15/06/2021-Naturetrek Stone Curlew walk
On a day’s annual leave we did something we’d had booked for a few weeks today, a Naturetrek walk at a site where there are Stone Curlews in Hampshire. This was the area where some were shown on BBC Springwatch and we were really looking forward to this to try and see this bird we never had before.
We arrived on another truly glorious day which was so sunny and became so warm again, arriving in the morning was nicely cool at times though. We went and had tea and biscuits in a very pretty fishing hut beside a really picturesque pond which I took the final two pictures in this photoset of. What a lovely spot to start the day, greeted by two domestic ducks that were around and it was quite entertaining to see they were fed too I tweeted on Dans_Pictures a photo of these. Driving in to this private estate it was obvious we were in Red Kite country and it was glorious to see one glide spectacularly over the pond and the car park. It transpired that there was a pair with a nest near the pond which was amazing I had never seen one anywhere near a nest before. On the walk around this beautiful estate we rarely went 10 minutes without seeing a Red Kite there were so many flying around and circling overhead. I really enjoyed getting to see their immense scale and stunning feathers and markings. It was great to hear them which I don’t often do as it was teeming with them today and see the area of another nest too. It was great to see so many so well for a bird that has had its past struggles. I took the first two pictures in this photoset a view from where we parked and one of the Red Kites.
The tour was led by Keith Betton the Hampshire County recorder and head of the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS), who gave a very interesting and comprehensive introductory talk about the estate we were on and the Stone Curlews as the group arrived, settled and began to become acquainted. Keith also picked out a singing Lesser Whitethroat which was great to hear one of my star birds this year.
We then set off on the walk and I was thrilled to see a Small Tortoiseshell darting by as the group collected all we needed for the walk from the car a species of concern numbers wise. A great clear view of a butterfly I had only seen once briefly from the car so far this year all the way back on Good Friday. As we started the walk through a really rich meadow habitat we saw some great butterflies early on, Painted Lady that we’ve had a great year for already there are so many about, Red Admiral, Common Blue, Small Heath and another Meadow Brown for me after yesterday later on in the walk.
There were lots of Hares around throughout the walk which was great some of my closest ever views of Hare in Hampshire at least so it was brilliant to see these special bright brown mammals one I always enjoy seeing. I managed the third picture in this photoset of one.
It was also such a fantastic walk overall for flowers which Keith pointed out excellently including my first ever broomrape which I took the fourth picture in this photoset of, goat’s-beard, and fox and cubs, hop trefoil, my first greater knapweed, self heal and pyramidal orchid of the year, stainfoin, bird’s-foot trefoil, kidney vetch and oxeye daisies all such important pieces of life to support so much life. This was really a revelation of the walk for me.
We reached an area looking over a field where Keith said Stone Curlews are and one of the group spotted one which we all got our binoculars/telescopes onto. It was a fantastic moment as we saw it for a while before it went out of view. A glorious few minutes. I was over the moon, we had seen the main bird of the trip. This had become a species that was a goal for me to see. It’s my first ever wild Stone Curlew, and I knew this was now likely today knowing we were coming after the weekend but that now means I’ve got three bird life ticks in four days, after not seeing one since October beforehand. One of those really memorable and amazing moments which birdwatching is all about as my life list reaches a milestone 275. It was interesting to see another important breeding bird here the Lapwing with two flying up to mob one of the many Red Kites not something I had seen before.
Moving on and for the rest of the walk we started to see dozens and dozens of bright pink and sweetly shaped pyramidal orchids. It was stunning scenes in these vibrant life rich meadows. This is a flower I learnt a couple of years ago that rather came to the fore during my great learning of flowers beginning last year, so I am very fond of them. It means all of a sudden I’ve seen all the orchid species which based on last year and others I thought I could see which has been really satisfying and a key part of my spring. Everyone in the group really reflected upon how lovely it was to have these wildflowers around to take in too. I took the sixth picture in this photoset of a white pyramidal orchid we saw which was interesting.
We reached an area overlooking the field where the Stone Curlews had a nest. With some expert guidance from Keith teeing them up in his telescope and ours we got some sensational views of one Stone Curlew sat on a nest and another out walking a little bit. It was incredible to see their strong camouflage markings and mesmerising piercing eyes shining out over the landscape. We got to make out the bird so well to its full extent. It was fascinating to see the one hunkered down on the nest and so exciting to see the one stood up and walking around too. They are unique and charming birds of these types of quite dry habitats. They really are one of the finest bird species we have, it was an honour to be in their company today and will definitely go down as one of my greatest moments of 2021. I got the fifth picture in this photoset with my bridge camera of one of the Stone Curlews.
Walking back to the fishing hut it was nice to see some big moths in the thick grassland and hear and see lovely Willow Warblers as Keith had got us onto earlier in the walk. When back at the fishing hut to eat lunch in relaxing and idyllic circumstances chatting to Keith and other members of the group which was so fascinating it was great to see Kestrel, Buzzard and Red Kite again especially over the pond. Black-tailed Skimmer, Beautiful Demoiselle, Common Blue Damselflies and Red-legged Partridge in perfect rural habitat for it were great to see on a sunny and hot day here too. Also here we got the divine and captivating sight of a group of beautiful bright Yellowhammers peacefully bathing in the pond which was smashing to see. I took the final four pictures in this photoset of views on the way back and at the ponds.
Wildlife Sightings Summary: My first ever Stone Curlew, two of my favourite birds the Red Kite and Buzzard, two of my favourite butterflies the Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral, Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Skylarks well too, Blackbird, Rook, Woodpigeon, Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Swallow, Lapwing, Moorhen, Mallard, Painted Lady, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Brimstone, Large White, moths, another malachite beetle for me this year one did land on me too and we heard Lesser Whitethroat.
I left feeling so happy with how we got to spend the day today. We really did see amazing and iconic wildlife in a brilliant and beautiful estate undergoing a promising and exciting rewilding project but also steeped in regal history with King Henry II and King John hosting hunting parties here which made it special to be here. The tour was organised so well and was very friendly, welcoming and easy to be involved with. Keith’s expert knowledge and the hospitality was brilliant and he so ably and patiently guided us all to see the Stone Curlews very well and as much flora and fauna as possible on the walk. With the sitting by the pond too it was just such an enjoyable day one of my best of the year I was so impressed with it. We met some varied, fascinating and lovely people all together today having so many great chats about wildlife topics and others I’ve had a great few days for that. What a brilliant thing to do any time but especially after the weekend we just had and just before a holiday.
We did have a second walk once home which my next post it about.