Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Blashford Lakes, Hants & Middlebere & RSPB Arne, Dorset. 17/08/08.


With Autumn migration underway Roy Rose and I decided on a trip down to Dorset, the returning Great White Egret at Blashford Lakes, Hampshire, a Lesser Grey Shrike at Middlebere and Spoonbill at the nearby RSPB Arne reserve in Dorset were all planned stops for the trip.

We arrived at the Blashford Lakes complex in Hampshire and searched for Ivy Lake, finding the car park at Ibsley Water by luck we parked the car and headed to Tern Hide. Entering the hide we met an extremely nice birder who immediately pointed out the Great White Egret which was feeding on the far side of Ibsley Water, we managed to watch the bird for 5 minutes before it took to the air and flew off over the hedge and trees towards the River Avon. Okay it was brief view but I was pleased to catch up with it and it also meant that I have managed to see all of the European Egrets this year in the UK, Little, Cattle and now Great White Egret. We sat viewing the lake and found 4 Black-necked Grebes on the far side of the lake, one still retaining some of it's summer plumage and the other 3 coming into winter plumage. They sat together preening and sleeping and gave relatively good views despite the distance.

From Blashford we headed off towards Middlebere in search of the Lesser Grey Shrike at Hartland Moor and after finding the correct lane we looked for the area the bird had been seen in. We drove up and down the lane looking for the spot and getting our bearings, on the third transit of the road we located the spot and looked for somewhere to turn round, BIG MISTAKE as there had been an accident on the A341 and the police were diverting everybody along this now impassable single track road. Cars, Caravans, Trucks, Motorbikes were now jammed as far as the eye could see and with very few passing places we knew we were in for a long wait. We finally got back to the Shrike location and managed to park sensibly off the road, a number of birders were leaving the site and relayed the news that there was no sight or sound. We headed off along the bridleway in search of the "yellow digger" that the bird had been seen near. We soon found the yellow digger and a male Stonechat perched on a nearby fence wire but there was no sign of the Shrike, the wind was now whistling across the fields and the sun that had greeted us as we entered Dorset was now a blanket of cold grey skies, surely rain would soon follow. We searched the bushes, trees and anything that moved but there was no sign of the Lesser Grey Shrike, Another birder appeared and had been searching for the Shrike but had no luck either. We decided to carry on along the bridleway to see if we could locate the Shrike and then head back to the car. We had already lost a good deal of time due to the traffic congestion and now our poor sense of direction saw us wandering across the heath in the wrong direction, we managed to find the road again and made our way along it back to the car, time was ticking away and we still had to get to Arne in search of Spoonbill. Sadly we never did see the Shrike.

We had already found RSPB Arne whilst looking for Hartland Moor and the Lesser Grey Shrike so there was little chance of us getting lost. We arrived at RSPB Arne where we parked up in the car park and quickly headed out on the long trail taking the path towards Shipstal Point, from here we viewed Wych Channel spotting Good numbers of adult and juvenile Shelduck, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher all present along the edges of the mudflats. A male Marsh Harrier quartered across the far side of the Wych Channel with 2 Common Buzzards nearby and a Hobby drifted overhead heading towards the reserve. Along the paths Meadow Pipits called from the gorse bushes and surrounding heathland and both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker were seen and heard. Looking out across the saltmarsh near Arne Bay large numbers of waders were feeding, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Oystercatcher all present but no Spoonbill. We continued along the trail passed Arne Farm and back towards the car park.

When we got back to the car park we were given directions to the Coombe Heath Hide and we soon headed off in search of Spoonbill. Again our direction finders picked up interference from the sea air and we headed off in the wrong direction, despite the fact I had a map I led Roy down a path heading in the wrong direction and ending up in the middle of restricted heathland. We gathered our bearings and walked back to the start of the Coombe Heath Trail and found the correct path. By this time we were both feeling exhausted and had probably covered the entire reserve on foot and the urge to see the Spoonbills managed to drive us on to the Coombe Heath Hide. As we walked towards the hide Roy picked up on a small wader in the Wych/Middlebere Channel which we believed to be a Curlew Sandpiper, it was feeding on the mudflats as the tide crept out but was distant and we hoped for a better view from the hide. We made it to the hide and once inside it took seconds to pick up on 4 large white birds slowly making their way along the channel, at last we had found the Spoonbills. They continued to feed in front of the hide often disappearing from view as they sifted through the outgoing tide for food, later they joined another individual to bring the total to 5.

We found the small wader again and zoomed in on it's position, although at distance it was still possible to see that it had a dark curved bill, dark legs, grey upperparts and a dark eyestripe with a white supercillium, it took to the air and flew off down the channel in a westerly direction showing a clear white rump with a solid black terminal band across the end of the tail feathers identifying this species as Curlew Sandpiper. We finished the day off with a single Marsh Tit in the bushes next to the reserve car park and then headed for home.

Added To My Year List.

199. Great White Egret
200. Curlew Sandpiper
201. Spoonbill

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