Sunday 8 January 2012

DARK-EYED JUNCO in Hampshire

With just one previous sighting of a DARK-EYED JUNCO in Britain I decided to head south with my East Midland comrades for a good look at another one. My first was in the sun drenched back garden of a lovely couple in Langham, Norfolk during July 2007 so to see one in more natural surroundings would be a real bonus.  

Hawkhill Inclosure - The New Forest

After a leisurely Sunday morning drive through some of Hampshire's most picturesque villages we reached a busy car park at Hawkhill Inclosure at around 9.00am.  As we made our way towards the assembled birders the forest was alive with the distinctive sound of calling Common Crossbills flying overhead.  With the American rarity only showing very briefly earlier in the morning we set up our scopes and staked out the edge of a clear fell area in the hope of gaining a glimpse of the bird ourselves.

Our chances of success were increased by some kind locals who had scattered seed over a fallen pine tree. This meant that the skulking sparrow could be lured out to feed in full view as long as birders behaved and kept their distance.  After a while of seeing nothing other than Chaffinches and Reed Buntings we received our first tantalising glimpse of the DARK-EYED JUNCO.  After a further patient wait the handsome first winter male appeared out in the open.        

DARK-EYED JUNCO - The New Forest, Hampshire
Photo by Dave Hutton

The bird then continued to show well on and off in it's favoured area albeit for short periods of time.  It would also fly over our heads every now and then in order to consort with the Chaffinches in the canopy of the pines nearby.  An estimated 24 Common Crossbills also remained faithful to the locality some of which showed exceptionally well at times.  Other species included Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Coal Tits and 6 Siskin.

DARK-EYED JUNCO - The New Forest, Hampshire
Photo by Dave Hutton 

We then decided to search elsewhere to pick up a few 'year birds'. Whilst driving back through Beaulieu a Little Egret was spotted feeding.  Around Beaulieu Road Station we were lucky to pick up a couple of singing male Woodlark, one of which showed well scratching around the sandy soil of the heathland habitat. Other birds in the area included a fine male Stonechat, a Goldcrest, a Treecreeper and several Meadow Pipit.  Unfortunately we failed to locate any Dartford Warbler in the area.

It was then time to head west over to Dorset in order to try for yet another rarity but this time it was a species from way east as opposed to one from North America.

The DARK-EYED JUNCO in Great Britain

This species breeds in North America from the tree line of northern Alaska and Canada, south to southern California, northern Texas and northern Georgia.  All occurrences in Britain have been of the form hyemalis, previously separated as Slate-coloured Junco. This race breeds from northern Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to south-central Alaska, north-east British Columbia and from central Alberta east to northern Pennsylvania, south-east New York and southern New England

1960 - Kent - male trapped at Denge Marsh, Dungeness - 26th May
1966 - Shetland - male on Foula - 1st May
1967 - Shetland - male on Foula - 10th May
1969 - Shetland - male on Out Skerries - 7th May
1972 - Sussex - male at Rye - 12th February
1975 - Gloucestershire - male at Haresfield - 1st April to 12th April
1975 - Gwynedd - sex unknown on Bardsey - 25th April to 3rd May (trapped 25th & 28th April)
1977 - Yorkshire - male near Rotherham - 3rd January
1977 - Highland - male at Glen Affric, Inverness-shire - 19th May
1980 - At Sea - sex unknown at Leman Gas Field, Sea Area Thames - 24th to 30th May (then ringed and released at Holme, Norfolk on 31st May where it was present until 6th June)
1983 - Dorset - male at Christchurch - 20th May
1983 - Somerset - male at Langford Budville - 21st May
1983 - Cornwall - male at The Lizard - 27th May
1987 - Hampshire - 1st summer male in song at Church Crookham - 30th May to 7th June
1988 - Hampshire - male in song at Church Crookham - 20th May (same as 1987)
1989 - Hampshire - male at Church Crookham - 7th February then again 26th December to 7th March 1990 (same as 1987 & 1988)
1989 - Isle of Wight - male at Wootton - 8th to 9th April
1989 - Dorset - male at Weston, Portland - 3rd December to 8th April 1990
1992 - Clyde - male at Hamilton, Lanarkshire - 3rd to 4th May
1993 - Dorset - male at Dorchester - 7th to 19th November (trapped 8th April)
1996 - Lancashire - male at Thornton, Crosby - 29th April
1996 - Hampshire - male at Picket Piece - 5th May
1997 - Cheshire - 1st winter at Vicar's Cross, Chester - 15th December to 19th April 1998
2000 - Highland - adult male at Dunscanby - 26th to 29th April
2000 - At Sea - male at the Oil Installation Maersk Curlew, Sea Area Dogger - 4th May
2003 - Shetland - 1st summer male on Out Skerries - 1st to 9th May (trapped 1st & 9th May)
2005 - At Sea - sex unknown at Oil Installation Maersk Curlew, Sea Area North - May (date unknown)
2007 - Cornwall - sex unknown at Illogan -12th May
2007 - Western Isles - male in song on St Kilda - 30th May
2007 - Orkney - adult male on North Ronaldsay - 19th June
2007 - Highland - sex and age unknown at Unapool - 23rd June
2007 - Norfolk - sex and age unknown at Terrington St Clement - 14th to 17th July
2007 - Norfolk - 1st summer male at Langham - 14th July
2008 - Kent - 1st winter female at Dungeness - 7th to 9th April
2008 - Yorkshire - 1st summer male at Newby - 13th April
2008 - Somerset - male at East Coker - 16th to 18th November
2008 - Cornwall - sex and age unknown at Ventonleague near Hayle - 26th November
2010 - Kent - adult male at Folkestone - 15th to 17th May
2010 - At Sea - sex and age unknown at Sea Area Dogger Bank - 19th May
2011 - Hampshire - 1st summer male at Hawkhill Inclosure, New Forest - 24th December to present

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