Whooper Swan – Avon Causeway, Hampshire

Whooper Swan – Avon Causeway, Hampshire – Wednesday 5th June 2019

On the 2nd June a Whooper Swan was seen downstream from the bridge on the Avon Causeway. On this stretch of the Avon the river provides the border between Hampshire and Dorset. The sighting was reported on the Whatsapp group and caused a ripple of excitement as there have been only seven previous records in the county this century.

I’d seen one already this year, at Abbotsbury in Dorset in February, and so I didn’t rush down. As it is so infrequent in Hampshire, however, I decided I’d like to see it for my county list which is still pretty low at 238 as I haven’t made any effort with it yet. Sarah and I had booked an overnight stay in a hotel in Bournemouth on the Tuesday night and with the swan still there on Wednesday morning we made a slight detour on the way home. 

We arrived and parked in the lay-by on the Hampshire side, the Whooper Swan was still present with around 20 Mute Swans feeding on the river just downstream from the Avon Causeway Bridge.

Birders seem to adopt the rule that the birder needs to be in Hampshire for it to count on your Hampshire list. The swan spent most of the time in the middle of the river and so I’m not sure which county this is but I was on the eastern side of the river and so I was in Hampshire. 

Honey Buzzard – Pig Bush, New Forest – 6th June 2019

I’d been given some location information for Honey Buzzards in the New Forest and so with the weather forecast to be clear and sunny I headed there for late morning and early afternoon with Dad. We carried our chairs to a slightly raised area and started watching from 10:30am. The weather was actually cooler, windier and far more cloudy than was forecast which wasn’t ideal yet frustratingly there was still a heat haze which made focusing the telescope properly wasn’t possible for long range views. 

Over the 4 hours we saw repeated Common Buzzards, perhaps 6 of them with most of them at long range and finally as we were thinking of leaving we had views of a possible Honey Buzzard albeit very distant. I picked it up circling high, with a proportionately long tail which it kept folded. It made tight circles soaring to a good height on flat wings never flapping. 

My doubts began to grow, however, that the tail did seem too long with the effect perhaps exaggerated by the fact that the wings appeared a little short. In the end I decided that I couldn’t exclude Goshawk. Unfortunately it drifted further away and in the end made a headlong plunge from a great height disappearing behind the distant wood.  

Honey Buzzard – New Forest Location, Hampshire – 11th June 2019

A friend let me know about a wing clapping Honey Buzzard he had photographed on his local patch in the New Forest. He had also seen a female and in fact had seen the pair on each of his last three visits. He felt sure they must be nesting nearby and he asked me to keep the location secret for the time being.

The next half decent weather window was Tuesday late morning and so I headed out there. It was cooler and cloudier than I’d hoped and I didn’t hold out too much hope that the Honey Buzzards would be up. I arrived at 11:15am and spent some time trying to work out a place to view from so that I was near to where my friend had seen the birds but also so that I could get a reasonable view in other directions as well. I picked a large clearing on the west of the inclosure.

Almost immediately a pair of Woodlarks appeared and the male sang for most of the next three hours. I also heard a snatch of Redstart song and eventually saw the male and then a female later. I also saw two Spotted Flycatchers.

After 30 minutes or so I picked up a distant Buzzard, it was heading towards me and its wings were held flat although this is normal for Common Buzzard when they’re gliding purposefully at decent speed. Unfortunately, as it drifted overhead I could see that it was a normal Buzzard. I then didn’t see any Buzzards for an hour at which time I picked up a pair circling. They were both soaring with their wings held in a fairly deep v-shape and so I quickly discounted them. The fourth Buzzard was also a circling Common Buzzard with a short well spread tail, short neck and wings held in a v-shape. I’ve read that most Honey Buzzard activity is between 10am and 1:30pm and so with the time 1:30pm I was beginning to think about packing up especially as the sky looked fairly grey.

I noticed a fifth Buzzard over to the west and as soon as I got my binoculars on it my pulse quickened and my heart began racing. I switched to my telescope and was exited to confirm the long tail, long wings and small head on a long neck. It drifted south on smoothly down-curved wings with no bend at the ‘elbow,’ flicking its tail as a rudder rather like a Red Kite. I had hoped it would wing clap in display but it drifted further south and out of view and I didn’t see it again over the next hour before I left.

Including visits to Pipers Wait, Pig Bush and now here I’d been looking for Honey Buzzards for 8 hours and it was great to finally see one although I’d love to see a male displaying.

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