31 May 2008

Avocet - at last!

A couple of weeks ago I said in a Blog here that the Avocets, which I kept on missing at Willington Gravel Pits, could run but they couldn’t hide forever. Well today the chase finally came to an end - Avocet is my 119th species recorded within 10 miles of home, and this time I have counted correctly.

I was at work this morning when my mobile phone rang, it was Chris, a local birder, and he had news of an Avocet that had been seen at Willington and with it was a Knot - two birds he knew I needed for my "10-Mile List". For three hours I carried on at work, all the time wondering if the birds would stay put or move on. The weather was dry, bright and sunny with very little cloud, not the sort of weather to hold migrants down for too long.

At 12:30PM I left work, took the quickest route home on the mountain bike, grabbed my binoculars, ‘scope and camera and set off in the car for Willington. By 1:15PM I was starting the walk from the car to Canal Scrape, temporary home to the Avocet and Knot. Once at the scrape a quick scan of the area revealed the Avocet, it was asleep and not showing too well but at least it was there this time! The Knot took a little longer to find but it too was still there and it was quite clearly a Knot!

After a short while the Avocet decided that it had slept for long enough and it started to feed along the water’s edge. Then, without warning, the Avocet was airborne and gaining height. For a few moments it flew around high over the scrape before heading off towards the main reserve. It looked as though the Avocet had landed again but a full search of the area later in the afternoon drew a blank, the area was Avocet free yet again! This time I hadn’t dipped out though!

My "10-Mile List" now stands at 120 species. Tomorrow I’m off in search of one or two tricky species and, to be honest, I’m not all that confident of adding to my list.

The Willington Avocet.

30 May 2008

Oops!

I’ve been "docked a point" by the judges; it’s a punishment for not keeping my bird notes up to date!

This evening I got a moment to add my sightings from Willington Gravel Pits yesterday morning onto my database... it revealed that Black-tailed Godwit is already on my "10-Mile List". I saw a Black-tailed at Willington back on May 4. At the time it was species number 113 for the year and for some reason it had completely slipped my mind - I guess I’m getting old!

So, after a steward’s enquiry my "10-Mile List" now stands at 118 species. This weekend I will now have to work just a little harder to move forward again with my listing.

29 May 2008

Here's a question for you...

Am I committed or just plain crazy? This morning, a workday I hasten to add, I was out of bed by 5:00AM - two hours earlier than usual - and by 5:30AM I was at Willington Gravel Pits, birding! I parked the car and set off for the Canal Scrape as quickly as I could; I was actually jogging at times, much to the amusement of a local dog walker and his Collie! Thinking about it, the dog was less than amused - it lay down in some long grass and tried to hide as I went past!

Once at Canal Scrape I set up my ‘scope and started to scan the water’s edge, and immediately hit a problem - I was rather warm from the jogging, the eyepiece of my ‘scope was pretty cold and it steamed up so I couldn’t see a thing! No problem, use my Leica’s for a short time while the temperature evens itself out. Within moments of switching to my binoculars I had picked up the first of the birds I was after, a Black-tailed Godwit. Back to the ‘scope and the I.D. was confirmed; I had just picked up my 118th species for the year within 10 miles of home.

After watching the Godwit for a short time I set about my next challenge which was to find one, or both, of the two Temminck’s Stints that had been reported yesterday evening. I was expecting this to be a little tricky as I was some way away from the water’s edge and Temminck’s are VERY small waders (only around 14cm in length). In the end it proved to be rather easy - I spotted a Dunlin as I scanned the water’s edge and the two Temminck’s Stints just happened to be feeding right next to it! Species 119 was safely in the bag.

By now it was almost 6:30AM and time I headed home for some breakfast before getting out of my birding gear and into my cycling gear for the trip into work. Once back at home I was met by two of our friendly Blackbirds, numerous Sparrows, two Dunnock and a single Collard Dove, all of which wanted their breakfast too. Yet again, the birds were fed before I was. The priorities are all wrong in this house at times!

