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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hants for the double

Mark had been itching to get down to Hampshire for the Dark Eyed Junco all January even more so when the Spanish Sparrow was found nearby as both birds would be a lifer for him and last weekend was the first real opportunity we had to go for them, then the weather turned against us however as it looked like the snow would have moved through before we set off and we'd be on Motorways etc we decided to risk it, so at 3am on Sunday morning me, Mark and Andy set off from a very snowbound York and headed south picking up a mate of ours, Darren Ward, near Wakefield on the way, strangely there was less snow in West Yorks and apart from a heavy coverage around Nottingham it got less as we went south until it was only on the higher ground when we got to Hampshire. The journey down was fairly uneventful, a Barn Owl flew across the A43 and as we headed south from Oxford as it was getting light a couple of early rising Red Kites drifted overhead. We arrived in Calshot just after 8am and joined a couple of other birders already there and it wasn’t long before the Spanish Sparrow flew in and perched on top of the now famous hedge, it sat there for a few minutes before dropping into the hedge eventually flying off into nearby gardens. Happy with the good start we then headed over to the nearby Hawkhill Inclosure for the Junco, there were no birders around when we got there so we headed to what looked a suitable area and a couple of local dog walkers confirmed we were in the place other birders had been looking over the last few weeks, with that a small flock of birds flew in and landed on a fallen conifer branch and there it was on the topmost branch, we then spent the next hour or more enjoying frequent views of this super little bird as it repeatedly came back to this area where seed had been put out for the birds, there was also a good number of Crossbills in the area and a Raven flew over, a couple of Scottish lads who had turned up by that time weren't impressed by that though. All was going to plan and next up was Walpole Park in Gosport for the very photogenic adult Ring Billed Gull, returning for its 9th winter I believe, and true to form it was a right little poser then with news that the Paddyfield Warbler was showing well at Pagham Harbour we shot off there, apparently it had been showing in the vegetation just below the North Wall early morning but had then flown over to the other side of the pool where it remained for the rest of the day so it was fairly distant views but on saying that it was fairly active and showed frequently as it made its way through the tall grass and on several occasions it perched fully out in the open halfway up dead Umbellifer stems, a bit far to make out the finer plumage details it was nevertheless quite distinctive in its behaviour, also a pair of Bearded Reedlings showed very well and Cetti's Warbler sang. We had originally planned to try for the putative Parrot Crossbill on Black Down but as there had been no news on the bird today probably because the higher ground was covered in snow we decided against it and finished the day off at Thorney Island instead where after a short wait the Great White Egret performed nicely. It was a great day, everything just fell into place, we could have bottled it because of the weather, glad we didn't.

the Spanish Sparrow

the Dark Eyed Junco

a Raven flew over

Ring Billed on the lake to start with

it soon came over

and posed for us

uncropped image

a couple of nice plumaged Common Gulls also

Plovers and Pipits at Pagham Harbour

Great White, a bit far for the SLR so I digi-scoped it

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