University Birdwatch Challenge

Hello, I’m a young birder and trainee bird ringer studying Environmental Science at the University of Southampton. This is the first of hopefully many posts about the birding and other nature related activities I get up to.

One activity I’ve been involved in recently is the University Birdwatch Challenge, run by A Focus on Nature. The idea is to go around the university campus recording the species we see throughout the academic year.

So far in Highfield Campus, we’ve seen 31 species in between lectures since January when the competition began. I’m sure there are many more we’ve not recorded yet including, hopefully, some summer migrants that will be arriving soon. As well as the usual garden birds such as Robins and Blackbirds, we’ve found Moorhen and Mallards in the stream and ponds around the campus. 2 species of Wagtail have also been seen (Pied and Grey), which surprised me, as well as 4 species of birds of prey (including a Peregrine). Other highlights so far include Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush and a Grey Heron that flew over a few days ago.

UBC Southampton’s Winter Bird Walk – Southampton Common

On a bright and sunny Saturday morning, we met up and were given a guided tour of Southampton Common. Startling in the car park, we heard some Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming on nearby trees, and not long after that we heard a Green woodpecker. We then walked to the Old Cemetery where we saw 2 Goldcrests almost immediately – a pair, which was nice. Not long after that, we spotted Blue Tits, then Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits also arrived. A little later on we noticed some Coal Tits as well. A Robin was singing close by, as were 2 Nuthatches. Walking a bit further into the cemetery, we found Greenfinches, Bullfinches and a Wren that was singing on a grave stone. Always amazes me how loud Wrens are despite their size!

We picked out another song; a Mistle Thrush and found it singing high above our heads in a tree nearby. We watched it for a few minutes before it flew off, so we moved on before stopping a few metres later as another thrush was ahead of us. This time it was a Song Thrush. It was nice to see them so soon after each other as we could compare the differences. Some Blackbirds and a Dunnock were also hopping around on the ground.

As we were leaving the cemetery, after a good birding session, we noticed a female Kestrel perched on the top of a tree. It was a lovely sight, and the first I’d seen in Southampton this academic year. We stayed watching it for a while as it flew around a bit.

Finally, we headed to Cemetery Lake to look for gulls and wildfowl. We weren’t disappointed as there was a good selection of gulls about. Some of the Black-headed Gulls were already in summer plumage and stood out with their black heads (or should that be dark brown hoods!), whereas others were still in winter plumage and a few were moulting. There were also a few 1st winter birds present.  Herring Gulls, a few Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed Gull were present as well, including several immature birds that I managed to pick out and identify which surprised me!

I’ll try to have some photos in future…

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