Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Yankee and Spaniard in the same country! (25th February)

Instead of going on the Hemel RSPB trip down to Arne, Dorset, I decided to go by train to the New Forest in Hampshire to twitch the Dark-eyed Junco and Spanish Sparrow in Calshot.  I arrived at Beaulieu Road Station about 9:40am and began cycling south through the various Inclosures towards where I thought Hawkhill Inclosure might be, this wasn't a good idea and soon I was entirely lost with no map to get me back on track, it took several conversations with walkers, drivers and cyclists to finally track down the right Inclosure, let alone the bird.


I eventually arrived at the Hawkhill Inclosure, possibly an hour after leaving the station and lined up with the waiting crowd of c.20 people.  I laid out some sunflower hearts I had brought with me on the fallen tree and stump and stood back waiting...Nothing
For a while and the only birds that arrived were the occasional Chaffinch, Robin, Dunnock, and 4 Reed Buntings but still no Junco.  During the wait I also noted 2+ Buzzrads (even a pair mating), regular flyover CROSSBILLS in the trees lining the path and Siskins, including some stunning males in full song.  I waited till about 12:30am and still no sign so I decided to dip out and go for the Sparrow and return later in the afternoon in better hope.  I also saw 2 Red Admirals flying around the area (my first of the year).


On arriving there were about half a dozen birders who had clearly been present for some time and soon became fed up and left as all the Sparrows were behaving very elusively.  Despite being only meters from where we were standing and in full song they were almost impossible to see.  As a result finding the Spanish Sparrow became very unlikely.  It was approaching 14:00pm (the worst time for trying to find the Sparrow) and my spirits were beginning to fall even further (was that expensive train ticket worth it? was going through my mind).  Then luck struck me, and just in time too.  A young couple birders pulled up to me in a car on the road "the Junco's showing" were his first words and within seconds I was in the car and speeding of back to Hawkhill Inclosure.  This probably counts as my second dip of the day.


Within minutes of arriving we were back in the usual place, this time standing at the top of the ridge looking down through the grass at the base of the fallen pine tree and finally I had my first views of the 1ST WIN. DARK-EYED JUNCO!  Finally bagged my first life tick of the day.  Despite the crappy views it soon flew up onto the stem of the fallen tree and for about a minute we all enjoyed spectacular views of it hopping along the branch.  After only about a minute of watching it, it flew west and landed on another fallen tree stem.


I was soon back in Calshot thanks to a kind lift from the birdering couple and within minutes the shout went up just north of the village in a small open park space down a public footpath.  We hadn't even got there when the reply came back, it was the hybrid.  We had just sulking back to our prior positions when another shot came from the same place, this time it was the right bird and after a little patience we had brilliant, yet brief views of my first ever ADULT ♂ SPANISH SPARROW accompanied by some House Sparrows in a Birch tree.  At last both were safely under the belt.  It soon flew back to the usual hedgerow directly over our heads and a few minutes of searching later it was refound in the hedgerows next to the concrete playing area of St Georges Chapel.  Here we obtained much longer views of it perched deep within the hedge and singing heartily.

 Spanish Sparrow, only the the eye visible through the hedge, but its still the bird!

 probably the best digi-scope shot I got of the bird (I'm not sure if these would even qualify as record shots but at least we had much better views of it previously)

 A little bit of the beak

After about 15 minutes of watching it, it disappeared once again, most left soon after but the couple who had given me the lift and I remained a little longer and soon refound it once again in the hedgerow on the opposite side of the road feeding briefly at the bottom of the hedge, followed by another surprise in the form of the hybrid Spanish×House Sparrow, also hopping around in the lower part of the hedge.

 only at the end of stressing  about both twitches did I realise what an amazing environment I was in!


 not a bad atmospheric shot for a small digi-camera

 took this shot of myself at the end of a brilliant day with the megas

 ponies everywhere


With my heart rate decreasing after a rather stressful day, a final burst of energy was required to get back to the station at Beaulieu Road.  The cycle ride was rather enjoyable and taking in the scenery of extensive Gorse, Pine forests and short cropped grass with the backdrop of a setting sun was a nice finish to the day.  I was surprised to hear the screech of a Ring-necked Parakeet overhead as I cycled through the Holbury (I had no idea they lived here too).  The final bird of the day was a glimpse of a lone Oystercatcher feeding at the muddy edge of Redbridge Channel, seen from the train as it sped past my final view of the river Test.

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