashfield Pheasant Cover: a decent sized flock of Linnets (c.80) wintered here.
J: Luxborough Lane: viewable (just) from A27 layby. Not the prettiest, or safest place to birdwatch from, and layby likely to take a few years off the life expectancy of your car's suspension. Heavily flooded field good for Lapwings in winter. Have also seen Shelduck here.
K: Great Covert: to be explored further.
L: Bucket Corner: to be explored further.
Not a bad collection as I've only been here a month!
Shame there are no decent water bodies in the area. There are a couple of medium sized lakes just north of the map, and the River Test runs just west of the map.
Saturday Morning ventured out to Baddesley Common: No sign of the Redpoll flock this morning, but a few more Fieldfare than on previous visits. Strangest sight was a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a high voltage power pylon. He was certainly getting a decent volume out of it!
Saturday evening the first signs of bat activity on the bat detector with a Soprano Pipistrelle making a very brief appearance on the recording. Would like a longer duration signal to confirm this though!
Best Wishes,
Peter
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• Thursday, March 8, 2007 - Bats, Bombs, Barbed wire, and a loud BANG!

Ran the Bat Detector for the first time last night.. Positioned it in the back garden connected to an MP3 recorder and left it for a couple of hours. Great thing about MP3 is that you can upload to the PC and analyse files much quicker than in real time.. Took about 10 minutes to confirm that not a single bat had passed through!
Have found quite a few military connections to Baddesley Common today:
First surprise is that the peaceful, soon to be migrant hotspot(!) was a decoy site during WW2 used to distract enemy bombers away from the south coast ports. Seems that all my local birding haunts were bombed significantly and even the main road at the end of my street got some heavy shelling. Reminder not to go kicking anything metallic that I stumble across!
The second connection is in the Southern Daily echo, and relates to a battle between a local tool manufacturer and the village locals ( http://archive.dailyecho.co.uk/2001/9/13/71559.html ) .
Seems that the public footpath was bordered on both sides by barbed wire fencing along the village side of the common by the company. The area has subsequently been nicknamed "Checkpoint Charlie".
To be honest, my initial experience was that the best concentration of birds were all feeding in the fenced off areas, so it can't all be bad! Have a feeling the fence is no longer Barbed wire, but will check next time.
And finally, I found a reference to the "Great Stampede on Baddesley Common"
Couldn't begin to do this story justice here, so here is the link to a tale of military SNAFU!: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sandra.s/Stampede.html  Not sure I want to know any more secrets about the local area!



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• Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - Morning on the Common

Spent a couple of hours on the Common first thing this morning.
The Bog was full of woodland birdsong, and plenty of Winter Thrushes. Singing Redwings were contributing to the dawn chorus at one point. Highlights were on the common though, with a small flock of 10 Redpoll, a couple of Woodlarks, and plenty of Skylarks, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, plus singing Yellowhammer and a Reed Bunting.
The Common looks excellent with plenty of fenced off areas and paddocks, and will hopefully attract some migrants soon.
Have also noticed some Displaying Lapwings in a field not too far from the village. It will be interesting to see how they fare. Suspect the local corvids will pose the biggest threat to them.
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• Tuesday, March 6, 2007 - Finally attracted a Goldfinch onto the garden feeder!

After weeks of seeing Goldfinches edging closer and closer to the garden feeder full of niger seed, one finally took the plunge and spent a few minutes feeding over the weekend. Nice to see such close views of such a bright bird. Let's hope he encourages the rest of the small flock to make some regular visits.
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• Monday, March 5, 2007 - Quick morning dash around local area

Woke up on the alarm, and seeing the bright sunshine outside was tempted to check out the local area before work.. Copse south of house was full of common bird activity. Unbelievably, two dog walkers had beaten me into the copse, this was at 6:45am! Best of the bunch was Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, plenty of Goldcrests and a Coal Tit. I'm hoping this wood does a bit better in the coming months and attracts a few Warblers and migrants, seems fairly stagnant at the moment with few surprises. Did however, find a good spot to put up a woodland feeder next winter, which might attract the birds into a smaller area.
Followed this with a quick drive to the Lapwing Field off the A27, but only Black Headed Gulls and a couple of Stock Doves there this morning.
Returned home via Hoe Lane.. The feeder is still very popular with Blue and Great Tits, plus a Grey Squirrel doing his best to dismantle the thing.. Need a bigger and stronger feeder next year! Also, plenty of Chaffinches on the Pheasant Cover, and 3 Skylarks in the area. Further down the lane, 356 Fieldfares was a good total, together with about 100 Starlings and 5 Buzzards.
Would like to set up 3 feeding stations next winter. Hoe Lane seems like a good location as there is plenty of farmland, and Pheasant cover that I can scan at the same time, and the Copse south of the house is also easy to get to, which is essential I guess to ensure I can frequently top up the feeders (This is more dense Woodland). Not decided on my 3rd, but maybe somewhere in or around Emer Bog would attract a wider range of species. Hopefully I'll bump into the local birders in the coming months, and see what they think.
Hope to go a bit further afield on my next two mornings out: Lower Test Marshes should give me some variety from the farmland and woodland which I'm starting to find fairly heavy going! Would also like to check out the Downs north of Romsey. Hopefully find some hilly areas with potential for migrants. Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Spotted Flycatchers etc.
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• Sunday, March 4, 2007 - Another addition to garden list.. miserable weather!

No sooner said than done! A Song Thrush popped his head over the fence from the parkland behind the house at lunchtime. He disappeared as quickly as he arrived. Also a Male Blackcap is now making frequent visits to the berries on an ivy-type bush growing up a tree beyond the back garden. Hear him singing occasionally too.
Lousy weather today, hasn't stopped raining!
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• Saturday, March 3, 2007 - A Garden first, and a few shelducks knocking about

A long overdue garden first over the weekend in the shape of a female House Sparrow! I have noticed two colonies at either edge of the village, but this was the first sighting I've had from within the village.
I managed 40 species from my Milton Keynes garden in 3 years.. am now on 35 in 2 months in this slightly more rural location. Would be nice to beat 40 in 3 months! Best Chances for new species are Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Kestrel, Hirundines and Warblers.
Also, seeing a few Shelducks in fields lately, something I'm not used to seeing inland. The flooded field off Luxborough Lane that has Lapwings, had 2 the other evening, only seen as I drove past, and today, I saw about 4 or 5 in a field from the M27, near the River Test, again a drive by sighting.
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• Friday, March 2, 2007 - Welcome Back.. February news from North Baddesley area

Big thanks to Surfbirds for obviously backing up their data quite well.. have written quite a lot on here over the months, so it would have been a shame to lose it all! Coincidentally, my home PC also suffered a nasty crash in the last month, and I too have been busy restoring data. Most was backed up, so I haven't had too many tears.. lost a few Bat Detector recordings, but the sightings are safely logged.
Here is a fairly long post of what I got up to in February:
 30th Jan
late afternoon walk into copse south of house.
Didn't expect to see a great deal, more to find out how far into the woods I can get!
The woods extend right down to the M27, but I only got halfway through before the tracks ran out. Still some good undisturbed woodland to explore once you get out of range of the village, and it will be interesting to see what is around on an early morning spring visit.
Today's walk was typically quiet, a few Blue, Great and Long Tailed tits, Redwings, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Goldcrests, and best of all about half a dozen Woodcock flew out of a clearing. This was well after dusk, so not sure if they were roosting in the area, or feeding in the small boggy field I had stumbled upon.
Earlier in the day, found a small Pheasant run off Hoe Lane with an abundance of wildlife attracted to the area. Several Woodpigeons, and at least 4 Jays flew from the roadside as I pulled up. one or two birds feeding in the pheasant cover, need scope to find out what is there. Who knows, maybe even see a Yellowhammer here!
Nearby village of Lee looks quite bird rich. Hope to return for a longer walk along the Test. At least one public footpath heads out of the village, but a lot of the land is part of the Broadlands Estate, so very private.
 4th Feb
A few hours in the field this morning!
Pheasant cover at Hoe Lane was fairly quiet, a few flocks of Starlings and Fieldfares at first light, plus a Buzzard. Most of the Pheasants here are the Japanese Green Pheasants, I think.
Moved on to Lee Village, and the River Test, again nothing spectacular, but plenty of Little Grebes, Goldcrests, a Grey Wagtail, and half a dozen Hares.. Some of them boxing, which is always fun to see. Distant fields had a couple of Female Roe Deer.
Went North of Romsey, to Mottisfont and followed the Test way for a mile or so. Lots of good habitat: flooded fields near the river, and a large quarry cliff face colonised by Jackdaws. A few Bullfinches around, and more Goldcrests and a small tit flock.
Did see a Skylark here (one of the species I'm missing from North Bucks!).
Finished the morning by calling into Casbrook Common.. This place looked superb! A footpath through the middle with Gravel workings on one side and a mosaic of small muddy ponds and scattered bushes on the other. Lots about with Goldfinches feeding on thistle heads, 3 Grey Wagtails, Green Woodpecker, 2 Snipe, and another wader which flew from a distant pond, didn't get much on this one, perhaps a Green Sandpiper?
Also saw another birder! so the place must be good!
Definately have to revist this place, looks like it is only "accessible" on Sundays when the workings are closed.
Looking at Live local  ( http://local.live.com/ ) , there may be more pools further north, and the embankment to the east could be a great viewpoint to watch from.
One thing about all the sites I've visited is that the countryside is very open, and you can always see for miles! Could be good in the spring, with migration overhead.
Still missing a few of the common North Bucks birds! aside from Skylark which I finally saw a single today! I have yet to see Yellowhammer, or any Bunting in fact! and also an absence of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Could be better a bit further north towards Wiltshire and the Downs / Salisbury Plain. Or it may be that these species Winter on the coast.
Also around the garden this weekend, a Brimstone and Red Admiral both on the wing as soon as the sun came out

5th Feb:
Bought a very nice looking bird feeder for the front garden. Black iron, about 7ft tall, with a few hooks for hanging feeders / tables off. Very tasteful! Even better: in 24 hours, it has already attracted Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue and Great Tits.
Have stacked it up with Niger seeds hoping to attract the local Goldfinches down from the top of the oak trees.
Neighbouring gardens have gone for suet balls, and peanuts. These don't seem to be as popular with the birds these days.. the birds prefer an easier meal perhaps?!

