A trip to Holten Lee

I tried to go out for a quick walk on Wednesday in between the showers, but the heavens opened and I ended up driving to the Quay and the cliff top to watch the crashing waves and pouring rain. After a quick trip to the supermarket, once parked back in my drive, the sun decided to come out again, but too late the moment had passed.

The weather forecast yesterday evening said we were due a dry, but cold day today. So I went to bed knowing that I would finally be able to get out, but where to, that was the question.

When I woke my mind immediately started debating with itself the possible location for my day out. I could go to Pennington Marshes, but I might not be able to see much if the water levels were high. I could go to Stanpit Marsh to spot the harriers, kestrel or sparrow hawk, but I have been there on my last three trips out. I wanted to go Martin Down, where I had previously only been with my brother, but I worried I wouldn’t be able to find it, or that I would get lost in the unfamiliar woods.

All the thoughts of getting lost, or not seeing a bird I wanted to see were making me anxious, so I got up and went downstairs and put the news on to distract me. As everyone left the house to go to work, I finally made a decision. Don’t waste any more time, get in the car and head out to Holten Lee near Upton, Poole.

I parked in the car park and before I had even got all my stuff out of the car, I had four robins in the tree next to me. Most of the time robins are solitary birds, but these birds were clearly grouped together and happily following each other and singing to other robins in a nearby tree. As I headed off to the toilets (always my first port of call before a long walk) I could see and hear lots of birds in the bushes and trees around the car park.

There were blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits and wrens. I expect the birds were just as excited as I was that it was not raining.

The last time I was here I walked around the farm land, but I decided that the long grass on the tracks would probably make my shoes very wet, so I thought I would just head straight to the wood and then the hides and heathland.

I knew that there are resident little owls on this site, but not where exactly. Along the path to the wood you pass Two Oak Field and my guess would be that the owls would love the oak trees, so I scanned them with my binoculars. There was no sign of an owl, but there was a large nesting box on the back of one tree.

Now that the trees have mostly lost their leaves it is so much easier to see the birds in the branches, but they also can move about much quicker, so getting photos is still as hard. There seemed to be lots of finches about, chaffinch and bullfinch, and I could also hear the high notes of a goldcrest or firecrest. I could hear a song thrush in one of the trees, but try as I might, I could not spot it.

There are so many lovely colours on our birds, and the bullfinches were beautiful.

As I walked around the base of the hill there was lots of surface water running off the fields and the trees were standing in a lot of water. I could hear a strange call coming from the undergrowth. I wondered if it was a kestrel or other raptor, but then it sounded more like an animal. I kept stopping to see if I could spot anything. I noticed that just beyond the trees was the edge of the marshland and reeds and it occurred to me it could be a water rail, a wading bird that follows the reeds at the edge of the water to feed. The water rail has a call that sounds very like a piglet. I couldn’t see anything, so I’ll never know.

There are views from the wood across Poole Harbour and as I walked through the woods I could hear the strange noises of a ferry horn and also the train running close by to Wareham. Patches of land so close to busy towns with all this beauty.

The last time I walked through the wood on the hill it was covered in a thick blanket of ferns, and on several occasions I thought I would get stuck or lost, but today I could easily follow the path and could see that it wasn’t that big and it led you round in a circle, back to where you started. Nothing to worry about here.

As I walked back toward the path I stopped in my tracks as I spotted the bright chests of the bullfinches as they flew into a bush with the last remaining red berries on it. They scattered when they spotted me, but were then replaced with two wrens. I happily watched them for a few minutes, until I became aware of a little bird on the gorse in front of me.

It was a goldcrest, with its distinctive yellow striped head, pale circled eyes and what looks like a downward sad mouth. I am never sure , until I have time to see the detail back home, whether I have seen a goldcrest or a firecrest.

I watched it for ages as it flew from bush to bush, such a tiny little bird, but absolutely beautiful. My photos were rubbish, but I was very happy to have seen it so close and not really bothered by me, once flying almost straight at me, at which point I nearly dropped my camera.

