Birders look forward to the first day of a new year with the opportunity to begin a new list of birds seen.....unfortunately the weather today was a stinker with gale force winds & heavy rain. My first bird of the year was a Black-headed Gull which I watched from the bedroom window following a lie-in! In the afternoon I wrapped up warm and ventured out. A Barn Owl was my second bird of the year, one of the local pair keeping dry inside their nesting box, and a couple of Gannets were spotted from Fort Victoria. 51 Canada Geese were in the cattle field on the other side of the Wilmingham Road from Rofford Marsh, and 46 Dunlin were feeding on Yarmouth Mill Basin. 26 species in all, so not a total washout!
Blue skies & sunshine - wow! The highlight today was a period of time working at the Fort Victoria Viewpoint where some sea-watching produced a Red-throated Diver on the water, lots of Guillemot activity, a smart male Common Scoter, and a number of Mediterranean Gulls. A Shag with the most pronounced headcrest I've seen on one of these birds, yet, flew in to fish directly below the viewpoint, and a Peregrine Falcon flew low across the water from the mainland. At Yarmouth Marina there was a flock of 20 Turnstone, 9 Ringed Plover and a single Dunlin. The Hen Harrier was seen quartering over Rofford Marsh and, later, seen from the Freshwater Causeway dropping down into the reeds to roost. What a difference a day makes!
A quick visit to the Fort Vic Viewpoint late afternoon paid dividends with my first IOW Kittiwakes - an adult and a 1st winter were battling south against the strong winds. A Guillemot was braving the waves and some 800 Black-headed Gulls flew past during the short time I was there. There were some pretty dramatic downpours of hail and gusts of wind! I didn't drive down Freshwater Causeway today...but I might have struggled as Mark Cooper's photo on the County Press website shows:
"Teacher Teacher" - it was great to hear a Great Tit singing its spring song, but I fear Spring is some way off yet! I arrived at Fort Victoria and scanned the shore in front of the fort to find an adult Gannet sitting on the water, together with a few Guillemots and my first Razorbill of the year. A juvenile Kittiwake flew down the channel. It was 'blowing a hooley' at the Viewpoint and a Kestrel shot overhead with the wind behind it. 2 male Eider and, later, 2 males and 3 females flew past with a Red-throated Diver in the distance. The Eider Ducks were new for the year, and these were followed by a new IOW species for me in the form of a superb Black-throated Diver. At the Scrape I was entertained by the female Hen Harrier which flew up and down the hedgerow for 15 minutes or so giving some amazing views. As dusk fell I relaxed by the bridge alongside Rofford Marsh enjoying the ambience. 2 Water Rails were calling, one crossing the channel close to where I was standing, and a Cetti's Warbler made my ear-drums ring as it loudly burst into song right next to me!
Continuing gale force winds and rain which limited the birding somewhat. There was a small charm of 5 Goldfinches at the Fort Vic Viewpoint but a mist rolling in meant that very little could be seen on the sea.
My first Red-breasted Merganser of the year with a female viewed from the Fort Victoria Viewpoint. the other highlight was the 13 Red-throated Divers that flew by, one of them dropping in right at the front of the Viewpoint to fish. Lots of Kittiwakes, Mediterranean Gulls and various Auks including at least 2 Razorbills.
At the Fort Victoria Viewpoint I was reflecting on just how dramatic male Eider Ducks look when flying past when I noticed a large bird of prey hugging the sea surface as it flew across the Solent before landing on the Hurst Castle Spit. It was a male Marsh Harrier - totally unexpected, but very much appreciated!
I was really pleased with the 4 local Badgers caught on the Trailcam yesterday evening (see above), and I finally caught up with my first Pintail of the year: a resplendent male at the Mill Copse Scrape.
Only opportunity for a quick cycle to the Fort Vic Viewpoint at Lunch, but it resulted in a new species for the year: 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a new species for the site: a single Canada Goose that surprised me bobbing up and down in the middle of the Solent. The Trailcam was set up in a hedgerow at Golden Hill CP last night - a Bank Vole walked past early on, but the footage was dominated by some lively Wood Mice, 4 being the highest count in shot at any one time.