We were down in Hampshire at Sopley Cemetery overlooking the flooded fields around the river Avon. The Green-winged Teal was the main target of the day and at first it looked like an impossible task. There were probably more than a thousand teal spread out over the water in front of us and they were all very distant. You could not pick out the distinguishing features using binoculars so it fell to a tedious inspection of each individual bird using a scope. Perhaps not too difficult if they are all lined up giving a side view but not so easy when they are all milling about and often have their backs to you.
So what were we looking for. Well, at the distance we had, the only thing you can really pick out is the vertical stripe in place of the horizontal stripe on the common teal. Fortunately Dave likes to get stuck into these difficult tasks and eventually he found it. He managed to get a couple of other birders onto it but I just could not see it. I was 99% sure I had the right bird but it had its back to me and I could not make the identification. After a long wait and with my eyes streaming from the cold and my refusal to blink in case I missed it, the bird turned and I had a clear view of the vertical stripe. Life Tick.
Unfortunately the rest of the day turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. We went to Blashford lakes. We found the housing estate and the hole in the fence through which if you were lucky you could get a distant view of the Ferruginous Duck. But it felt more like voyerism than birding so we quickly abandoned that search.
Blashford always looks promising but the wildfowl is usually distant, very few of the windows in the hides open, and one of the hides uses blue tinted plastic for the windows. On top of that the light was going. Not ideal for taking pictures.
A few shots of the usual suspects and we moved on to the Eyworth Pond at Fritham. There are usually Mandarin Ducks at this site but they can be difficult to find. After a bit of searching we thought we had five or six hidden deep in the bushes on the far side of the pond. It was only when they were spooked and took to the air that we realised that there were between twenty and thirty present.
This is also a good site to see the smaller birds. A few handfuls of bird food on the fence posts and the bushes were alive with half tame birds. Good for photographs but nearly as bad as having shots of them on feeders.
|Real manners - sitting down for lunch|
To finish off the day we drove along the Warningcamp road to see if the Bewicks had returned to their usual feeding ground. No sign of them but I did manage to pick up a Red Kite and Grey Partridge as year ticks. I think we probably had Corn Bunting as well but in the fading light it was difficult to be sure.