7th Feb:
birds continue to pour in to the new feeder.. Is it the only one in the neighbourhood! Coal Tit, Pied Wagtail, and a Squirrel which must have flew to get up there!
Went for a lunchtime walk in the Copse South of the house.. Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, plus Nuthatches present in numbers. A distant Buzzard and good numbers of the usual common Tits and Finches, plus quite a few Redwings made for an enjoyable lunch hour.

8th Feb:
Lunchtime walk to field at end of Hoe Lane.
Snow had just about melted, and the field was fairly quiet.. Suddenly livened up by a Merlin shooting through and just missing a Meadow Pipit. Fairly lousy view, as it sped north. Rest of field was fairly quiet. A kestrel on the pylons, and a Buzzard high overhead.
Found a previously undiscovered corner of the field with small paddock, and a few large bushes. 4 Stonechats were lurking in this corner plus a few House Sparrows (Quite a novelty here!).
All the good habitat within walking distance of the house follows a fairly obtrusive row of power cables. Suspect the cables have prevented the field being built upon in the past.
Garden has had a good selection of birds today with Goldcrest, Pied Wagtail, Coal Tit, the highlights and Nuthatch in one of the surrounding trees.

Also, may have had a Raven fly over house late morning, but views were lousy.. one that got away.

Had to check a leak out in my loft roof.. some new bat droppings on the floorboards! Look like Pipistrelle, but suggest that my attic is being used during the winter.. Can't wait until the Spring and a better idea of how they use the space.
As the house is right next to a brook, they could be Soprano Pipistrelles. Think these have larger maternity roosts, so could be fun if they use the house for Maternity purposes!

9th Feb.

Revisited Hoe Lane Pheasant Cover at lunchtime. The cold snap has certainly focussed the birds into flocks.. Best of all: Reed Buntings everywhere in the Pheasant cover. Impossible to count, but 20-30 would seem about right. Also a similar number of Chaffinches.
Adjacent fields had a big flock of 210 Starlings, 105 Redwings, and about 20 Fieldfares.

Hoe Lane East still has the Wintering Stonechats (3 today) showing well at the paddock with two Pied Wagtails. Also, House Sparrows, Greenfinches and Dunnocks in nearby hedges.

Wanted to return to the Pheasant cover at dusk to scan for Raptors or an Owl, but weather has turned to heavy rain, which looks set to ruin the weekend!

Drove along Chilworth access road, and Misselbrook lane which looked good on live local, but nothing special. Difficult to park at the former, but worth a walk in spring perhaps.


10th Feb:
Hit the New Forest for the first time since moving down to Hampshire.. though the sheer size of the Forest is daunting. Started at a well known venue, Blackwater Arboretum, and saw, fairly predicatably, at least 9 Hawfinches assembling in the tree tops before dispersing into the Forest just after sunrise. Also TreeCreeper and 3 Bullfinches, and a few other common species. No sign of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but one was seen later in the morning. I left as the clouds looked certain to open!
Drove on to a random area of heathland, and had an enjoyable hour with a couple of nice but brief views of Dartford Warblers, and a small herd of Fallow Deer, the Stags looking splendid. Also saw 2 very distant Ravens flying over, their calls heard from the best part of a mile away. One perched in a tree with Magpies.. the difference in size was truly bewildering, the magpies were dwarfed.
Spent an hour in an area north of the main road (A31) running through the forest. Area looked good for Woodlark, but was very quiet. A Stonechat, Mistle Thrushes, and a Green Woodpecker the only birds seen.
finished off at Eyeworth Pond. Nice views of 4 Mandarins, and the car park bird feeders had 5 species of Tit in the space of a couple of minutes (the 5th being Marsh!). Some more likely Woodlark territory drew a blank!

11th Feb: Casbrook, 7:30am - 9:00am
Enjoyable walk across Casbrook Common, depsite a few heavy showers.
Birds seen were Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Raven, Buzzard, and 6 Linnets. Plus a few Redwings, and several sightings of Green Woodpeckers.
Two Jack Snipes flew out of a large muddy area on the edge of wasteground, right next to the footpath. Weak low flight landing 100yards away, and deep croaking call was distinctive. The advantage of being the first person to walk a footpath in the morning! Also fairly sure I heard another at the south end of the common, but didn't see anything.
Noticed on Live local (http://local.live.com/) two decent sized lakes just north of the common. Sure enough, the other side of an embankment, two very steep sided lakes. A few tufted Ducks, and Mallards plus Coot and Moorhen here. Plenty of mud, but no waders this time.

17th Feb:
Took children to Lepe Country Park, so not a concerted effort to see birds, but did manage some very close Turnstones, a distant flock of 12 Eider, and 2 Summer Plumaged Med Gulls amongst the offshore Black Headed Gulls. Summer Plumaged adults I can pick out!
18th Feb:
Looking after the children again today, I ventured into the New Forest to Beaulieu Road Station to look for Woodlark.
Got near the well documented territories after dragging the pushchair through several small lakes only for my older daughter (3 yrs) to need the loo, and ask to go home in favour of squatting behind a bush. Persevered to the train footbridge, and after seeing 2 Meadow Pipits fly from the ground into bushes, was lucky enough to see a Woodlark fly up, circle, and head straight back towards me and land on some bare earth. Got excellent views of a very smart bird, before legging it back to the car before daughter had an accident. Even better, back at the car park another Woodlark was circling overhead in full song flight. This one was a nice surprise and felt a bit less "twitched"!
Also saw Buzzard and Stonechat as per usual! and Pied Wagtail.
My Partner Kathleen returned home in time to see a Male Blackcap in the back garden, and a very showy Goldcrest.
Drove through Beaulieu (difficult word to spell!) and noticed a big lake with a huge reed bed.. Wonder if this has turned up anything in the past? Certainly looked big enough to hold Bitterns, Water Rails, etc. perhaps even Marsh Harriers.

21st Feb 2007:
Visited a flooded field visible from the A27 just north of North Baddesley. Over the weekend it looked to have a few very distant birds on the shore of a large pool, but was unable to stop.
Returned today, pulled over into a layby, and as luck would have it, there was a single gap in the hedgerow that was out of sight of the passing traffic, and offered a decent view of the muddiest area.
Was very pleased to finally see some Lapwings! 74 of them in all, plus 6 Stock Doves, 2 Pied Wagtails, and a lot of corvids and Starlings.
Also returned to the feeding station I have put up at Hoe Lane. the peanut holder is very popular and was almost empty, but the ground tray feeder hasn't been touched. May need to rethink that one, too much competition from the pheasant covers perhaps.

23/2/07:
Dawn walk round Mounbatten Park on the edge of North Baddesley. Pleasant enough walk with plenty of Goldcrests singing, a couple of Buzzards, and Great Spotted plus Green Woodpeckers calling throughout. Also plenty of Roe Deer, and the feeling that this place doesn't get many visitors. Will stick my neck out and predict a Wood Warbler or two in the spring.
Had hoped that this wood joined up the Hoe Lane Pheasant Cover and the flooded field of Lapwings off the A27 to enable a single walk to take in all the habitats, and although I could see the two sites, was never able to get close enough to either of them.
Dusk visit to the Pheasant Cover on Hoe Lane was unproductive except for a Kestrel, 2 Buzzards, and plenty of Redwings. Owls are difficult to come across round this part of the world!


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• Sunday, January 28, 2007 - Quiet weekend

Not much happening this weekend. Ventured out towards the small secluded village of Lee, which looks like a gateway to the River Test and surrounding fields. Village is so secluded that I couldn't find it!. did see a Stoat in pursuit of either a Rabbit or Squirrel.. Whizzed past so quick I only got a glimpse.
Also a few Jays and a Stock Dove on the country lanes.

