Saturday, 30 May 2009

Stoned Thrice!

Today I had the pleasure of taking a contact from Oregon out for a days birding before he went on to Mongolia. Having picked him up from Heathrow the first objective (after a quick cup of coffee) was to see a Stone Curlew. Luckily I had some help and we headed west into Hampshire to a site, where a friend had been watching a pair yesterday. Once we got there we scanned the area for about 15 minutes without luck. Then magically I caught a glimpse of the wing bar moving in the view I had in the scope. Although the bird was too far away for photos it continued to give great views to Mike for a while and our first target was in the bag.

The second thing on Mike's list was more predictable, and not too far away. So it was back on the A303 and join the queues going west. A few slowish miles down the road saw us parking at Stonehenge. As you can see, I'd arrange with English Heritage (and photoshop) to have the area clear of any other people.

It is a long while since I last visited Stonehenge, in those days there were no ropes, no walkways and I took pictures of the kids leaning against the stones in these arches. I have to say that I think English Heritage have done a great job on the site, and better still being a member parking and entrance were free!

I wonder if those ancient Druids ticked off ancient Pied Wagtails while watching the sun come up?
Mike was impressed, having been to a National Geographic exhibition about Stonehenge, he's now seen the real thing.

On then to Thursley NNR, in Surrey. This is one of my favourite away day places, it is one of the largest remaining fragments of Surrey heath and includes areas of lowland heath, mire and woodland. Although some of the woodland and heath was damaged by a large fire in July 2006 most of the species that make it special are still thriving. The Tree Pipit (above) performed beautifully.

It commenced it's song flight from the top perch and then parachuted down to the pine above. It is one of my favourite songsters, but at Thursley it is outdone (see below). Nearby we watched a male Stonechat doing its clinking stones call as it sat on top of a gorse bush.

Another of the special things at Thursley offers is the intriguing Sundew. These insectivorous plants bring a touch of the exotic, although this group appears to be going hungry at the moment.

The one sound, above all others at Thursley that I love to hear is the song of the Woodlark. We saw two pairs, both walking along the tracks, one carrying a caterpillar and a group of four. Each time they were fairly quiet although a few subdued "tit-too-lit" calls were heard. Finally, just before we got back to the car park, we heard one singing it song of pure notes. It was a it of a cheat though, instead of performing its song flight it was using a telephone line to sing from. The one down side was that we failed to find a Dartford Warbler. The cold weather has obviously had a major affect on the population here, although I hear that they fared better in the new Forest.


Susan said...

I never managed to make it to Thursley. It was burnt the year I did my grasses, sedges and rushes module for my UCert field taxonomy, so we had to use other sites. Apparently it is where David Bellamy proposed to his wife, and is considered a most romantic spot by botanists.

Stonehenge looking great in the sun.

Tony Morris said...

A few years ago I took my bird-watching class to Thursley and we met Mr Bellamy with a group. He stopped and chatted, but I don't know if he had his wife with him, or if he proposed amongst the Sundews. They were married when he was 19 so the proposal would have been in or before 1952. I bet Thursley was quite different then.