Saturday 23rd January 2021

A Tawny Owl was calling as I pulled over next to SL’s Barn. With the thermal camera I managed to track it down in the large trees north of G Lane. It’s difficult to identify species from their thermal signature especially at this range but I could see the owl throwing it’s head forward and its tail down as it was hooting.

At the Reedy Ditch and still before sunrise a male Goshawk powered over the reed bed and on towards B Water House, soon afterwards a distant ‘keea-keea-keea’ was probably the female calling.  A large headed and short-tailed finch flying towards JV revealed a broad white wing bar to confirm it as a Hawfinch, perhaps there is a roost nearby. Just before I moved on the four Russian White-fronted Geese flew over the car heading towards P Shore. 

Firecrest and distant Tawny Owl (thermal camera)

I headed to the hides first. A crest was calling in the hedge next to the cattle field gate and eventually showed the stripy head and bronze shoulders of a Firecrest. The call was harsher and slightly lower pitched than the Goldcrest.

Firecrest calling

Gadwall photos by Ian Williamson

In the distance a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker somewhere near SL’s was the first I’ve heard this year. A Greenshank called in alarm as I pulled over at the sailing club. I wound the window for a photo and thankfully it didn’t flush.

Greenshank

A female Red-breasted Merganser was feeding as distantly as I could see in the mouth of the river and a new record count for me of 15 Spoonbills resting on the river estuary. When they flew I could see that there was only one 1st winter bird (black primary tips).

Spoonbill

By using the thermal camera I was rewarded with some very close views of an otherwise unnoticed Rock Pipit which would have flushed in another two steps. 

Rock Pipit

At MM’s I watched four distant Slavonian Grebes, the joint biggest count in Hampshire this winter while a Raven tussled with four Buzzards overhead.

Buzzard and Raven

I headed to the top of P Lane to check the geese flock. Unfortunately the brents were over the hedge in the furthest field and so they were distant and not all in view. After a fair amount of effort I managed to locate two Pale-bellied Brent Geese. The Russian White-fronted Geese were also in the flock and for the second time I heard Crossbills in the pines near the house. I couldn’t see them but they flew over ‘jupping’ with a bleating Siskin for company just about close enough for me to capture them on the sound recorder.  

Crossbill and Siskin calling

To finish, I hoped to see a Barn Owl leaving SL’s Barn at dusk and so I set up next to the bench. No luck again but I was rewarded at sunset with a dashing Merlin suddenly appearing low over the barn before charging down G Lane towards Inchmery. The first one I’ve seen since early November.

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