Whilst I stood in the kitchen and ate my breakfast I was able to spend a short while watching the birds feed; the Blackbirds were taking fruit to feed to young hidden away somewhere; Sparrows and Starlings fed themselves and their young; a Wood Pigeon ate enough seed to feed a Sparrow for a year! A Blue Tit also appeared at the feeding station a number of times and it too appeared to be taking food away to feed young.

Whilst cycling into work I ran through the morning’s events again in my head. Was seeing the two Temminck’s Stints the highlight of the morning? Was adding two more species to my “10-Mile List” worth missing two hours sleep for? Are the handful of species we get in our garden worth the ever-increasing cost of food we buy for them?

You know what? The 10 minutes or so I spent watching the garden birds feed, set me up for the day and it’s worth every penny!

My “10-Mile List” now stands at 119 species.

*** See Blog entry on May 30 for an update to this post!

24 May 2008

Now, this is more like it!

Back in March I decided on a new approach to my birding and set about seeing as many birds as I could within 10 miles of home. I wasn’t expecting to see a huge list of species; I was hoping to learn a little more about the birds in my local area and also to find new birding sites. This morning I was able to add a couple of new birds to my list, one of which was a lifer for me, and also visit a rather nice area of Southern Derbyshire that I didn’t know existed.

After a quick check of the local map to find exactly where I was going, I headed off to Ingleby this morning in search of the Red-footed Falcon. By 7:00AM I had located the bird, to the delight of three other birders that had followed me along the footpath, and over the next couple of hours it showed very well. I had hoped that last night's rain would have cleared to bright sunshine this morning but, even though the rain had gone, the cloud cover was still a little heavy first thing and the wind had increased quite a lot. This meant that I had little or no chance of getting any photos through my ‘scope. Thankfully, a quick search of the Internet this afternoon provided some superb pictures that had been taken of the bird yesterday!

Photos courtesy of Nick Sismey - Thank you for allowing me to use your photos, Nick!

Visiting Ingleby also gave me a chance to have a quick look at Anchor Church, a small cave dwelling that dates back to around the 14th century. I’m not so sure I could face living there myself but the views were rather nice. When I get the time I will be checking up on the footpaths in the area and making a return visit. It may not provide too much in the way of birding but the walk and views will make up for that.

Anchor Church.

Field near Anchor Church.

Old tree stump in the wood.

Whilst walking back to the car after leaving Anchor Church, I stopped for a while to watch a large group of House Martins, Swifts and Swallows feeding over the river. At times, the birds were coming within 10 or 12 feet of me as they swooped around in search of insects - a magical experience.

It was whilst I stood amongst this feeding frenzy that I was “gifted” my second great bird of the day, a Red Kite! Seeing the Red-footed Falcon was good but, for me, the Kite was better. I’d known the falcon was there, and almost expected to see it, but the Red Kite came totally out of the blue. It was my first ever in Derbyshire and it also falls within my “10-Mile Zone”.

A bad photo of the Red Kite!

After Ingleby I decided on a quick visit to Willington Gravel Pits - come on, where else would you expect me to be? Although much of the excitement of the past month or so is now over, at Willington, it did still throw up a couple of patch ticks for me; two male Ruddy Duck and a single Turnstone were both new birds for the year. In just over 3 hours I located a total of 55 species with Common Sandpiper, Dunlin and Wigeon being the only other birds of note.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that bothered by the lack of birds there today; I had a “lifer” in the bag, I had my first ever Derbyshire Red Kite and I had also picked up two extra ticks for my “10-mile List”. The sun was also shining at Willington, the clouds had gone and the walk down the lane was rather pleasant. This is what birding is all about for me now.

The lane at Willington.

White Hawthorn.

Pink Hawthorn.

My “10-Mile List” now stands at 117 species.

23 May 2008

Tomorrow may be a first!

Somehow I have survived “one of those days” at work today and now I can look forward to the weekend. As I said last night, all of my plans have gone out of the window and it will be a case of taking things as they come - after a little bit of birding tomorrow that is! Whether it proves to be the relaxing morning I need remains to be seen; I’m off on a bit of a “twitch” tomorrow!

