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Another lovely morning at Pig Bush, Hampshire! 30th July 2023 (1 Viewer)

Evan Atkinson

Always finding a way to go off topic...
United Kingdom
An early start to the day and me and my nan were on the road to our favourite spot in the New Forest, Pig Bush. I have written about this place in a previous post, but I really enjoy birding there, as well as photographing the birds that do come close, so I have decided to write again. We arrived there at 6am and I was very surprised to only see one car in the parking lot, as the last time we had been there, there was at least 3 cars. It was a rather mild morning and we had some nice views of some of the more common birds like chaffinch, blue tit and robin. Rounding the first corner it was clear that we might have some issues with some horses and cows, as there were at least a dozen of the large mammals congregating at various parts of the track. I noticed that there were a few calfs with the cows, and I was getting a bit nervous with their presence, and as we continued down the small slope, a large female cow began advancing on us at quite a speed. We were not very sure as of what to do so we moved off the path into the side of some bushes, which seemed to work as the cow moved off and we were free to continue along the track. Whilst we were aware that the horses are rather comfortable with human presence (this is because some people are complete lunatics and decide to feed the horses, so they become incredibly tame and can be unpredictable) we still wanted to be careful around them, however they did not seem to mind us and we were again free to pass. I had heard some stonechats calling and quickly picked up a lovely male along with a juvenile. Stonechats are not common at all in SE London, so it was good to hear there clacking call. A few paces later and my nan spotted a dartford warbler no less than 6 feet away from us. It was either a juvenile or a female, as it was very drab and did not exemplify the plumage of a male. Whilst my nan does not think of herself as a birder, she is very good at picking the birds up when I point them out to her, and it was impressive to me that she picked out a dartford before me. Continuing up the track we were blockaded by half a dozen horses again smack in the middle of the path, but it might have been a good thing as we had more excellent views of stonechats, and I could hear a dartford warbler calling. After a few minutes the horses moved and we got to one of my favourite parts of the track. It's at the top of a small rise with some gorse on the left, and it almost always holds a dartford warbler or two. And so it proved with 2 birds showing to 12 feet, but were quite elusive unfortunately. At least the male posed ok. Continuing down the hill I picked up a family of birds in the large pile of bushes alongside the small crossing, and it turned out to be a group of stonechats, with one in particular in some rather peculiar plumage. We flushed two male reed buntings from the path which quickly departed. We came up to another favourite spot of mine, popular with dartfords, stonechats and the occasional tree pipit, of which all 3 were present there and were showing well, especially the tree pipit. In total I reckon there was at least 3 dartfords that we saw, but there was almost certainly more along this part of the track. The heather was flowering and there was the opportunity for some really nice habitat shots but I just could not get the camera to focus on this cracking male stonechat. I think it was actually behind a small patch of heather that I thought it was on. Regardless, we continued on, and we were talking about herons and how my nan might have seen purple heron if she was near some wetlands when they were in France, and lo and behold, we flushed a grey heron from the channel. A weird bird to see here for sure. I could hear buzzards calling from somewhere in the distance but they did not put in an appearance. There were not as many mistle thrush as last time, but we did have a good, but brief, view of one flying next to us. It then went eerily quiet, and I was expecting to see redstart in the more forested area but this did not arise. As we came out of the forested area I could hear something constantly begging quite close to us. It then flew out of the tree and I was shocked to see a juvenile cuckoo perched on a tree no more than 30 feet from us. I grabbed a few record shots of it, and then tried to get a bit closer but it flew off towards a large line of trees. Unexpectedly it then did a giant U-turn, calling all the while, and I got a few nice photos of it. It then flew back up into the tree, roughly where I had flushed it and I was astonished to see it being fed by some rather bed-raggled tree pipits! We had to leave it there because there were some grey clouds encroaching on us, and we did not want to get rained on. Again, it went incredibly quiet after this part and we did not see anything else apart from a confiding juvenile stonechat and some chaffinches. We timed our leave well, as the car park was getting busier with dog walkers. It was a nice 2 hour joint (6am-8am) and the sunshine was glorious for the time we were there. On the way home I picked up a falcon of sorts which I thought looked good for hobby, but it was only on view for less than 30 seconds, and I did not reach a conclusive ID on the bird. Pictures to come when I get home. I'm away in SE Murcia this Saturday coming for a week, so I will be trying to do a trip report on that.

Thanks for reading


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