Back on the path you meet the first hide overlooking feeders, a pond and then views across the marsh to the harbour. There was a lot of activity, robins, squirrels, blue tits, great tits, and a nuthatch and they were all sweeping in and out at great speed to get a quick bite. The hide was very cold as there was no sun to warm it up, so I decided to carry on walking, to keep my body temperature up.

I followed the raised walk way through the reed beds, a sweeping path that I am sure in the summer must be filled with reed warblers and buntings. Another date to be pencilled in the diary.

Once off the walkway you walk through the trees to another hide looking over the water. I met a fellow birdwatcher coming back from the hide who asked if I had been in the other hide and seen much. I told him I had seen quite a lot. He said there had been a lot of activity earlier at the water hide, but now everything had disappeared. We exchanged good wishes for the rest of the day and I continued to the hide.

There were a lot of birds high in the canopy of the trees and at first I thought they were starlings, but there was none of the normal noise associated with them. I managed a quick glimpse of one bird as it stopped on a branch and to my surprise it turned out to be a flock of redwing. They had moved on before I could get a shot on my camera.

I entered the hide and a man was in there. We spoke for a while, but as there wasn’t much happening I decided to walk around the heath. There wasn’t much about, probably because it was so cold, so my hopes of seeing stonechats or Dartford warblers were thwarted. I walked in a small loop across the heath and headed back the way I had come. When I got back to the first hide I stopped outside to see if I could see any of the little birds on the branches of the trees, to get some photos, but no sooner had I spotted them than they disappeared behind the hut to the feeders. I guessed photos on the feeders was probably better than none.

There was a lady in the hide who I had said hello to earlier and she said there were lots of birds showing, including a great spotted woodpecker. I said I had seen a nuthatch earlier which she had not seen yet. As if by magic it turned up , so I sat down in one of the chairs and we sat chatting and watching the birds for about 30 minutes.

Nuthatch

The sun came out and the light and warmth brightened the moment for us and the birds.

Long tailed tits
Coaltit
Great spotted woodpecker

We discussed photography, photoshopping pictures, which neither of us do, pros and cons of bird feeders in the garden and rats. It was really nice to sit and talk and exchange stories of places to walk too.

Goldfinch
Nuthatch upside down as normal

We both followed a chap on social media who works at Holten Lee and posts pictures of a little owl and she said he had shown her where it could be spotted. We left the hut and walked back to the car park and opposite the field with the two oaks where I previewed thought the owl would be, she showed me an old dead oak where there is a nesting box (so far unused) and another couple of oaks where the owl is regularly seen perched. We scanned the trees to see if we could spot it (at this point I was so cold I was shivering and could hardly hold my binoculars still) to no avail and we joked that it was probably behind us laughing.

Ignoring my cold to go out in the sun

After my damp walk yesterday I felt a chill and sneezed about a hundred times. I went to bed feeling full of cold and had every intention of staying in bed today.

But then the sun came out and while I was eating my breakfast in bed, I realised there were starlings and long tailed tits outside my window in the tree, and another smaller bird that I couldn’t identify as it was against the sun.

I had taken paracetamol and ibuprofen and started feeling a little better, so the decision was made, I would wrap up warm and go out.

As I entered the path a female black bird was sitting on the path. There was no sign of the thrushes from yesterday though.

There was a curlew in almost the same place as yesterday, but a little nearer, reassuring me that I had made the right move to come out for the walk.

There was a beautiful robin flitting about, it was just unfortunate that it kept landing on a pile of horse muck.

There was no sign of any kingfishers today as I headed out onto Crouch Hill, but there were lots of birds enjoying the sunshine. There were Brent geese rummaging in the wet grass for food and lots of redshanks around the little ponds.

As I stood on the Hill, I spotted a bird shoot along the ground beyond the gorse. It was either a kestrel, or a sparrow hawk, and I watched it disappear across the marsh. I noticed that there were a few people further back along the path looking through their binoculars across the Marsh. I trained my binoculars in the direction they were looking and realised the bird had flown past them, up through the tree tops and now there were two birds soaring through the sky chasing each other, before disappearing into the distance.

