Saturday, 9 May 2015

A day full of Birding

I had managed to wangle a day off on Friday 8th May and so decided to start early with another seawatch down at Stokes Bay. It was an overcast morning, and was fairly calm, with a southerly wind gradually veering round to south-east. It was difficult to tell if there was an air of anticipation about the conditions because most of the talk was about the previous days General Election, and the disbelief that the Conservatives had once again got into government, and with a majority. There has to be a genuine fear for Britain's wildlife with them back in.

Sea watching soon took centre stage and a steady trickle of Common, Sandwich and Little Terns drifted by. A winter plumage Red-throated Diver was the first species on note, followed by a couple of Whimbrel. It was pretty slow going with good numbers of Barn Swallows and the occasional Swift coming in, and then Mark Rolfe, who was one of the assembled crowd, picked out a Roseate Tern amongst and small flock of Commons. It took me a while to get on to the bird, but eventually I was on it. I was following the bird east and it had just gone out of sight when Mark called out Hoopoe!!! Amazingly, a Hoopoe was flying along the beach towards us, flew over our shelter heading inland, and then veered west and continued to fly inland. That made up for the bird I missed a few weeks ago in Crawley, when I was in Cornwall. The sea watch continued as it had before the Roseate and the Hoopoe, with a steady trickle of terns and swallows and by 10am, when we finished, the only other species of note were two Mediterranean Gulls, and a Wheatear that landed on the beach in front of us.

I left Stokes Bay and headed to the Haven to pick up some bird food, to keep the parakeet fed. I had a quick scan from the sea front before heading home; there were three Dunlin and a Bar-tailed Godwit feeding on the Meon, several Swifts, House Martins and Swallows feeding over the reserve, but that was all of note.

Bar-tailed Godwit - Titchfield Haven

My next stop was Bunny Meadows. Bunny Meadows is known for it's wading birds and so at this time of year, there isn't likely to be much around, unless some migrants drop in. The tide was pushing up towards high and so there was very little mud left exposed, but five Whimbrel were making the most of what was there.

One of five Whimbrel at Bunny Meadows.

The reed bed was showing little evidence of spring, but there were still plenty of Reed Warblers singing, as was a male Reed Bunting. A couple of House Sparrows were tucked into a dense bit of bramble mid-way along the causeway, which seemed to be an odd location for them, and a Wheatear was feeding on the causeway.

Wheatear - Bunny Meadows

Oystercatchers were the most common wader species, seven in all and two Ringed Plovers and a single Dunlin were flushed off a roost next to the causeway by an off-the-lead dog. Three of the Oystercatchers were colour-ringed, I suspect they will be birds that I have seen before, but noted the combinations anyway. The rings on one bird were very discoloured but hopefully it will be possible to figure it out.

Colour-ringed Oystercatcher - Bunny Meadows

I was just about to head home when news came through that the 2nd CY Bonaparte's Gull was once again back at Riverside Park on the River Itchen at Bitterne. Although I had seen this bird on Monday at Weston Shore, my views were quite distant so I was keen to see it again, and also get some pictures. It has been frequenting the area between Cobden Bridge and a small reed bed to the north, opposite a sewage works, occasionally going into the sewage works and being lost from view. When I arrived it was showing very well but was regularly flying up and down the river, and only occasionally settling down to bathe.

The views were so much better, with the bird on occasion down to 10 metres. There were also around 30 Black-headed Gulls present so it was really nice to compare the two species. The Bonaparte's was so much smaller, and had a more dainty flight than the black-heads, as such it was very easy to pick out as it flew around. Being so close it was easy to pick out the key features, such as the small, all black bill, the grey nape, 'bubble-gum' pink legs and the neat trailing edge to the primaries and secondaries and all white underwing.

Bonaparte's Gull - Riverside Park
Bonaparte's Gull - Riverside Park
Bonaparte's Gull - Riverside Park
Bonaparte's Gull - Riverside Park
Bonaparte's Gull, with Black-headed Gull behind - Riverside Park

Whilst at the Bonaparte's I bumped into a couple of birding mates, and after a quick beer to celebrate with a work colleague, I headed home. What a cracking day it turned out be, starting with Roseate Tern and Hoopoe and ending with a Bonaparte's Gull.

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