On the Whitsun holiday, we decided to revisit a local National Trust property, Hinton Ampner, to see the bluebells and the actual house, as last time, we missed half the gardens and the house wasn't properly open.
We drove merrily along and took the turn through the gates, pootled down a small piece of drive, took a left and oh my word! "Abort! Abort! Abort!" cried I, horror on my face! The carpark was obviously full as cars were lining the drive on both sides! Hinton Ampner isn't that big a house and cars were still pouring in behind us. It would have been awfully crowded. Andy turned around and we fled*, tempted to wind down the windows and warn other cars: "Turn back! Turn back before it's too late!"
But we didn't and on we drove.
Goodness I was fed up (and travel sick) by the time we stopped driving through the lanes and came to a halt at a pretty view where we opened up the picnic.
We sat there for a while watching the birds (I think I saw a lesser whitethroat, but a man asking directions scared it off before I could get a picture) and the St Marks flies which were swarming, when Andy spotted a, and I quote, HUGE BUZZARD on a dung heap through some binoculars. I got my camera out and looked through and it looked suspiciously like a rook. Turns out it was a rook. Classic example of having no frame of reference size wise.
Anyway, as I looked at the picture on my camera, I saw another bird, blurred at the edges in flight was also in the picture! As I saw this, at the exact same time, Andy had also spotted this exotic bird. You can see it just off centre in the photo below.
You have to appreciate how far away we were and that I had used full zoom in every single one of these shots. I believe my camera has 80 x zoom.
Cue endless attempts at photographing the thing, as it swooped and beggared about catching insects.
Finally I got a picture. It was hazy as I was of course at maximum zoom on my camera and we saw the bird was very fancy pants, with a crest and everything! Wow! What exotic bird was this???? It looked suspiciously like a cockatiel.
Yes, that is it right in the middle.
We were very excited and somehow despite being in the middle of nowhere I could use my phone to search for what it was. We moved the car closer and sat in front of a gate to the field and the bird, who was now two birds, honoured us by coming closer to have a bathe in a puddle.
Finally we got a good look and I managed to identify them. The RSPB website stated: This familiar farmland bird ... well it wasn't familiar to us! We don't often hang around farms. Anyway, they were lapwings, also known as peewits and they are beauties!
And then things just got better *cough* Two as before unseen birds and then Andy spotted something else. Birds with red on them, lined up on fence posts! Three of them! I got out of the car and took a picture. Wood pigeons, hehe! Five to be exact, all sat on fence posts. Not so exotic but I love it when birds line up neatly.
Then things really did get better. Andy, again with the binoculars, spotted something in a far field. "Hare!" he exclaimed. I couldn't look fast enough and sure enough, gallumping along, a hare! I was ridiculously excited. I got a bit emotional if I'm honest. We watched as it moved to the left and lo and behold there was another one!
Turns out in one of my pigeon pictures, there was a hare in the background! I didn't even see it, I was trying to focus my attentions on the exotic wood pigeons!
We watched the hares until they had gone and then I had to wait for what seemed an eternity for Andy to come back to the car, as he was again obsessively looking through the binoculars at the dogs on walks with their mums and dads. It started raining and still he didn't move! It took the skies opening before he came back to the car and we could head home.
* We have of course, since been back to Hinton Ampner