Had a family drive out to the New Forest in the afternoon. what a superb place, miles of heathland, gorse and forest. Could spend weeks at a time wandering through it!
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• Friday, January 26, 2007 - Toothill

A short drive west to Toothill first thing this morning. Hoping to find some more "classic" farmland as opposed to the New Forest type Heaths, and boggy Woods that seem to dominate the area round North Baddesley.
Small network of footpaths I chose combined a small pheasant wood, which I'll investigate more closely next time, some farmhouses and cottages, horse grazed fields, and some larger fields of crops.

Morning was pleasant enough with a few Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Saw the tail of a covey of Partridges, which "could" have been Grey, but expertly disappeared over a ridge without me gettign much on them.

At the far end of the walk saw a reasonable flock of around 100 Fieldfare, and a few Red Legged Partridges. The last field I saw had a good sized flock of about 80 Linnets.

Still missing a few species that I was used to seeing regularly in the Milton Keynes area, notably Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, Golden Plovers, and Lapwings. Will venture even further west next time towards the River Test, to see what that farmland has to offer.



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• Sunday, January 21, 2007 - The Common

Explored the Common and "Bog" east of the village this afternoon. Looks like my joy at finding Stonechat, Buzzard and Roe Deer last week may be short lived as these were the first three species I saw at this location! The Common is huge, but very popular with dog walkers, so an early morning visit looks like the best chance of seeing anything decent. Did see Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and the habitat looks good for Lesser Spotted too, but not today. Might need to consider wellies next time too!
A few Redwings and a small party of Long Tailed Tits was about the only other sightings. Good to get familiar with these places for later in the year! Habitat looked good in places for migrants, and maybe even Dartford Warbler or Woodlark if I'm very lucky, but haven't noticed any historical records on the web.

Not sure how far I have to go to see Yellowhammers round here! Suspect I'll have to go north to find arable farmland and finch flocks.

Road to nearby Chandler's Ford had a couple of stubbly fields, and an ex-landfill site that I wouldn't mind checking out next weekend.

The house loft has a small number of Pipistrelle bat droppings under the top beam. Will be interesting to see if bats are still using the loftspace, and how many! Suspect it is just a stopping off point as opposed to a full scale maternity roost, but I'll find out in the summer no doubt.

Quite surprised that I haven't seen a single Siskin or Redpoll yet in what looks like ideal woodland. Is this a bad winter for them so far? Still a couple of months for winter to kick in properly I guess.
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• Friday, January 19, 2007 - New Local Patches

House move went fine. Family are all settled in new house in North Baddesley. I have managed a couple of brief walks from the house to the countryside surrounding our village.
Found two areas both worth visiting regularly:

First is a large field of weedy ground with a few isolated bushes west of the village. Also has a good view of surrounding fields. Visited in the late afternoon dusk, hoping to maybe see an Owl, but no joy. Did see at least 2 Stonechats, 1 Buzzard, a few Meadow Pipits, etc.

Second location is south of the village and even closer to the house. it is mainly boggy woodland with Birch trees, and open areas of Bracken. My dawn visit was fairly quiet with a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Goldcrests the only worthwhile sightings. The copse however extends for a considerable distance south of the village, so I'll explore further when I get the chance.

Hoping to check out the East of the village this weekend.

Back garden overlooks a small brook and parkland with more Birch trees and a few very mature oaks. Plenty of birdlife from the back windows. Mainly common garden birds, highlight so far a female Blackcap. No House Sparrows in the area though.
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• Thursday, December 21, 2006 - New Beginning!

Have finally completed the arduous task of selling one house and buying another!
Set to move on 12th January 2007, and will keep this blog up to date with my wildlife watching experiences in Hampshire in 2007.

Best Wishes everyone for Christmas and the New Year
Peter
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• Sunday, November 12, 2006 - A wintry morning at Stewkley

Had a pretty miserable week with our house buyer dropping out for no apparent reason. However, we now have a new, improved buyer! albeit at a much reduced price.

Went out Sunday morning to clear my head, weather has gone really cold since I last ventured out! Definately need to dig out my gloves.

Stewkley Poultry farm was quite enjoyable. The highlights in an hour were:
34 Golden Plover in a field,
1 Male Stonechat,
1 Grey Wagtail,
5 Corn Buntings, and around 25 Yellowhammers,
1 Snipe.
Plus several typically winter flocks of Starlings, Corvids etc.

On returning to my car a horse and rider was trotting past. The horse freaked at my tripod. I've noticed horses are always terrified of my tripod, to the point that I usually either give them a wide berth, or dump the tripod in long grass until they have passed.. Anyone else have similar problems!?
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• Thursday, October 5, 2006 - Short trip to Scillies


Returned from a five day trip to the Scillies.. Not many other birders on the islands, and we enjoyed some good walks.. Highlights on St.Mary's were "finding" a Hoopoe, Wryneck, and Honey Buzzard, and also "Twitched" a Lapland Bunting and a Pectoral Sandpiper. Fairly good for common migrants in small numbers, saw one each of all the typical Autumn migrants (Com Redstart, Pied Fly, Spotted Fly, Whinchat etc..), and a few Wheatears.
On the journeys to/from the islands, we were lucky enough to see Spotted Crake at Marazion just before dawn, and a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver in Penzance Quay.
The Sea crossings were fairly choppy, and a few seabirds were seen including 2 Storm Petrel, Balearic Shearwater, Manx Shearwater and a single Kittiwake. We also sailed past a large pod of Common Dolphins at ridiculously close range!

Finally, we are in the process of moving house.. to South West Hampshire, so this blog is likely to end in the next couple of months. If there is anyone out there reading it!
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• Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - Quainton Hill, Sunday 3rd

Early morning trip to Stewkley Poultry farm, which was birdless when we arrived, but a nice flock of Pied Wagtails, 2 Yellow Wagtails, and a Wheatear were present on a ploughed field as we returned back to the car.
Quainton Hill had a Spotted Flycatcher and a couple more Wheatears. Saw more evidence of migration than the day out on the Norfolk coast two weeks earlier!
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• Sunday, September 3, 2006 - Wind!

Ventured out to Quainton Hill first thing, but the wind was really strong. For some reason, our street is very sheltered, and I often fail to appreciate how bad the weather is until I get out of my car at my destination!
3 roadside Wheatears before I'd even stopped the car raised my hopes, and I decided to check the fields before going up the hill. fields were quiet, and most of the hill top was too windy for anything to be seen. Even the sheltered areas where I had pinned my hopes were birdless. Found a Yellow Wagtail: back at the car!

Visited Foxcote in the early evening and had superb views of the Temminck's Stint that has been there for a few days. Stint then flew to far bank to give more typical views. Two Hobbies hunting over the distant treetops was quite spectacular, and ended the day looking frustratingly at a distant Wader that was in all likelihood one of the Wood Sandpipers that have been present at Foxcote for some time now. Just too far to be sure, even through another birder's 60x eyepiece.


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• Thursday, August 31, 2006 - Daubenton's Bat Survey 2006

Completed my Daubenton's Bat survey along the Grand Union Canal for another year. Recorded exactly 100 fly pasts of this charismatic little mammal this year which is significantly up on the last two years.. Either my new Bat Detector is a big improvement on the old Bat Box III, or I was very unlucky in the previous two years.
Also detected a couple of Noctules passing overhead, and the odd Natterer in close proximity to me.. all serving as distractions from the survey!
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• Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - Norfolk

Had a long day in Norfolk on Sunday.. Unfortunately, the weather changed to a fairly strong westerly wind just before we went and so the rarities which had been building up nicely on the coast for much of the week didn't materialise.
An enjoyable day none the less, and I saw 89 species.. the most I've ever seen in a day! (Day listing not one of my strong points!)

Highlights were Curlew Sandpiper at Titchwell, and Whinchat plus Arctic Skua at Holme.

Gave up on Norfolk by early afternoon, by which time we were struggling to see any birds! A stop off at Little Paxton on the return to Milton Keynes was enjoyable with Spotted Flycatchers, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat and a Nightingale.
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• Sunday, August 20, 2006 - Uneventful morning!

Headed to Stewkley Poultry farm first thing hoping to find a migrant or two, but absolutely nothing of any note. Only a small finch flock of Linnets and Greenfinches, plus a Whitethroat.
Called in at Cowpasture Lake near Newton Longville on the journey home as the North Bucks area has had a few good waders in the last week, and this lake doesn't receive much attention from Birders. No Waders, but an eclipse Red Crested Pochard was a surprise.
A few Lapwings and Black Headed Gulls in surrounding fields.

4 Swifts over Newton Longville may turn out to be the last local Swifts I see this year.
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• Thursday, August 17, 2006 - Camping in New Forest

Enjoyable week camping in the New Forest. Didn't do much birding, but did see some of the typical species for the area. Highlights were Redstart, Stonechat, Wheatear, Hobby, Nightjar, Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Tawny Owl and Spotted Flycatcher. Also a Roe Deer, and 2 Fallow Deer.

Returned home, and paid a brief visit to Foxcote Reservoir. 2 Greenshanks and 2 Green Sandpipers there.
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• Tuesday, August 8, 2006 - Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Warblers at Quainton Hill

Had a good look around Quainton Hill before work this morning. Figured no other birder had been up here for at least a month, so there was a chance of seeing something different!
Certainly better than my last check in July which was predictably dull, with only Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat seen.

