The first stop was at Farlington marshes for a Savi's warbler, a classic spring migrant. Though they appear every year they do not breed regularly in the UK. This would be a lifer for me. It's also a bit of a bogey bird as I have dipped on them 3 times so far, twice at Minsmere alone! An early start got me to the reserve just after 7.15. It is a marshy area on the coast near Portsmouth and I have been there quite a few times before. I had got some good info as well about where the bird is normally seen to help out as they are notoriously skulky birds.
This is the area of reeds where it is normally seen, or more precisely normally heard. Almost immediately you could hear it singing, a rattling call likened to a fast fishing reel. Myself and the 3 other birders on site scanned the reeds and discounted the assorted reed and sedge warblers. After 15 minutes though we got onto a bird low down in the reeds which opened its beak and gave the characteristic song. Lifer in the bag and it wasn't even 8 in the morning!!! I stayed for another hour but although it called frequently we didn't see it again. So, I called it a day, and with another car-less birder who tagged along, Geoff, we set off for Longham Lakes for a long-staying Bonapartes gull. This bird has been hanging around the south coast since late Winter and has now grown into a lovely summer plumaged bird. It is a small gull, superficially like our black-headed gulls.
It took us just under an hour to get to the lakes, two small inland gravel pits near Bournemouth. The first thing we saw was a large sized flock of swallows, martins and swifts, the latter being the first I have seen this year, which was nice.
The Bonapartes is quite easy to ID if you look closely, especially in this plumage.
Firstly, when it is sitting on the water look at the head. The hood is dark charcoal rather than the dark brown of a black-headed gull (yes, I know!!). They also have a lovely white ring top and bottom of their eye.
Fortunately for us, but not for it, the locals didn't seem to like it and kept aggressively chasing it so we could see it in flight. Here, it is a bit more delicate and smaller with a more floaty flight and has orange feet
The wings have a few points to look for. There is a white wedge on the leading edge and a narrow black band on the trailing edge.
We watched it for 30 minutes whilst we had our sandwiches and it tried to fend off the attacks from the locals. Quite why it has hung on for so long I don't know as it's clearly not welcome!!
We finally stopped off at Acres Down on our way back which was quite quiet but a solitary tree pipit was another year tick.
That now takes me to 208 for the year, the best April total bar one and one more week to go. Also, takes my life total to 374 (uk400) or 364 (BOU). Spring has only just started so lets hope for a few nice mega's dropping in soon.