26 January Talk - Christchurch Harbour and the Lower Avon Valley

Our next members’ Zoom talk will be given by Chris Chapleo, the chair of the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (CHOG).  Chris will be showing us some of the rich variety of bird life that is to be found in the harbour and the lower Avon Valley.

Walk report : Lucy Hill 6th January 2021

The walk started well down a wide grassy fire break through mixed woods and then Richard Smith and I were then confronted with an extensive waterlogged and well trodden section  While circumnavigating the section, a song thrush was glimpsed and a little later a redwing.

Turning right, we shortly passed through the gate of the plantation into a mainly open area running along the south side of the plantation, scattered with groups of trees, bushes and the odd flowering gorse.
We then went through a small copse of mainly oak and some holly where we heard the faint sound of a wood pecker (great?) tapping to find food. It was then seen at a distance flying to a perch   Leaving. we passed one of the holly trees showing large teeth marks, surprisingly above head height (ponies?) . 
On the south facing bank of the ditch running along the edge of the plantation were several ant hills, one particularly magnificent.
More evidence of ants, this time a very large concentration of small mounds, the work of meadow ants, surmounted with various grasses.  Not that we looked at the time, but the South East face of the mound is meant to be flatter in order to catch the morning sun.
Meadow Ant hills

In a small holly, another glimpse, an uncooperative goldcrest.
Another change of vegetation, this time an extensive area of clumps of small thorny scrub.
Eventually, we turned up the side of the plantation through a mix of beech one side and very tall pine on the other in order to join a forest track back into the plantation.
Along the track a jay was seen and later a tree creeper, but not for long.  Turning off the track up a series of firebreaks through a variety of groups of trees, I managed to take a wrong turning and ended up having to get round the muddy section again.  Not exactly the planned sylvan walk.
However, there was a reward at the end, one possibly two very cooperative nuthatches in the carpark.


©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21

Walk Report : Keyhaven - 7 January 2021

Diane and I set off from the (newly charging) car park at the Keyhaven end of the sea wall. We were greeted by the Marsh Harrier landing on its preferred bush on Avon Water. On the harbour side of the sea wall the tide was very low, exposing large amounts of mud and seaweed. This was reflected in the numbers of Dunlin and Turnstones feeding just below us.

On the harbour water the Brent geese (40–50) couldn’t seem to make up their minds whether to walk or swim in the shallow water.


As we walked round towards Keyhaven Lagoon there were Curlews both sides of the wall, more Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Redshanks, Little Egrets and Shellducks. On the lagoon itself there were more of the same with added Wigeon, Shovellers, Black-headed gulls, Canada geese, Coots, Teal and Pintails. On the footpath there was an obliging pair of Stonechats.


On Fishtail there were all the forementioned species plus one Snipe!

On Butts there were two ‘rafts’ of Black-headed gulls for no very obvious reason. Each group consisted of 20-30 birds, in close order. The rest of the water was empty! Three Reed Buntings were feeding on seed heads amongst the reeds.

On the mud there were two Ringed plovers and several Grey plovers amongst the other waders.

                               Grey plover
                                                                                                              Ringed plovers

The flooded fields were frozen as we walked down towards the car park at Lower Pennington, the only birds on them was a pair of ice-skating Pied wagtails.

Down the ancient highway we saw mainly Robins (there seem to be more than usual around at the moment), Blackbirds and Canada geese.

Back at the Keyhaven car park we took one last look over Avon water. The Marsh harrier was just where we had left it, but a Kingfisher was present along with a couple of Little grebes.

Home for lunch!


12 January Talk - Lake Kerkini

Spring is on its way.  The days are lengthening, Spring flowers can be seen in sheltered parts of the garden and bird behaviour is already changing around us.

The first illustrated talk in our Spring programme of Zoom meetings will be given at 7.15 on Tuesday 12 January by Louis Rumis and will take us to northern Greece and to Lake Kerkini, one of the most important wetland sites in Europe.  All members are welcome to attend.

Walk Report : Maiden Lane - 3rd January 2021

Shelduck, Grey Plover and Dunlin at Oxey

For the first scheduled walk of 2021 Brian met Richard Smith at Maiden Lane and followed a route that took in 8 Acre Pond, Salterns Marsh, Moses Dock, Oxey Marsh/Lagoon/Lake, Maiden Dock, Normandy Lagoon/Marsh, Pinckney Path and Normandy Lane. The start time was 08.30, sunrise having only been at 08.08, with LT having been at 06.45/0.95m and HT due at 13.31/2.96m. There had been no overnight frost and there was only light cloud with a gentle breeze from the NNE which freshened throughout the morning - but at least it didn't rain! The following list shows the variety of birds that were seen: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Peregrine, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Curlew, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch. And Roe Deer.