Highlights today were a Spotted Flycatcher, and several Willow Warblers marking the start of Autumn migration! Also saw a Family of 5 Whitethroats including at least 3 juveniles, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpecker, 3 Buzzards and a few Linnets.
In the nearby villages, Swallows have started to assemble in fairly large flocks.

Two of the Willow Warblers were singing, but sounded very hesitant and quiet.. Not a patch on the typical song of this species. 
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• Sunday, August 6, 2006 - Thrushes and Hedgehogs visiting garden

Only recent excitement in the garden where a creche of young thrushes have taken up residence.. maximum numbers have been 9 Blackbirds and 3 Song Thushes (all juveniles!), no adults in sight.
Also 2 Hedgehogs clearing up the food scattered from the bird tables most evenings, and probably using the long forgotten hedgehog box tucked away in the border.
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• Friday, July 21, 2006 - Departing Swifts?

3 species of Mammals in the back garden last night.. A Hedgehog, the first for quite some time, followed by Common Pipistrelle and Noctule in the air space overhead!

This afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Hobby fly over which is a garden first, plus a gathering of over 80 Swifts. Have recently had a small party of swifts overhead, but nothing near these numbers. The late evening saw a steady stream of Swifts all heading south. Wonder how many Swifts remain in the area tomorrow?
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• Sunday, July 16, 2006 - Silver Washed Fritillary

Had a quick look round Wendover woods after work on Friday, and en route to a Bucks Bat group meeting. Hoped to see Silver Washed Fritillary at the famous Buddleia bush, but time was against me.
Parked in the right place and walked in the right direction, but couldn't find a buddleia, also a lack of butterflies, but it was 7:30pm!
However, just as I had given up, my luck changed and at 8pm! on a sunny woodland edge saw about 4 Silver Washed Fritillaries. Had excellent views, what a superb Butterfly!
Never did find the Buddleia!

Bat watch was pretty tame with only a few Common Pipistrelles found by my little group. Did however, see Glow Worms which was a first.

Following evening, set the bat detector up in the back garden and left it for a couple of hours recording to an MP3 player. When analysing the sound file, I was pleasantly surprised to have captured a Noctule flying over in addition to a few Common Pipistrelles. Must do this remote recording more.. 2 hours of recordings can be analysed in about 10 minutes!
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• Monday, July 3, 2006 - Dark Green Fritillary

Not much going on this weekend. Heard about a site in Bedfordshire that has an impressive number of Dark Green Fritillarys, and promptly headed there on Sunday morning.
After spending 20 minutes at the car park looking for my car keys (they were in the tailgate lock above my head as I searched my pockets and emptied the car boot several times in bewilderment!) I headed off across the reserve and was lucky enough to find one of the butterflies land on a thistle head a few metres away. Got superb views but no photo. Saw about 5 other DGFs, but all in flight, and nothing to compare with the initial view. Plenty of other Butterflies about including Marbled White, Small Heath and Comma.

Have now seen 4 new butterfly species this year (others being Dingy Skipper, Small Blue, and Wood White), and am back on track for seeing 8 new species. Any 4 from Grayling, Silver Studded Blue, Silver Washed Fritillary, Lulworth Skipper, or Monarch would do nicely! I have a slim chance of the last two on holidays planned for the next couple of months.
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• Friday, June 30, 2006 - Bristol area

Spent the week in Bristol with work.
Managed to go out two evenings during my stay. Best Bird sighting was a Tawny Owl gliding past me at dusk. Plenty of Bats.. Chew Valley Lake in particular is one of the best venues I've been to.. Saw 8 species in one evening which is easily my best night. Highlight was a Greater Horseshoe Bat whizzing past. Would be nice if a Lesser Horseshoe is on the bat recordings to make it 9 species!
Previous evening at Leigh Woods near Clifton I watched a decent sized group of Serotines feeding.
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• Sunday, June 18, 2006 - Camping near Wrexham

Had a pleasant few days camping south of Chester.
Campsite was in a very rural area, and wildlife was fairly good. The highlights being Buzzards, Tree Sparrows with young, Spotted Flycatcher. In the evening we picked up a few Noctules and both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles on the bat detector. Also picked up a Pipistrelle with a very low frequency (~39-40KHz) which had me wondering about Nathusius's Pip. but wasn't able to obtain a decent recording to analyse further. was probably just outside the distribution range of Lesser Horseshoe too unfortunately, and didn't pick up any of these.
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• Monday, June 12, 2006 - Small Blue eventually

Finally caught up with Small Blue Butterflies at a local reserve, where they are known to occur.
Reserve is a mosaic of footpaths, and it took 4 visits before eventually finding the right habitat!
Once I had found a very extensive area of vetch flowers, I sensed I was about to see one, and sure enough several of these tiny Butterflies were present. Got excellent views. Also, some nice Orchids in flower including Bee Orchid, Early Purple (I think ), and another one that I wasn't sure about.
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• Sunday, June 4, 2006 - Hobby, Bats, and Wood White Butterfly

Returned to my Bat survey square twice to try and locate the Natterer's Roost, but no success. Must be very close to the roost, but am finding them emerge further and further along the towpath.. next trip I will concentrate in a small wooded area where they seemed to be congregating well before their usual emergence time. Failing that, I will have to return before dawn and follow them!
A hobby is a regular visitor to the towpath, and I see him hunting well after sunset.
Also, rather surprisingly was a Mandarin with 6 chicks on the canal.

Took three fairly lengthy visits to local woods before finally catching up with the Wood White Butterfly. Well worth it though, as I got good views of a male. Such a tiny, delicate looking butterfly, they are quite distinctive even on the wing 100yards away. Took a good 20 minutes of following one before I saw it land!
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• Monday, May 29, 2006 - Wilson's Phalarope in Bucks


A weekend camping trip was partially ruined by news that a Wilson's Phalarope had been found near Buckingham! Bird is in an area where a new wader habitat has been created, and has also turned up a Temminck's Stint recently. Fortunately, the bird stayed until the Sunday evening when I was able to take a look. A very smart bird.
Didn't have as much success with butterflies, unable to find a Grizzled Skipper or Wood White in known sites in North Bucks. My goal of 10 new species this year looks to be in need of a minor miracle already!

The camping trip was to Standlake, and only a practise run for future trips. didn't have much chance to venture outside the campsite. was woken up by quite an impressive dawn chorus at 4am. Unfortunately, couldn't get back to sleep as my brain was processing the various species involved! Then in the morning I wasn't sure if I'd heard the species, or dreamt them.. Perhaps Camping isn't particularly good for Birders!
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• Monday, May 22, 2006 - Bat surveying

A combination of family commitments, decorating, car not starting, and foul weather have limited my sightings this last week or so!
My original goal of seeing 10 new species of butterfly in the UK is just about out of reach already.. unless the weather picks up very soon, on a day when I can nip out for a couple of hours.
Surveying with the Bat group has been enjoyable however, with an evening spent checking bat boxes in a local woods. Plenty of Brown Long Eared Bats, and a chance to examine at close quarters this common but fairly elusive bat.
Also saw a Badger cross the road in front of my car on the return to Milton Keynes.
An evening walk along the Grand Union near Bletchley saw lots of Natterer's and I am sure I am close to locating a roost. Also a Hobby whizzed past low along the canal about 30 minutes after dusk. Had a superb view of him for less than a second through the torch!

Finally, caught up with one of our rarest bat species (a Barbastelle) near a known colony.. Didn't see it mind, but the echolocation on the bat detector was unmistakeable.
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• Friday, May 12, 2006 - Blue Lagoon Butterflies

Late afternoon visit to the Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve in Bletchley.
This reserve is well known locally for a few scarce species of Butterfly including Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, plus Small Blue.
Also renowned for regular car break ins, and gangs of Chavs from surrounding estates.
Today's visit was prompted by news that the two Skippers have both been seen on the wing in the last few days.
saw Dingy Skipper fairly easily, though it took a while to see it perched. A very well camouflaged butterfly that virtually disappears when it flies.
no sign of Grizzled Skipper today, but did see a female Emperor Moth in long grass which was quite spectacular.
Car was still there when I returned!
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• Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - Linford NR

Took two friends on a combined evening Birdwatch and Bat walk yesterday evening.
Viewed Linford from outside the reserve. Looked more like a coastal location with Shelduck, Oystercatcher and Little Egret present! Also 1 Hobby was hunting as the evening fell.
Pretty lousy long distance views of the Hobby, but they got the idea.
Bat walk was very quiet.. what was previous an excellent location for watching Noctules hunt didn't have a single bat, and a walk along the canal was also bat-less. The area round St.Andrew's Church, however, did have a few Natterer's, and we did detect a couple of Daubenton's Bats on the return walk along the towpath. Don't think my two friends will be doing much Bat watching in the future!
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• Sunday, May 7, 2006 - Whimbrel @ Quainton Hill

Managed to avoid the rain this morning. Highlights were:
Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, 4 Yellow Wagtails, and a Male Wheatear in 2 Farmland areas south of Milton Keynes.
Best bird, however, was a Whimbrel on Quainton Hill. Was very fortunate to see it's head and beak break the horizon as I climbed the hill. I managed to detour around the area where it was feeding and eventually camp down in bushes, with a reasonable view.
Got nice views of its head and neck, before a horse rider disturbed it, and it flew high to the south. Unfortunately, the bird was feeding right on a bridle way, otherwise, it would have stayed longer. The horse rider was the only one along the ridge in the hour I was there, so it was particularly unlucky to get disturbed.