As they disappeared I kept scanning the horizon looking for them and soon saw that further past the Marsh, across to Christchurch, there were several other raptors being chased and harassed by crows. I think two were buzzards, possibly the two I see off Stoney Lane.

One of the other bird watchers had made his way toward me, as he could see that I was still watching the birds well after they had disappeared from their sight line. We had a long discussion about the possible birds they were (one may have been a hen harrier on its way from Cowards Marsh, nearer my home) and that he believed the two birds chasing each other were indeed a kestrel and a sparrow hawk. He also told me that there were potentially eight hen harriers roosting at Pennington Marshes. They can be spotted when they settle down in the evening. The likelihood is that all the marsh harriers spotted at Stanpit Marsh (three this morning) make their way to Pennington to roost.

We headed off in different directions and I followed the path around the marsh.

The marsh was quite flooded still from the rain and high tides and the clouds that were now covering the sky were reflecting beautifully in the still water.

Three wigeon posed for me just off the path.

The clouds were really rolling in now and it was much colder, so I kept walking to keep warm, keeping my eyes alert to any movement on the ground and in the sky.

The only small birds I had seen so far were robins, wagtails and pipits.

As I neared the end of the path I spotted a stonechat in a reed bed.

The stonechat is one of my favourite little birds.

When I got to the end of the path I thought I could see a kestrel in the wooded area, so rather than walk straight across the recreation ground back to the car, I decided to go through the wood. With any luck I might see the firecrest which seems resident behind the visitor centre.

There was indeed a kestrel and it flew past me, but I couldn’t see where it had gone. As I approached the end of the wood I could finally see a kestrel in the top branch of a leafless tree. A female.

As I stood watching she decided to take off again and land in a more distant tree, but as I tried to get nearer she did the same again, returning to the original tree.

As I turned to walk back I heard the distinctive high notes of the firecrest and spotted it in a tree next to me. I did get a picture of it, but without any of its yellow markings visible, in the shade of the tree.

I was definitely getting cold now, so decided to head back home, glad that I had made the effort to get out and enjoy the sun while it lasted.

The call of the curlew

When you set off for a walk across the Marsh at Stanpit, before you see anything, you can normally hear the curlew and this morning was no exception. On the walk from the car park I saw magpies, a jay and two beautiful thrushes hiding from me in a tree.

Starlings, robins and blackbirds could be heard and occasionally seen disappearing into the hedgerows.

As I looked across the marsh I could see a curlew not too far away and it was not bothered by my presence. They are a remarkable looking bird with the long bill and beautiful plumage. I never tire of seeing them, such a lovely sight.

The wading birds all have bills in assorted lengths and styles that allow them to forage for different food in and around the water and mud.

There weren’t as many geese on the marsh today, not that I could see, unlike a couple of weeks ago when so many flew over me.

In the little ponds in the marsh were little pockets of teal, such a pretty little duck.

As I stood on Crouch Hill looking across to Mudeford the weather seemed to be turning from cold and cloudy, to decidedly damp. Across the water all the birds were huddled together to protect themselves from the cold.

The little birds are so hard to identify. I know there were wigeon and teal ducks, a couple of ringed plover, but the others were a mystery. Another bird watcher pointed out snipe flying over, but even with their long beaks I would not have known what they were.

Oyster catchers were happily sitting with the wigeon and several flew over with there whistling call and landed in front of me on the hill.

As they weather closed in on me and the rain began to fall, I noticed a marsh harrier coming across the marsh and then head out towards Mudeford before disappearing as it went out to the open sea.

A few little birds were flying overhead and some landed on the ground ahead of me. There were quite a few pied wagtails and a solitary meadow pipit.

I tried to head around the rest of the marsh, but the weather really wasn’t playing ball and I was beginning to feel quite cold. (Once home I realised I actually have a cold)

The Bailey bridge and wooden walkways were actually vital to negotiate the path without getting really wet feet.

A swan flew over head and at this point I decided it was probably best to head back to the car.

