Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Tuesday, and we finally had a day that promised a break in the storms. Where to go? The wind was still strong and the light poor so the smaller birds would be in short supply. Widewater for the Mergansers was one possibility but in the end we decided to take a trip down to Rooksbury Mill near Andover, to have a look for the two juvenile Ring-necked Ducks that had been reported there.
We took the back roads avoiding the rush hour traffic and enjoying the last of the autumn colours. We had expected to have some difficulty in separating the juvenile Ring-necks, from the juvenile Tufted Ducks and had anticipated having to spend the morning trying to identify our targets. As it happened we had no problem. When we got to Mill Lake there was nothing there. No Ring-necks, no Tufties, just a couple of Moorhens, some Little Grebes and a few Swans.
We couldn't believe our luck. A quick search of the river and adjoining Brooks Lake at least gave us a few Tufted Ducks and Gadwalls but there was no sign of the Ring-necks. A local birder told us that they had been there on the previous evening but that they now appeared to have moved on. What to do next? it looked like a long trip for nothing.
Fortunately we decided to have one last look at Mill Lake on the way back to the car. It still looked empty but then, out in the middle, there was a disturbance as a couple of small ducks broke to the surface of the lake. A quick check with the bins and it was clear that we had our Ring-necked Ducks.
We watched them for a couple of hours, hoping that they would come closer and give us the chance of better pictures. They did move a bit when dog walkers came past but seemed determined to stay out in the open water in the centre of the lake. It was a bit disappointing but I can't really complain. We both had good record shots and a life tick, so it had to be counted as a good birding day.
We stopped off at a couple of watercress beds in the Meon Valley on the way home. These were new birding sites for us. We were hoping to see a Water Pipit but the conditions were deteriorating. There were birds there, including Pipits, but with the wind picking up, the birds were hunkering down and identification was not easy.
We did see Green Sandpipers, Grey Wagtails, Pied Wagtails, and Little Egrets.There were a couple of large dark Pipits but we could not be sure. The only positive identification we made was on a Meadow Pipit.
This Grey Wagtail was interesting. It was happily feeding in the watercress beds until a Sparrowhawk flew through. It then froze and stayed that way until about five minutes after the Sparrowhawk had disappeared. It's the first time that I have ever seen one without its tail wagging.
I came away from Rooksbury Mill with lots of pictures but they all look very similar. With both of us only getting decent shots of two birds I have a feeling that Dave's blog will look very similar to mine.