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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

2 days at Pig Bush, Hampshire. (1 Viewer)

Evan Atkinson

Always finding a way to go off topic...
United Kingdom
It's been a while since I have done one of these! Last weekend I visited my grandparents down in Hythe, Hampshire and I was hopeful that I could see redstart and wood warbler at a site I had been to before. I had been to Pig Bush last year to see a Great Grey Shrike, but I didn't really pay any attention to the birds elsewhere and I was more focused on the shrike.

Day 1

Fastforward to last weekend, and I convinced a family member to take me there. Arriving at around 6:50am we immediately heard some skylarks singing. Proceeding towards the hill I got very confused by some stonechats calling. I do not get stonechats at all in SE London so it was nice to learn the call and song again. About halfway up the small hill I heard a dartford warbler, and then later heard it singing. I eventually got my first lifer of the day, a lovely tree pipit display-flighting away. Heading down the hill, we heard more stonechats, and a singing male willow warbler, as well as a lovely little dunnock. There was a very large bed of ferns and plants which held 3 stonechats as well as another trippit and a couple of meadow pipits. It was nice to hear a male cuckoo too. As we headed left along the track, I had noticed a significant increase in mistle thrush and within 5 minutes there was at least 20 in the conifers at the back. We paused at the middle of the track to have some water, and I noticed a very bright bird in the ferns. My pulse was racing as I had dreamt about seeing this bird for a very long time. Raising my binoculars, I was ecstatic to connect with a stunning male redstart. My reaction to this was something along the lines of "WTF, Oh My GOD!" Redstarts might have to be my favourite passerine to grace our shores, the males are simply incredible. The bird flitted away into the ferns but quickly alighted on a small bush where I managed a few shots before it disappeared up into a large oak. We realised at this time that there was a nest up in the tree so we quickly moved away and headed up the track towards the forest. Mistle thrush counts increased to at least 50, almost certainly the largest amount I had ever seen in a small area. It was nice to come across a few juvenile mistle thrush, as well as some juvenile chaffinch. A few goldcrests were singing in the pines and the mistle thrush were creating an extensive amount of calls and song. As we made our way into the forest, we heard a few great spotted woodpecker as well as some chaffinch. Midway through the trail I picked up another redstart, this time a female who quickly disappeared and was not seen again. At this point we were unsure about where to go so we asked a couple who were pretty regular there. They explained to us where to go and then told us that they had seen a stork. This surprised me because I had been quite vigilant as to what was around me and I was surprised that I had not seen it. The woman explained to me that she was German and was certain that it was a stork. I assumed that it would be in the large tree line where the cuckoo was singing so we made our way along the trail that took us back to the car park. We crossed the bridge over the small pond and I picked up 2 more redstarts, then 3, then 5, then 6 appeared in my view. The male was quite vocal and very mobile. Two of the juveniles and the female flew into the bushes near the bridge whilst the other 2 juveniles stayed put in the tree. Unfortunately the male had continued along the path and we knew that there was not much we could do that would result in him not being flushed. Sure enough, he flew back towards where we initially found the family and we headed up the path. I then picked up another lifer, a high-flying woodlark, belting out his song in his hopes of attracting a mate. From there we had a look along the treeline on the front side and we could not find the supposed stork, although there was a man with a scope there who was trying to find the cuckoo. That pretty much summed up the first day and we enjoyed some very nice views of a robin as we got into the car park.

