Sunday, April 17, 2005

The big weekend - part 1. 151 species in total

I was pretty much ready to go for the ‘big weekend’, when breaking news of the reappearance of the “Longparish Chiffchaff” made me change my plans. I had missed this bird the previous week as I was up in London, but it had now been relocated, and informed opinion seemed to be inclining towards Iberian Chiffchaff – I couldn’t not go for it! So it was off on a 40km warm-up ride to the north of Winchester. I heard the bird immediately on arrival – and it didn’t sound quite right. It was pretty convincing for a while, but then slipped into pure ‘chiff-chaff’ song – at best a dreaded ‘mixed singer’, or maybe a hybrid? Certainly an interesting bird, but my legs could have done without the mileage! Never mind….

So after that false start, I set off just after 1100, and surprised myself by reaching Pennington in only just over two hours. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing a long walk around Pennington, Oxey and Normandy marshes, with good results. After seeing a couple of Med Gulls, and a pair of very smart White Wagtails on the beach, I scored my first new species with a flock of 10 Whimbrel, the first of about 25 seen over the weekend. In quick succession, I had several Little Terns (at least 10 were around the area), plus the hoped for 4 Spotted Redshanks and at least 7 Greenshanks, in addition to a few commoner waders, including the superb Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, now in almost full breeding plumage. A moderate Swallow passage was also going on, with about 200 an hour mid-afternoon.

I returned to my bike, and pushed it along the back lane to Keyhaven – sadly no sign of the drake Garganey which had been present until at least Thursday. But up at Hurst Beach, I scored quite quickly with a distant Fulmar and a couple of House Martins in off the sea. The light wasn’t great for other seabirds, so I kept my powder dry, and headed for Milford-on-Sea. From the clifftop, I had another, much closer Fulmar, and better still, a pretty early Swift flew low over the houses as dusk closed in. I treated myself to a slap-up Italian meal, and then pedalled up to Sway, to check in with Steve Keen, who had very kindly offered me a bed for the night. Once introduced to the family (including Barney the puppy), we went out for a beer or two at the local hostelry, but I crashed out soon after 2200, with seven new birds in the bank!