Unfortunately this was just about the only bird on the hilltops this morning apart from a couple of Swifts and Swallows migrating over, so I suspect visits to Quainton Hill will have to be carefully chosen in the next few months. Still, the hill has been good to me this year with the Whimbrel, lots of Wheatears, Red Kite, Raven, Redstart and Ring Ouzel!
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• Saturday, May 6, 2006 - Padbury Wagtail confirmed!

Consulted BWP, and the Wagtail at Padbury was indeed a White Wagtail, a Female.
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• Friday, May 5, 2006 - Spotted Fly @ Padbury, plus Hobbies and Barn Owl in evening

Pleasant evening spent with the North Bucks Bat group at a large Natterer's Bat roost in a church in the heart of rural Bucks.
Visited Padbury (Windmill Piece) en route, and though this site doesn't appear to be turning up the Tree Pipits or Grasshopper Warblers as hoped, I did find a Spotted Flycatcher which was a nice surprise. Also saw what was probably a White Wagtail, although its plumage was not as striking as other White Wagtails I have seen. Did have a full black bib, and black crown, together with grey back, and white Flanks.. just looked scruffy/dirty I guess compared with the usually immaculate White wagtails!

Calvert had more Birders than birds during my brief stop.

Enjoyed two Hobbies over the Natterer's roost, and a Barn Owl at Little Horwood on my return journey to Milton Keynes. I have now seen/heard 3 Species of Owl at Little Horwood Conference centre in the last month.

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• Thursday, May 4, 2006 - Breeding Bird Survey I

Up early this morning to complete the first part of my BTO Breeding bird survey.
My 1km square is near Lillingstone Dayrell in North Buckinghamshire. An area that I would otherwise not visit, and over the years it has produced some good birds such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, and Grasshopper Warbler.
Just goes to show that even the blandest looking area of Rape seed and wheat fields can turn up the goods if you go often and early enough!

Today's survey started well with 3 Yellow Wagtails in the road near Wicken Wood, but the survey didn't turn up anything exceptional.

The fields, I noticed, did have a fairly wide border of unsown earth round the edges today. Is this part of an initiative to leave set aside areas for wildlife? It was radically different from previous years when the fields have been farmed right to the hedge, and I can only assume the farmer has been subsidised to leave the gap around the edge.

Will be interesting to see if the bird numbers increase. No shortage of Whitethroats, and a Lesser Whitethroat this morning.

Returned home via Foxcote.. Reed and Sedge Warblers singing in the reeds, plus Common Terns and a Common Sandpiper.

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• Monday, May 1, 2006 - Quainton Hill and Farmland

A Sunday morning walk up Quainton Hill was hard work. Weather  was very poor, and not much at the top.. 4 bedraggled looking Wheatears and a Lesser Whitethroat about all to show for it.
Checked out some farmland on the way back to Milton Keynes: Footpath went straight through the middle of a wheat field, then through the middle of a ploughed field, so suspect only the hardest of walkers would make it to the other end! Plenty of birds in the ploughed field.. 5 Wheatears, Displaying Lapwings and Skylarks plus a couple of Tree Sparrows in the hedgerows.

monday evening, ventured out to Salden, a small lake looking good for Bats but only a few Natterer's and Common Pipistrelles. No Daubenton's unfortunately.
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• Monday, April 24, 2006 - Bats @ Snelshall East

Had a look round the small wood at Snelshall East this evening.
Fairly quiet early on, I was hoping to see one or two Noctules go over but no joy. Later on however, a few Common Pipistrelles started to emerge.. attempted to locate their roost by walking in the direction that they were appearing from (easier said than done!) but the trail went cold at the start of Tattenoe housing estate.

A Brown Long Eared Bat was next, but these bats are so elusive.. hunting in the deep woodland canopy, and giving nothing away on the bat detector, that you are always left in doubt as to whether it really was one!

Finally, on the short walk back to the car, the bat detector went ballistic as I walked into a small group of Natterer's Bats feeding on three fairly small blossum covered trees. Spent a few minutes watching these amazing little mammals as they hovered, almost landing in the tree, picking off insects from around the blossum.
Another characteristic of the Natterer's Bat is that they are very inquisitive, and a few times it felt like I was about to be hit by one as they whizzed across my path, seemingly inches from me!
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• Sunday, April 23, 2006 - More Corn Buntings

Returned to the Corn Bunting site for a more extnesive look, and was pleased to find several more Corn Buntings in the area.
Totalled 8 Singing males and (presumably) a female sitting alongside one of the males.

Also plenty of commoner warblers now establishing territories with Chiff-Chaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats all singing.

Spoke to a local farmer who sees Barn Owls regularly patrolling the footpath in the evenings.
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• Friday, April 21, 2006 - Blackcap in Garden, and bats.

A nice surprise this morning to hear the Chaffinch, who has been singing for at least a month, joined by a singing Blackcap.
Blackcaps are fairly regular in the winter in the garden area, less frequent in the spring, and don't usually hang around for very long.

First trip out with the North Bucks Bat group last night.. small group of us checked out the Wendover arm of the Grand Union Canal near Weston Turville in the hope of finding some roosts.
Didn't succeed in finding a roost, but picked up plenty of Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrelle species that echolocates most strongly at 55 KHz).
The Pips were first seen quite early in the evening, indicating we were close to the roost, but weren't able to close in on the exact tree / building.

Also a Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Tawny Owl, Goldcrest and Mistle Thrush in this peaceful area.

On the way home, got my first Daubenten's bat of the year at the local duck pond... Finding where they roost would be interesting. Nice to be picking up bat calls again.. Spring really is here!


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• Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - Wheatears @ Newton Longville

A good look around the fields behind Newton Longville this morning.
2 Male Wheatears the highlights.
Other sightings:
2 Fieldfare, Willow Warbler, Chiff-Chaff, Blackcap, Linnet, Goldfinch and Buzzard.

Shame that this place looks really good with cows grazing, large "weedy" fields, scattered bushes, and mature hedges, and some muddy areas alongside the stream. There should be a lot more here, but I always go away slightly disappointed!
Still, I keep returning in hope, and the Wheatears were a nice surprise here.



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• Monday, April 17, 2006 - Corn Buntings in North Bucks

Decided against a long walks up hills this morning in favour of checking out some arable farmland.
First place was a total disappointment with nowhere sensible to park, and not much  to be seen either.
Second stop however, was pretty good. Easy to park, nice footpath with plenty of fields and bushes to scope.
A Male Redstart was in bushes near the path, and the area held a small number of Corn Buntings. This is a bird I was hoping to find this spring, as they are fairly scarce in the North of Buckinghamshire. Saw 3 birds singing, and will hopefully return for a more extensive count. Footpath also looked promising a bit further on which I was unable to check out today due to locking myself out of my car, and having to wait within sight of the car until a breakdown truck came to help me out.
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• Saturday, April 15, 2006 - Owls @ Little Horwood

Had an evening excursion out to check out an area of Farmland near Thornborough, which looks promising for Warblers and maybe Turtle dove in a month or so's time. Only decent sighting today was a pair of Grey Partridges.

Went to Little Horwood for dusk and a bit of Bat Detecting. Great views of a Little Owl, and heard a pair of very noisy Tawny Owls. (Only Bats out were Common Pipistrelles, but got good numbers of them hunting along the woodland fringe).
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• Saturday, April 15, 2006 - Fieldcraft!

Something I have noticed on my trips up Quainton Hill, which I guess is fairly obvious, but I've never had it spelled out to me before:

All the birds tend to be in the sheltered areas, this is a well known fact. In fact, the Ring Ouzel I saw yesterday on the Western Slope was just about the first bird I've seen on the windy side of the hills.

However, what is slightly less obvious, to me anyway, is that all the birds seen in the hedges have been in hedges running from East to West, and therefore with the wind not blowing "through" the hedge. Again, I have seen nothing in the North to South Hedges.

So although the Hills are a fairly big area, I now concentrate on only half of the hillsides, and half of the hedges!

I also wonder about the best time to birdwatch, if there is a best time.. I go out close to dawn, but find I'm seeing far more birds, about 2 hours after dawn. Maybe that's when I have woken up properly!

Anyone out there got any other tips!
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• Saturday, April 15, 2006 - Caldecotte Lake

Was looking after my 2 young children today, so decided to stay at "sea level" and walk them around Caldecotte Lake, as opposed to another trek up Quainton Hill!

