Trip reports

Minibus trip to The New Forest and Langstone Harbour

Stranded boats at sunset in Langstone Harbour RSPB reserve

Sunday, 10 June 2007

It was a smooth journey on the M40 turning southwards at J9 on to the A34 toward Newbury. No red kites, maybe a little too far north for their "Chilterns" range and certainly too early to find any lift in the grey air. We saw the usual range of birds along the way the most notable being a suicidal green woodpecker which sat precariously upright on a kerbstone at the roadside edge.

However by the time we had arrived at our first stop close to Black Gutter Bottom in the New Forest the sun was out and it was a glorious morning. Chiff chaff and willow warbler were quickly heard along with greenfinches and linnets. The walk was to be roughly a rectangle and we made our way down into the valley and slowly up the other side. There were great views of male and female stonechats, a brief sighting of a redstart for some and the haunting call of a curlew as it flew across our path.

At the top of the ridge the habitat looked good for dartford warbler which was the target species of the day. Never easy to see, even though the bird books and magazines would have you believe that it's always posing on top of a bush! We scanned carefully through the bracken and gorse and it was Liz who first spotted one - a glimpse only before it went down. We waited and watched, very soon it moved up into the middle and then the top of the gorse giving wonderful views to all of its characteristic shape, long tail, dark grey colouring and wine red throat and upper chest ... even the white spots were visible through the scope. We were able to track it for some minutes before it finally flew off.

Delighted we moved on getting splendid views of a woodlark with its broad cream supercilium - it was perched on a bare tree, beak full of food obviously close to its nest. Along the track we met some rather hot, noisy joggers rather unsure of their route, but once back in the woodland it was quiet and full of birdsong: blackcaps, garden warblers and on the scrubby margins whitethroats were added to the list. Out into the valley there were two grey wagtails and an amazing close up of a gold ring dragonfly. It was large and black with bright golden coloured rings around the thorax and body - quite beautiful. Indeed it was a real bonus day for dragonflies as we also had a black tailed and a keeled skimmer, a small red damsel fly and a stunningly turquoise emperor.

After a late lunch back at the bus we headed back to Beaulieu Road Station and a very welcome cold drink or ice-cream. Some went to see if there were hobbys about, some to look for crossbills in the woods - neither met with success but there were good views of spotted flycatcher, treecreeper and another woodlark.

Our last stop was at the mussel beds on the eastern side of Langstone Harbour - target bird a little tern. There was not a lot about, but eventually one appeared, gave us a splendid flypast and then decided to settle on the rocks so that we could all get excellent views. It was a good way to end the day.

Our thanks again to Pete who has the uncanny knack (its called fieldcraft and experience) of knowing where to be and when the bird is going to show . it made another very successful trip enjoyed by all. Janet Matthews