09 February 2017 Godshill

There was an initial kerfuffle, due entirely to the leaders having a potty, senior moment when citing the meeting point (right name, Godshill, but the grid reference was Ashley Walk, thankfully nearby). Apologetically, Marge and Sandra rounded up the strays and 10 in all re-gathered at the edge of Godshill Inclosure.

Hazel catkins
It was gloomy, cold and breezy as we set off westwards, skirting Godshill Wood before turning south on a public footpath (uncommon in the Forest) between dwellings, sliding and squelching down to a footbridge over the Millersford brook. On the uphill plod via field and woodland we heard Robin and Nuthatch. Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and the sight of powdery Hazel catkins with newly-emerging tiny, red female flowers hinted at Spring.

We continued south across stiles and fields to Sandy Balls Estate and turned west through tall beech and conifers that diced with gravity on the steep slope to the Avon Valley below. Our path contoured beneath the remains of the iron-age fort, Frankenbury Ring. We stopped for a while, trying to identify a mixed flock of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinches - just silhouettes darting among the branches against the light. Then a splendid Fallow buck stepped slowly across the path behind us, well aware of our presence, and disappeared down the slope in a trice.

We wound our way to the valley floor where Mute Swans and Little Egrets were feeding in the wet meadows beside the River Avon which is the western boundary of the Forest in this area. Our return was through Folds Farm and up through Godshill Wood. MW/SP

14 February 2017 Brent Geese

Brent Geese
A late reminder that Gordon Small is talking about Svalbard (Spitsbergen) tonight.

05 February 2017 Keyhaven to Sturt Pond

Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Carrion Crow

Rather than retrace the route taken on the previous field meeting Brian + 5  (including 1 guest)  set  off west from Keyhaven towards the bird hide at Sturt Pond. On an overcast morning after overnight rain virtually the first sighting was of a female Marsh Harrier at rest, occasionally provoked into a short, languid flight by the harassment of a Carrion Crow. On a bar in the harbour a Great Black-backed Gull was making a meal of a sizeable unidentified fish in the company of 2 Bar-tailed Godwits. Low water meant much frantic feeding of Dunlin accompanied by Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone and Grey Plover with various waterfowl in the channels. The outward leg produced Kingfisher, Raven, Reed Bunting, Common Buzzard, Greenshank, Ringed Plover and a female Kestrel. 3 Spoonbills were seen flying east before dropping into one of the channels. In the fields were Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Rooks and Oystercatchers.

Common Gull
Sturt Pond Nature Reserve is a SSSI. The bird hide was erected in 2009 and offers fine views over various habitats including saltmarsh, tidal pond, reed bed, bird scrape and grazing field. From the hide an indeterminate number of Common Snipe (20+?) were seen on the saltmarsh, their magnificent cryptic camouflage and skulking behaviour making a precise count impossible. There were also various gulls, including Common Gull, and we also watched Lapwing, Cormorant and Moorhen.

Rock Pipit
On the return journey a Rock Pipit showed well along Salt Grass Lane and the 3 Spoonbills reprised their earlier appearance with a short flight. Both Marsh Harrier and Spoonbill have now become almost regular sightings on the Keyhaven bird walks which invariably produce a minimum of 45 species. Several flowering plants were also noted: Shepherd’s-purse, Common Gorse, Red Dead Nettle, Winter Heliotrope and Annual Meadow-grass.