Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Birding in the monsoon season

Now I know that theoretically we don't have a monsoon season in Britain but how else do you explain the weather so far this year? Any sane person would have stayed firmly indoors today, and looking at the bird news in Hampshire it would seem that most people did. But, having spent all yesterday staring down a microscope at hoppers and having my ringing trainee wanting to do something, I decided to head out.

We started off at Alresford watercress beds where the Water Pipit failed to show but Grey Wagtail and 6 Little Egrets, a Kingfisher showing really well fishing from the wall of the cress beds and, eventually, a Green Sandpiper asleep and motionless (and consequently completely missed for quite some time) provided ample compensation.

We then moved to the Redbridge overlooking Lower Test Marshes which was rather quiet but eventually two Common Sandpipers flew in.

It was still lashing down so we headed to the sea-watching shelter at Milford. With only one scope between us and my trainee being an inexperienced birder, I was rather nervous of doing any sea watching (especially at this time of year) as I thought she'd be bored within about 5 minutes. It didn't look good, with visibility so bad that you couldn't see half way to the Needles and an initial scan producing absolutely nothing but within about 15 minutes two adult Little Gulls appeared as proceeded to feed in the surf. Shortly afterwards a Great Skua went through about 200yds out and then came back a couple of minutes later. Two fair quality Hampshire birds on a January seawatch. Nothing else appeared in the next quarter of an hour so I decided not to push my luck and we headed off to Pennington.

There was a good range of ducks and waders on the floods, including a lot of waders that would normally be out on the mudflats but presumably had come inland to avoid the howling gale. The highlight for me was three Ruff together but the main value was in the opportunity it gave my trainee to get to grips with a range of species at close range. The rain stopped at last and we walked out to look at the Solent but that was very quiet. Heading back to the car, all the waders went up and we were treated to a spectacular female Peregrine chasing a Black-tailed Godwit right in front of us. She failed in her attempts, partly because a male Peregrine came in and interfered - only to be noisily seen off by the female. She then proceeded to dive-bomb the Wigeon on the flood, trying to spook them into flight but without success. I don't think I've ever seen this behaviour in the wild before. A great end to a surprisingly good day.

It's a struggle to find much to write about at the moment so in the next few blogs you will probably be treated to my summer holiday snaps!


  1. A good sea watch for Hampshire.

    How about some details and highlights of the PNG trip...

    1. PNG coming soon but there was no point until I could solve the problem with uploading pictures. Now that is sorted, I'll be doing something shortly.