Thursday, 27 March 2008

Hampshire - another lifer?

The forecast for Hampshire wasn't good - a band of rain crossing during the morning. With light drizzle falling I decided to head from my overnight stay at Romsey to the coast, Gosport to be precise, hoping for my second lifer Gull - wait for it - my bogey Gull - Ring-billed!!

After the efficiency of the M27, the road through Fareham and Gosport goes on (slowly) for ever but I followed my nose and more by luck than judgement ended up at Walpole Park. (It had also stopped raining and the sun came out!) The landlocked lagoon and nearby tidal creek here, have been producing the goods (Gulls that is) over the winter......

A local guy feeding the swans and attracting a number of Black-headed Gulls, noting my bins and lens commented: "You here for the American Gull?" He then told me it had a habit of disappearing for days but sometimes turned up late morning? It was 10.00 by now so I gave the nearby creek a try....

You can always guarantee, when looking for a Ring-billed Gull - there will always be lots of Common Gulls around. You will do your best not to be fooled but eventually you start to be sucked into the 'is it or isn't it' game, especially amongst the immatures. I decided that the real deal wasn't present and apart from a small flock of Brent Geese, nothing else of note.

Back to the lagoon, where I was instantly greeted by the sight of a stunning adult Med Gull, in awesome summer plumage, sat on the water. How cute is this - a long awaited chance to record full adult Summer plumage in the photo library!! But still no Ring-billed......

Another stroll back to the car, a cup of coffee and by now with clouds rolling in at Midday, perhaps my last chance. So, back to the lagoon and there, standing out like a beacon in the middle of the water, was - wait for it - the most utterly gorgeous, Ring-billed Gull, once again in full adult Summer plumage!!! You beauty - the next hour was spent using up a couple of 2Gb cards to record the moment. Did I perchance, get a tad carried away with excitement here?

Flight shots......

plus the obligatory close up!

I even tried to get both key Gulls in the same frame. Just couldn't get them both in the same focal plane, drat!

A Little Egret was poised fishing on the causeway as I made my way back to the car - brought me back down to earth from Gull heaven. There is nothing quite like going for a bird, getting that sinking feeling you've dipped big time and then finally savouring success (makes up for all those disappointing moments!)

I remembered the next mission - Cattle Egret!

Back up the M27 and across via Ringwood, I called in (sort of unofficially) scoping through the wire fence the main pool (adjacent to the A383) near Ibsley. Plenty of ducks here: Wigeon, Tufted, Shoveler, Teal and on the far bank, a cracking male Garganey.

Then, the short journey to Harbridge, the field opposite North End farm was full of Mute Swans, including the Black Swan mentioned in dispatches but NO Cattle Egret.(Sigh) here we go again.....

After a bit of a wander about, I thought to myself - 'if the Egret wasn't in with the Swans, where was the most likely location' - answer 'try the field full of cattle behind the farm'!!

Yep, right first time - only problem it was another distance job... So I resorted to the classic ploy of featuring bits of cows, I think it works?

As to what Cattle Egrets eat? well I saw several large worms being devoured, even caught one disappearing down the hatch! Maybe the vibration from the weight of the cattle brings worms up to the surface........

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