I had an amazingly close encounter with a couple of Terns at Pennington Marsh in Hampshire. This pair were sat on the edge of a verge that led down into the Solent. One was very vocal at some points, as you will see below.
I'd like to point out that I wasn't as close as these pictures make out, and at no time did I disturb these guys. I have cropped quite a lot to bring them closer. Anyway, here are the Common Terns.
When the birds aren't playing, I tend to turn my eye to other forms of nature. Insects, fungi, moths and butterflies mainly. Recently in the New Forest I came across a few species of butterfly that I'd never seen before. These were pointed out to me by our very able guide Jon Stokes.
We found a Pearl-bordered Fritillary late one evening. Wonderful colours both with wings open or closed. When closed you can see the white 'pearls' on the underside that give it it's name.
And wings open. Looking great in the sun.
Marsh Fritillary, found on the slopes of Martin Down.
Dingy Skipper. Not the most colourful butterfly and quite small.
Hampshire and the New Forest had many different varieties of birds. Some I'd never seen before, and some that were a little more familiar.
At Pennington Marsh in Lymington we had some good but distant views of Spoonbill. A little closer were Dunlin, Turnstone and Little Ringed Plover. Some large gulls were drifting in off the Solent. Such as this beast below.
Great Black-backed Gull.
This Little Tern was my first of the year, and it didn't hang around too long either.
On the New Forest itself there were plenty of Meadow Pipits busying themselves. Seen here on some gorse.
An early morning drive into the heart of Epping Forest and Connaught Water in search of Nightingale proved to be fruitless. The weather was kind to me though, with the sun up and warm too. There were plenty of other birds up and about though, with Blackcaps in good voice especially.
Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker were in attendance too, as were Nuthatch and a few Chiffchaff.
A nice surprise on the water were a pair of Common Tern. One was sat on a post while the other was engaging in courtship feeding, whereby the male (usually) goes and catches fish and then presents it to the female. It was quite interesting to watch, as she didn't seem that impressed. I guess it's like when a guy tries to buy a lady a drink in a bar, to woo her. Sometimes it might take a few drinks for her to see his good nature.
Waiting for that second or third drink.
Some very cute goslings.
Just look how much bigger they will get.
The stripy headed juvenile Great Crested Grebe.
The very colourful male Mandarin Duck.
I wasn't expecting to see this Whistling Duck in Epping Forest.
The Gannets were the real reason for my longing to go to Bempton Cliffs this year. Such a stunning looking bird and even better when there are thousands of them soaring along the cliff tops.
I wasn't disappointed with what I saw and in fact it surpassed my expectations. I just wish it had been a little warmer and the light better, but I guess you can't have everything. It's certainly somewhere I will go back to, and maybe just stare in wonder again at one of natures finest spectacles.
One of the best places that I can almost guarantee seeing a Kingfisher (and it's not a particularly easy bird to pin down) is back at my Mum and Dad's in Loughton, Essex. I spent my childhood, youth and young adulthood here. I spent a lot of time on the Roding Valley Nature Reserve, but at that time it was usually spent playing football or riding a bike. Now when I go back to visit, I go on foot and seek out all the delights that nature has to show me. There is plenty to be seen, and knowing the site so well, I have an advantage in understanding what will be where.
There are several spots that I concentrate on for the Kingfishers, and at this time of year they are a bit more active. My first sighting was just a brief one as it called and then flew in front of me and into the sun. Not very helpful. The next was a whole lot better.
An early morning walk before disturbance by too many other people, and I caught sight of a red flash banking right towards the river. Having crept to a vantage point where I could see the bank, I put my binoculars up. Sat on a branch looking back at me was a cracking little bird. I think it was a juvenile.
I was able to watch for a good five minutes or so before the first dog walker of the day shouted 'Good morning' and scared it off. Great views all the same and at quite close quarters. One of my favourite birds.
The Cetti's Warbler is so often seen but not heard. A loud burst of song from within a dense bush is usually all you get. I saw my first one at Titchwell in Norfolk last year. After hearing several bursts it appeared close to the boardwalk. It sat quite proud for a moment, tail cocked, and then shot off into the undergrowth again.
I've had a few encounters this Spring too. Pennington Flash came up trumps again and gave me fleeting views by the hide, but the New Forest was excellent for the number of singing birds and those willing to show themselves.
It's a very nice looking bird. I just wish it was seen more often, because they are there.
I really enjoyed watching the Kittiwakes at Bempton and Flamborough. This medium sized gull almost looks like it doesn't belong in the 'gull' family. It has a softer look to it than some other gulls. It looks dreamy eyed and lovable. You'd probably think differently if you heard the noise that they make though.
Apart from their noise, the plumage looks very subtle, the bill is quite small and yellow and they have a lovely dark eye. Contrast this to some other gulls that have large aggressive looking bills and yellow beady eyes and the Kittiwake seems like a real pussycat.
These birds were busy making nests and generally jostling for positions on the cliffs. It was lovely to watch them sore and hang in the air. Quite possibly my favourite gull.