Sunday, 29 January 2012

Hampshire and back

A close-up of the adult Ring-billed Gull in Gosport, a regular returning bird. Where does it go in summer?
The main venue for today's birding was Hampshire, a favourite county of mine, although two species on the target list are more typically associated with New Hampshire across the Atlantic.

With the presumed demise of the returning winterers in London and Westcliff-on-Sea, the Gosport Ring-billed Gull is now the only regular bird left in the South-East. Indeed, the species has become rarer nationally in recent years.
The first was this Ring-billed Gull, which is a regular wintering bird at Walpole Park in Gosport. I've seen it before but not for a few years, and wanted to spend some time photographing it as part of building my library of gull images (and plumages). I actually saw the bird in flight over the boating lake before I'd even stopped the car, but it promptly disappeared west out of view so I set off on foot in pursuit.

Ring-billed and Mediterranean Gulls: how often do these species from different continents meet up?
It was just after I relocated the Ring-billed on mud in the creek next to Walpole Park - conveniently next to a smart Mediterranean Gull at one point - that I also came across a real bonus bird in the form of an Iceland Gull. Distant at first among other larids on the far side of the creek, it eventually came closer and I was able to get some decent images. Also present were 30+ dark-bellied Brent Geese, two Little Egrets, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Rock Pipit.

Unexpected: this second-winter Iceland Gull was a real bonus bird.
Returning to the boating lake in the park, my investment in a loaf of Hovis medium sliced was then repaid when clouds of gulls arrived to feed. The Ring-billed was among them, and it was great to get the hoped-for closer shots in flight and on the deck - job done.

I headed west from Gosport to take the M3 home, making a short detour en route to take in the Dark-eyed Junco currently residing in the New Forest at Hawkhill Inclosure. I had to wait a while for the bird to appear, as it seemed to be roving around a large clearing with a flock of Reed Buntings, but in the interim several Common Crossbills (including a song-flighting male) and Eurasian Siskins were nice diversions. Eventually the bunting flock reappeared and with it the junco, which then came in to feed for a few minutes. It's the third I've seen in Britain but the first for more than 20 years, and the most photogenic.

The first-winter Dark-eyed Junco at Hawkhill Inclosure - a smart bird.
After an easy drive north back to the capital, I broke the journey one last time at Staines Reservoirs. The very first bird I saw on reaching the causeway was the long-staying European Shag - a good London bird - swimming close to the water tower, so I watched and photographed it for a good 10 minutes before it flew off to feed elsewhere on the reservoir. Also present were Great Northern Diver, Greater Scaup, two Black-necked Grebes and a male Ruddy Duck - the latter arguably the rarest bird of the day.

European Shag at Staines Reservoirs, feeding actively ...
... and then photographed in flight as it headed off elsewhere on the reservoir. 


  1. Great close up of the Ring-billed Gull. Was it perched on your lap or something! The Junco is a lovely bird - and was quite obliging when I was there a couple of weeks ago. Best photo of the Shag I've seen, too. The Staines group of interesting birds have been stationed there for some time. I'm wondering if the Shag will ever leave - it's been there for months.

  2. Really nice set of photo's Dom.....



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