Fairly enjoyable with highlights being 4 Common Sandpipers, 1 Male Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and White Wagtail.
Also plenty of Hirundines overhead including 1 House Martin and 2 Swallows. Rest were Sand Martins.
1 Common Tern completed the selection of summer visitors.
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• Friday, April 14, 2006 - Slightly Quieter @ Quainton Hill

Another Dawn trip to Quainton Hill.
Not so much present today.. Was lucky to find 1 Female Ring Ouzel on the Western slope unlike previous sightings which have been on the Eastern side.
Bird was perched in a bush and spent several minutes upright quivering its silvery wings, before being chased off by a Blackbird.
Whatear numbers down to 10, Meadow Pipits down to 4, and no sign of the Male Redstart.
There were however, still 95 Fieldfares on the hillside.

Called in at Pilch Field on the return home. Nice place with lots of isolated bushes, but no surprises here. Plenty of common stuff (Chiff-Chaffs, Willow Warbler, Bullfinch, Yellow Hammer, Green Woodpecker) 1 Snipe flew out of a small marshy area. 
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• Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - More Ring Ouzels @ Quainton Hill

Another early morning hike up the hill.
Plenty of very vocal Fieldfares on the highest ground, around 40 in all. Only 1 Wheatear seen on the climb up the initial hill, but 4 seen there on the return journey. This happens everytime, and I'm at a loss to explain why I always see more on the way down!

I walked slowly alongside hedges at the top of the hills. A male Redstart was my first find. Really smart birds, although never giving a very prolonged view.
The hedges near the mast had 2 Ring Ouzels, a male and a female, seen really well but very briefly.
Got the impression that there are more than 2 Ouzels up there, as I had a number of brief views, plus a female feeding in the open. They are so elusive, it would be difficult to get an exact figure, so 2 remains the total ( I suspect at least 3 up there!).

Also the Wheatears seem to be everywhere. I counted 10, another birder got 11 on different hillsides at around the same time, so 20 birds would seem like a reasonable estimate at the moment.

What an excellent place to birdwatch.. To think I was extremely pleased to find a single Wheatear here a couple of weeks ago!

Returning to Milton Keynes, had a very brief look round Snelshall West. 1 singing Blackcap the highlight. Also at least one of the Skylarks displaced from the field now being built on, was singing from an adjacent field which hopefully will be left undeveloped.
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• Sunday, April 9, 2006 - Ring Ouzel @ Quainton Hill

A very enjoyable morning around the Winslow area.. Started at Horwood House, but little of note apart from a calling Marsh Tit.
Quainton Hill was also quiet during the ascent. However, walking along the tall hedges near the summit, I chanced upon a Male Redstart, worth the walk in itself! Also a good number of Wheatears on the eastern slope.
Continued all round the Hill, but despite some promising looking areas, there was little activitiy, and it was back at the eastern slope where the Wheatears were congregating that I found a female Ring Ouzel. Had excellent views for a couple of minutes before it dropped down onto the slope, and out of sight. 
A further 2 Male Redstarts briefly showed in the fenced off plantation.
More Wheatears on the descent brought the total to an impressive 18.  Four Buzzards overhead and a couple of Fieldfares were calling in the distance.

A brief walk round Coombs Wood was uneventful until a flock of 12 Lesser Redpolls started calling in the plantation. got excellent views to round off a very enjoyable morning.
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• Friday, April 7, 2006 - More Wheatears @ Quainton

Now 7 Wheatears up in the hills, a group of 4 on the East side, and 3 on the North Slope.
Only other birds seen were a single, very skulking Willow Warbler, 12 Fieldfare, and around 20 Meadow Pipits.
Also noticed 2 decent looking areas of bushes in the distance, and a ploughed field which I didn't have time to explore today, but will hopefully check out over the weekend.
The walk up Quainton Hill is becoming a full blown trek to cover all the decent looking areas now.

Also 4 Wheatears are being regularly seen from the road, so the total may well be in double figures by now.

On return journey to Milton Keynes, there was a Swallow on wires in Great Horwood village.
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• Thursday, April 6, 2006 - Yesterday's Cetti's

Checked my bird calls library.. Cetti's Warbler heard yesterday was in fact giving out its alarm call sequence at one point.
Ring Ouzels have arrived en masse at Steps Hill, so time to plan another trek up nearby Quainton Hill. There *must* be one up there somewhere!
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• Thursday, April 6, 2006 - Little Owl @ Snelshall

Little Owl was the highlight of a walk along the footpath through Snelshall West yesterday evening. Heard a probable Little Owl in the vicinity of my back garden at 5am a few days ago, so interesting to see this bird a mile or so from the house.
Also a Snipe and Red Fox. Apparently too cold for Bats though!


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• Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - Cetti's at Lodge Lake

A brief visit to Lodge Lake in Great Holm, Milton Keynes this morning.
Was rewarded with a few bursts of song from a Cetti's Warbler. Also singing were Chiff-Chaff, and Willow Warbler.
This lake, though fairly small, is now looking quite mature with extensive vegetation round the banks, at the Bradwell Lane end. Nice to see one of the Milton Keynes park areas left to grow "wild".

The Cetti's incidentally was initially singing in a fairly untypical manner.. seemed longer and less "explosive" than the typical song. So much so, that I was about to put it down as a "possible" until a classic burst of Cetti's song followed. Will listen to some samples this evening to see if what I heard is a well-documented alternative song.

Something different every day when Birding!
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• Saturday, April 1, 2006 - Caldecotte Lake

Am looking after my children on my own this weekend, so not surprisingly haven't ventured out far. Did go to Caldecotte lake.. the most pram-friendly venue in Milton Keynes, where the children aren't likely to disturb everything in sight.
Fairly quiet, although I can't remember the last decent sighting I had at this lake! A few Sand Martins on the South Lake, and a probably Common Tern very distantly.
The north lake had a few Wagtails and Pipits, and the White Wagtail found earlier in the week was still there showing well.. a very smart bird.
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• Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - Ravens over Quainton Hill, first singing Chiff-chaff

Visited Quainton Hill at first light. Absolutely nothing to be seen on the trek up the hill, but glad to say I wasn't totally exhausted by the time I got to the top, so must be getting fitter.. Might attempt taking the scope and tripod up there next week!
It is obviously easier to birdwatch downhill, as on the return journey I saw a lot more, and it turned out to be an enjoyable experience overall!

2 very vocal Ravens low over the hilltop was the first highlight. There are a few Ravens seen in Buckinghamshire, but these were my first ever in the county which was nice. Also three Golden Plover overhead.
On the sheltered Northern slope I feared the worst as the farmer was busy feeding his livestock, and the area was full of running sheep but the Wheatear was still there in a quieter area of the hillside. Joined by a second a couple of minutes later.. both were very bedraggled looking males.

Meanwhile at the Open University, my first singing Chiff-chaff of the year.

Strange how this spring, due to the weather blocking everything for the last couple of weeks, everything seems to have arrived at once.
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• Sunday, March 26, 2006 - First Bat of 2006

Miserable weather sunday, so didn't venture out. Spent most of the day doing DIY!
In the evening took my new bat detector out between showers, and recorded my first bat of the year.. A Noctule, one of the UK's larger species.. with a long-range echolocation, it is usually seen flying high at around dusk, flying direct between church spires, pylons etc.
Interesting that I would have missed this bat with my previous "heterodyne" detector, as I was tuned into 45KHz. However, the "Frequency Division" channel on my newer model started clicking telling me there was something out there, and I was able to re-tune and find the Noctule which calls at a much lower frequency (~25KHz).
No Daubenton's or Pipistrelles which are also in the area, although I had to postpone the recording as the rain started.
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• Saturday, March 25, 2006 - Spring arrives!

Spring migrants finally started to trickle into Milton Keynes area today with Sand Martin, Wheatear and Ring Ouzel all making an appearance.
Was able to go out in the afternoon, so decided to try my luck on Quainton Hill.. Real Wheatear Country!

Stopped off at Horwood House en route and had a good look at the Marsh Tit, also heard him calling today. Only other highlight was a Buzzard, although these are now so common that they don't really qualify as highlights anymore.

Got to Quainton hill later than planned, and was in two minds to walk up it.. Looking at the mast in the distance always puts me off.. Decided to go for it, albeit without my telescope, and 20 minutes later was still struggling for breath as I got near the "peak". Absolutely nothing to be seen either as the weather deteriorated. Best I could manage at the top was a Song Thrush!
However, my luck changed on the return journey. Just as I'd given up, and the light was very gloomy, a nice Male Wheatear, flew across my path and landed 100 yards away. Had an enjoyable few minutes watching him. Always good to see my first real migrant of the year, and amazed to think that he had spent the winter south of the Sahara!

Also saw my first Woodcock for a while last night. Was stuck in traffic at the M10/M1 junction when one flew low over my car. My last sighting was also in a traffic jam!
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• Friday, March 24, 2006 - Foxcote, 23rd March

My first outing for over a week after getting a rather nasty cold. Fresh air was good, but not much about.
Snelshall West had a fairly large flock of around 50 Meadow Pipits.. The large field which held Pipits and Skylarks has suddenly turned into a building site, and so all the birds are now concentrated in the park area. Not sure where the Skylarks have relocated to just yet.

