An early start from Sheffield, reaching Southampton after four hours, witnessing that, based on the amount of traffic out and about , this country is working its socks off!! Despite that we were at the Lakeside Country Park, Eastleigh at 0830 hours before things got too busy and, as a consequence, had tremendous views of Hawfinch, in fact the best views of birds in flight that I've ever had!! At least eight were around and perched, as well as close flying birds, were thoroughly enjoyed as well as our somewhat overdue breakfast!
On to the New Forest where we took a walk out on to the open heath and had a couple of Woodlark in full song, one flighting nearby. Crossbill, Stonechat, an unexpected overflying Raven, Siskin and an array of common species were also in evidence.. A Treecreeper within a stand of conifers intrigued us both as its underparts were pure white and the bird "stood out " at a distance as a consequence. It showed no slight brownish tinges on the flanks and was certainly worth the experience. Best of all were a couple of Dartford Warblers that showed well atop heather shrubs, calling, with one indulging in a display flight for extra benefit. Moving to another area we joined other birdwatchers looking for the Dark eyed Junco, but without any success. The bird had been seen briefly, but several explorations of the local area, and rather chilly waiting out periods in between , produced nothing, so we decided to move on and to call back if time allowed.
On to the Solent where we looked in vain for the reported Red-breasted Goose, but beneffitted from a good variety of birds in the process. Several Mediterranean Gulls, with three flying overhead calling, Little Egret, Peregrine, Dark bellied Brent Geese and Red-breasted Merganser were around besides commoner duck and wader species.
With ever improving weather we moved the short distance to Calshot where we located the roadside hedge in which the male Spanish Sparrow and its domesticus mates had been seen. A couple of patrols along the length of the hedge proved there was plenty of chirping individuals buried deep in its centre, but few could be seen. Then, as is often the case, the bird in question suddenly appeared , and what an utterly resplendent individual it turned out to be. Sitting out in full view, its colours and patterns were shown off to the fullest and best effect.....a great bird!
With time in hand we returned to the New Forest site for a renewed attempt to see the Dark eyed Junco. As we walked towards where we had been previously, all seemed very quiet. And then the bird suddenly flew across the path and disappeared under a large, fallen pine "frond", only to emerge almost immediately and perch in a nearby birch sapling. We had absolutely tremendous views following those of it in flight, when it showed off its very distinctive dark tail with white outer feathers that are so conspicuous when it flies into cover. I was just about to say to Matthew, " I guess it's back here as everyone's gone home and it's totally undisturbed now", when one of the photographers, who'd been there all day, came from behind the large bush the bird had then disappeared into. Well, I had to tell them, didn't I !! Whilst we hung on a little while we didn't actually see it again!
Ever onward was the cry given the success of our day, so we moved to Hordle where, eventually, we saw the immature Rose-coloured Starling. It was pretty mobile, but we got two more than acceptable periods of viewing it in the large trees that it was using along with the local Common Starlings. Retiring for a short period from the "field of avian conflict" we took advantage of the Co-operative Supermarket car park where we enjoyed a well earned break, coffee and sandwiches before moving on to Christchurch Harbour. Whilst we were beginning to wind down our luck still prevailed as we located the female Long-tailed Duck out in the open bay and had a good variety of waders at a further yachting haven just around the corner.
And so ended the first full day of our break........successful, satisfying and, in many ways, more productive than we could have imagined!