Hoopoe – Badminston Horse Paddocks, Hampshire.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – Acres Down, New Forest – 1st February 2020

My plan for today was to visit Acres Down and Martin Down. I was hoping for Lesser Redpoll, Crossbill and possibly Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Acres Down and Grey Partridge, Red-legged Partridge, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting at Martin Down. I put my step ladders in the car just in case the Ferruginous Duck was seen again at Kingfisher Lake which is more or less halfway between Acres Down and Martin Down.

I decided to head to Acres Down for sunrise, rather than Martin Down, as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker would be easier in the morning assuming one was drumming.

Unfortunately there was no sign of any Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and I walked the full length of my normal route without hearing any Lesser Redpoll or Crossbill. I did see a pair of Hawfinches near the car park and had great views of a Treecreeper which was new for the year. It was also brilliant watching a pair of Goldcrests simultaneously displaying to each other, the male flashing his red crown and the female her yellow crown.

I had walked half way back to the car before changing my mind and doubling back to the clearing at the furthest point as this was surrounded by pines and silver birches and offered the best chance for Lesser Redpoll or Crossbill. Eventually I heard Lesser Redpolls but I couldn’t see them. A little later I heard them again and this time picked up a pair flying past at tree top height.

It was around now that the Hampshire WhatsApp group reported that the Ferruginous Duck had been seen again at Kingfisher Lake near Blashford. It hadn’t been reported for a week and although I had put the step ladders in the car I had decided not to detour on my way to Martin Down unless it was reported again. I didn’t hurry away immediately but as soon as I heard the distinctive calls of Crossbills and then saw them land in the tree tops I decided that I would head off in search of the Ferruginous Duck.

Only ten minutes up the road and very surprising news came through that a Hoopoe had been found near Fawley, probably the same bird that was seen at Needs Ore and then Hounsdown earlier in the winter. I was fifteen minutes from Blashford and so decided to carry on for the Ferruginous Duck first and if the Hoopoe was reported again I would head to Fawley and if not then I would head to Martin Down as originally planned

Ferruginous Duck – Kingfisher Lake, Blashford – 1st February 2020

I first tried for the Ferruginous Duck on the 13th January this year. This is a bird that has wintered here since 2011 but the difficulty is that it spends most of its time on Kingfisher Lake which is private and the only view is from the footpath along the western edge but it is blocked by several hundred yards of ten foot high green tarpaulin, you need step ladders. I arrived at Kingfisher Lake and placed my ladders against the fence in the position I already knew would offer the best view of the lake and give a good view of the area around the main island which is an area that the duck has often favoured.

There were plenty of duck on the water but I couldn’t see the Ferruginous Duck on my first few scans. Having spent three hours searching unsuccessfully over the last ten days I was naturally hoping to see it quickly as I was worried that it would disappear into the undergrowth around the main island and not be seen again. I decided to message Drew Lyness who had reported it earlier to find out what part of the lake he had seen it on as that would help me work out where to place my step ladders.

He replied to say that it wasn’t around the island but directly opposite, on the east bank, where the lawns come down to meet the lake and he said that it had been hugging the far bank. I then concentrated my attention on that area and after another ten minutes or so I saw a dark duck loitering behind some overhanging tree branches on the far bank. It swam out a little and I could see the lovely purple chestnut tones and the very obvious white rear flank patch, success!

It dived occasionally but in the main swam very close to the reeds often disappearing into them. It would be easy to miss this bird and it does seem to avoid open water. I waited for another ten minutes in case it swam closer and then I heard a car alarm which sounded a bit like mine (although it wasn’t) and so I headed back to the car with step ladders under my arm.

The Hoopoe hadn’t been seen again and so I headed north towards Martin Down. Shortly before I got to Fordingbridge, however, it was reported. I pulled into a garage, grabbed a sandwich and then headed south east towards Fawley.

Hoopoe – Badminston Horse Paddocks, Hampshire – 1st February 2020

The Hoopoe had been seen near Badminston Gravel Pits which is just outside Fawley. It was feeding in paddocks with horses opposite the garage. On the journey the bird was reported again and forty minutes later I was watching it towards the back of the horse paddocks. 

This Hoopoe is almost certainly the bird that was first seen at Needs Ore on 22nd November and then on various other dates through to 27th December. Needs Ore is private land owned by the Beaulieu Estate, passes can be purchased on the condition that any bird news is not circulated via social media and so as a result it is under-watched and birds are not usually seen by many birders. After Needs Ore the Hoopoe was then seen again near Hounsdown on 1st January before flying 10 miles to Fawley in the intervening month.

I watched the Hoopoe for 45 minutes during which time it fed almost continuously other than a brief two minute rest when it sat quite low in the grass. On one occasion it fanned its tail, wing and crest and on another occasion it flew across the paddocks resmbling a giant butterfly. Its pinkish brown body was a little washed out but the long black and white wings and long crest make them particularly striking birds. The M27 is closed today and several birders from the east were cursing online.

This is my 10th Hoopoe in the UK and my second in Hampshire after one at Martin Down in 1997. Hoopoe has been seen annually in Hampshire since 1993 with typically three or four records each year but only five previous winter records. The last winter record being one at Kingsley Common in 2007/2008 and before that individuals in Gosport in 2006, Titchfield Haven in 1996, Romsey in 1993 and Swanmore in 1940. Record details provided by Keith Betton, County Recorder.

Woodlark – Halfmoon Common, New Forest – 1st February 2020

On the way home I popped into Halfmoon Common briefly to see if there were any Woodlarks. The whole area was very wet and I wasn’t surprised that I drew a blank. There were plenty of winter thrushes including 50 Fieldfare and similar numbers of Redwing and a lovely Green Woodpecker was new for the year.

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