I got up at 5:30 after only a couple of hours of sleep, but a quick wash and a bite to eat saw me back on the road by six and heading south towards the Church Norton car park at Pagham Harbour. After a quick dash down to the shore, it only took a few minutes to locate the bird I was there for.
It was the long-staying HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL, and it showed well (though a little distantly). The bold head pattern was striking, and the bill was noticeably longer and more Curlew-like than the Eurasian Whimbrel which were also present. It also flapped its wings at one stage, showing the cinnamon-brown base colour to the underwing and lack of any white on the rump. It eventually came a little closer and allowed for some good scope views. There were a few terns around as well including a single Arctic Tern, but I didn’t stay for long, as I had many more sites to visit.
A quick drive down the A/M27 meant that I connected with my next target species before 11. The GREATER YELLOWLEGS at Titchfield Haven had been present for several months, but had only been seen on and off for the last few days. It had just reappeared as I walked into the hide however, and it spent about half an hour or so showing well from the Suffern hide before flying off south.
After a quick food stop, I was on my way again, and soon arrived at the well-known New Forest site of Acres Down. Temperatures were know well into the high 20’s again and I was glad of some shade in the woods near the car park. Whilst there, I got some brief views of a Willow Tit, which was only my second, and one of the highlights of the trip for me. As I headed out onto the ridge, I could see that there were plenty other people present, but quickly learned that there had been no sightings of Honey Buzzards for a number of days. I carried on regardless and was soon enjoying excellent views of the many Silver-Studded Blues at the site.
I eventually saw a number of Woodlark, though almost all were flight views only. There was one bird however, which showed well on the ground around the raptor watch point for a little while.
As I was a little ahead of my schedule, I decided to try my luck with the buzzards, and wait around for an hour or so. By this point most of the other birders had given up and left, and I didn’t fancy my chances. Over the next half hour, I saw plenty of Common Buzzards (more than 20 in total) and a single Sparrowhawk, and was preparing to leave, when I noticed a pair of raptors break the sky line to the west. One of the birds was much smaller than the other and I identified it as a male Kestrel. As soon as I looked at the other, larger bird, I realised it was something different. Its wings were held very flat, with the ‘hand’ of each wing appearing to be lowered, and as it turned side on I could see that the tail was long in proportion to the body. It was without doubt a Honey Buzzard, and I watched as it soared south, dropping below the horizon, so that I could clearly see the distinctive bands on the upper tail. The head, body and underwing coverts were a solid dark brown colour, which contrasted strongly with the neatly barred, silvery-white primaries and secondaries. The bird became rapidly more distant, and was soon seen landing in a tree over a mile away. I had not expected it to be so distinctive, and left feeling very lucky to have seen one of these elusive birds!
I rounded off the trip with a few hours at the Cotswold water park, but failed to see either Red-Crested Pochard or Nightingale. It had been an amazing few days nonetheless, with 850 miles traveled, for 8 new british bird species, 2 new dragonfly species and 2 new butterfly species!! Not a bad little trip!