13 October 2016 Holmsley

A group of 16 naturalists set off on a cool, windy morning from Holmsley car park. Our first sighting were around 8 Swallows, gathering on the overhead wires. We walked on, along Holmsley Ridge, however very few birds were visible due to the windy conditions. When we arrived at an area of shallow disused gravel pits, a Snipe and Kingfisher flew away as we approached. We noted sundew and the end of the water lilies on the pond.

We then proceeded downhill to Whitten Pond. We saw different fungi en route, also Tormentil , hawkweed and a Kestrel.

Birch Maze-gill
We then joined with the disused railway line, known as Castleman's Corkscrew after Charles Castleman of Wimbourne, who promoted the meandering route. Here Brian showed the group pictures of the line when it was in action, and gave a brief history of its demise. On the streams passing along the side we noted a large number of Whirlgig Beetles, and the banks were host to a number of different fungi - Maze-gill, Funnel Fungus, a number of Russula, Birch Boletus, Wood Mushroom and Fly Agaric. Harebells were still in flower, and a Stonechat was seen.

Fly Agaric

On reaching the end of the track, a very active Honey Bees' nest was seen in the eaves of a house, and a solitary Red Admiral flew over the meadow.

(all pictures © Mary Mawdsley)

01 October 2016 Keyhaven bird walk

With the cancellation of the previous field meeting at Taddiford Gap, the Sunday birdwalk became the first outing of the winter programme. The day after New Moon and approximately 2 hours before high water, Brian + 8 set off from Keyhaven following the Brent Trail anticlockwise. On a glorious morning there was much activity - both avian and human. We were accompanied throughout by the aerial displays of myriad Swallows and House Martins.

 At Keyhaven Turnstones had returned for the winter to use various moored vessels to rest at high tide and Brent Geese had returned to the saltings. Looking across Keyhaven Marsh a Sparrowhawk was mobbed by corvids, but that paled to insignificance when an Osprey (left) suffered the same fate! In fact we had several sightings of the latter during the walk including it, or a different individual perhaps, which flew east over the Old Tip. 

Black Swan flanked by two Mute Swans
At Iley Point we found Dartford Warblers and Wheatears, whilst nearby at Keyhaven Lagoon a Black Swan (right) happily consorted with Mute Swans. The high tide forced many shorebirds off the saltings to roost on the lagoon's mudbanks including a large number of Black-tailed Godwits a few Grey Plover, Dunlin and Knot. An immature Ruff lurked along the lagoon’s rushy edge as a Kingfisher sped by. Wildfowl included Shelduck and Pintail.

One of Brian's Kestrels
It seemed that almost every post along the route offered a vantage point for a Kestrel (below). At Fishtail Lagoon a Grey Heron attempted to swallow a large uncooperative eel. Sue spotted a soaring female Marsh Harrier high above us and shorebirds on and around the lagoon added Golden Plover and Spotted Redshank to the ever growing list. Two Black-tailed Godwits wore colour rings from Peter Pott's ongoing research into the Icelandic race birds that winter along the Solent.

Along the Old Tip Cetti's Warblers were singing and a Common Buzzard passed overhead before we walked along the Ancient Highway to the Western Balancing Pond, where amongst a variety of wildfowl Shoveler were seen in eclipse plumage.

It was a morning that will take some beating with some 65 species of birds noted. There were more than just birds to see for we recorded Grey Seal, Roe Deer, Red Admiral and Painted Lady butterflies and a number of unidentified hawker dragonflies.

15 September 2016 Culverley

We had a bright day for this walk as 15 of us set off on the woodland path from the car park. As we walked along the Halfpenny Green edge of the heath we saw many Swallows and House Martins hawking over distant tall trees - feeding up for the coming migration. A few rested on the branches, too. Two raptors were seen very briefly as they flew away. One seemed to have a pale upper tail; we decided they were Buzzards as these do have variable plumage and a Buzzard was seen later on the walk.
Butterflies were scarce but we had excellent views of a Red Admiral and a Comma (left). They were continually spooked from their rest by a Hornet which circled closely round a fork in a small bare tree. It was probably feeding on sap from the tree though we could not see its source. (A Small Copper butterfly popped up in the car park after all but two people had left).
A good variety of plants were seen Ling, Bell Heather and Cross-leaved Heath, an exquisite view of numerous tiny Sundew on a vertical surface, Devil's-bit Scabious in flower and Marsh St John's Wort no longer so. The highlight was a fine specimen of Coral Necklace.

01 September 2016 Shatterford

Dwarf Gorse
After a slow start because railway contractors had taken over most of the car park, 20 of us set off in an easterly direction towards Denny Inclosure. It was a warm dry morning but overcast.

As we crossed Shatterford Bottom we saw Swallows skimming over the bracken and Stonechats on the gorse, where some of us also saw a migrant Whinchat. 
Denny Wood was very peaceful and still, the main bird calls heard was that of Stock Doves. These were easily seen on the bare branches of the elderly Oak and Beech which are a feature of this lovely ancient wood. A single Marsh Tit was also seen along with Chaffinches. Southern Bracket was growing in tiers on many of the elderly Beech and also Chicken of the Woods on Oak. After crossing the the wood we came to the main track leading to Denny Lodge.

Continuing on we saw 2 Roe Deer and in the field behind Denny Cottage a group of five plus Fallow Bucks were resting, their antlers giving their position away as they were visible above the bracken. One fully visible buck was standing thrashing his antlers in the bracken. 

Our return route was via a path along the edge of the wood before coming out again onto the heath and across the mire of Shatterford Bottom. As it was now brighter, on a small area of water we managed to see Keeled Skimmer, Common Darter, Migrant Darter and Emerald Damselfly. Then finally in the distance we saw two Kestrels on a small single dead tree positioned centrally in the bog, probably a good vantage point for them.

Emerald Damselfly