Thursday, 12 January 2012

A Matter of 'Lif-er' or Death - Iron Maiden

My first encounter with bird-life this morning was a Song Thrush, in the cemetery, singing its little head off but that was not the only sign of the Springlike conditions. The sun was out, the sky was blue, there wasn't a cloud to spoil the view and it wasn't 'raining, raining in my heart; and along with a few early budding Daffodils and Snowdrops it could just as easily have been early April.

Redwings also abound in local gardens, a Goldcrest was also in full song while on Radipole there was evidence of a number of Reed Buntings, 'pinging' Bearded Tits plus vocal Water Rails and Cetti's Warbler.

At the north end of the reserve a small flight of

Canada Geese came noisily into land as common small birds were also well represented, such as

Robin and
Dunnock as usual feeding on the pathways,

as this Blue Tit was happy to pose for a while

before demonstrating some aerobatics.

At the Visitor's Centre Bridge things were completely different with at least 73 Common Snipe counted, while the 15 Black-tailed Godwit remain in place.

However, the most numerous species by a full mile was Mediterranean Gull (most of the above, representing just a small percentage of the whole) were Meds and about the only time I remember having difficulty 'spotting' the Black-headed Gull among them instead of the other way round!

In addition there were also many, many dozens arriving continuously from the directions of the Wey Valley and the Fleet, some overflying while others dropped in.

My own guess-timate of numbers was well over 400 giving great opportunity to study all ages of this brilliant little Gull.

The majority of adult birds were still in 'winter plumage'

but there were a couple already sporting the 'black hood'

of 'summer (breeding) plumage' birds.

Not to be out done, Black-headed Gulls too were showing developing 'black caps',with finally a fine sight of the Hooded Merganser in flight.

Then came the call I had been hoping for, Sheila Edwards announcing that the trip to Calshot, a small village situated close to Southampton in Hampshire, was very much on. Beating a hasty retreat to their house, I scouted around the garden finding more signs of Spring with a

Red Admiral Butterfly on the wing along with

2 separate, but unidentified, species of Hoverfly.

A clear run in perfect conditions though the New Forest and beyond found us in the village just 2 hours later. There was no hurry, or need for such, as what followed was a long, long wait for the object of our desires, so time for a little 'ship spotting' as a number of vessels sailed south through Southampton Water, onward to The Solent and eventually the English Channel.

The first was Nagato Reefer, one of a class of merchant ships known as 'Reefers' or Refrigerator Ships, temperature controlled to transport perishable commodities mostly fruits, meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.

This was followed by a medium size Tanker, the name of which I failed to note, while all this time

a crowd of some 50 or so birders were gazing into

THIS. A massive tangle of Clematis where probably within was our target, seen briefly by some just before our arrival. There was a little respite as there were a few familiar faces among the crowd such as Julian Thomas and Mike Spicer - good to see them!

But then, after a full 2 and a half hours, the call went out to say the bird had been be re-located,

as was the crowd each of us trying for an advantageous view along the narrow strip between two hedges.

Not at all cooperative it remained mainly in cover, slowly moving towards the top of the bush,

where finally, the Spanish Sparrow* showed it's full glory.

The first record of this species in the UK was from Lundy Island in 1966,

while today's bird, which is said to have been in situ for many days, is only the 8th record for the country and a new addition to my own Great Britain List!

El Spadger made it onto the early morning BBC TV News, with reports of the gathering crowds travelling to see it, its possible origins and how it had already charmed one of our own House Sparrows producing at least one 'hybrid' youngster. As we understand it, this is going to be called Hacienda Sparrow - Viva Espania!

The Year (January) List now stands at 162

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