My first ever trip to Staines Reservoir took place on Monday 23rd January. Not ideal weather conditions as it was cloudy with a cold wind, but visibility was good. Gordon and I decided not to travel there via motorway, instead we opted for the less stressful and more picturesque A30 route. The journey was very easy and didn't take long. We parked in the lay-by next to the reservoir and walked the short distance to the basins along the walkway that divides the reservoir into two parts. Primarily we had come to see the GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that had been reported there. After talking to another birder who gave us the general area to look, we spent the next 45 minutes or so looking for it, but it wasn't seen. There were plenty of other birds to look at including an immature SHAG, 2x BLACK NECKED GREBES, 1x SLAVONIAN GREBE, 5x GOLDENEYE, a male SCAUP and a female SMEW. We returned to Diver watching and after a while found the GREAT NORTHERN DIVER on the far side of the basin, quite distant, so the views of it weren't that good. It then dived and disappeared for at least 15 minutes and was then found not far away from us where it was preening, which gave us some great views for 10 minutes or so.
It was off to Portsmouth for Gordon Duffus and myself on Tuesday 17th January. We planned to see if we could find PURPLE SANDPIPERS at Southsea Castle and an ICELAND GULL at Camber Dock. From there we were going to Warblington to find the CATTLE EGRET and then to Hayling Island for a SHORE LARK. After parking near to Southsea Castle we walked along the beach to the rocks immediately below the castle where the sandpipers had often been seen. The tide was low and wasn't due in for another hour or so. After much searching it was apparent the PURPLE SANDPIPERS were not there. We left the beach and walked across the road and along a footpath that led us into the fish market and Camber dock area. Immediately Gordon saw a gull sitting on top of a post near the Bridge Inn. A quick look through our binoculars confirmed it as the 2nd winter ICELAND GULL. We managed some photos before it flew off towards the ferry terminal and was then lost from sight. After spending another half an hour or so in which we couldn't locate it, we decided to return to the beach and hopefully the sandpipers, but no luck, they were not there. So it was off to Warblington, a few miles away. The information given on 'Birdguides' was that the CATTLE EGRET was in a field next to cattle. The field was near a church at the end of a lane, and this information proved spot on and easy to find. After parking in the lay by next to the cow field, we looked at a dozen or so cows that were standing in a huddle and there was the CATTLE EGRET close by. We had very good views and managed some more photos before it flew into the next field to join three LITTLE EGRETS. From Warblington we journeyed the short distance to Hayling Island and parked in the car park near the Oyster Beds. There were a few other birders there, one of whom informed me that he had seen the bird and had good views of it, good news indeed. After walking a short distance to the Oyster Beds, I was informed by a kind birder that it could be seen on the gravel spit. Gordon and I looked through our telescopes and there it was a SHORE LARK with its very elegant yellow and black head markings. More photos were taken and as the afternoon was getting on, we decided not to go to Farlington, which was our original plan but to stay at Hayling Island where we saw some good quality birds including SLAVONIAN GREBE, PEREGRINE, PINTAIL, MEDITERRANEAN GULL, RED BREASTED MERGANSER and GOLDENEYE. So a hat trick of lifers for me and Gordon and who would of thought we would be lucky enough to see all of them in a day.
A Happy New Year to you all, I wonder what it holds as far as Birding goes, perhaps a few rarities, I certainly hope so. Since the New Year began up to the 10th, I had limited myself to visiting Moor Green Lakes, which on the whole had been quiet. A pair of COAL TITS have visited the feeders in the car park and can be seen on a fairly regular basis. Two FIRECREST were reported on the 7th at a wooded area owned by the National Trust, a short distance away from Moor Green Lakes. I visited the area on the 9th but didn't see them, better luck next time perhaps. On the 10th, Gordon Duffus and myself went to Keyhaven/Pennington, and whilst en route took a slight diversion to Hawkhill Enclosure near Brockenhurst, New Forest, where a DARK EYED JUNCO had been seen daily since last week. After parking we walked the short distance to the area where a few other birders had gathered, an open grassed area with a fallen pine tree which was the location where the bird had been seen. I was informed by a fellow birder that he had seen the bird some twenty minutes earlier and was showing well, so the signs were good, fingers crossed. I noticed that the 'fallen pine' had lots of CHAFFINCH and REED BUNTING on it with a few CROSSBILL in a tree nearby. Fifteen or so minutes went by and suddenly there it was on the pine trunk, the DARK EYED JUNCO. I couldn't believe it was there in front of me. It then flew into the branches of the tree where it was hidden from view but after a short while returned to the trunk where it showed well and gave me time to take some photos, fantastic. Very satisfied and happy at seeing the bird, we continued our journey to Keyhaven/Pennington where we spent the rest of the day. Birds of note seen were 3 x KINGFISHERS, which gave us some great views, the best that we have ever had. A single SLAVONIAN GREBE, 15 x RED BREASTED MERGANSER in the Solent, 12 x MEDITERRANEAN GULL, a single YELLOW LEGGED GULL and 5 x EIDER in the Solent flying west, of whom 2 males were in full summer plumage, superb.
Hi, I'm Roger Milligan. I have been interested in birds since I was a boy growing up in south east London, which was a long time ago. I now live in Farnborough, Hampshire.