Tuesday 13 February 2018

Hampshire puddle: Monday 12 February

After several miserably dank Saturdays, I resolved it was time for a change and arranged to day take a rare day off work! My aim was to chase Hawfinches at an out of county location where they come down to the ground, thereby affording better photo opps than those in Oxon that seem confined to being in trees, usually the tops thereof. Parkend is a destination I've been to before, without great success, but I was considering another attempt until I read both the Black Audi Birding and Old Caley blogs that have negative recent reports. Then  along came Black Audi's very positive report of a puddle in Hampshire!

So with a good weather forecast for Monday, and a leisurely start in prospect that was where I headed, not arriving until around 11:00 - hopefully in good time for their "peak" showing times from about noon onwards. On arrival, I wasn't out of the car a moment before being asked by another birder where to go - it later dawned on me it was half term week - probably my first mistake! 

Now given Black Audi's excellent directions, and the satellite view on Google Maps I reckoned I had worked out the exact spot, and a short cut to it. I soon found out I was spot on - it can't have taken more than 5mins to get there. On arrival I found a quite large group of birders, arranged in a line across the entrance to a track through the woods, all looking at a large puddle with decorative moss on the far bank. It took me sometime to spot the camouflaged originator of this setup - an extraordinarily dedicated photographer kneeling down under netting to the right, and very close to the water! 

I managed to just squeeze myself into the left hand end of this line of photo-birders and found Black Audi there again in person - clearly eager for more! The setup was superb, with the sun behind and glorious light on the moss-banked water. All it needed was some birds... 

So I sat down to wait. And wait, and wait... From time to time Hawfinches would show in the distance, but they were far too distant for worthwhile pics. Just once one dropped down closer for a few seconds but for some reason I couldn't get onto to it before it flew off. That was it. The hours passed and the only bird to drink from the puddle was a Woodpigeon. Something was clearly different from Black Audi's visit last week. Perhaps as it was half-term week there were too many birders. Perhaps it was the weather - too much rain recently so the birds could easily drink elsewhere There was also some disturbance in the form of dogs, their walkers, and even the local cat! For whatever reason, the puddle remained a bird free zone. 

Only right at the end of the afternoon did I try a different spot, around the back of the same trees, where Black Audi had just managed to see some Hawfinches out in the open feeding on the grass. But by the time he'd come back to tell me they were there, they had of course gone not to return. 

The only partial success I had was by creeping to the edge of the trees, and looking into them, where some Hawfinches were dropping down to feed on the ground. One suddenly appeared pretty close, but my view was partially obscured by twigs etc. The resulting photos looked like they had been taken in heavy mist, but it is amazing what can be done in Photoshop and some other software I use! So not a completely fruitless visit after all...

Click here to see a larger image on my website

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