Spotted Redshank and Mallard

Selected highlights were: 3 Spotted Redshank on Salterns Lagoon; a "Peregine on a post" offshore; 10 Avocet, 2M + 4F Goldeneye, a "number" of Snipe and a Kingfisher (all on Normandy). Simply trying to count the roosting/resting Avocet, the perpetually diving Goldeneye and the cryptically camouflaged Snipe gave some insight into the difficulty of conducting the WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey). The walk concluded around midday.

Goldeneye (M)

P.S. Brian got to walk further than Richard when he realized that he had parted company with the baseball cap that he had been wearing on top of his balaclava and had to retrace his steps around Oxey Marsh to retrieve it.

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 008/21

Dog Lichen - Denny Lodge Inclosure

Walking up the cycle track which runs between Ladycross and Denny Lodge on 28th December we came upon a rather splendid collection of mosses and lichens on a log by the side of the path. One of the lichens in particular caught our eyes - a thalloid lichen with prominent apothecia (the fruiting bodies).

I believe that this is Peltigera hymenina, one of the so-called ‘dog’ lichens. The common name refers to the rhizinae (their anchorage of choice) supposedly looking like dog’s teeth. This led to them being considered a cure for rabies (good luck with that if you get bitten by a mad dog!)

It also turns out that various Peltigera sp. cause problems in lawns! There are several documents on Google about how to rid your lawns of them if you suffer from this problem.

P. hymenina is supposedly common and widespread, but I had only come across it in field guides up until now.

On this same log were several other lichens (including Cladonia digitata), lots of mosses and a single Scots pine seedling.


Walk Report : Maiden Lane - 14th December 2020

On the day of the New Moon Richard Smith met Brian in Maiden Lane at 08.30 for an unscheduled pre-Christmas 4 hour walk around Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve following an anti-clockwise route. The conditions at the start were very benign with sunshine and light winds, interrupted by the occasional light shower. The wind steadily increased throughout the morning and the skies became more menacing. The tide was very high and there was a lot of standing water resulting from the recent rain which filled the lagoons and flooded the fields. None of this bothered the birds however which were everywhere in large numbers. We set off along the footpath to Lower Pennington Lane and our first sighting of note was of 8 Barnacle Geese in the fields behind Oxey Barn. It was good to see quite a number of juveniles amongst the Dark-bellied Brent Geese which were grazing the same fields. 

Barnacle Geese amongst Canada and Brent Geese

Next came a large flock of Golden Plover and 2 Ruff on Pennington Marsh, one of which was very active and doing a passable impression of a snowman/bird! All of the usual suspects were on Fishtail but the Pintail (M) get the award for the snappiest dressers. We turned back from the junction of Keyhaven and Fishtail Lagoons and continued via Butts, Jetty and Pennington Lagoons, Oxey Marsh, Salterns Marsh and 8 Acre Pond to the undoubted highlight, Normandy Marsh. Because of the state of the tide birds were crammed into the lagoons and its islands. 

Ringed Plover and Dunlin

Neither they nor us were sheltered from the sudden arrival of squally winds and heavy rain/hail/sleet but we managed to see: Avocet, Red-breasted Merganser (M+F), Goldeneye (F), Kingfisher, Dunlin, Curlew, Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Shelduck, Shoveler, Redshank, Greenshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe.


Roe Deer had put in an appearance at 4 different locations on the walk and we put up a small flock of Bullfinches in Normandy Lane as we returned to our start point. It turned out to be lovely weather for ducks!

Walk Report : 19th November - Nomansland - Bramshaw

Seasonal pond at Nomansland Green. MW

Sandra, Marge & Marlene Covid-bubbled round this 2.5miles circuit on a sunny morning cooled by a stiff breeze. From opposite the Lamb Inn we stumbled through trees at the back of the Green to the path along the back fence of the old forest cottage. During a diversion along the side fence to see Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) perched on fallen logs, we were pestered by a large, grey horse that crept up behind us with evil intent; leaning over the paddock wire it sank its teeth into anorak and rucksack, luckily well padded.

Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) MR

Somewhat chewed, we made a hasty exit down the path through mixed woodland, tramping in thick, leafy layers below spindly birch and large beech, now almost bare, though oak was hanging on to rich-brown leaves. The little gully we crossed was in modest flow after recent rain that had benefited the bright, feathery tufts of Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant) overhanging the bank. 

Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant) MW

Joining a wide ride we continued downhill then turned left uphill towards Bramshaw Wood carpark. Several trees have fallen here over the years in messy tangles, bearing more Sulphur Tuft and stacks of Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor). Tiny, glistening-white clumps of Porcelain Fungus (Oudemansiella mucida) contrasted with the hard, black blobs of King Alfred’s Cakes/Cramp Balls (Daldinia concentrica). Missing our field companions, we struggled with identifying some fungi but thought they might be Mycena sp. and/or Russula sp.  

