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Fairly long walk around Keyhaven / Pennington / Normandy a couple of weeks ago. A red-necked Grebe was the star bird, found the day before, and relayed to me when I was less than 100m from the shoreline which spoilt a surprise slightly!

Plenty of waders around with quite a few Avocets in the area. Spotted Redshank was another nice surprise, plus a Red-Breasted Merganser on an inland lagoon.
Ruff, Golden Plover, Marsh Harrier, and Bearded Tit rounded off a nice morning.
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Took a fairly uneventful walk through the North New Forest. A Raven building a very obvious nest was the highlight. Also Skylark, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, and plenty of Fallow Deer.

Meanwhile my tripod gets busier with recorder and GPS now attached. The GPS can be read while I walk with the tripod over my shoulder!

Some birds around the garden this week. Single Siskin and Redpoll visited the feeders through the week. Great views as the feeders are only a couple of meters from my window this year.

Also a Stock Dove amongst the Woodpigeons and Jackdaws in the nearby trees was a first for the immediate area, surprisingly.

Review of 2017 and goals for 2018!

2017 was a pretty good wildlife watching year, with a few good trips around England, and into Europe for some decent wildlife.
It started well with the Humpback Whale showing well off Devon. A week on Ile D'Oleron, Western France, was excellent with some good Dragonflies and Damsels, plus some good birds including Melodious Warbler and Scops Owl heard.
Our main Summer hol to Switzerland had more good sightings including Nutcrackers, and Bonelli's Warblers.
Smooth Snake Surveys in the New Forest, although unsuccessful in seeking the prime target was at least good for Adder, and Bog Bush Cricket.
A bat survey on the River Test was overshadowed by an amazing close up sighting of an Otter.

2018 will likely be dominated by a week in Goa in March, which should get me a lot of good bird sightings, being my first trip into Asia proper. Hopefully, in addition to the Tropical species, will include some of the rarer Western Palearctic species like Oriental Honey Buzzard, Paddyfield Warbler, Booted Warbler and Amur Falcon which are extremely difficult for me to catch up with in the WP.

A couple more European camping holidays are hopefully planned, and a trip to the Somerset levels is a must for Variable Damsel and one or two rare Butterflies in nearby Devon.
Other hopes for 2018 would be to continue searching for Water Shrew, hopefully seeing Harvest Mouse, and a few more Grasshoppers and Bush-Crickets.

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A super weekend at the Somerset Levels. An area which seems to be improving year on year with some amazing breeding birds. This visit was fairly typical for the area with a number of Great White Egrets sighted, plus 3 Bitterns, Grey Heron and Little Egret. Other highlights were Water Rail, Marsh Harrier, Cetti's Warbler and Bearded Tit.
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I am aiming to take advantage of the family membership of Calshot camping club, and devote some time this Autumn to vis-mig from the Calshot coastline.

Previous vis-mig from nearby Badminston was ok, but nothing ever spectacular, and sadly the gravel pits are now converted to fishing and bird life looks to be much reduced there.

This season will be interesting in comparison with 2015 which I spent watching from the Test Valley, inland. The inland viewpoint could just make out Fawley tower and the Isle of Wight, and many birds, mainly Woodpigeons, could be seen over the Calshot area. Will the numbers and species share some common ground?

Calshot also has the advantage of sea, albeit, obstructed slightly by the Isle of Wight.
This weekend paid dividends with a single Manx Shearwater the highlight, a bird not recorded anywhere else along the Hampshire coast the same day which is interesting. (My only better seabird seen in Hampshire was a Leach's Petrel, again from Calshot!). Other highlights were a small number of Black Terms roosting on low tide sandbanks with Common Terns, and a bird looking to be passing thru.

Challenges for the season will be morning sunshine producing a fairly nasty glare, and difficulty visiting before work on weekdays. It is also not obvious which seabirds are genuinely on the move, or involved in their daily commute to food, but this is a problem at most places.

Other highlights from the weekend was a large number of Chiff-Chaffs in the bushes, well over 20, with Whitethroat, and Sedge Warbler also seen. A Migrant Hawker dragonfly finally gave me excellent, if brief views, and Soprano Pipistrelle round the Calshot buildings put on a good show after dark.

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Singing Melodious Warbler on the Ile D'Oleron. Took a while to become familiar with the song. Was thinking Sedge Warbler initially, until I saw one. As the week went on, I realized they were quite numerous in the area. This one showed well, but distantly, and the grass was too long to use the ground as a steadier rest, thus the shake.

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Visited the ile D'Oleron in France for a family holiday. A lovely island on the west coast of France connected to the mainland by a fairly impressive bridge. The habitat on the island is dominated by ditches, canals and man-made ponds, quite unlike anywhere I have ever been in Europe, perhaps reminiscent of Israeli fishponds, and the wildlife was pretty cool.

One highlight on the journey down was a brief glimpse of a Polecat in the headlights, plus a couple of Black Kites.

The island was far enough South to have some nice birds including Short-toed Eagle, Hoopoe, and Night Heron. Melodious Warblers were numerous, and Scops Owl was heard most nights.

The commonest birds on the Island were Serin, Turtle Dove, Black Redstart, Cattle and Little Egret, Nightingale, and Marsh Harrier. Cirl Bunting and Short-toed treecreeper being the other highlights.

Best of the dragonflies and damsels were:

Southern Emerald Damselfly,
Scarce Emerald Damselfly
Dainty Damselfly
Southern Migrant Hawker
Scarlet Darter, and Red-Veined Darter

plus Black-tailed Skimmer, Emperor, and 4-spotted Chaser.

Both Marsh and Edible Frog were seen on one small ditch, and Common Wall Lizard were present on the campsite.
Pyramidal Orchid, Lizard Orchid and Bee Orchid were found around the campsite. The only disappointment was the Butterflies though numerous didn't seem to have any big surprises. Glanville's Fritillary the highlight.

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A good weekend locally with a small number of migrants touching down. Tree Pipits at both sides of the village plus Wheatear. Whitethroat and Blackcaps establishing territories along with Chiff Chaffs and a Willow Warbler. A Lesser White throat singing was also a nice find.

One of the Tree Pipits photo'd below:

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A brief recording of a singing Firecrest at Chilworth. One of my favourite bird songs, and they seem to be spreading fast across the County. I know of up to 12 territories in a 2 mile radius of my house this year.
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