Stone Curlew – Porton Down, Hampshire

I headed to Martin Down hoping to catch up with Turtle Down. I was on location by 7am and as I approached the favoured trees I heard the familiar purring song of the male. I then had a frustrating hour trying to track down the source of the song. Turtle Doves are often shy and secretive but occasionally sing from a high exposed perch although this bird refused to. I always had the impression that he was singing from the other side of the tree that I was watching.

On a couple of occasions he flew up high and parachuted back down to land in trees, although, once again obscured from view. I did mange one brief view through the telescope but he flew just as my pencil touched the sketchbook paper. After an hour, at 8am, the singing stopped and after a further 30 minutes I assumed that he had flown to another part of the reserve. I checked the two other areas where I have seen Turtle Dove in the past but with no luck.

Stone Curlew – Porton Down, Hampshire – 16th May 2020

From Martin Down I made the 18 mile detour to a known location for Stone Curlew on Porton Down. They are obviously a very sensitive rare breeding bird and precise location details aren’t published online and so I won’t give the precise location here. Stone Curlews arrive from their wintering grounds in Spain in mid-March.

I arrived to see that the Stone Curlews were up and about on the edge of the bare area. Someone in a bright red jacket was walking along the track on the edge of the field and when a Lapwing took flight the female flew 100 yards into the adjoining grass field. The male stood alert and walked into the short grass at the edge of the bare ground.

It was after 10am now and the heat haze was making it very difficult to see the birds well. Corn Buntings sang from the hedgerows and over the next few hours there were bouts of modest activity from the Stone Curlews and when the clouds covered the sun the light was less harsh and sketching was more productive. At one stage the birds started calling to each other and then the male on the edge of the bare area crept away low to the ground before flying into the grassy field area to join the female. They then sat down next to each other with just heads showing. I think next time I may head over here in the evening for better light, less heat haze and more activity. Having said that they did show well enough for some sketches. The Hampshire population is stable at around 20-30 pairs with most of the population breeding on specially prepared plots, like at this location, which provide safe areas away from farm machinery.

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