I published my October post a few days early thinking I’d not manage any more birding. As it turned out, I did manage a bit more – an hour sea watching with Dan Houghton at Hill Head on 28th. The sea had seemed rather empty last month, but we enjoyed good views of a pair of eider as they drifted slowly east.
Fog. I think that sums Sunday (1st) up. Dan, Alan Butler and I had decided to try the sea front in the morning hoping the fog wouldn’t be too bad. It’s safe to say we abandoned plans rather promptly with visibility extremely poor. The afternoon was better as the fog had cleared, and resulted in good views of two marsh harriers over the meadow and 13 sanderling roosting on the beach.
Little birding has been done during the week as most of my time is taken up with uni, although a session on 2nd in somewhat foggy conditions yielded 4 swallows, a chaffinch and a number of lesser redpolls and siskin. While attempts to catch up with a Dartford warbler on patch ended in misery (yet again), I did have my first pochard on the winter in the harbour on 4th.
Sunday (8th) brought news of black redstart – 4 in fact, one of which was on patch down at Hill Head. After a failed attempt mid-morning, I returned with Dan and Alan for round 2. Despite my growing pessimism (having missed about 5 locally this year) we did eventually see the bird, proving that sometimes persistence and effort really does pay off.
While others around the country have been reporting all sorts of species during their sea watches, it’s safe to say Hill Head has been rather quiet. In between the days of staring at an empty (quite literally) sea, 19 eider and a Slavonian grebe on 15th, a great northern diver on 21st, a common scoter on 24th, a kittiwake on 28th and merlin on 29th were welcomed highlights.
The small moments of weekend fortune continued on 16th with Dan finding a Siberian chiffchaff at the top end of the canal path in the morning. (It, or another, was also present on 28th and was great to compare with the accompanying common chiffchaff).
That afternoon, Alan and I joined him for another walk along the canal path. This time it was a dusk visit, with the slight hope of seeing owls; one of those “it’s got to be worth a try” sessions. It paid off too. While waiting for it to get dark half way along the canal path, a short-eared owl appeared over the meadow! It was brief – watch for all of 5 minute before it headed south, but a great end to the weekend.
The next highlights came on 25th with a trip to see the ring-necked ducks at Rooksbury Mill LNR in Andover. The two birds were showing very well, especially once they woke up and became more lively. Whilst there, Dan and Alan informed me of their earlier sea watch – auks and a number of eider. That’ll teach me not to lie in!
The birding session finished with a trip to the canal path in an attempt to see the reported little owl, back in what I’m told was its favoured spot. Despite looking, there was no sign. All was not lost though, as a final check of the tree before giving up led to us finding a tawny owl – even better!
The month ended with a short trip to Blashford Lakes on 30th to see a black-throated diver on Northfield Lake and the returning ferruginous duck on Kingfisher Lake. Despite difficult viewing conditions, both showed well.