How different a couple of days can be.

A plethora of kingfishers

It took me a couple of hours to force myself out of the door for a walk this morning and when I eventually headed out I headed for Stanpit Marsh. The sun was shining and the clouds had dispersed, leaving a clear blue sky.

The marsh was covered in little puddles and the inlets of water over the marsh were full of water running to the little ponds in the reeds.

As I walked along the path towards Crouch Hill I spotted a kingfisher flying over the water inlet and it shot past in front of me and disappeared into the reeds around one of the little ponds. I was so excited. I so rarely see the kingfishers on the marsh. I stood watching for a few minutes hoping to see it emerge again, but it didn’t. So I scanned across the marsh and to my surprise I could see another one perched on a branch in a distant pond. Within a few seconds it left its perch and headed off to the left and as I tried to keep up with it with my binoculars, I could see another one heading in the other direction, and then just as quickly they were gone.

I headed up on to the Hill and spotted a lady coming towards me who I knew from her posts on social media. We stood talking for a while discussing how we enjoyed our walks with nature and how they help us to get through the tough times. As we stood talking, one of the kingfishers flew across the water and stopped and hovered over one of the little ponds. It seemed to hover for ages before diving into the water and coming out with a fish. It sat on the bank for a while eating it’s fish before returning to hover over the water.

I didn’t get a decent picture, I was too busy enjoying the spectacle. We were soon joined by another couple, the man being another person I follow on social media, who often takes beautiful pictures at another of my favourite places, Pennington Marshes. We continued watching the kingfishers until we went our separate ways.

I walked around the edge of the hill, where you are permitted to walk so as not to disturb the birds on the water, and looked out toward Mudeford Quay and the sandspit. There were the normal birds to be seen along the water line on the marsh including lapwing, swans, teal, numerous gulls and waders. To my astonishment there was another kingfisher flying over the water and then hovering looking for food. I took some pictures, but only got blurred images in front of a beautifully focused house on Fisherman’s Bank on the opposite side of the water.

Oystercatchers were flying around calling to each other and some landed on the grass in front of me and ran along the ground to get away from the people walking about.

As I approached the Bailey Bridge crossing the river, I looked out to the harbour and could see two kingfishers heading straight for me, chasing each other. They veered off over the Hill and then, as they approached more people out walking, they quickly darted back toward the bridge flying through the people before disappearing into the reeds.

I spoke to the couple I’d met a little earlier and we shared our excitement at watching the kingfishers giving us such a display, and then we carried on walking around the marsh together. We talked about our favourite birds and where we have seen them at both Stanpit Marsh and Pennington.

There were a lot of people out enjoying the sunshine which was lovely to see here, but from a personal perspective, it did mean that there was less to see because of the increased noise from chatting and footfall on the paths.

We did see a pipit just off the path that seemed unperturbed by all the people around.

As we approached the final part of the marsh walk, I commented that I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t seen a kestrel. I normally don’t like to leave the marsh until I have seen one.

As if my words had anything to do with it, I noticed a distant bird heading over the tree tops toward the edge of the Recreation Ground, near to the gate where you leave the marsh. It was a kestrel. I said my goodbyes to the couple I had been walking with and headed to the gate.

I could just make out the bird sitting in the high branches, so I moved out onto the recreation ground to get a better view. It was a male kestrel with his grey head. He looked quite small, I thought, but very pretty. I wondered if it was one of this years young from the nesting box.

I took lots of photos as he was being buffeted by the breeze that high up in the tree and kept turning his face away from me.

Kestrels are such beautiful birds and so lovely to watch as they hover over the fields looking for little rodents to eat.

I was going to walk back through the wood on the edge of the marsh, but this had been a great walk and so I headed off home.

You wait for one bus (or in my case a bird) …..

Today I had nothing planned and the weather this morning was so nice, I decided I would go to Hengistbury Head.

I parked in the golf course car park, as it is free and headed for the gate to enter the nature reserve. Now that the leaves are falling from the trees it is easier to see the birds again and I was not disappointed. It must have taken me twenty minutes to walk the first couple of hundred metres as there were so many birds. They were chasing each other about the tree tops.

