Waxwing – Totton, Hampshire

In 2019 I’m planning a year list to see how many birds I can see in the UK during the year. I’m hoping to get more than 250 but not having kept a year list for many years I’m not sure how easy that will be. I have previously reached the 200 milestone on nine occasions – 289 (1996), 239 (1998), 227 (1987), 224 (1988), 220 (1999), 219 (1997), 209 (1990), 207 (2001) and 201 (2000). Reaching 250 would make it my second best year ever.

In 1996 I achieved 289 which I don’t think I will ever beat as this involved trips to Scotland, the Farne Islands, Cumbria, Tyne and Wear, Cleveland, the Scillies twice, Cheshire, Cornwall six times, Devon five times, North Wales three times and Norfolk twice. Also  more ‘local’ visits to Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Kent, Somerset, Staffordshire, South Wales, Dorset, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire. I will also illustrate my 2019 year with field sketches and paintings.

On the last day of 2018 five Waxwings were seen at dusk in the Asda car park in Totton. It was a bit unexpected as it certainly wasn’t cold in Hampshire and not many Waxwings make it down this far. A cold snap was forecast and perhaps the Waxwings had anticipated it.

We were staying with Mum and Dad for New Year and Dad and I planned to head down there the next morning. They were seen again and the group had swelled to 11 individuals, Dad and I set off after breakfast for an exciting first bird of the year!

The birds had been seen distantly from the car park and had also been seen near the Civic Centre. We headed there first but there was no sign of the birds or many birders. We decided to walk back towards Asda and met another birder coming the other way, he said that they had been seen flying away from the car park towards the Civic Centre but had then headed off east. We followed in that direction.

After a few minutes looking for gardens with berries we heard them calling and fairly soon had them in the top of a bare tree on the junction of Testwood Lane and Beaumont Road on the east side of Totton. I managed to get my sketching stuff out and made a few brief sketches.

After a few minutes they flew off again and we followed. Their amazing trilling calls allowed us to keep track of the flock and we relocated them on Jennings Lane sat in the top of a large oak tree. Here they remained for several minutes calling and preening and this allowed me to get more sketches. I love the yellow tips to the tail, the yellow primary lines and the lovely red tips to the adult tertial feathers.

Totton, Normandy, Pennington & Keyhaven Marshes, Blashford & Eyeworth Pond – 2nd January 2019

In order to get a good start to the year we arranged to visit a few locations in the Lymington area. Dad has been birding with Martin Terry and Mark Gibbon for many years and I gate crashed their new year trip. Martin picked up Mark in the Hill Head area before they transferred to Dad’s car in West Wellow before picking me up in Totton. 

Given the local Waxwing ‘celebrities’ in Totton we stopped there first so that Martin and Mark could see them. Thankfully we found them quite quickly perched in a tree top on the green outside the Civic Centre, next stop was Normandy Marshes. 

The highlights at Normandy Marshes were Spotted Redshank, Peregrine, Eider, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Avocet. It’s a short drive from there to Pennington and Keyhaven Marshes where we saw the 1st winter male Scaup on Keyhaven Lagoon. I also found a Water Pipit but before the others could get their tripod and scopes set up it had flown.    

From Keyhaven we headed to Blashford where we tried the Woodland Hide first but unfortunately there was no sign of Redpolls or Bramblings. On Ivy Lake we saw a very obliging Great White Egret and had great views of a Water Rail but the Bittern didn’t show. From there we headed to Iblsey Water where there were many Goosander and a Yellow-legged Gull but we couldn’t pick out the Caspian Gull. 

On the way home we popped into Eyeworth Pond briefly and saw several Mandarin Duck but I think it was too late in the day for the Marsh Tits. I finished the day on 86 species for the year. 

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