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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

SPANISH SPARROWING

A total of 82 birdwatchers gathered from dawn at Calshot this morning, gradually swelling to just 110 by mid-morning - a far smaller turnout than I had envisaged for a vagrant that has not been twitchable in Britain since 1998. As expected, the bird appeared in the hedgerow opposite the cul-de-sac just after 0800 hours and then spent an hour moving between the two hedgerows either side of the road and the larger Hawthorn. It afforded outstanding views and many photographs were taken. Everyone was impeccably behaved and adhered to on-site instructions. Local birder Bruce Gwynn acted as management and did a sterling job, eventually escorting small parties down the private road once the sparrows started feeding. Certainly whilst I was there, everyone parked where they were supposed to.

The bird typically became elusive after 0900 hours - primarily visiting the chicken coup and feeding out of view. Occasionally, he returned to the roadside hedgerow but these visits were few and far between. From 1000 hours, he generally retired from view and some observers had over three hours wait before they got a glimpse. As I stated in a previous posting, to be sure of seeing this bird well, plan to arrive early and give yourself a 0800-0900 hours time slot.

DIRECTIONS: Follow the B 3053 SE to as far as it goes into Calshot village, 5 miles SE of Hythe. Continue into the one-way system and take advantage of up to 200 free car parking spaces in this vicinity. Walk back 500 yards to the junction with the private MOD cul-de-sac, clearly marked with ''Police No Parking'' cones and observe from the verges. The bird is favouring the thick hedgerows either side of the main road, particularly that section adjacent to the boat with flowers.

Not that far away, at Hawkhill Inclosure in the New Forest, the first-winter male DARK-EYED JUNCO was showing at regular intervals, moving between 3 or 4 fallen pines and perching readily out in the open. The clearing is just 100 yards NW of the parking area.

This site is also very good for COMMON CROSSBILLS and a male WOODLARK was singing there today.

Elsewhere in the New Forest, the regular wintering GREAT GREY SHRIKE was showing well today at Beaulieu Road Station at Bishop's Dyke, in birches and scrub 400 yards beyond the bridge south of Shatterford car park. This forest area also yielded both DARTFORD WARBLERS and WOODLARKS and a number of early Small Tortoiseshell butterflies

At HARBRIDGE WATER MEADOWS, the EGYPTIAN GEESE pair were on the main flood and both the adult WHOOPER SWAN and the 3 BEWICK'S SWANS were with the 203 Mute Swans in the first field beyond the church.

Ibsley Water held 11 GOOSANDER, 7 PINTAIL and the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, whilst the juvenile female BLUE-WINGED TEAL and redhead SMEW remained on the south lake at LONGHAM LAKES