Monday, 10 January 2011

The Eagle Had Landed!

With the forecasters promising dry but windy weather for the first part of the day, and heavy rain later it was best to be out at first light. Plenty of scope here for a riverside walk, I started by walking the north bank of the swollen Stour finding just Little Egret and Grey Heron.

Back at Harbins the feeders were now full of small birds, but my thoughts strayed back to some enlightening conversation around the dinner table referring to the last occurrence of gibbeting in the county. In 1803 William Harbin and his so called mate were coaxed by Harbin's mother to murder her husband. At first they declined, but eventually scummed and on a second attempt were successful, all of this taking place just a matter of yards from where we all now sat. Apprehended and admitting their guilt they were hanged (some say drawn and quartered) and then consigned to the gibbet on the nearby heath. Part of this gruesome contraption still survives today as the stand holding a sundial just inside the gate of the local churchyard.

Some of the new arrivals on the farm since my last visit which include 2 goats which Janet's sons bought for her birthday and

a second batch of chickens.

On the down side, the population of free ranging farmyard Geese has reduced from a former c9 to 3,

while on the other hand the presence of these 2 juvenile Mute Swans shows some successful breeding.

During the years 2007 to 2009 I conducted a bird survey on the Dampney property during which neither Tufted Duck

nor Pochard were recorded. In addition I could find no second or third hand evidence of their having occurred on the farm. It was quite a sight to find both on the duck pond this morning.

Having to undertake a couple of business matters early morning Hugh then joined me on a days birding which was the highlight of my day. We usually find time for a short stroll but today we would wander much further afield with the potential of a number of good birds. First was just a few miles down the road and for me back into Hampshire, where we visited Keyhaven close to Hurst Castle at the western end of the Solent the stretch of sea that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland.

Lapland Bunting was the first success as we managed to see

all c4 that had been reported.

In the same field were Rock & Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Chaffinch, Starling and Black-headed Gull.

Further along was a field full of about 50 Curlew, and in the far, murky distance we could see

The Needles Rocks with attendant lighthouse, guarding the western entrance to The Solent.

Some of the Curlews. From here we drove to New Milton, a small town in the New Forest, to look for a juvenile White-tailed Eagle that had been slowly working its way along the south coast over the past few weeks. Having been seen from the village of Hordle with some frequency over quite a number of days, I for one was hoping luck would be a little better than my visit yesterday. After about 90 minutes of waiting, with a number of other hopeful birders, a young man drove up to report he had found it in a field about half a mile away. Some of our company decided to walk the short distance, but Hugh and I jumped into the Range Rover which was our savior. As we pulled up at the said field the Eagle took to the air, flying into the heart of a nearby wood. These creatures are often described as 'Flying Barn Doors' so on size alone are highly unlikely to be misidentified. We, along with just 3 others, were elated while the rest including the author of The Birds of Dorset and long time birding friend George Green were consigned to continuing the vigil.

Next on the agenda was

one of the best Nature Reserves I have found in recent years. Once a series of gravel pits, once they became exhausted the owner (Hanson) and a number of wildlife groups and other interested parties set to on some much needed management work. Now, the area supports a diverse and numerous selection of bird-life including Bittern and Goosander , which I saw here yesterday, plus Great White Egret (sadly not seen at all) and a whole host of small birds. Some of these include


happy to capitalise on the numerous feeders,

this bright male being just one of several dozen.

Brambling were nowhere near so numerous,

but none less attractive.

Only a single Lesser Redpoll was seen and that only through a sealed window in one of the hides, as was this unfortunate

female Chaffinch which seems to have clubbed feet or some kind of build up on its legs.

So, at the end of the day, as the gale raged and heavy rain lashed the windows the Year Lists stood at:-

Birds = 148
Mammals = 13 which includes a House Mouse that greeted us as we arrived home.

and finally

A big welcome to readers in our 117th country, the beautiful island of Guadeloupe. Mostly referred to as the Butterfly Island, because of its shape, and occasionally the Spice Island, anyone visiting this magic spot would soon realise why. I have fond memories of my own visit wandering around the central market agog at the small mountains of umpteen spices, plus an array of fascinating birds.

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