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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.269

Published on: 17 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 16 Dec, 2022

By Malcolm Fincham

By the meteorological calendar the first day of winter is always December 1. Coincidently and simultaneously temperatures were continuing to slide bringing our first notable frosts.

Fears of much colder weather plunging into the UK had begun to come to fruition as a light, east to north-east breeze drifted across the North Sea.

Great white egret, Tice’s Meadow.

Further visits to Tice’s Meadow near Farnham allowed me a few more sightings of the great white egret that had been regularly visiting the reserve in recent weeks.

Grey heron with a fish at Tice’s Meadow.

Also while idly observing, for the most part from panoramic vista of the waterside hide, numerous grey herons could be viewed often posing like statues around the water’s edge, only to suddenly spring to life and more often than not snatch a fish from the water.

Little egret at Tice’s Meadow.

A little more active were the three little egrets also present, often seen squabbling with each other as well as the grey herons.

Great white egret being chased by a heron, Tice’s Meadow.

In spite of its larger size, even the ‘great egret’ wasn’t immune to the occasional attack from a grey heron.

Personal sympathies, however, had to be with the various fish out in the water with little defence from their continuous sacrifice to the many herons and cormorants present.

Shoveler, Tice’s Meadow.

Out on the water and dabbling in the shallows were at least six, mostly male, shoveler ducks.

Gadwall, Tice’s Meadow.

While a good number of gadwalls, mostly still in pairs, could be seen within close view from the hide.

Green sandpiper, Tice’s Meadow.

On both recent visits I had the fortune of seeing a green sandpiper flying close by in front of the hide and settling briefly in the shallow weedy stretch of water, just to the right of the hide.

To my surprise on my second visit was the appearance of one of the recently reported Dartford warblers there.

Dartford warbler by the waterside hide, Tice’s Meadow.

And to my amazement it perched up, close by, just long enough to photograph it in a leafless shrub, also on the west side of the hide.

Fieldfares, Tice’s Meadow.

On my decision to call it a day, I noticed half a dozen or so fieldfares perched up in the tree-line along the edge of the reserve.

Juvenile great crested grebe, Britten’s Pond.

On a smaller stretch of water nearer to home, at Britten’s Pond, Whitmoor Common, in Worplesdon, on December 7, one of the two juvenile great crested grebes from my previous report were still present.

Little grebe, Britten’s Pond.

While I also recorded my first winter sighting of a little grebe there.

Just a few days later, on December 11 however, both the great crested and little grebe had both moved on. The pond was by then almost totally frozen over.

Blackbird, Britten’s Pond.

A blackbird perched on a branch of a frost-covered hawthorn.

To my amazement, and for the first time I can recall, I found I was the only person there.

I took a circular stroll around the pond with just myself for company and surrounded by chilled air, shrouded by a grey misty stillness.

Grey day at Britten’s Pond.

Taking in the ambiance and tranquilly, I took a few scenic shots hoping to capture its atmosphere and showing the absence of colour.

Lesser black-backed gull, Britten’s Pond.

The only things moving were a few of the 40 or so black-headed gulls across the icy water. While a lone lesser black-backed gull could be viewed on the ice.

Mute swans on Britten’s Pond.

The four resident mute swans gracefully grazed by one of the islands that remained still partially ice free.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

Surprisingly, the kingfisher was still present and stubbornly holding its territory despite just a few places left to fish.

Robin, Britten’s Pond.

Arriving back at the car park one of the numerous robins I had seen on my walk perched up on a frost-covered twig.

Nuthatch, Britten’s Pond.

Like me, he looked down, intrigued by a nuthatch feeding on the ground within its territory by one of the fishing swims.

Elsewhere on my travels during the first week of the month I made few more visits to Farlington Marshes, near Portsmouth, this in the hope of getting a few more species to add to this year’s photo collection.

Brent geese, Farlington Marshes.

Among the delights, and most notable now, were the large groups of brent geese. Massing in flocks of well in excess of 500 wintering in and around the reserve.

Avocets at Farlington Marshes.

A staggered group of 20 or so avocets could be viewed on the main inland lake from the viewing point.

Dunlins at Farlington Marshes.

