Warblington, Hill Head, Posbrook Farm & Titchfield, Hampshire

I’d set myself the target of six year ticks for the day and first on the list were the a couple of Cattle Egrets at Warblington on the edge of Emsworth Harbour.

I arrived just after sunrise and began by checking the various fields that the mobile Cattle Egrets had been visiting.

No luck, I then looked at Bird Guides to re-check the most regularly visited fields and it appeared that those on the west side of the Cemetery were probably the best bet.

As I approached the Cemetery Gates I saw one of the Cattle Egrets in the adjacent field and almost immediately it took off and flew down towards the harbour edge. There was a large flock of winter thrushes and with Fieldfare being one of the targets for the day I checked them carefully but they were all Redwing. I walked along the footpath though the field, to the harbour’s edge and looked back inland to another field and noticed that both Cattle Egrets were perched up in a large tree. I got some sketches before they both flew back into the cattle field and then I added a few more poses. Neither of them fed at all when I was there, they just stood looking grumpy, this was presumably because the ground was still frozen.

Next on the target list for the day was Red-throated Diver. There had been two off Salterns Car Park near Hill Head and so I stopped there. There was no sign on a flat calm sea although a report came through on my phone that 14 had just flown west past Hill Head. I scanned to the west and saw the birders at Hill Head but not the Divers.

I jumped back into the car, headed to Hill Head, joined the two remaining birders and fairly soon another eight Red-throated Divers flew west towards Southampton.

My next target was Sanderling on the high tide roost at Hill Head. There were at least 26 present with most of them asleep but several were feeding at the water’s edge. They were strikingly pale compared to the accompanying Dunlin and looked particularly plumped up against the cold. Sanderling is a long distance migrant breeding in the High Arctic.

As I was heading north to try a roosting Barn Owl site I drove past a field full of birds near Posbrook Farm. I pulled over grabbed my binoculars and realised that they were mainly Golden Plover, 500 of them. There were also a dozen or so Fieldfare around the edges of the field. I had a few possible locations for these two species later in the afternoon but I wasn’t at all confident that I’d see them so this was a real stroke of luck.

I drove on to the top of the Canal Trail. I had heard about a tree with a prominent split in it which had attracted various Owls as a roost site over the years. I got in touch with someone online and they gave me really good directions. I parked up in the car park at the northern end of the Titchfield Canal Path and headed south and found the tree fairly easily and sure enough there was a Barn Owl roosting in it.

With the morning targets all seen so quickly I decided there was time to try for the New Forest Great Grey Shrike again. 

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