A Hooded Crow was found near Fort Widley on Portsdown Hill on Friday afternoon. This is a very rare species in Hampshire with none having being seen since 2002. I was leading a workshop to Lulworth Cove on the Saturday afternoon and so I set my alarm early so that I could get to Portsdown Hill and still have time to get to Dorset for 2pm allowing for problems in finding the bird.
I arrived in the car park near Fort Widley at 7am and decided to head down Mill Lane as I could see distant crows in the bottom of the ploughed field. Viewing was difficult as the lane was bordered by thick hedges. I found a few gaps and was able to scan but could only see Carrion Crows and Rooks although the ridges and undulations in the field meant that some of the corvids were hidden from view.
I found another gap further down the lane and briefly saw the lovely grey and black Hooded Crow. I pushed my way through a gap in the hedge, set up my tripod on the edge of the field and had some decent views before it gradually walked away from me disappearing into one of the hidden valleys.
I had several brief glimpses over the next 20 minutes before a group of the crows including the Hooded Crow flew over into a neighbouring grassy field. Over the next hour the Hooded Crow showed occasionally but generally was flighty and mobile.
Just before I left I met Jon Stokes who has a pretty serious county list of more than 330. He’s been birding in Hampshire for 50 years but hadn’t previously seen Hooded Crow which gives you a clue as to just how rare this species is in the county!
My year list is now up to 156.
Little Gull – Lodmoor, Dorset – 17th March 2019
With a Portland Bill workshop organised for the Sunday I headed down in the morning to try for an early spring Little Gull which had been found at Lodmoor near Weymouth. They’re en route to their breeding range in Russia and looking back through old records I could see that Lodmoor is the place I have seen Little Gull most in the UK. I had hoped that the Garganey would hang around at Longham Lakes near Ferndown but there was no sign of it on the Saturday.
I arrived at Lodmoor at 10am and headed towards the viewing area and asked a birder whether he had seen the Little Gull. He had and he checked towards the back of the reserve and managed to pick it up in flight. I got onto it and could see, even at long range, the smaller size, rounded wings with white tips and the dark underwings.
I decided to head closer and so walked up the western edge of the reserve heading north. I bumped into the Lesser Yellowlegs again with it now entering summer plumage.
A couple of Marsh Harriers drifted over and I saw my first Sand Martin of the year. As I got to the northern end of the reserve I had close flight views of the Little Gull and at close range I could see the white trailing edge to the secondaries. They prefer to hawk for insects on the wing and so it spent almost the whole time in flight although it did settle on the water for a minute or two.
Little Gull and Sand Martin take the year list to 158.