Looking out from the seawall across Langstone Harbour, small groups of dunlin probed the shallow waters of what was a rapidly rising tide.

Curlew probing for food.

Curlews, with their longer bills, probed deeper into the brine, seeking food.

Black-tailed godwits, Farlington Marshes.

And a small group of black-tailed godwits flew in and settled.

Oystercatcher, Farlington Marshes.

Various other common waders included oystercatchers.

Turnstone, Farlington Marshes.

And a few turnstones.

Pintail at high tide in Langstone Harbour.

Out in the deeper water pintail ducks could be seen.

While both out in the harbour and on the inland reserve other species of duck, including

Teal at Farlington Marshes.

Teal.

Shoveler duck at Farlington Marshes.

Shoveler.

Wigeon walking on thin ice at Farlington Marshes.

And wigeon, resided.

Cetti’s warbler at Farlington Marshes.

Several Cetti’s warblers could be heard calling from various bushes and brambles, though only one briefly showed for a photo.

Little egret at Farlington Marshes.

Looking inland across the salt-marsh several little egrets were observed.

Meadow pipit.

A few meadow pipits.

Stonechat at Farlington Marshes.

And stonechats could also be viewed.

Short-eared owl at Farlington Marshes.

The highlights of the day were two species of bird that I hadn’t seen since early in the year. Two short-eared owls could be seen hunting in the ‘point field’

Russian white-fronted goose.

While further along the circular walk, a family of five Russian white fronted geese could be seen grazing on the salt-marsh.

Grey phalarope at Farlington Marshes.

Residing at the back of ‘the deeps’, and reported for several days after my visit, was a grey phalarope. A bird I hadn’t seen since September 27, 2020, coincidently at more or less the same location. https://guildford-dragon.com/birdwatchers-diary-no-217/

Main lake, Farlington Marshes.

A second opportunity for a visit to Farlington Marshes came on December 10, this time with the addition of friends Bob and Dougal.

By then temperatures had continued to cool somewhat since my previous visit and most of the inland freshwater pools had almost completely frozen over.

Although the previously seen grey phalarope had moved on, I was still able to add a few new sightings and photos.

Reed bunting, Farlington Marshes.

Although, as on previous recent visits, no bearded reedlings could be seen or heard in the phragmites reed beds. But several reed buntings could be viewed feeding on the seed heads.

Common snipe, Farlington Marshes.

While below them a few sleepy looking common snipe tucked themselves away at the base of the reed stems.

Dartford warbler, Farlington Marshes.

The Dartford warbler reported, but not seen by me on my previous visit, on this occasion made an appearance for a photo opportunity. Wisely it had set up residence in the slightly warmer coastal region away from its natural habitat.

Black brant, Farlington Marshes.

We also had the fortune to pick out the recently reported black brant among the hundreds of brent geese that resided there after their winter pilgrimage from their summer breeding grounds of Siberia.

Unlike brent geese, black brant breed in Alaska and usually winter in Baja, California. This form has a very contrastingly black and white plumage, with a black head, neck, and breast, uniformly dark sooty-brown back, pale flanks it also has larger white neck patches, forming a near-complete collar.

Barnacle goose, with feral white goose, at Farlington Marshes.

Looking inland across the salt marsh the resident barnacle goose could still be viewed alongside its long term white feral goose companion.

Marsh harrier, (right), Farlington Marshes.

Several species of birds of prey were also present and active, including a marsh harrier hunting across the reed beds.

Peregrin falcon.

A peregrine flying overhead and out to sea.

Kestrel, Farlington Marshes.

And several kestrels around the reserve. One of which I managed to capture in flight just beyond the seawall.

Rock pipit, Farlington Marshes.

Along the concrete wall I also added a rock pipit to the day list.

Red-breasted megansers (females), previously taken at Farlington.

Looking out way across the harbour from the eastern wall in the direction of Hayling Island, too distant to photo but with the assistance of Dougal’s ‘scope’ we were also able to pick out 20 common scoter, four black-necked grebes and several red-breasted mergansers.

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test One Response to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.269

  1. John Perkins Reply

    December 17, 2022 at 10:16 am

    There was a greater spotted woodpecker on our bird feeder for quite some time this morning. I had thought they only ate insects.

    It flew off the moment I got the camera out!

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