A Red-footed Falcon has been located not too far away and, if I can get to see it, it would be a “lifer” for me. Not only would it be a great bird to see but it would also be inside my “10-Mile List” zone! The bird is only the 13th to be found in Derbyshire and is the first one since July 2000. I could have gone for it this evening but I’ve put my money on getting to see the bird tomorrow when, hopefully, the rain will have stopped and the sun will be out.

After my birding trip the rest of the weekend will just happen - no plans, no schedule to keep to and no stress I hope. Have a great holiday weekend, if it is a holiday weekend for you!

Oh, on the way to work this morning I stopped off at Alvaston Park as I tend to do - it delays my arrival at work just a little longer - and the Mute Swan family came to say hello. The nine cygnets all seem to be doing well and they also have plenty of little playmates on the lake now. There are at least 11 young Coot and 37 Mallard ducklings, many of which are only a few days old.

The Mute Swan family - camera phone picture.

22 May 2008

Plans? What plans?

Evening!

I was going to post a Blog about all the things I had planned for the coming weekend but the closer the weekend gets the more my plans fall apart! Never mind, it’s a three-day weekend for me, with no work on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, so that’s all that matters!

Just to make it worth me posting tonight, here are a few photos of plants that are flowering in the garden right now!










20 May 2008

Monday evening birding...

As promised, I visited Willington Gravel Pits again yesterday evening and, as I thought, all the good birds that had been there on Sunday had moved on! One of these days I will get to see Avocet on my local patch. No, I will, honest. They can run, but they can’t hide forever!

My two-hour visit gave me a total of 44 species. Garden Warbler was picked up by song alone but all the other birds were seen well, either in the lane or out on the two main pits. Highlights were a little thin on the ground, as were the birds, but 24 Canada Goose goslings were still small enough to look cute (until they grow up!); 12 Gadwall were feeding on Gull Pit; a pair of Oystercatcher were kept busy all evening ferrying food to a single chick; a Little Ringed Plover appeared briefly before vanishing again just as quickly and a couple of Common Sandpiper spent quite a time feeding close to platform 3.

Gull Pit, from platform 3.

Four Wigeon were an unexpected find and the two males looked stunning as the late evening sun picked out their bright summer plumage. A few Swift were hawking for insects over the water and around the trees in the lane, a single House Martin flew through and a handful of Swallow were also seen. Both Sedge and Reed Warbler showed very well with a couple of Reed Warblers coming to within six feet of the viewing platform.

Luckily, I had my camera with me as usual and I was able to capture what is a very rare event at Willington, so scarce that it has only occurred on one previous occasion many, many years ago. Lynda visited Willington Gravel Pits! I would have sent a record of this sighting in to the county recorder, but I couldn’t be bothered with the full field notes that would be needed to get the sighting accepted! Photo evidence will have to suffice on this occasion.

Local Birder - sub-species "Lynda"!

18 May 2008

Garden time...

After spending three full days birding last weekend it was time to concentrate on getting the garden back in shape this weekend, even if it did mean missing out on Avocet, Turnstone and Honey Buzzard at Willington today! As soon as I get home from work tomorrow I’m off to Willington; even if nothing has been reported during the day, I’ll be going anyway.

So, this weekend. Well, whilst I was at work yesterday morning Lynda made another visit to the garden centre and came home with a car full of plants again. As soon as I got home I grabbed a trowel and a tray or two of plants and got stuck in to planting the front garden - okay, so I stood and watched whilst Lynda planted the front garden! Lynda makes a much better job of it than I do. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! In my defence I did actually plant one or two plants and I was on hand to fetch and carry for Lynda when needed.

One of the front garden borders.

Today we set about sorting out the back garden. As well as all the summer bedding that needed planting there were five or six shrubs that needed a haircut, the lawn needed raking and mowing, the bird feeders needed topping up and at the end of it all everything needed a good watering. It sounds a lot but it only took us around seven hours! I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow - for a rest!

Views of the rear garden.

