We decided to go to Blashford Lakes for on 31st January as there's plenty of common birds but also some rarer species at the moment. Our first stop was the Tern Hide, looking out onto Ibsley Water and it wasn't long before the first rarer species was spotted - a Long-tailed Duck. Rather unusual to see inland, or indeed on the south coast at all. It remained rather distant, and regularly dived so trying to get a decent photo was challenging.
Also rather distant were the geese - mostly Greylag and a single Egyptian Goose. I've always thought that Egyptian Geese look slightly odd. Then there were the ducks, and lots of them. Pochard, Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Goosander, Goldeneye, Pintail... I was quite amazed at the sheer number of all of them, especially the Goosander.
Ibsley Water also had a large number of Cormorants, and Great Crested Grebes. Some of the others managed to spot the 2 Black-necked Grebes, but I failed! We then decided to go for a wander and see what else was about. For over a year now, a Ferruginous Duck has been lurking in Kingfisher Lake, so we decided to give it a go. This lake was at the other end of the reserve so it look us a while to find it.
On the way we checked other lakes. First Rockford Lake, which had numerous ducks just like Ibsley, but also some Mute Swans and 2 Green Sandpipers. One of the sandpipers was nice and close on the mud by the path - lovely. Next Ivy Lake, where I saw Bitterns last year. None today, but we did get lovely views of a Kingfisher, Teal and another 3 Green Sands.
After taking a few wrong turnings, we made it to Kingfisher Lake. We'd heard that viewing the lake was difficult, but didn't quite realise just how difficult it would be.
|There's a lake between this fence and vegetation...honest.|
Despite the long search, trying various gaps in the vegetation and other alternatives, we couldn't spot the Ferruginous Duck. We did see plenty of other wildfowl, including numerous Pochards, Tufted Ducks and Wigeon and a Yellow-legged Gull. It's a shame the lake isn't very easy to view. A Kingfisher also flew right past Oliver Simms while we searched hard for the duck.
Lunch was eaten in the Woodland Hide while watching the birds at the feeders. Nuthatch, Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll all taking their turn. There was also a Great Spotted Woodpecker that landed "in a tree" (one of many trees) as helpfully described, and also Dunnocks, Long-tailed Tits and Backbird. In hindsight, I should've tried photographing more of the birds as they were close up, but I was too busy watching them and eating! But here's some Lesser Redpolls and Siskin...
We then thought, for a change of scene, that it would be good to try to see the local Great Grey Shrike. The shrike must've known we were coming as despite a good search we couldn't locate it. We did however spot a Buzzard, a Peregrine and a Merlin, so not a completely pointless trip! The Merlin looked tiny compared to the Buzzard as it whizzed past!
Finally, we returned to Ibsley Water for the gull roost. This time, however, we tried the Goosander Hide. The hide was living up to its name as some of the Goosanders were rather close. The wind had picked up though, making it even harder to view the birds and much colder...still, we persevered. For the last few weeks there had been reports of at least one Ring-billed Gull coming to roost. Some days there had been two - an adult and an immature bird. The Ring-billed Gull was reported yesterday, but we didn't see it although we looked very hard. We did manage to pick out a few Mediterranean Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and Common Gulls in amongst the Herring, Black-headed and Lesser-black Backs.
The Great White Egret was also reported today, but again we did not spot it though must've walked right past it at least once (based on these reports)! Despite the rarer species not cooperating, it was great to spend the day with other birders. Can't wait for another local meet up.
-Amy RobjohnsAmy is a 20 year old Environmental Science student at the University of Southampton who's lived in South Hampshire all her life. She's been birding for about 7 years but has only really started getting into it properly last year when she had more free time. She recently started patch birding and is also a trainee ringer. She would really like to go birding in Scotland, the Farne Islands and Jersey!