Monday, 9 February 2015

Bratley Plain and Eyeworth Pond - 7th February

The first time I visited the Bratley Plain/Kings Garden area of the New Forest was on 2nd January with Trev when we failed to locate a Great Grey Shrike that had been present. So with reports of the bird there again on 6th February I decided to have another crack at the bird today. In a still bitter north-easterly and with much of the water on the heath frozen, I walked the exposed ridgeline southwards from the carpark at Milkham Inclosure to the main path that passes east to west from Bratley Inclosure to Kings Garden and from here I chose a high spot to scan across Bratley Plain and Buckherd Bottom. After some scanning and very few birds I spotted a grey dot in a bush about 500m to the north-west in the Hawthorn bushes flanking Roe Inclosure, through binoculars I couldn't decide whether this was a lump of lichen or some litter but then the wind shifted the branches and I could just about visualise what could be the Great Grey Shrike so I headed back north from my view point and onto the main path back towards Milkham Inclosure and as I walked I periodically stopped and scanned and eventually I was certain I had the shrike. When I was about 200m away I stopped and ran of some photographs and that was it, the bird flew, gained height, hovered over the thorn patch and flew way into the distance before dropping into Buckherd Bottom. I contemplated chasing it but surveyed the terrain and decided against it. I checked the thorn bush where it had been sitting to see if it was a regularly used perch and found numerous droppings beneath  and then noticed a small bird, possibly a Robin impaled on a thorn - this was the first time I had found a shrikes larder in the UK.

Great Grey Shrike perched distantly in a Hawthorn bush

Great Grey Shrike hovering before flying off into the distance

The shrikes larder, I suspect this is a Robin 

View across the heath to Buckherd Bottom, this is an extensive area of heathland. The shrike flew from this position to just beyond the middle ridge visible in the left of the photograph

New Forest Ponies

I decided to head back to the car as the time was pushing on, I cut through Kings Garden and Milkham Inclosure birding as I went, it was fairly quite but with many of the common birds now in territorial song, a sign of an approaching spring. I watched a Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding in a Scot's Pine often clinging to the outer limbs and investigating the needle clusters. A Raven passed overhead and Siskin called from the trees.

Great-spotted Woodpecker


With a couple of spare minutes I decided to pull into the carpark at Eyeworth Pond to try to get some shots of Marsh Tit, this is a good area for the species as the public put down seed and they allow close approach but other than some fleeting glimpses they were not performing today. The Mandarin Duck showed well, with 11 birds present in the only unfrozen area of water on the pond. I watched the feeders for a while and then had a sudden feeling of being a bit of a dude watching plastic ducks and Blue Tits - it was time to head home.

Mandarin Ducks on ice

Blue Tit on a lichen and moss covered Oak