During the course of the day I did manage to get in just a little birding... two Goldfinch flew over, the Sparrowhawk flew down the street and a Crow caused chaos when it showed a little too much interest in a Starling nest. Whilst Lynda and I worked in the back garden we were constantly visited by four or five different Blackbirds, numerous House Sparrows, a single Blue Tit, a couple of Collard Dove and a baby Dunnock. Two Field Mice also helped out by clearing up any seed that the birds had dropped! It doesn’t quite make up for missing out on a trip to Willington but it eases the pain just a little!

One of the Blackbirds comes for more fruit.

A Collard Dove turns up for his lunch.

One of the mice thinks that it can't be seen!

My final little task of the afternoon was to put up my butterfly and bee feeding station. It’s a great little thing - all you do is soak the foam roll in a sugar and water, or honey and water mix, and place it in a sunny spot close to garden plants. I chose to use honey because it sounds like a much nicer meal to me!

All we need now is some sunshine and for the temperature to pick up again so that all the new plants can start and grow and the butterflies can take to the wing again. One or two nice warm summer evenings would be good too, so that I can sit out in the garden with a beer!

The butterfly feeder.

14 May 2008

The RSPB weekend away...

Well, the long weekend away with the RSPB is over for another year but this was one I’ll remember for a while - it was a great weekend from the moment we left home right up until we arrived back home. One of the highlights was the weather; it was dry, very sunny and hot for all three days, a total contrast to last year’s constant rain I can tell you!

Before we left I posted here that I was hoping to see around 120 species. I didn’t quite manage that total but there were some great birds in amongst the 101 different species I did get to see, or hear. So, how did I manage to get over the ton? Here goes...

Our taxi arrived to take us to the coach pickup point at just after 6:00AM. By 6:30AM I had my first bird of the weekend, one of the Derby Cathedral Peregrines was sitting out in the early morning sun watching our group of birders waiting for the coach to arrive. At just before 7:00AM we were all loaded onto the coach and on our way to Lackford Lakes. A stop was made on the way to Lackford, to comply with the legalities of the coach driver’s rest breaks, which gave Lynda and I the chance to become Hobbits for a while and take “second breakfast”. Bacon and egg muffins, hash browns and coffee isn’t a bad way to prepare for a day’s birding!

Once at Lackford the birding started in earnest. In just over 2½ hours Lynda and I located a total of 55 species. For the first 10 minutes or so I wondered whether I would even reach double figures as I just could not get my eye in when it came to spotting birds! There were warblers singing all around the car park but I just didn’t seem able to pinpoint them amongst the leaves and brambles - maybe it was jet lag from the journey! Then, almost as if someone had switched my brain on, things started to come together. First it was a Common Whitethroat, then came Garden Warbler, Linnet, an Egyptian Goose in flight and a distant Common Buzzard.

It's not easy finding warblers in cover this thick!

Whilst we were ticking off the birds around the car park a Nightingale had been singing, on and off, somewhere close by. Many of our group had already given up on finding the Nightingale, a bird not known for showing too well, and had moved off to other parts of the reserve. I managed to find the bird almost straight away - maybe, just maybe, I was starting to wake up. In the end the Nightingale sat out in the open singing for around two or three minutes, plenty long enough for me to show a few other members of our group the bird through my ‘scope. The second I tried to photograph it, it flew back into cover.

Other birds of note at Lackford included Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Kingfisher and Treecreeper. Butterflies were very active around the reserve with Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Peacock and Red Admiral all being seen. At 1:00PM we all loaded back onto the coach, thankfully with the air conditioning working overtime, and headed to Lakenheath RSPB Reserve.

By the time we arrived at Lakenheath the temperature was starting to get a little overpowering, it was now well into the 80’s out in the sun. The thought of walking right around the reserve really didn’t appeal to Lynda and I, so we settled for a stroll along the river bank where what breeze there was might have been a little cooling. The breeze didn’t cool us down at all and we ended up walking right around the reserve anyway!

Views at Lakenheath RSPB Reserve.

