Central Sheffield at 0400 hours showed 4" of snow had fallen and large flakes were giving an impression of a delayed Christmas! Nonetheless, sticking to our agreed plan , we left at 0430 hours and progressed southwards on a clear motorway. Oxfordshire soon appeared in the morning light and displayed a succession of Red Kites ( 2013, 156 ) wheeling above various roadside woodlands and fields.( Note that I've started the "system" of indicating the total of birds seen in the current year whenever a new "year bird" is observed, i.e. 2013, .... ). We had now left the snow behind and spirits, anticipation and competitive aspirations began to rise!
Eastleigh Country Park was reached around precisely the same time as last year and, after a quick boost of calories and caffeine, our search of the area began. Despite being near a main road, the town, the airport, and a railway station this area is quite good and produced a good variety of common birds besides our quarry, 4 Hawfinch ( 2013, 157 ) of which we got quite good views , both in flight and of perched birds. A good start!
Next on to Warblington, Hampshire! Now this involved walking around an extensive graveyard and adjacent open fields, the result from which was ...nothing. The variety of general birdlife was good, but of our target bird , no sign. Following another footpath past the rather handsome church, we came across a suitable looking area, confirmed by what I often rely on as a source of information in such circumstances, an obvious "lady of the Parish " walking her dog. We were informed lots of people had been to see " it" and lined up along this very footpath ( such intelligence can be hurtful, frustrating and downright annoying when the damned thing can't be seen, but there you go ). So we persevered! And then the bird suddenly appeared overhead, descended into the wet pasture and commenced to feed. A Glossy Ibis ( 2013, 158 ) in full glory giving extended and wonderful views. Full marks to the Warblington's dog walkers I say. In between we'd also found a Chiffchaff ( 2013, 159 ) frantically feeding in bushes and on open ground alongside a ditch
Following some sterling navigational work by Matthew we negotiated motorways, complicated roundabouts and obscure entrances ( at least for strangers ) to allow us entry to Farlington Marshes, Hampshire. First impressions suggested a great site and so it proved to be. In addition to a good variety of duck species, Spoonbill, Little Egret and Marsh Harrier were present along with good numbers of Dark breasted Brent Geese. The easterly wind was absolutely painfully cold at this point and aided little any scrutiny of the ever mobile goose flock. However, persistence paid off and the Red-breasted Goose (2013, 160 ) was finally found within the confines on one of the Brent Goose flocks and, for a while, provided quite good views.
We then moved on to the New Forest. Visits to a favourite area produced nothing, so we moved on to our second priority. Time for a "pit stop" before we set off along one of the main footpaths. Our coverage of this area finally produced brief views of Dartford Warbler ( 2013, 161 ), and very good views of Woodlark (2013, 162 ). We discovered these birds were in pairs, feeding within cover and giving out contact calls, but providing little evidence otherwise of their presence. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard were also seen.
And so ended the first day of "the adventure"!! Productive, successful and fulfilling in a variety of respects!
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