We have done a lot of twitching and a lot of travelling around over the last month, so thought we would actually stay closer to home for a change on Saturday. When birding in our local area we tend to default either to Otmoor or Farmoor, both of which are worthy of a visit. However we are very good at choosing one and then later discover that most of the good birds seen are at the other! This weekend the choice was made easier since a few waders had been dropping into Farmoor during the preceding few days and some of them were still around on Friday.
We were a bit late arriving and we could see some other birders already walking along the main birding highway, the causeway as it's known. It was a very pleasant morning but thankfully there was a keen breeze blowing across the reservoirs. You need some wind at Farmoor since it is at its best when the water is ruffled. As we sauntered past the not yet open cafe (I can never understand why the cafe opens an hour or so after the gates do) Mrs Caley happened to mention that we hadn't seen a single Wheatear at the reservoir this year. Cue a fine Northern Wheatear to appear then, stood on the low embankment wall of Farmoor 1. It is often uncanny how when Mrs Caley mentions, quite innocently, a certain bird, how one then appears almost instantly afterwards! Doesn't work for me though despite me uttering random names of umpteen birds, especially those missing from my year list and indeed my life list, none of them ever appear. Hoopoe or Northern Parula anybody?!
I took a record shot of the Wheatear and then used the grass bank of the reservoir to creep up on it from below in order to get some better ones. The Wheatear was actually very confiding as it caught flies on the road that runs around the reservoir and allowed a very close approach. For most of this year we had reflected on the paucity of Wheatears but in the last few weeks we had seen hundreds at Portland and a nice trio at our new favourite spot on the edge of Oxon at Muswell Hill.
|juvenile Little Stint & juvenile Dunlin|
|juvenile Little Stint|
I scanned the reservoirs and noticed another three wading birds at the Thames end of F1. Looking through the scope revealed a couple of Ruff and a Knot, both far from common birds at Farmoor. There was a chap taking photos of them but unfortunately he didn't seem to appreciate the Farmoor rule of sitting tight and allowing the birds to come to you. As I watched he chased the birds one time too many and they took off across the reservoir. When he walked past us I asked him, not too sarcastically I hoped, "where did you flush them to?". "Oh they're very flighty" came his reply. Before I could fire back a taught retort, a warning look from the stabilising half of my marriage stopped me in my tracks. I recognised the man as the same one who had done exactly the same thing to a Knot that had been at the reservoir last autumn. I wish he'd learn the Farmoor way of things. For the next 20 minutes there was no further sign of the waders and I assumed that they had indeed been frightened away by his antics but just as we were contemplating returning up the causeway I saw them all flying back towards the western shore again. We moved slowly towards them and settled by the wall about 50 metres away since they were moving back to where we had stopped.
|Ruff & Knot|
In time the three birds came right up to us and afforded cracking views giving me the chance to get some very close up shots. In some of them you could even see the type of things that these birds eat! We were joined by another birder, well met Clive (in the unlikely event that you're reading this!), who also understood that it's best to remain in one place and let the birds come to you (check out some of Clive Daelman's photos on Birdguides, somewhat better than mine!).
We paused briefly on our walk back to the car to watch the flock of Barnacle Geese take off and away over F1. They turned and then passed right over our heads before disappearing to the south.
The drive was a bit hectic with a three mile tailback on the A34 close to Winchester and a trawl along minor roads to avoid the very busy M3 but we arrived at Hill Head next to Titchfield Haven nature reserve on the Solent just before one o'clock. With it being such a nice sunny day the next problem was to find a parking spot since there were a lot of day trippers and beach lovers around. It took a while but eventually we found a space.
Our original plan was to grab a coffee and something to eat before heading out on to the reserve but we had managed to park just a hundred metres away from the Meon Shore Hide from which the Bluethroat could be seen so decided to go straight to it. Just as well we did too! The hide was fairly full but thankfully and in complete contrast to Wednesday in Yorkshire the locals were more than accommodating and quite gladly made room for us at the windows. We must have been sat down for less than two minutes when somebody called "it's out, in the usual spot"! Of course we had only just arrived so didn't know where the usual spot was but it didn't take me long to find the Bluethroat and then get Mrs Caley on to it. Unlike the skulker at Warsash this bird, another male, was right out in the open albeit a little far away from the hide but at least allowing fine views.
At half past one the Bluethroat appeared for a third time and gave the best views of all staying out in the open for maybe a whole two minutes. We had been in the hide for less than half an hour and had had brilliant and prolonged views, far better than those of many others that had visited to see it on previous days.
We stayed another half hour but the Bluethroat didn't reappear, probably because it was spooked when a Sparrowhawk staged an attack at a Pied Wagtail. A coffee and some lunch was in order so we called in at the visitor centre cafe which was the site of a brilliant encounter for us with a Barred Warbler in December 2017.
|Barred Warbler, Titchfield Haven, Hants, 09/12/2017|