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WEATHER; quite foggy to start, clear blue sky later, Warm for a February day, top temp 13C

Guy arrived at 7am and we drove straight down to Dorchester, we hit patchy fog along the way but it was failry clear around Charminster Meadows just north of Dorchester. It was there, that yesterday afternoon, a Ross's Gull had been found!! I was walking around Ham Wall at the time, Guy was working, so we both dipped that beautiful gull!

We drove past the site where the gull had been seen, it was getting light and a small gathering of hopeful 'twitchers' were scanning the meadows for the gull. There wasn't a single gull in the area, it was too early for them to arrive. We did see Canada and Greylag Geese, Mute Swams and a few ducks.

As we got nearer to the New Forest the fog got progessively thicker and the traffic more condensed, but we finally got to Shatterford Car Park near Beaulieu Road Station in the New Forest, it was very foggy at that time. We had a quick cuppa before walking onto the heath.

Our target bird was the GREAT GREY SHRIKE (apparently the only one in the country!!) we had dipped this bird last week and so we were more determined to get a sighting today. Arriving during the morning instead of mid-afternoon helps I think.

We saw a few more birds than we did last week as we walked along the track, Meadow Pipit, a probable Woodlark, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush ( a second bird was singing) and a Stonechat. Miraculously, the fog lifted as we got to the area where the Srike favoured and along with two birders from Christchurch were searched the designated tree tops.

this is the best I could do, the Shrike was distant and in misty conditions

After a few minutes we found the bird, very distant and secluded a little by the misty conditions, but it was the Shrike, hooray! We watced the bird for a while, it never caught anything whilst we were there but it had a very close look at a flock of Long-tailed Tits as they past by below it.  

The fog came back down and the bird became invisible to us, so we set off back to the car. We got talking to our new friends from Christchurch and they said they would lead us to a site where we can look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. On the track we bumped into, once again, Lee Evans, who arrived to look for the Shrike for the third or fourth attempt!! Ha, the fog was now so thick that he had a fat chance of seeing it!

We followed Nick and Paul to a woodland site along Bolderwood Lane and spent an hour searching the tree tops for the 'pecker. We saw Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Stock Dove and we heard Marsh Tit, Robin and Song Thrush, but no woodpeckers.

the ancient woodland along Bolderwood

We ate our picnic lunch at the car park as the others drove home for theirs, how nice it must be to live a short distance from this beautiful wildlife haven!

Our next destination was Acres Down, a well known site for Woodlark, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Goshawk and Firecrest, I wonder how many of those species we were going to see??

After a detour, because of a road closure, and some useless navigation from my co-pilot, dipstick Guy, we finally arrived at Acres Down car park. We walked down the main track and every birder we met told us that a LS Woopecker had been showing very well on a certain tree. We arrived around 1:30pm and just one birder remained on site, he told the birds had not been seen for three hours but he was happy to show us pictures of the bird we had missed!!!

a woodpecker, but not the one that we were looking for - it is a Great Spotted Woodpecker

We stayed around for a while and then started to scan nearby trees along the track, suddenly the LS appeared above me and started to drum!! OMG what a great sighting, we then both followed the bird from tree to tree where it drummed repeatedly and called a couple of times. I got some pictures but the bird was high up and mostly obscured by branches.

the correct bird - a diminutive LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER

this is a male LS Woodpecker but you can't see the red cap and nape from this angle

A Great Spotted Woodpecker landed in one of the trees out in the open and a Green Woodpecker called in the distance, this was pecker heaven. The LS disappeared and after a while we drifted away.

A walk further along the track to an open area to look for Woodlarks produced a few Meadow Pipits, Stonechat and our second raptor of the day (Guy had seen a Sparrowhawk on the way down) a Common Buzzard! We also heard a Siskin flyover us.

Walking back to the car park we were pointed in the right direction to where at least four Woodlarks had been singing all morning! As we followed a track up and down dale Guy was ahead of me and spotted two Hawfinches as they flew over, the trees obscured them from my view.

Meadow Pipits on Acres Down

At the top of a ridge we stumbled upon the famous Acres Down Raptor watch point, several people were already there watching Goshawks. They pointed out a very distant, perched bird and a Buzzard. After a few minutes a GOSHAWK flew up over the pines below us, wow!! Smashing bird, it stayed in view for quite a while and landed in some distant pines.

Our companions told us that at least four or five Woodlarks had been singing behind them, but had now shut up shop. We went looking on the heath behind us. After half an hour of hearing nothing and seeing only Meadow Pipits and Linnets we finally nailed a Woodlark, two actually. They flew around us, singing but failed to land anywhere near us.

Another year tick in the bag. As we walked back towards the car park Guy called out "Hawfinch" and pointed a very distant perched bird. I got the scope on it and found it was in fact a Mistle Thrush, doh!! Was my dipstick friend winding me up or having a fit???

a Treecreeper seen at Bolderwood earlier today

Just before the car park we past through some woodland with a lot of holly bushes, I mentioned that Firecrest were usually seen in this area and Guy shouted, I've got one! Sure enough, a FIRECREST flitted about in the holly bush very close to us.

That was a fitting end to a wonderful day in the New Forest, what a beautiful, picturesque place it is, with a good number of very contrasting landscapes and habitats, highly recommended!

On our way home we once again past the meadows near Dorchester where the Ross's Gull had been seen. A bunch of birders were still there sifting through a small flock of Black-headed Gulls, we never stopped.

I added four new species to my year list today: GG Shrike, Goshawk, Woodlark and LS Woodpecker. 169 is the new total. I am off to Costa Rica next Tuesday (21st) I must get to 170 before then??