There were lots of magpies, robins, chiffchaff, blackbirds, sparrows and blue tits and I walked slowly down the track as I watched them.

There were a few wrens about, but they were not making any noise, so more difficult to spot.

There has been quite a lot of work done on the land at Wick, with new fences, gates and places cleared where you can walk through to look over the stream and fields. I’m not sure if this is something to do with the farm land, or if it has been done by the rangers from Hengistbury Head, I do know that I will definitely be looking to see if there is anything interesting to see on the coming walks.

As I walked I realised that there were several large flocks of birds flying inland over Wick. Only yesterday I had read an article about wood pigeons migrating at this time of year. I did not know that they did this and couldn’t have been more surprised when I realised that these large flocks were indeed pigeons. Each flock was at least a couple of hundred birds, and they continued to appear until I got to Hengistbury Head. I expect there were several thousand in total.

As I stopped to look at some long tailed tits in a tree, a lady walking her dog stopped to talk to me. She asked how long I had been bird watching and I explained that I started back in 2013 when I was off work for six months with depression. She had become interested after giving up jogging, because of knee injuries and had realised that she had not noticed how much there was to see and that so many people miss all this nature, running along or with headphones on. Now she was really interested, but didn’t know much. She also commented that she had noticed, over the years of her running, that there seemed to be a lot more men than women who bird watched. After some consideration we decided that men must have more available time, perhaps a bit controversial, but perhaps I can get some female friends to come out with me on some of my walks and balance the scales a little.

The views across the reeds and water across to Christchurch Priory and to Mudeford were lovely with the reflections of the sky in the still water.

I walked along the path heading for the hill and scanned the barn field to see if I could see any stonechats, but there was nothing to see.

Across the long field I could see two bird watchers looking across the field towards the water. As I got near I said hello. I knew one man, Steve, from previous walks. We talked about our sightings and discussed the migrating pigeons. The man I hadn’t met before said he thought there was someone on top of Hengistbury Head counting the pigeons as they went over and I shouldn’t be surprised if the recorded sightings was tens of thousands of birds.

I continued to walk through the long field towards the bird enclosure, scanning all the gorse bushes, shrubs and trees for any birds. To my delight I spotted a Dartford warbler, which was looking for food in and out of the gorse.

Steve had said that there were fire crests and a coal tit in the bird enclosure, so I walked slowly through the wood, looking at all the likely trees and fallen trees to see if I could see anything. I thought I could hear a woodpecker, but couldn’t see one. There were calls from blue tits and robins, but I couldn’t see much. Then, as I stood watching, I spotted a very small bird moving through one of the trees. I trained my binoculars on the tree and was amazed to see it was a fire crest. I desperately tried to get a photo, but it was so well hidden behind the twisted branches, I only managed to get one of its rear view, but clearly showing it’s telltale colouring.

It is just possible to make out the yellow streak on its head, and the colours on its feathers which I think distinguish it from a gold crest.

As I left the bird enclosure I continued along the path through the wood toward the beach-huts and sandspit. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to walk that way, but then I thought the weather looked so nice, I expected the beach huts would look nice too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The beach and coast really did look lovely. I scanned the sea to see if there were any sea birds on the water, but I couldn’t spot any.

I began the return journey and went back through the bird sanctuary, then cut back to the main path to look at the water again.

As I stood overlooking the water I scanned the edges of the reeds to see if I could see a water rail, or any other waders, which I unfortunately didn’t see, but then I caught the flash of a king fisher in the distance. It stopped on a post for a while and I managed to find it with my binoculars and watched as it stopped and hovered above the water looking for breakfast.

The kingfisher finished off the walk beautifully, but while the weather was still looking good I decided I would go home for breakfast and then head out to Stanpit Marsh.

I had to make a trip to the bank before I could go to Stanpit and the sky had already started to look a little grey and threatening. As I walked onto the marsh there were already little drops of rain falling.

