Spoonbill – Pennington Marshes, Hampshire

Martin, Dad & I headed to Lymington to get our year lists started. We tried Normandy Marshes first and arrived just after sunrise. The main highlights here were Spoonbill, Peregrine, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Grey Plover, Avocet and huge flocks of Dunlin, 500 or more, roosting on the lagoon at high tide.

We then headed to Pennington Marshes where we had an impressive flock of Golden Plover, perhaps 400 or more, coming in to land in the fields to the east of the car park at the end of Lower Pennington Lane. A group of four Ruff including two white-headed males, joined them soon afterwards. While we were looking for Slavonian Grebes and a Long-tailed Duck news came through that the Semipalmated Sandpiper had been found again on Keyhaven Lagoon!

We headed straight over there and met up with the finder Steve Keen. He had seen the sandpiper feeding out in the open at the rear of the lagoon but it had then disappeared into the long grass. We watched for 45 minutes or so but there was no sign. Although we had seen several Spoonbills in flight during the day there was a roosting bird here which I sketched while we were hoping for the sandpiper to show again.

We eventually gave up on the sandpiper but frustratingly it was reported again as we were in the car half way back home.

Caspian Gull – Harbridge, Hampshire – 11th January 2020

Neil and I met up for a day out birding. We headed to Pennington Marshes first but the weather was worse than forecast with gusty winds and rain. The Semipalmated Sandpiper was seen again on Keyhaven Lagoon just before we arrived and we were excited to see 20 or more birders strung out along the sea wall overlooking the lagoon. Unfortunately they starting moving away as we approached, I spoke to them and it seemed that they didn’t know much about the sandpiper and hadn’t actually been looking for it. They were an organised group out together and unfortunately this morning’s finder had left before we arrived. We weren’t able to re-locate it in difficult conditions.

We didn’t see nearly as many birds as Dad, Martin and I had seen the day before, primarily due to the weather, and so we decided to head inland for the safety of the hides at Blashford. On the way we dropped into to see the Bewick’s Swan on Ibsley Meadows which showed nicely near Harbridge House and a Grey Wagtail also showed well here.

We then headed to the Tern Hide at Blashford and I was able to pick out an adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst the roosting Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Key features were the slightly paler mantle colour (but darker than Herring), the strikingly clean white head and the extensive orange spot on the bill.

The Long-tailed Duck and Black-necked Grebes were also still present. We had heard about a Great White Egret on flooded fields several hundred yards north of Harbridge and so we headed there to finish the day. There was no sign of the egret but we did see a very large roost of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, perhaps 500 or more. Alan Lewis was already on site and he picked out a 1st year Caspian Gull amongst them.

Ferruginous Duck – Ibsley Water, Hampshire – 13th January 2020

The regular Ferruginous Duck had been reported in the south west corner of Ibsley Water on the Sunday evening. It normally spends most of its time on Kingfisher Lake which is private and the view from the western side is blocked by several hundred yards of green tarpaulin. The only way to see the Ferruginous Duck is to take some step ladders with you and I’ve never tried this. When the Ferruginous Duck was seen on Iblsey Water again on the Monday morning I rang Dad and we headed down there.

Unfortunately there was no sign when we arrived. It was not with the Pochard in the south west corner and there didn’t seem to be many Tufted Ducks on the lake. It is certainly a long way to the far side of Ibsley Water and there are many hundreds of ducks to go through but you would expect it to be associating with other diving duck like Tufted Duck or Pochard and you wouldn’t expect it to be in open water. No one else in the hide seemed to know anything about it.

The view from the hide into the south west corner of the lake isn’t great as there are floor to roof windows which are very dark and reflections make viewing very difficult. The windows are also on an angle so that in places you are looking through a fair thickness of glass and it is not possible to focus your optics properly.

I decided to head outside to the viewing platform which has a much better view of the south west corner and  it is also raised so it can be easier to see distant duck especially if the water is slightly choppy as it was today. The downside is that you are exposed to the weather and it was gusty and showery. There were five of us viewing from here but there was no sign despite a thorough search.

Eventually I headed back to the hide and there had been no sign in there either. Dad fancied seeing the Bewick’s Swan on Ibsley Meadows and so we headed off there. We drove the length of the minor road and saw the Bewick’s Swan on our way back. We then headed home but 10 minutes after we had passed the Blashford Lakes turn the Ferruginous Duck was reported again ‘distant from the Tern hide’!!! Dad had to take Mum into Romsey later and so we didn’t have time to turn around.

As soon as I got home I jumped into Sarah’s car (mine was being serviced) and headed back down to Blashford. I e-mailed the person who had relocated it for more information on where exactly on the lake it was and what it was associating with but he never responded. I arrived in the hide and again everyone gave me a bemused look when I asked if anyone had seen the Ferruginous Duck. After scanning for 30 minutes I again got frustrated with viewing conditions and headed outside again to the viewing platform and with another three birders we spent another 30 minutes searching.

I chatted to one person who mentioned about Kingfisher Lake and that he always kept step ladders in his car and he said he was going to check there as Ferruginous Ducks prefer quiet tranquil lakes with good vegetation as opposed to a large lake especially with it being pretty windy. I asked if I could follow him. Over the next 30 minutes he positioned his ladders at various points against the green tarpaulin but again there was no sign of the duck.

I decided that the last option was to head back to Ibsley Water and hope that the Ferruginous Duck might roost in the tranquil and sheltered south west corner again. I parked and walked up to the viewing platform, I was the only birder. I spent another 30 minutes scanning most parts of the lake but again there was no sign. A very frustrating afternoon.   

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