Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Peaceful Gesture for Worldwide Love

It's the middle of March, that exact point of crossover from Winter to Spring. Winter, however often stubbornly refuses to relinquish it's grasp in deference to Spring's initial exuberance.
Such was the essence of our walk today. I left home, and as I reached the end of the road that faces the Solent, the weather was all about squally wind and rain. It didn't bode well......

Our decision to start our walk in the New Forest was a wise move. By the time I had reached the middle of the forest, it was dry and sheltered from the strong easterly winds. Chris had just arrived at our meeting place in Mark Ash Wood.

 Our main reason to meet here apart from shelter was to catch a glimpse of a speciality here. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
There were many sounds echoing around the canopy. Stock Doves setting up territories and sounding more like Howler Monkeys in the tree tops. Down on the forest floor there were Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and very vocal Wrens too. They gave us the slip when it came to a decent photo though.

 We ventured deeper into the forest. I love the sound, smell and colours here, such real visceral feelings through such elemental surroundings.  

 The sounds of Spring continued. Chiffchaffs sang here and there in the trees, Narsissi dotted the ground. Song Thrushes sang again too. Then we heard the drumming of a distant woodpecker. We followed the sound and found three jousting for territory. Not the Lesser Spotted we had hoped for but the more dominant Greater Spotted Woodpeckers this time. Never mind, we always find them hard to locate here. We reached the parking area and decided on our next destination.
 Fishlake Meadows is in Romsey. Once a wooded area sandwiched between a river and a canal it has been flooded and is a very important area for wildfowl and an excellent place to spot migrating Osprey amongst other things. Cattle Egrets had been seen here in the past few days but they weren't around when we were there so we headed along the canal path towards Mercer Way. An open area of woodland popular with dog walkers and Hawfinch can be seen here in the winter. They we not here today but the cherry blossom was a stunning backdrop all around and the aroma was almost as good too.
 In the trees Chris found a feisty Goldcrest that posed well for photos....

 Our next stop was Testwood Lakes and another chance of a rare Egret.
Testwood Lakes... that promising expanse of natural habitat, that regularly excites but frequently shows little. I still have a soft spot for this place and always enjoy walking here.
Little Egrets that over twenty years ago were once considered to be a rare sighting are now common. The new kid on the block along with the Cattle Egret is a Great White Egret so we were hopeful of a sighting

Hazelnut catkins were out in force as we wandered along to the hides. 
We reached the first hide overlooking Meadow Lake. Once inundated with overwintering ducks it was now fairly quiet. Tufted Ducks were closest in to the hide. Although an in joke as to always taking photos of this distinctive bird, they inevitably drew up the lens....
As I did so, I heard the stern call of Chris calling my name. I knew immediately the Great White Egret had just arrived...

It hopped around the reeds in search of a tasty morsel....

Around the scrapes Lapwing gave their incredulous display flights whilst echoing their electronic nasal calls. A childrens programme from the 70's used it on it's soundtrack and always reminds me of them. For the life of me I can't recall the programme. I'm working on it though...

I love the their aerial acrobatics on such broad wings...

Out on the lake a Great Crested Grebe hunted for fish. We were hoping to witness some of their spectacular mating dances but we only saw the odd singular bird.
A Cormorant sat drying it's wings in the classic Phoenix pose and I caught sight of incoming ducks so I swiftly drew up the lens and was rather pleased at such a quick response photo of a Mallard!
The Egret carried on fishing around the lake before us...

After a couple of hours here, Chris had to head back home, not before I could grab another shot of yet another Tufted Duck !

Above our heads the early summer migrants had started to arrive. Sand Martins are the first Hirundines to reach our shores. Occasionally you might find the odd Swallow this early and then the House Martin. Last to arrive will be the Swift. Not part of the Hirundine family but aesthetically similar.  Very much a favourite of mine and one I hope to gain a closer insight to this year.

Our last glimpse through the screens bordering Meadow Lake were the remnants of the last remaining Wigeon, soon to depart for their northern breeding grounds  

Snipe were also prevalent here and probed the mud for some tasty morsels with their unfeasibly long bill.      
I bid Chris farewell and headed South towards Lower Testwood Lakes. This is a more natural enviroment. Upper Testwood is man made gravel pits and refuse tip turned over to a nature reserve.

I parked next to the Salmon Leap pub and walked to the bridge nearby. Two female Goosander or 'Redheads' have been here for many months now. Normally they would depart and breed on some inland river system somewhere. I find it curious to know why they stay here. Maybe they are beyond breeding and too old or perhaps the other way, too young to breed? I like to think that the life is too easy and food so abundant, they decided to retire here?
I left them roosting on the bank and walked into the reserve.
It was fairly quiet. A lone male Reed Bunting sang from the reed beds
Willow catkins were bursting into life all around....
I reached the metal hide or rather the ex container now turned into a hide. The wooden one burned down long ago by some negative vibe merchant.
The view from here can throw up a few surprises. I managed a rather good shot of a reflecting Little Egret this time...
I left the hide and walked the path that leads to the main road overlooking the container port in Southampton. On the opposite side is the reserve. I noticed 3 Common Sandpiper roosting on the mud bank at high tide along with a few hundred gulls. As I stood by the bridge quite a few Pigeon flew down to drink from a large puddle. Once one came, the others followed suit until a white dove was the last to show. 

I exited the bridge and down the opposite side by the railway. My circular route was almost complete. I had reached the bridge by the Goosander once more who still lay roosting on the bank. My last shot was of the elegant Mute Swan and I retired to the Salmon Leap pub for a much deserved refreshment before heading home.
The day had started out with mixed reservations but ended with the usual fulfilment of time well spent in nature's bounty.....

The title of this post is taken from the poem 'White Birds' by Bob Barci