When we arrived back at the visitor centre, after a walk of more than 2 hours, we had a list of 36 species. It wasn’t a long list, but it did have some top quality birds on it. Once again I had my brain in gear, and my ears open, and located a superb male Garganey as it called briefly from the reed bed. A quick scan with my binoculars and I had the bird in sight, and also managed to get a small number of our group onto it too. As soon as I reached for my camera it was gone. A feeling of déja vu crept over me.

At least five Marsh Harriers were flying around, a Water Rail was heard, a handful of Common Tern were diving into the river in search of fish whilst all around, the reed beds were alive with the song of both Reed and Sedge Warblers. Summer had arrived in Suffolk.

It was at the far end of the reserve that we witnessed what was, for me, possibly the highlight of the weekend; a group of 20 Hobby were all up in the air together hawking for dragonflies and other prey. Seeing just one Hobby at Willington a few weeks ago was exciting enough but the sight of 20 of these gorgeous little falcons in the air at the same time was something else.

After the Hobbies I would have been happy to return to the coach without seeing another bird but it didn’t quite work out that way. Within the space of just a few hundred yards we added two more Lakenheath specialities - Bearded Tit and Golden Oriole. The Bearded Tits gave their location away by calling from deep in the reeds just before they flew across the path in front of us, and then they turned around and gave us another flypast. Moments later we were stood watching a pair of Golden Orioles flying around high in the treetops of one of the plantations. Deep joy is a phrase that springs to mind!

From Lakenheath the coach took us to our hotel in Great Yarmouth and the chance to relax over a pint or two of beer and a much-needed evening meal. Our room was on the top floor of the hotel and looked out over the beach and the sea. Our evening meal, which was very good, was washed down by the beers I’d been looking forward to all day.

The view from our room in the hotel.

Sunday was spent at what is possibly the best RSPB reserve in the country, Minsmere. This proved to be a great day’s birding and, after all the rushing around the day before, very relaxing too. It was so relaxing that I didn’t even worry too much when I discovered that I had lost my mobile phone somewhere on the vast reserve during the morning! Within minutes of realising I had “misplaced” the phone I had it back in my possession. I went to the visitor’s centre to let them know that if anyone did happen to hand in a phone I would come back at the end of the day to collect it - the phone was already there waiting for me! Deep joy, again!

The count for the day was 79 species with the highlights being Little Egret, Bittern (heard only), another Garganey (again, found by me!), numerous Marsh Harriers, a single Hobby, large numbers of Avocet, two summer plumage Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Dunlin and around 20 Little Tern. A male Stonechat was seen by the path along the beach and a Cetti’s Warbler flew past us as we walked along one of the paths through the reed beds.

A couple of attempts at digi-scoping showed just how hit and miss this technique can be when it comes to taking bird photos. Shots of a male Pheasant worked really well; shots of a female Cuckoo were not so good!

The good...

The not so good!

At 4:45PM we were all on the coach and heading back to the hotel. It had been a long day out in the sun but it had also been a very enjoyable day’s birding too. Once back at the hotel there was plenty of time for a much-needed cool shower before we went down for our evening meal. Again, the food was great, the beer even better.

Our final day of the trip was spent walking around the village of Thorpeness, the surrounding fields and woodland and back along the seashore. The species count here was 61 and once again I managed to find one or two of the best birds of the day. I really was on a roll over the weekend.

The boating lake at Thorpeness.

We started by checking the birds on and around the boating lake in the village before heading off on a three-hour stroll that provided us with yet more new birds for the weekend. The first “find” of the day was a Mediterranean Gull that gave itself away as it called whilst flying over head. If it hadn’t been for that single call we may well have missed the only Med. Gull of the weekend - it pays to use your ears whilst birding you know!

Further along the walk I spotted an Adder - one find I would much rather NOT have seen - then we came across a couple of Curlew. A Yellowhammer was heard, but not seen, and a Marsh Harrier gave us good views as it hunted over a distant reed bed. A single Little Egret was located along with a couple of Gadwall, a Green Woodpecker and 2 Skylark. We then spent a short while sea-watching but quickly gave up when it became clear that what we were doing was just that, watching the sea! There was no seabird passage whatsoever.

