John King, Frank Lambert & I had a day in Hampshire seeing as many as possible of the stowaways and other interesting birds that unfortunately just missed Sussex. We started at Calshot, near the mouth of Southampton Water, at 08:15. Here a male Spanish Sparrow has been present for up to two years and it is easy to imagine it coming off a boat. It is a fine bird however it arrived and it appeared almost immediately after we reached its favoured hedge, although most of the time it was partially obscured.
|Spanish Sparrow at Calshot|
We moved onto Hawkhill Inclosure on the edge of the New Forest near Beaulieu. Here a Slate-coloured Junco has been in residence since at least Christmas. We got several reasonable views soon after arriving but it was quite mobile and never came as close as we'd hoped. We waited another hour for better views but didn't see it again although a Wood Lark, 2 Ravens and 6+ Crossbills made the wait worthwhile.
|Slate-coloured Junco at Hawkhill Inclosure - hiding its dark eye|
Next stop was Beaulieu Road Station where a Great Grey Shrike was wintering at Bishop's Dyke but we were unable to find it in a quick walk and scan from the bridge. A Dartford Warbler was reasonable recompence for a brief visit. Walpole Lake in Gosport was our next stop, and half-way back to Sussex. It has hosted a Ring-billed Gull for several winters although none of us had seen it before. We found the site without too much difficulty although it seemed as if everyone was heading into the centre of Gosport at the same time as us making it a very slow journey.
|Crossbills at Hawkhill Inclosure|
|Frank at Walpole Lake|
|Ring-billed Gull showing its better side|
|Ring-billed Gull with some irritation on its right cheek|
|Ring-billed Gull at Walpole Lake, Gosport|
By now time was definitely against us and we decided not to go into Portsmouth to look for an Iceland Gull but continue on to Hayling Island Oyster Beds instead. Here a Shore Lark had been present for several days although a strengthening wind made viewing conditions difficult. A falling sun and low tide reduced the chance of seeing Black-necked Grebe in the channel and we soon gave up - it was hard enough identifying Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers.
|Shore Lark keeping its head down at Hayling oyster beds|
Final stop of the day was Warblington Church near Emsworth but the Cattle Egret, probably the one we'd seen at Thorney in the autumn, had most likely gone to roost. A walk to the edge of the harbour produced 500 vocal Brent Geese, 200+ Shelduck, 2 male Goldeneye, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers and 100 Black-tailed Godwits on the nearby mudflats and creeks.