Monday, December 26, 2005

1.5 gross (or 18 dozen) up - 216 is an interesting number!

With a belly full of Christmas dinner and a bit too much booze, I crawled into bed after Eastenders and set the alarm for some illegal time in the morning – Slavonian Grebe and Scaup were calling!

By 0745, I was away into the freezing darkness. It was indeed a slow and toe-numbing ride south through the New Forest, and almost 2½ hours later, I finally reached Pennington, where my support crew shortly appeared with the traditional hot water bottle and warm socks.

We had just two targets today, and we headed straight off towards Normandy, where we scored easily with the first-winter male Scaup bobbing about on the pool with the local Tufted Ducks. Scaup are true Arctic ducks, and just a few of them penetrate as far south as the English Channel each winter – they’re by no means easy in Hampshire, though luckily they do tend to stick around for a while.

The tide was very, very low – good for excellent views of waders (including Greenshank, 5 Spotted Redshanks and stacks of the commoner species), but not so good for our other target bird.

All the sea-ducks and grebes were a long way off, and despite diligently scanning all the way back to Pennington, we simply could not find a Slavonian Grebe among the Goldeneyes, Great-crested Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers and others – which did include two female type Common Scoters. We also scored with two Kingfishers and at least two Dartford Warblers, plus a Peregrine, Golden Plovers and lots of common wildfowl.

A bit disappointed, I finally headed off for home at about 1430 – the ride was less cold, but even more tiring – at one point I even stopped to check my wheel wasn’t buckled and slowing me down! No – just my own poor performance.

But I did see a couple of good birds en route – a Hawfinch just south of Brockenhurst, and a Woodcock flushed from the roadside near Hursley.