Monday, April 04, 2005

The magnificent seven – both blockers and shoo-ins on a wet spring morning. 141 species in total

The forecast was grim, and at 0530 I had to make a choice – go for it, or roll over and postpone until another day. I made the right choice, and left the house by 0600.

A Tawny Owl on a hedge near Hursley was a promising start, but as expected it started raining, just after Romsey. And it got wetter and wetter as I headed into the Forest. A solitary and very bedraggled Swallow provided further encouragement, however, and I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling at Half Moon Common, along with the first of many singing Willow Warblers today. I had about 8 Buzzards on the deck alongside the road in the early morning – after earthworms?

Ocknell Plain was plain medieval in the (now driving) rain and cold headwind, although somehow I fluked a Dartford Warbler en route, a Woodlark gave a brief “lululu” of song, and there were lots of Stonechats and Meadow Pipits to see. My first site stop was Milkham Enclosure. In rain and low cloud, I walked into the pine woods, and scored quickly with two Tree Pipits, one in song, in the main clearing. There were also lots of calling and singing Siskins, a species I had recorded only once before this year. It took a good half an hour of walking about to find the other target species, but as so often happens, once I’d had one contact, I had lots more, including two right over the entrance gate - Crossbill!

With spirits definitely up, I headed south, under the A35, and on to the Bolderwood/Blackwater area. The weather improved markedly at this point, and that was the end of the much-vaunted rain. In this area, one of my favourite bits of the Forest, I scored really heavily – all three ‘peckers, including three more Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (two drumming), Redstart in song, 50+ Bramblings, many in song (thanks to Mark Litjens for the gen on this one), 2 flyover Hawfinches, another daytime Tawny Owl, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper – all that was missing was Wood Warbler, and not for want of listening! A bit early yet....

Quite satisfied, I headed for home, unbelievably finding yet another drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, this time at Bramshaw Wood (5 contacts today!), along with lots more singing Willow Warblers and Meadow Pipits in the improving conditions. 90km covered at a pretty steady pace, and home by 1130! One hell of a Forest morning, by any standards at all.

Plus: I added singing Firecrest to the list today as well – for obvious reasons, I will go no further than to say “somewhere in the New Forest”....