Monday, 4 May 2015

A Day Full of Wildlife

The weather this morning looked very promising for a sea watch so I got up early and headed down to Gilkicker Point near Gosport. I arrived at 6:15 and settled down in the shelter for what might be a long morning. Mark Edgeller arrived at 6:30, followed by a steady stream of local birders and before long the shelter was overflowing. It turned out to be a quiet morning with a trickle of terns initially, Common, Little and Sandwich all recorded, a couple of Whimbrel and a flock of nine Sanderling. It proved to be a sea watch of quality rather than quantity, as the number of birds did not increase but we saw five skuas of three species, Arctic Skuas were recorded at 7:20, 8:04 and 8:25, a Bonxie (Great Skua) was seen at 8:00 and a stunning pale phase Pomarine Skua at 8:02. Other bits included a couple of Dark-Bellied Brent Geese, 13 Shelduck and a couple of Swifts. Five Skuas on a four hour sea watch may not seem that good, but for Hampshire that is a very good day.

Yesterday, 3rd May, a 2nd CY Bonaparte's Gull was found by Southampton Sailing Club on Weston Shore. It had hung around for 20 lucky birders, but was not relocated. I had not been able to go for it, but when news broke of its return to the same area today, I was quickly on my way. The bird was feeding by an outfall which was at the far end of a jetty, which was way too far out for any photos, which was disappointing. This was my second Bonaparte's in Hampshire, the first being back in 2003 at Farlington Marshes.

I had promised my wife that once I had returned from sea watching we wound go for a walk, she had patiently waited in the car whilst I watched the Bonaparte's, then Manor Farm Country Park. I had a planned route that would take us through a fantastic piece of Ancient Woodland then back along the Hamble Estuary. This year the woodland flora has been spectacular and I wanted my wife to see it looking so good. A Red Admiral butterfly was the first bit of wildlife of note, and then we were into the flora, Bluebell, Greater Stitchwort and Yellow Archangel all in full bloom and looking fantastic.

Red Admiral

Greater Stitchwort
Yellow Archangel and Bluebells

One of the species I always like to check on at Manor Farm Country Park in the Early Purple Orchid. It is quite a scarce species in the park and this year I have only found nine flower spikes. Early Purple Orchid is generally quite an easy species to identify as it is usually one of the first orchid species to flower, has deep purple flower spikes and leaves with large purple blotches.

Early Purple Orchid
Early Purple Orchid

There is a fair amount of variability with orchids and hybrid and aberrant forms have been found to occur in many species. Most of the Early Purple spikes looked to be the same, but I was very confused with a flower spike that really didn't fit the typical mould. This plant had pale pink and white flowers, with a slight yellow hue to the middle and dark purple spots on the lip; the leaves were narrow, pointed and totally unstreaked. I have a good selection of orchid books at home and although I cannot find exact examples of this form but have found reference to pale flowered forms and also plants without spotted leaves and therefore presume this to just be an aberrant Early Purple Orchid.

Presumed aberrant Early Purple Orchid
Presumed aberrant Early Purple Orchid
Presumed aberrant Early Purple Orchid
Un-spotted leaves of presumed aberrant Early Purple Orchid

There was very little of note on the high tide wader roost, two each of Greenshank, Whimbrel and Shelduck, being the only species of note.

I have mentioned previously that a Ring-necked Parakeet has been occasionally turning up in the garden. It has been perched on the top of a Silver Birch tree in my garden, but has been extremely flighty and therefore I have only ever had brief views; based on those views I had presumed it to be a female. Today, after we had returned home from our walk, and whilst doing a few bits in the garden, it returned. At first I heard it call as it flew towards the garden, but it saw us, changed course and sat on a Silver Birch on the other side of the field. It sat there for 10 minutes before heading off, but over the next hour and half kept doing circuits of the garden. Eventually, after we had finished what we were doing, it dropped onto the feeders in the garden.

It was incredibly nervy but stayed in the garden for about 20 minutes, during which time I was able to grab a few shots, albeit through glass. Being now able to get some decent views it was evident, that this bird was not a female but an immature male. The orange eye ring, black lower mandible and blue in the tail confirming this. A bit of reading up tells me that adult males don't get the rings around their necks until their third year, which it why my original views made me thing it was a female. Ring-necked Parakeet is not an easy bird to get in Hampshire, well at least down in the south, looks like I may have to keep my feeders topped up just in case some birders want to come and twitch it.

Immature Male Ring-necked Parakeet

Immature Male Ring-necked Parakeet

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