There were magpies chattering in the trees and as I walked down the path, toward the visitor hut, some oyster catchers flew over my head and landed in the recreation ground beyond the hedge, on the side of the path.

The other birds seemed to know that the rain was coming and were disappearing into the trees, but I did manage to catch a stonechat sitting on top of the brambles.

The rain was starting to fall heavily as I approached Crouch Hill.

A curlew called out from my left and as I turned to look across the marsh to the right I spotted a large bird lifting off the ground. To my joy it was the marsh harrier, which I have waited so long to see on the Marsh.

The heavens opened, the sky had turned grey, but this had been a great day’s birdwatching.

A rewarding detour because of cows

This morning it looked very misty but dry, so I decided an early walk to the river might be in order for a potential otter sighting. So, after getting my things together, I opened the front door only to discover that it had started to rain. I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and set off anyway. The sun hadn’t risen very high, if at all, so it was still not proper daylight.

There were no people about this morning, so no dogs, and the birds were still singing from the dawn chorus. The river was covered in ripples from the droplets of rain and I was grateful to be wearing my wellies.

As I approached the little bridge I could see a grey wagtail and a pipit hopping about, so I watched them for a while before disturbing them to cross over it.

I scanned the river banks for any signs of an otter, both in the water and out. A friend had once shown me that the otters leave spraint on clumps of grass in places that they frequent, but I couldn’t see any signs. Undeterred, I continued walking and looking.

In the misty sky above me I could just make out a kestrel a way ahead hunting over the fields. I don’t know how it could see anything, they must have amazing eyesight.

I may not have seen an otter, but at least the rain had not been heavy and had now stopped.

I stood for a while scanning up and down the river, but to no avail. There wasn’t an otter to be seen. I headed back the way I had come and walked slowly along keeping an eye on the reeds and beyond.

As I approached the next bend in the river I could see the cows had moved from another field to the rivers edge in front of me. I kept walking to the fenced off area at one bend (to stop the cattle from destroying the bank and letting the river spill into the field) and climbed over the fence to get inside the fenced off area.

The cows came towards me and I spoke gently to them to see if they were friendly. More and more came towards me and I realised they were very big, with big feet (I had wellies on and not very protective if trodden on) and had no intention of moving away from the river. I stood with them for quite a while and tried to stroke a couple on the nose, but each time I slightly moved my arms, one or more would getter spooked.

I decided to do a test to see if they moved around the enclosure if I moved to the far side, but they stayed where they were. There was only one course of action, I would have to go back the way I had just come and see if I could negotiate the saturated field and reach the road in Burton. Luckily the cows didn’t follow me once I had left the enclosed area, and I was safe to carry on, albeit in the wrong direction.

The hope was that I might still have a chance to spot an otter, but unfortunately I didn’t. A young swan and an adult swept past me at great speed.

When I got to the end of the public access on the river I had to climb over another fence to get onto the farm access, as the ground in front of me was much too wet to negotiate. I once saw the very tops of a pair of wellies sticking out of the mud, and imagined the sight of someone walking home covered in mud with no shoes. All the gates on this path were obviously locked, so to get back on the pathway I had to go through a barbed wire fence, luckily it was very easily held down and wasn’t dangerous.

When I came out onto the road I was nearly in Winkton, so I upped my pace and headed back towards Christchurch.

As I neared the roundabout at Stoney Lane I thought the top of the telegraph pole on the roundabout seemed bent at the top, so I looked through my binoculars and was very pleased to see that the elusive buzzard was sitting on top of it.

I had driven past and seen it before, but never seen it when on foot, so this was very exciting for me.

It soon realised that I was watching it and flew from the pole to a tree on the other side of the roundabout, so I crossed the road so that I could perhaps get a better look, and I did. It was a very pale coloured bird, quite unusual and unlike the ones I normally see.

After a while it flew away again, so I decided to make my way home, but as I turned to get back to the crossing I noticed a large bird was sitting in the field to my left which didn’t look like a crow or rook. Upon closer inspection through my binoculars I realised it was another buzzard. How amazing.