Just short of the parking area we turned south-east onto the old Church Path. Heading steadily downhill, ignoring any side paths, we reached a bog, dry-ish in summer but now very wet.  Apart from some clumps of black and grey Candlesnuff (Xyaria hypoxylon) on mossy mounds, the only creature of note was a large golden retriever, revelling in traipsing through the mud up to its belly, clearly on borrowed time pending the arrival of the owner.

Candlesnuff (Xyaria hypoxylon) MW

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) MR

Cramp Balls (Daldinia concentrica) SP
Beside the path are some notable trees including a bulbous oak and con-joined beech and oak forever intertwined. A few yards along the road brought us to St. Peter’s at Bramshaw. A church on this site dates from Anglo-Saxon times but the current building has 3 main periods of construction: 13th. 15th. and 19th centuries and was partly in Wiltshire until the 1890s when the boundary was shifted. There are splendid rural views from the church mound and an extensive graveyard around and behind. The back stile leads into a meadow; currently cut to rough pasture, but where long grasses and buttercups grow in summer, providing hay for the winter. Following the path from the bottom left-hand gate we then swung north to reach the Newbridge road, passing a mysterious arrangement of 3 huge, cut trunks of oak with no sign nearby of their basal stump. We turned towards the Bramshaw road then cut the corner as far as the cattle grid for the final uphill stretch from Woodside Bottom to the Lamb.


Birds were clearly otherwise engaged this morning, making brief appearances or just calling from afar. Hence, we bagged only Blackbird, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Common Buzzard (heard), Jackdaw, Nuthatch (heard), Robin and Woodpigeon. MW/SP/MR

Walk Report - 7th December - Bolderwood

On a misty morning Richard Smith, Diane and I set off from Bolderwood car park to look for winter thrushes.

We walked past the Deer Sanctuary (no deer or birds to be seen) and continued on the path downhill. It didn’t seem very promising as all we saw at first were robins, dunnocks and blackbirds but as we got further on there was movement above and around us. Long-tailed, great and blue tits, treecreeper, nuthatches and goldcrests were constantly on the move in the trees giving us good, if fleeting, views.

           Long-tailed Tit - RS

                                                    Great Tit - CR

The shortcut that we usually take on this part of the walk was so squelchy that we stayed on the hard path until it met the cycle path at a T-junction, where we turned right to head up to the holly plantation.  The birds were more obliging here with nuthatches feeding on the path and a goldcrest moving about in the bracken. 

                 Nuthatch - RS

                                                    Goldcrest - RS

As we proceeded uphill through the holly we became aware of the (mainly) redwings feeding on berries and chattering to each other. A green woodpecker called, very close by, though we couldn’t see it. We did see a song thrush on the ground and had a close view of a raven cronking as it flew over our heads. The fieldfares proved elusive – we only saw them in flight, but one redwing obligingly sat in a nearby tree delicately plucking the berries. 

Song Thrush - RS

There were a few chaffinches about but no bramblings that we could see, though the birds only had to be a few yards away to disappear in the mist. 

We made our way back to the car park for a warm drink. A shortish walk but a productive one.



Walk Report : 1st December 2020 - Setley Pond

We arranged to meet Richard Smith a couple of days early for our walk, due to the poor forecast for Thursdays weather . Meeting up at Setley Pond in early morning sunshine we immediately saw the grey heron, as Setley is known for its long standing heronry. Walking towards the A337 on first the heath and then through narrow paths we noted fresh rabbit holes, a field of crows and a pair of probably goldfinches flying swiftly away.

After crossing the main road, we walked along the ancient path, with its wide variety of ferns. There was a recently dug hole in the bank, with a very small hole - see photo, we thought possibly a bank vole. 

We carried on along this path up to Royden woods. There were many varieties of fungi to be spotted - we noted earth-balls, candle snuff, and blushing bracket. Through a small Copse we saw both great and long tail tits.

Common Earthball Scleroderma citrinum

Candle Snuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon

We then joined the track through the woods and we heard a nuthatch, and when sitting down for biscuits Richard spotted a coal tit. 

Coal Tit - (Note: Ticks attached above eye)

?Mica Cap Coprinellus micaceus

The forestry people were hard at work felling trees and making log piles as we headed back to the main road, and we did a slight detour around. The weather was glorious, and after crossing the road we then made our way back to the car park across the Heath, there were very few birds, but plenty of ponies and we did see one stonechat.

We looked forward to when we can meet up as a group to have the depth of knowledge of collective membership. A very pleasant walk.

24 Nov Talk - The Birds of Costa Rica

A not-to-be-missed opportunity to leave gloomy lockdown behind and to travel with us to sunny Central America to learn about the colourful and magical bird life of Costa Rica.  Our speaker will be wildlife photographer, Steve Oakes.  

The World of the Hare

As a follow up to our last, wonderfully illustrated talk, given by Jane Russ, the Secretary of the Hare Preservation Trust, you might like to follow this link to her publisher, to see her wildlife series of books, including 'The Hare'.   https://graffeg.com/collections/nature