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Bird spotting walk - 29th January 2006

Event organised as part of the Sponsored Parish Birdwatch

14 ventured out into the chilling north-easterly wind mid-afternoon, the blue sky and sun not managing to make any appreciable difference to the still wintry 6°C encountered.

Birdwatchers about to set off

A Meadow Pipit flew over the Community Centre whilst waiting for late arrivals and Jackdaws were obvious as they passed over The Green / Waltham Road / Winchester Street with a pair on chimneys in the High Street. Greenfinch and Goldfinch also moved over and both Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves were also noted.

The first stop was by the Alders at the Doctor's Surgery - a party of at least six wheezing Siskin feeding on the cones here, Greenfinches and Chaffinches also being in attendance. Watching these winter visitors to the area saw a male Kestrel heading over towards the building site on Overton Hill, briefly stopping, in the air, close to hand and allowing us to see the black-tipped grey tail feathers that so readily distinguish it from the female and immature birds.

Blackbirds, Long-tailed and Blue Tits and Robin were in the filtration pool hedgerow and Coot and Moorhen could be heard calling from the hidden waters.

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull moved north-east whereas a small party of Black-headed Gulls dropped into the filtration pools. An adult Common Gull loosely associating with them continued on south-west, but not before it was added to the list of species so far recorded this year within the Parish, an unexpected bonus.

Further down Station Road a series of garden feeders had the group spending some time going over the identification features of the birds appearing to feed. Marsh, Coal, Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits were all present on-and-off with Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, House Sparrow and Dunnock all at hand but far less dynamic in their pursuit of food. Our protracted stay even got the house owners out to see what was happening, having just finished their own Big Garden Birdwatch. On moving on a Grey Wagtail was seen to drop into the filtration pools area.

Two pairs of Gadwall were seen from the first bridge, Moorhen and Coot also using this and the next stream, and adjacent fields, to forage in.

Crossing into Flashetts a pair of Mallard were in the stream and a Goldcrest was heard somewhere deep in vegetation. A Water Rail was also in the stream, this time in front of the 'bungalow' and rapidly moving out of sight as the group approached. Even less helpful was a Kingfisher, this briefly heard by the stream that runs out of sight soon after entering Flashetts. A female Kestrel in trees in the garden did not stay long on our arrival, soon heading off purposefully towards Foxdown fields.

Looking over the old allotments off Kingsclere Road saw a Grey Squirrel moving through branches head-height but little else was noted there.

A Buzzard soared in from the north and headed south-west over the church, attracting on the attention of the group.

Back at the Community Centre for post-walk refreshments more birds low overhead included another Lesser Black-backed and two Herring Gulls, again moving north-east. A Pied Wagtail was seen to alight on a Winchester Street roof, the last bird to be added.

34 species were recorded in the approximately 1½ hours out walking (view the list of species). The Common Gull over Station Road was the 71st species to be noted by myself this year, the Herring Gulls only the second record and the Water Rail the 3rd of this species to date this year.

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Peter E. Hutchins

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