21st February – Blashford / New Forest and Shapwick   Leave a comment

I started the 21st by dropping some borrowed CDs back at Roger’s house in Alderholt. From there its only a couple of miles to Harbridge in the Avon Valley, where large numbers of swans are wintering. There used to be a flock of one to two hundred wild Bewick’s there 20 years ago but these days we have to make do with just six, although there are close to 200 Mute Swans in the area. Unusually a Whooper Swan, which normally winters no closer than Lancashire or the East Anglian fens, is  alsothere this year.

This flock contained 190 Mute, 6 Bewicks & 1 Whooper Swan, 60 Greylag, 50 Canada and 1 Egyptian Goose

Two Bewick's at the back of the flock. This is our smallest swan with a neat, rounded yellow patch on the bill. The juveniles remain grey all winter unlike the blotchy moulting juvenile Mutes.

Whilst Bewick's arrive here from western Siberia, most of our Whooper's come from Iceland. Note the larger size, longer neck and triangular yellow patch on the bill.

Although Icelandic Greylags to come to Britain to winter, the flock in the Avon Valley is probably of feral origin.

At nearby Ibsley Water I saw a group of five Barnacle Geese (probably of feral origin), six male Goosanders, a Pintail and the usual array of ducks. A brief visit to Ivy Lake produced a Bittern although it remained largely hidden behind a tree, but the Woodland Hide still failed to produced any Bramblings, which are strangely absent this year. After admiring the Siskins and Lesser Redpolls and photographing some ducks I headed for the New Forest.

The drake Gadwall is a beautiful bird when seen well, with its black rear end and finely vermiculated neck and flanks. The female is reminiscent of a female Mallard but has orange sides to the bill and a white 'speculum' in the wing.

The Gadwall's white speculum and blackish greater coverts can be seen in this photo.

Even when the spatulate bill is hidden the drake Shoveler can be easily identified by its striking plumage.


I had been told by several people that the area around Blackwater Arboretum in the New Forest has been good for Brambling, so this was my next stop. I usually go here in the late afternoon to see Hawfinches coming to roost. A couple of hours in the area still failed to produce any Brambling so I set off for a slow drive around the area, stopping everytime I saw a flock of Chaffinches. Again no luck but I did see several Treecreepers, a Marsh Tit and a huge flock of Redwing feeding on the forest floor that must have numbered several hundred.

Before I went home I detoured to the River Stour at Shapwick, to the north of Wimborne. A drake Garganey has been seen here recently but its very early date (most don’t arrive from Africa until late March) and its prediction for a particular female Mallard have some to query its origins.


The Mallard friendly Garganey


Garganey (centre) with two Mallards. Note the grey forewing and the white covert bar and trailing edge to the speculum.


Finally I headed to Lytchett Bay in hopes of seeing a Goosander (a rare bird in the Bay) which had been seen earlier by Nick Hopper. There were 16 of the related Red-breasted Merganser but no sign of the Goosander

Posted February 23, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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