Sunday, 9 January 2011

Winding Your Way Down To Baker Street

Light in your head and dead on your feet.

It was extremely sad to hear of the death of Scottish singer, songwriter Gerry Rafferty last week. I loved most of his work but the seminal Baker Street and Night Owl were among the classics of our time!

A few photographs sent to me by the Dodgy Birder

who I met at the Old Coal barn, Thornham

where we enjoyed the Northern Harrier together.

It was this time of year 2007when Paul, Tess and I decided to walk Farlington Marsh and each have a stab as to how many species we might record. It could be argued that being the 'expert' I had an advantage, but things in birding simply aren't like that and it finished up with Tess winning. What followed wasn't a pretty sight as the hobby grabbed the pair of them, and after parting with copious amounts of cash, buying all the state of the art gear, they embarked on a life of birds.

It had been decided before my arrival that Sunday would be given over to the same pursuit with my guess being 54 species, Paul going for 53 and Tess a grand 56. Weather wise, the day was set fair with the sun shining in a cloudless sky even before 09-00, and coupled with just a gentle breeze off we set.

First port of call was the Budd's Farm Sewerage Works (I know where to take a girl) where most of the common wildfowl entered the log, but there was no sign of Common Sandpiper which used to be a regular winter visitor years ago.

On the way to Farlington we stopped at a small stream I would visit on a regular basis in days go by, almost a guarantee for Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher. Only the latter was on show, but that was sufficient to impress the locals of my own local knowledge and add another species to my Year List.

A view of Farlington Marsh walking south and looking east.

From the same spot but noting the contrast looking west.

Also from the marsh

what used to be HMS Dryad the Royal Navy Radar School can be seen sporting a mock-up of the radar systems (masts) of the latest and state of the art Daring Class destroyers which are nicknamed 'stealth'.

A little further west on what is known as Portsdown Hill are a series of defensive forts, the names and dates of which I now forget.

All I remember about these fortifications is, that after they were built it was found that there wasn't a canon in existence that could reach an enemy target threatening our warships in Portsmouth Harbour.

A couple of the more common birds recorded today


male Teal

Brent Goose

flying Pintail

and unusually a black Rabbit

At the end of the walk we had recorded 60 species, making Tess the winner, but she'll have to pay eventually for relieving Paul and I of a £ each. Saying our goodbyes after an excellent couple of days, it was back to 'twitching' for me and a drive to Gosport.

From the Gosport waterfront you can see the Spinnaker, centre piece of Portsmouth City centre, which they tell me makes a perfect viewing platform. At the town boating lake there was the chance of a rare American bird which took very little time to find

this Ring-billed Gull having been a winter visitor here now for a number of years,

our own equivalent being the Common Gull.

On to the New Forest with plenty of the wild ponies in evidence, I quickly moved on to Eyeworth Pond, where

Marsh Tit, among others, were making the most of the food provided.

Target species here are the ornate Mandarin Ducks, but today they were being less than obliging keeping fairly well hidden at the far side of the pond. After this I made an attempt for what could have been the 'bird of the year', a White-tailed Eagle that had taken up semi-residence at the edge of the forest close to New Milton. Unfortunately it was not to be, and once defeated by the dark I headed to Parley Green for a couple of nights stay with my friends Hugh and Janet Dampney.

Not unusual to find the table laid ready for a meal as I am now in the company of a number of accomplished cooks. This evening, both Hugh and Janet were doing the honours and a fantastic meal was enjoyed by all. From myself the eldest son Daryl, his lady Cathy, Hugh's mum Joan, Janet's parents Joyce & John and Janet herself.

I'll be back for the Eagle tomorrow.