Minding my own business wandering down by the Roding, thinking a) how I was going to fill the day and b) how I was going to get to Pagham on Sunday with my driver papping Nutcracker in Poland, when Mr Bradnum calls (always a good sign). Apparently there is some rather smart Wheatear doing the business down the New Forest, would I like to go? A no brainer this one.
Twenty minutes later we are on our way to pick up Mr Vaughan (this particular Wheatear a bit of a bogey bird for Howard) and then down the M3 where we pick up a NGB, Ollie Simms on his way back from the Hud.
The New Forest is rather special, every county should have one, this particular bit I had not been to before and it is truly awesome. While we waited in the growing crowd we watched Goshawks and a few Buzzard owning the air, but soon were called sheep like to a rendezvous with an incredible smart Eastern form of a Black-eared Wheatear, and I can quite understand my Mr Lethbridge goes all weak-kneed about the birds.
A male it was quite stunning as it perched, shrike like on the burnt gorse, every now and then flycatching or pouncing on something in the grass. Distantly mostly, but it did come close at one point after being flushed by some young ladies on their horses – not quite enough to get the killer shots that would have really annoyed Mr L, but enough for a few record shots.
Tiring of its host of admirers it flew high over the trees to new pastures. We decided to have a sky watch for large raptors. I picked up a Goshawk to the west, but mostly I was picking up blobs way in the distance. H, with his scope, made out some probable Honey B to the east, but to me, again they were just blobs. While we watched Tree Pipit and Woodlark sang, so I thought I'd have a go at the latter. Not long after wandering off one, a young bird I am figuring with a bit of its gape still visible, landed on the path just in front of me. Really quite ugly birds close up and a real contrast to their wonderful song.
We had another look at the Wheaty, picked up a few Firecrest singing, but then decided to head back to London, a Quail at Rainham the encouragement. Didn't find the Quail, but I did get a calling Tawny Owl in Wanstead Park as I walked home. Sweet! Cheers Dave.