The colouring was quite different from the other one, and more like my normal sightings.

The first buzzard was now sitting on a pylon away from prying eyes.

I crossed back over the road and headed off home. For a walk in the rain on a misty morning this had definitely done me more good than sitting on the sofa watching

A bit chillier, but still no rain

My husband went for breakfast with his friends, so I went for a walk.

I needed a kingfisher fix and the place most likely to oblige is the Kingfisher Barn at the Stour Valley Local Nature Reserve.

When I arrived I already knew that the paths had been flooded recently with the latest heavy rain. The river was still really high and the paths covered in mud and occasional large puddles, which necessitated walking up in the trees and undergrowth above them to pass by. I hadn’t walked very far before I was covered in mud.

The height of the river meant that the river bank wasn’t visible and the observation platforms were submerged. This swollen water is quite dangerous as you cannot tell how deep it is and if you were too near the edge you could easily slip in. So I always try and keep away from the edge to keep safe.

A buzzard was flying up with the thermals, all the time being mobbed by crows.

A beautiful Robin was wading through a muddy puddle on the path in front of me, not bothered by my presence.

I kept walking along the river surprised by the number of dog walkers and families on their bikes, unperturbed by the mud and water.

Eventually I reached the spot favoured by photographers for the sightings of the kingfishers and otters, and was not surprised to see a man already there with his huge camera lens pointing into a tree on the opposite bank. At first I couldn’t see what he was looking at and then I spotted the three cormorants sitting on a branch in the large oak tree.

At a casual glance they looked like penguins. The sun was shining straight at me, so I positioned myself behind a tree to try and get some nice shots.

I decided it was probably worth just standing still for a while and waiting to see if anything else appeared. While the man was busy getting more shots of the cormorants, a kingfisher skimmed across the water all the way in front of us, disappearing out of sight just beyond him. My gasp of excitement made him look up and I told him what he had just missed. Hoping that the kingfisher would soon come back I remained where I was a kept my eyes open for any other movement. A robin landed right in front of me, but darted off again when I moved my camera.

A dunnock was singing in a berry laden tree behind me. They are an underrated little bird, lovely colouring and a nice voice.

I was scanning the river and the bank for sightings of the otter I had seen on another occasion, but there was no sign today.

I noticed something move in a tree beyond the photographer and realised it was the kingfisher.

A few people stopped to see what we were looking at and one couple, I realised, had stopped and spoken to me the last time I was here. The lady had quite poor eyesight and longed to see a kingfisher, and then as if by magic, the kingfisher appeared again across the water landing in a tree on the other side of the river.

We continued to watch it as it shot from one side to the other and then disappearing into a clump of trees.

It makes it all the more exciting when you are with someone who is equally impressed by these little birds.

I stayed for a little while listening to a call coming from the trees on the other side of the river, on the edge of a field. It sounded like a raptor, similar to the sound the peregrine made at the Tower in New Milton when calling to its mother. Unfortunately I couldn’t see anything, but was worried in case it was trapped, or hurt, but the noise seemed to be moving, so I felt sure it wasn’t trapped in anything.

A little bird ran across the water and I saw it was a little grebe. I only saw my first one last year, now I seem to spot them a lot. Less than half the size of the crested grebe and continually diving under the water.

I decided to leave this part of the river and to see if the walk was passable heading toward Throop Mill.

The puddles had dried up a little, but with all the activity going through them, the edges were much muddier and the water and mud covered my entire walking shoes, luckily they don’t leak.

A grey wagtail was making the most of one of the puddles and let me take several pictures. Unfortunately, as the name suggests, this bird is constantly moving and getting a picture in focus is quite hard, especially with my total lack of camera setting skills.

The opposite direction along the river was equally as muddy and watching my footwork to avoid completely submerging my shoes proved incompatible with watching for birds.

I decided to walk back to the car along the higher path and then to go through the arboretum.

There is a large variety of trees and the autumn colours were starting to look lovely.

There are still quite a few butterflies about and this one was still intact, unlike some I’ve seen that look like they have been in some battles.