Friday, March 25, 2011

New Forest

On Wednesday, we decided to spend the day birding in the New Forest. Quite a drive but we were hoping to finally connect with a Dartford warbler - the last one we saw was at Pagham Harbour last October. None on Ashdown Forest so far this year, which is a bit worrying - I hope they all survived the winter!

Our first stop was at Blashford Lakes. We saw a lovely female lapwing from Tern Hide and a wonderful, fluffy little grebe in breeding plumage, goldeneye and gadwall (no water pipit, snipe, sandmartin or ringed plover though!).

Female lapwing

Little grebe

We then moved on to the Woodland Hide where I was hoping to get a few more shots of brambling before they all fly off to their breeding grounds. After about 10 minutes a beautiful female appeared and I got some nice shots of her (much better than the poor record shot I got before!), followed by at least 4 lovely males, all coming into breeding plumage (one looked particularly smart).

Female brambling

Male brambling

We also had lovely views of a nuthatch, a coal tit collecting nesting material, a siskin, a lesser redpoll, a greenfinch, a wren and some blue tits.

We then tried 'Picket Post' heath but could not find any Dartford warblers. There were loads of meadow pipits, a raven and a fantastic buzzard circling right above us.


I also saw a common lizard enjoying the sunshine.

And of course there were some beautiful ponies! Being a horse person, I always love seeing them.

Young New Forest pony

So we drove around for another 20 minutes trying to find a certain site that we know is supposed to be good for Dartfords. Again we walked around for what felt like 50 miles but no Darties. More ponies of course, a mistle thrush, meadow pipits, skylarks and stonechats. Time to give up?

All of a sudden, on the way back to the car we thought we could hear the song we had been hoping for all day...and scanning the gorse nearby we saw him: a fantastic male Dartford warbler! Brilliant!

Male Dartford warbler

We also saw the female perched on top of the gorse behind the male.

Female Dartford warbler

Looking up, I noticed a bird of prey flying low over the heath. Wow, a beautiful male hen harrier - a lifer!

What a great day!

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