2 Buzzards overhead was good to see.

Foxcote was largely uneventful except for a Grey Wagtail, and small numbers of Goosander and Goldeneye. Was convinced I was going to see a Sand Martin today, but no joy.. Previous years, they have arrived on 4th March!

Probably the highlight of the day was a stop at the Westcroft Shopping Centre at dusk to see over 150 Pied Wagtails roosting on the roof of the centre. This was a fairly rough estimate, and probably nowhere near the total number of birds there, as I only had time to scan about a quarter of the area. Would be good to return on a Sunday evening when the car park is quieter for a more comprehensive count.
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• Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - Grey Partridge @ St.Albans and Podcasts

A mixture of very poor weather, decorating and family commitments have put a total stop to birding lately.
However, a couple of Grey Partridges on the opposite side of the road to Verulimium park in North St.Albans was a nice surprise.

Still seeing the Monk Parakeets at Elstree fairly regularly! A group of 5 birds seem to do a lap of the BBC building at first light.

Have recently got into listening to "podcasts" on my journey to work. (These are mp3 format "radio shows" that can be played via PC or MP3 player/IPod. )
Ray Brown's talking birds  (  http://www.podcast.net/show/17475  ) is the best I have found so far even though it is mainly US birds.
Would love to hear a UK equivalent!
The RSPB's Bird notes is also quite good, but only updated quarterly.

Would be good to know of any other good Wildlife related Pods!
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• Monday, March 6, 2006 - Little Owl

The shock of a Monday morning journey to work was softened by a Little Owl flying away from the A5 near Little Brickhill.

Meanwhile my policy of trying to avoid the more well known sites West of Milton Keynes like Foxcote and Calvert seems to be paying off.. Too many extremely difficult ducks knocking around for my idea of fun! A hybrid resembling Lesser Scaup, and a Drake Blue-Winged Teal that is now being considered as a hybrid Australian Shoveler both turned up over the weekend. The good thing is that there are some reasonably good photos knocking about, and the subsequent debate certainly improves our knowledge I guess.


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• Sunday, March 5, 2006 - Quainton Hill

Enjoyable but verytiring walk up the hill on saturday afternoon. Highlights were 2 Red Kites, and a very large flock of 100+ Chaffinches, but nothing of any interest amongst them.

On the way home saw a fairly large Falcon fly over the road and into Winslow Electricity Station. Probably a Peregrine, but the view was lousy as I was driving. As it was well after dusk, thought I'd stumbled on the birds roost site, but returned on Sunday evening, and didn't see anything. Also a brief view of a Little Owl.

28 Skylarks in an adjacent field was a fairly decent total.
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• Friday, March 3, 2006 - Aliens

Was at Elstree first thing on Thursday, and saw two Monk Parakeets noisily fly over. I quite like these birds, especially as they make their own nest as oposed to pinching a Little Owl or Stock Dove nest hole. Pity that the Elstree colony doesn't seem to be gaining much of a foothold though, and are still classed as escapees.

Ring Necked Parakeets on the other hand seem to be rapidly turning into a real pest, especially for anyone living near Esher Rugby Club.. Wonder if they'll go the same was as the Ruddys. I can see it ending in tears!

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• Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - Little Horwood again

Ventured out in freezing conditions to Little Horwood again. This small area is turning out to be surprisingly good for birdwatching considering it is fairly inoccuous looking: Just a few fields, and a small broad-leaved wood with a brook running through it. Fields are quite weedy however, and attract a few Finches and Yellowhammers.
Today's highlight was a Marsh Tit, seen well through the scope for a few minutes.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming and a Green Woodpecker called. I wonder if this area has an outside chance of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, I live in hope!
Other birds seen include: Female Sparrowhawk, 17 Goldfinches, 29 Meadow Pipits, Coal Tit
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• Sunday, February 26, 2006 - Peregrine at Little Horwood.

Had a few hours free this afternoon, so went to check out a few local sites. Snelshall was fairly quiet, so too was Mursley. Also very windy on the hilltops, so decided against Quainton Hill, and spent the rest of the afternoon in more sheltered locations.
Headed to Little Horwood and was delighted to see an Adult Peregrine overhead. Caused a bit of mayhem amongst the many Yellowhammers Goldfinches and Fieldfare at the woodland edge. Peregrine didn't hang around unfortunately, and continued East.  Could well be the same bird that has spent the previous month in West Milton Keynes.

Weather was looking bleak, so headed to Calvert (one of only two locations with a hide in the area west of MK!)
An immature Peregrine had been seen here earlier coincidentally, but I didn't see anything out of the ordinary.
Still haven't seen the Long Tailed Duck that has been here for about 3 months now!

Headed to Padbury for dusk in the hope of seeing an owl or two! No Joy, the only birds being a flock of Fieldfare and a Kestrel hunting in the twilight.
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• Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 1 bedroom house at Willen Lake!

Ed Griffiths has posted a comment reminding me of a man who lived in the hide at Willen Lake. I recall a birder turning up at the hide one morning hoping to see wildfowl and waders.. instead seeing a bloke having a bath in the lagoon.
Willen wouldn't be my choice of hide to live in.. the hide always manages to be several degrees lower than the outside temperature. The main hide at Leighton Moss with glass windows and an electric heater would be more my cup of tea!

Anyway, thanks for the post Ed. Surprised to know that people actually read some of this!

Had a brief walk round "Windmill Piece" at Padbury first thing. Not a lot about mainly due to showery weather. Place looked promising though with a large plantation, and plenty of farmland.
Had to cut short the walk as I had left my GPS on the car dashboard. Luckily was stil there when I returned. Car crime in Padbury is obviously quite low at 8am.

Saw a large Starling flock flying west parallel to the A421/H8 at first light. Looked like they had roosted in the Bletchley area. Not sure if there are any known roosts there. The block of flats perhaps. Probably about 250 birds.
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• Monday, February 20, 2006 - Tingewick Wood

Visited Tingewick Wood briefly, en route to a meeting. This site is totally off the birdwatching track, being tucked away in a north West corner of Buckinghamshire.
Probably not worth visiting again as it was predominantly Coniferous Woodland, but a small flock of Siskin made the stop worthwhile. Also some Golden Plover overhead.
Quite a wierd wood.. very dense with quite a few shells of old buildings, presumably from the airfield nearby. Also a "Wigwam" which gave me the creeps in case someone was living there.
Incidentally, in the middle of Howe Park wood last week, I saw a tent.. Is there a population of wood dwelling people secretly living in our forests?! 

Rest of the journey to Evesham was pleasant with a lot of roadside Kestrels and a few Buzzards.

Checked out the Woodland Trust website http://www.wt-woods.org.uk/home.asp in the evening and found a couple more places to add to my "West of Milton Keynes Sites"! Windmill Piece near Padbury, and College Wood which is very local to me, but I'd forgotten about!
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• Thursday, February 16, 2006 - More on the tree dwelling Moorhen

Looking at BWPi, Moorhen's do indeed spend time in trees up to 300m from water, so I guess yesterday's individual was just about within range of a pond!

A late afternoon stroll round Tottenhoe Park was enjoyable with plenty of Yellowhammers and a female Stonechat, in habitat surrounded by houses and factories.
A fairly large plot of bare earth, presumably destined to becoem another factory, or car park looks promising for Wheatear etc later in the spring.

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• Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - Strange place for a Moorhen.

A pre-work walk round Howe Park Wood. Quite a decent sized wood, but now totally surrounded by housing estates. With a few small corridors of hedges and trees loosely linking it to other woods.
A really impressive dawn chorus, but got the feeling that the wood was full of "garden" birds communting between the wood and nearby estates.
Still, had good views of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay and Nuthatch.

Strangest sighting was a Moorhen high up in the canopy, moving from tree to tree. Couldn't see any water within 100 yards of the bird. Do they roost in trees? Must look this behaviour up later!


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• Friday, February 10, 2006 - Mursley

Short pre-work walk, round Mursley Pheasant runs was quite enjoyable. One Pheasant feeding station seems to attract mainly Linnets and the numbers are now up to 68. The "main" feeding area is very difficult to scan through as it runs away from the footpath, and unless the birds are at the footpath end, they could be a few hundred yards away. Today, there were about 40 birds, roughly 20 Chaffinches, 15 Yellowhammers, and 5 Reed Buntings. May have been a Brambling in amongst them, but the view was too brief, long distant, and obscured by branches to confirm!
Male Sparrowhawk was sniffing round the edges of the adjacent field, but didn't seem to startle the birds too much which was odd.
8 Golden Plover: 6 overhead, 2 flying low seeking somewhere to land was a welcome sighting. Have seen hardly any this winter.

Passed by Snelshall on the way home.. still nothing in the promising looking ditch behind the factory.. may have to write that location off as a non starter! Plenty of common birds around.. Goldfinch, Bullfinch, etc. Light was excellent this morning, and was treated to some excellent views.

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• Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - MJ... Comic genius


Quick walk round local wasteground/fields at Snelshall first thing: Plenty of Redwings and Blackbirds around and more Bullfinches, 5 this time. Really am seeing more this year than ever before!