Day 2

Day 2 started off with a much earlier arrival time of 5:50am. We were very surprised to see that there already 3 cars in the car park, one of which was a camper van. We headed up the same route, hoping to try and get a bit better views of the dartford warblers. The light was grim and although we had good views of them, photo opportunities were very low. Annoyingly, we had a silently infuritating encounter with a couple who had 6 dogs with them, all off the leads bounding through the undergrowth, even though it very clearly says to keep dogs under strict control. We decided to go the opposite way towards a small plantation, and along the path we came across a few lovely little juvenile stonechats. In the plantation itself, there was very little to note down, asides from a few mistle thrush. Now things got interesting... there were a few curlew calling and bubbling away, but they were not visible and were probably a lot further away than they sounded; regardless, I picked up a call which I had heard before in videos, and it very much sounded like a quail. It called once more, a "phwip, phwip phwip" in quick succession and then went silent. I had never heard or seen a quail in the field so decided not to note it down as a lifer, even though I was sure that was what I had heard. By now we could see the couple and their dogs had passed the redstart area so we made our way back towards the hill, noting a nice woodlark as well as some juvenile goldfinch and a few meadow pipits, whilst a duo of swifts scythed through the air above us. Descending the hill, we reached the small crossing in between two areas of undergrowth which I believe is called Rowbarrow Bottom (something along the lines of that) and I was very surprised to flush a water rail from the ditch in front of us. It flew along the sporadic patches of water and I lost it to view. We followed the trail the same way as before, noting a very large hornet, but only having a very fleeting glimpse of the male redstart flying in the opposite direction. We continued along the track, with 3 more stonechats added, as well as couple of tree pipits. I managed to increase the cuckoo count to 3 males, one in the car park, one in the usual line of trees, and the other out towards the railway. As we entered the forest we flushed a great spotted woodpecker who was on the other side of a tree at head height. As we exited the forest, I picked up at least 3 more redstarts, a nice male as long as two or three juveniles. We came across more tree and meadow pipits before we got across the bridge, where we hoped to pick up the supposed white stork, but to no avail. Nothing much really happened afterwards, apart from a tree pipit, funnily enough, in a tree, right up until we got to the car park, where a very loud "CU-CKOO" exploded from above our heads and flew out of the forest. I knew exactly where it landed, in a lone tree just outside of the forest. I wanted to get a better look at the bird and hopefully get a nice image or two, but I headed towards the tree from the wrong direction, and of course it flew out from the other side of the tree and headed away towards the line of trees, where the other male was still singing. There was also a deer species in the field which I assigned as a roe deer.

All in all, it was a very nice 2 days out at Pig Bush, with 3, perhaps 4 lifers. Pig Bush holds a lot of potential, and has a good amount of mixed habitat, and I was really hoping that there might be a shrike in one of the bushes or a rarer warbler of some sort. Quite concerningly, we did not see a single raptor over the 2 days, however this could be down to the birds being on eggs. I still expected to at least see a kestrel or buzzard. Dogs were another issue, as near enough every dog we came across was off the lead, however the majority were fairly well behaved, and it was clear that the birds were very aware of the dogs, and each time one would go past, they would drop down, only to pop up about 2 minutes later. I would definitely reommend people to visit there as it is genuinely a very nice walk.

Thank you for reading!

Raptors in the New Forest are plentiful but when brooding obviously half the adults are on nests. Even after the eggs hatch emphasis n hunting can result in birds being down in the woods rather than up in the sky. You can sit quite a long time on Acres Down between sightings!

Those raptors that soar, in the current weather go up like rockets once the thermals get going. They go a long way up and the sky is big! So these too can be very difficult to see except during ascents and descents, neither of which need take very long.


Kestrels are uncommon in the forest due to the excessive grazing pressure removing all the ground vegetation that the voles and mice/shrews they eat hide and live in although there are still lizards for the Kestrels to hunt/feed on A glance across the treetops should have produced a Buzzard or Goshawk or two, it usually does anywhere in the forested at the moment honey buzzard too
Nice report, impressive numbers of Mistle Thrush, I have seen big flocks in the past, but not lately sadly!
Me neither! Haven't seen a single one since I've come back to SE London :cry:.I was quite pleasantly surprised with how many there were, like I mentioned probably about 50 but definitely more near the railroad track. Will be going back in late July, hopefully won't be too quiet there.

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