Honey Buzzard – Acres Down, New Forest – Friday 28th June 2019
Martin, Mark, Dad and I were due to go out birding and as there wasn’t anything obvious to go for and the weather forecast was excellent we decided we would head to Acres Down to try for Honey Buzzard. I didn’t need it for the year but it would be great to see them well and to possibly have a male give its butterfly fluttering flight display.
It was my turn to drive and we pulled into the Acres Down Car Park at around 8:20am. We took our chairs and made our way towards the viewpoint. On the way we bumped into a family of four Woodlarks, two adults and two juveniles. They fed quietly very close to us giving excellent views in the lovely soft morning light. They eventually flew off calling flute like notes to each other.
We continued to the viewpoint and sat in the shade and shelter of some gorse bushes. First up was a distant Hobby which gradually flew closer. At a distance the white cheeks and throat gleamed brightly and is it drifted closer it banked to reveal its red trousers. Siskins were calling regularly and then a pair of Hawfinches flew over.
More birders arrived and at around 10am someone called out Honey Buzzard. The directions were towards the distant Sway Tower which is almost due south. I quickly got onto it in the scope, it was pretty close and all the relevant features were easy to see. The wings were relatively longer than Buzzard with bulging secondaries so that the wings were pinched in at the body. The head was obviously small on a long neck giving a cuckoo like impression. The tail, often held closed up, was characteristically longer than Common Buzzard.
The bird was close enough to also pick up plumage details and this was clearly a male. The head looked grey and the underparts were almost totally white and unmarked with obvious carpals patches and bars at the base of the tail. The wings were always held flat or smoothly downcurved. The Honey Buzzard showed very well for several minutes before drifting behind some trees in the Milyford Bridge area to the south. This may have been my best ever views of Honey Buzzard.
On the insect front there were lots of Silver-studded Blues on the wing and an impressive Golden-ringed Dragonfly flew close by to inspect us. Bumblebees feeding from the heather include Bombus jonellus (Heath Bumblebee)
About 30 minutes later I picked out another possible Honey Buzzard, this time straight out from the viewpoint high over the Holmhill Inclosure area. It looked like the same pale phase male again and fairly soon it swooped up gently and produced its fantastic butterfly wing fluttering display. Over the next 15 minutes it displayed regularly perhaps wing fluttering on 6 or 7 occasions. What an amazing treat! It seems likely that there was a female in the trees below him.
I also watched a distant hawker-type which appeared dark all over other than a blue saddle at the base of the abdomen. It made me wonder about Vagrant or Lesser Emperor and so I chased after it but I never got close enough and it was just too far away to be certain of the identification. When I returned to the chairs Martin, Mark and Dad were packing up and we headed back to the car after a very successful raptor watch.
Roseate Tern – Titchfield Haven, Hampshire – 28th June 2019
It was about now that Mark Francis reported via WhatsApp that there were two Roseate Terns on south scrape at Titchfield Haven. We decided that we would drive back to Dad’s house and then for Martin and Mark to head back to Titchfield in Mark’s car with me and Dad following in mine.
There were no further reports over the next hour or so. We arrived and Martin and Mark signed us in as guests and we were about to enter the reserve when Martin picked out a Roseate Tern on call and we watched two distant terns fly out of the reserve and towards Hill Head. We all followed but couldn’t relocate either of them on the low tide shingle. Soon afterwards Phil Fawkes messaged that there was a Roseate Tern back on South Scrape.
After a brisk walk I arrived in the Meon Shore hide and met Clay and Phil. The adult Roseate Tern was at the back of one of the islands but currently out of view. Martin mentioned that the island had a large and long rear and could well be hiding lots of terns and after 20 minutes of no sightings I began to wonder if it might be worth heading to Pumfrett Hide. It certainly looked like they would be able to get a much better view although no one had reported it from there via WhatsApp.
Martin and Mark decided to head off home. Phil came into the hide to ask me about our Honey Buzzard sightings and he also confirmed that the tern was showing well from Pumfrett Hide. Dad and I decided to head over there and we were rewarded with good views as it rested on the sandy bar. It took off on a couple of occasions but always returned quickly. In flight it was strikingly white above and below with a narrow dark wedge on the outer primraries and long tail streamers. On the ground the mantle was noticeably whiter than the surrounding Common Terns, the bill was entirely black, the legs were a brighter orange red and there was no hint of grey at all to the underparts. In some lights the chest appeared to have a faint rosy flush.
28th June is early for returning Roseate Terns and this was perhaps a failed breeder from Coquet Island in Northumberland. I noticed that the bird was ringed and this also suggests its Coquet Island origin given that they have been ringing Roseate’s there since 1991.
A really great day with my best ever views of Honey Buzzard and Roseate Tern new for the year means that I will finish June on 227. In 1996 I was on 224 at this stage and so 1996 has caught up 11 during June. Keeping ahead of that record year (when I finished on 289) is becoming more of a struggle and I am likely to start falling behind that level in August although my target of 250 looks fairly comfortable now. My Hampshire Year List stands at 192 and so it would be good to break 200.
Wood Sandpiper – Fishtail Lagoon, Hampshire – 12th July 2019
Heading towards mid-July and waders are starting to return in earnest and there were two gettable ones which I still needed for the year, Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint.
As I was heading to an appointment at Lepe news came through of a Wood Sandpiper on the western edge of Fishtail Lagoon on Pennington Marshes. After I’d finished the tuition I headed towards Lymington to look for the sandpiper, I had an hour before my next appointment.
There were good numbers of returning Black-tailed Godwits (100+) but unfortunately there was no sign of the Wood Sandpiper. Obviously disappointing although there should be a few more opportunities to catch up with this attractive wader over the next couple of months.