Followed up on a report of Cranes over Milton Keynes. As there had been a similar sized group in Devon two days previous decided to have a quick look round the Broughton Grounds area which is roughly in the direction from Devon to MK then beyond as the crow flies! Only bird of note was a Buzzard, (and quite depressing to see how the small pools and muddy areas at the edge of the gravel workings have now been levelled.)

The Cranes turned out to be a joke.. i.e. building cranes not Common Cranes. I'm trying to decide if the prankster has only just worked out that there is a bird called a Crane, or only just realised that there is an incredibly hilarious pun in there somewhere.
MJ... We salute your comic genius.

Edit: appears that MJ made an innocent mistake of having an attachment that would have explained the joke being filtered out of his email to the yahoo group. I've subsequently decided to resist shaming him on here!
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• Sunday, February 5, 2006 - Deer at Woburn

A quiet weekend.. attended a North Bucks Bats Group meeting Saturday, and called in at Christmas Gorse on the way home..Stonechat still there, and also 2 Snipe which is no surprise for the site. Very difficult to find any Golden Plover this winter.
Also found a very interesting fenced off brook and muddy area behind a factory which looks ideal for Wagtails, and waders.. However, nothing there on Saturday afternoon!

Had a nice hour with the family on Sunday driving round Woburn.. Lots of Deer (including Muntjac, Chinese Water Deer, and Fallow (I think)) to keep the children occupied, and a few Fieldfare.. Surprised that this area doesn't turn up more interesting birds being such a large woodland and arable area. Restricted access to large areas probably doesn't help.

Garden is still overflowing with Blackbirds feeding on apples.
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• Sunday, January 29, 2006 - Winter finally arrives!

Recent cold spell has brought a few more birds into the garden.. At least 10 Blackbirds are scrapping and feeding on apples, plus a couple of redwings, and a Goldcrest in the area.
Re-visited the Hawfinches at the north end of Emerson Valley, and saw at least 4, possibly 5 birds. Verry difficult to get an exact figure as they skulk around in the leaf litter.

Also spent an hour at Willen Lake, 10 Goosanders being the only sighting of note. 
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• Friday, January 27, 2006 - Milton Keynes Hawfinches

Was working in Milton Keynes today so popped out at lunchtime to see the wintering Hawfinches at the north end of my estate.. I live at the South end of the estate as luck would have it, but am still keeping an extra close eye on the garden at the moment!
Saw one bird almost immediately, making a mockery of the hours I've spent at Lynford Arboretum in previous years!
The estimated number of birds at the moment is 6, but with so many little fields, play grounds and gardens in the area, there could well be more.. Intend to have a look around the southern half of the estate tomorrow am (albeit with my 2 children in their buggy!)
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• Sunday, January 22, 2006 - Quainton Hill

Checked out about the only area of high ground in the area west of Milton Keynes: Quainton Hill.
Got there at dawn, and had a good look at a flock of 16 Siskins feeding in Alder. Higher up the hill, the air was full of Lesser Black Backed Gulls, surprisingly, with a few hundred birds passing over head and in surrounding fields. One had a red leg ring which I couldn't read the I.D. unfortunately.
Mist cleared, and I was treated to excellent views of the surrounding area which is predominantly flat. Nothing of interest up the hill, but large groups of Starlings and Corvids, with smaller numbers of winter Thrushes, and Chaffinches.
(A nearby hill is a hotspot for Ring Ouzels, so it will be interesting if this hill turns up anything of note in the spring.)

Called in at a farmer's grain store near Granborough on the journey home which was alive with mainly Chaffinches, at least 50, also about 15 Yellowhammers and 2 Tree Sparrows. Couldn't find any Bramblings amongst them.

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• Saturday, January 21, 2006 - Stonechat Hunch pays off

Revisited Pheasant runs east of Mursley. Number of finches had dropped dramatically from last visit, and only saw ~50 Linnets. Large flock of Fieldfare and Starlings was still feeding on arable land.
The escaped Hooded Merganser is further degraded in that it is in a group of 4 birds, and probably a private collection!

Also had a walk round Swanbourne and my hunch about the habitat being ideal for Stonechat was proved correct with a nice male seen well.
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• Friday, January 20, 2006 - Purple patch for Milton Keynes

Having hardly seen daylight all week due to work, it is no surprise that my only entry this week is a Barn Owl briefly over the car as I drove home through Milton Keynes this evening.
Milton Keynes seems to be having a purple patch this week with Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Merlin, Great Grey Shrike, Hawfinch, Long Tailed Duck and Brent Goose all in the area!
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• Sunday, January 15, 2006 - Quiet morning round Swanbourne

Only had a couple of hours first thing to explore, so headed to two places that looked promising on the OS Map.. Funny how nowhere seems to look anything like the OS map when you see it first hand!
The first place, I couldn't park my car anywhere sensible, and the track was private so I gave up. The second area, a reasonable sized wood surrounded by farmland on the map, had a decent area to park, and a very swampy field with small pond and plenty of isolated bushes. Looked ideal for Stonechats and Snipe, but I only saw Meadow Pipits, and a few Yellowhammers at a nearby Pheasant feeding bin.
A small flock of 7 Bullfinches was unusual, this species seen typically in singles or pairs. Also a couple of Buzzards meant the early start wasn't entirely fruitless. Buzzards are now spreading rapidly in North Buckinghamshire with daily sightings in the winter months. This place is probably worth keeping an eye on over the coming months.
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• Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - Pilch Field and Coombs Wood

Visited two more new places west of Milton Keynes this morning..
Pilch Field, a small BBOWT reserve, at first light: Fairly good habitat in places with several areas of scrub, and ungrazed fields. Not much to see today aside from a Bullfinch, small numbers of winter thruhes and two Foxes. Worth re-visiting in the spring for possible migrants perhaps.

Coombs wood nearby was also very quiet, and looked nothing like what the OS map implied! Most of the woodland area is new plantations, Buckingham's answer to Broughton Grounds just east of Milton Keynes.
One or two areas looked potentially good for Grasshopper Warbler and Tree Pipit later in the year. Also a long strip of (dead) Sunflowers along the edge of one field was unusual.
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• Sunday, January 8, 2006 - Winter Flocks around Mursley

Despite very cold and overcast conditions, I ventured out to the Mursley area to have a look
at two new places with birdwatching potential.

The first area, around the small hamlet of Salden turned out to be excellent. The OS map
indicated farmland and a couple of lakes. In just over an hour I had seen several large
flocks totalling well over 1000 birds. Mainly Fieldfares and Starlings feeding in the large
fields, with smaller numbers of gulls, crows and Woodpigeons. Only about half a dozen Redwings.

Best of all was a couple of pheasant feeding areas which had attracted a large flock of
mainly Yellowhammers, with a few Chafinches, Reedbuntings, and at least two Tree Sparrows.
There may have been other goodies amongst the finch flock such as Brambling, but
systematically scanning the flock was interrupted three times by at least two Sparrowhawks
unsuccessfully targetting the flock.

From here I went to a small lake South West of Mursley. Viewing was not ideal, and the lake
did not look particularly promising. There was however, a strange female duck, similar to a
Smew, but plainer, and with a longer, scruffier crest. Turned out to be a Female Hooded
Merganser, a classic "escaped" species in the UK. This one was no exception: A severely
clipped right wing, and various rings on its legs sealed its fate.
Nearby woods had plenty of activity with Long Tailed Tits and a drumming Great Spotted
Woodpecker.
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• Wednesday, January 4, 2006 - Butterflies targetted for 2006!

Looked at the list of British Butterflies, and have set a goal of adding 8 of the following to my list:

Dark Green Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy, Marsh Fritillary, Silver Washed Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Grayling, Small Blue, Silver Studded Blue, and Wood White.

All are found in the Bucks/Oxford area, although most are very localised, and I'll need to travel outside of my local area to stand a chance of seeing them.
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• Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - Where to watch Birds West of Milton Keynes!

Have spent some time studying OS Explorer 192 to find some potential areas for birdwatching this year.. Found several sites that look promising on paper including several small lakes and woodland areas near Mursley, and south of the A421 between Buckingham and Milton Keynes. I'll document these sites on here if any are worth following up.
In addition, there are two fairly well known sites in the area (Foxcote Reservoir and Calvert) which regularly turn up good waders and waterfowl.

Ventured out late afternoon to one of the potential sites: farmland / woodland south of Little Horwood House Conference centre. Spent about an hour along public footpaths, and found a small party of Grey Partridges and a Buzzard, plus one very close encounter with a Fox.
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• Monday, January 2, 2006 - Happy New Year.

Hello, and welcome to my online diary for 2006. As my leisure time is likely to be limited this year, I am hoping to concentrate on birdwatching the more underwatched, and obscure areas of countryside to the West of Milton Keynes, within 15 miles of my home in South West Milton Keynes.

I'll also post updates of any interesting Moths recorded in my back garden, plus any successes I have with my Bat detector in the summer months.

In addition, I have set myself a single goal for the year to see an additional 8 species of butterfly in the UK.

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