Pointing out the Marsh Harrier.

Once back at the lake in the village I came up with my final “find” of the weekend, a Roseate Tern. To say I was just a little surprised would be something of an understatement - I was gob-smacked! It wasn’t the best example of a Roseate but the bird did spend a fair amount of time perched on a buoy in the lake so almost everyone on the coach was able to get good views of it. Deep joy, yet again.

At 3:30PM we set off on the long journey back to Derby, tired but happy after three great days of birding. At 7:00PM I added species 101 to my trip list when a Red Kite flew alongside the A14 just outside Thrapston. It may have fallen a little short of my expected total for the three days but I was happy, very happy.

09 May 2008

The next three days...

Evening!

Just a quick, flying visit. Its early May again, which means it’s time for the annual long weekend away with our local RSPB group. This year we’re off to Suffolk and we’ll be based in Great Yarmouth, a place we’ve never visited before.

Tomorrow we will be visiting Lackford Lakes - a reserve I would love to have as my “local patch” - and also Lakenheath RSPB Reserve. After the day’s birding we will travel on to our hotel in Yarmouth arriving in time for our evening meal and also a drink or two! Lynda and I will also try and fit in a walk along the seafront to explore the area a little. No doubt we’ll be back in the bar later in the evening.

On Sunday we will be spending the whole day at Minsmere RSPB Reserve. Minsmere is possibly one of the best know of all the RSPB reserves and promises to be a great day’s birding. Only yesterday two of the wardens at the reserve managed to locate 100 bird species from one spot on the reserve! I’ll be more than happy with 99! Sunday evening will see us back at the hotel for more food, more drinks and maybe a little walk in between.

We will set off for home after breakfast on Monday morning and will be calling at the North Warren RSPB Reserve for our final spot of birding.

By the time we return home on Monday evening I’d like to think that I will have seen around 120 species myself. As a group, we could well be closer to 140 species.

A full report, and photos, will follow next week.

06 May 2008

Great news...

Just a quick update on the Derby Cathedral Peregrines... three of the four eggs have hatched; we have chicks again!

The webcam on the nest platform is now giving some great images of the adult birds and the chicks, when they are not being brooded by one of the parents that is! As the chicks start to grow over the coming days and weeks they will, obviously, need feeding more often so the views of them will increase. In the meantime, pour yourself a coffee, pull up a chair and sit and see what happens!

The Peregrine Blog site is http://derbyperegrines.blogspot.com/

The direct link to the webcam is http://195.224.106.202/peregrine/webcam.htm


A couple of images I "grabbed" from the live webcam.

05 May 2008

Stressed!

Having survived the week from hell at work I was more than happy to pull on my walking boots and head off out birding this weekend. The weather forecast wasn’t too promising - dull and overcast, with rain at times - but was I bothered? Was I heck! I needed to get some fresh air to try and clear my head!

On Saturday evening I put in almost three hours at Willington Gravel Pits (you didn’t expect me to go anywhere else, did you?) and was rewarded with a total of 54 species. It wasn’t the highest count I’ve had there but it was still more than worthwhile; I wasn’t at work!

The best bird of the evening turned up before I had even crossed the reserve boundary; a cream-crowned Marsh Harrier gave a very fleeting view as it dropped into the reed bed, just as I walked down the lane. It was back on 30 September 2007 that I managed to see my first Marsh Harrier in the county, after waiting more than 15 years, and now I had my second! More importantly this one counted for my “10-Mile List” and was species 108. My mood was starting to lighten a little.

The walk to the end of the lane gave me close views of Sparrowhawk, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Goldfinch and Bullfinch. Once at “Platform 3”, at the end of the lane, I was able to scan across the main areas of water and also the reed bed that the harrier had dropped into.

Some of the more notable sightings from “P3” included 12 Great Crested Grebe, 27 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 12 Shelduck, a pair of Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, a pair of Goosander, 4 Common Redshank, 6 Common Tern, a couple of Yellow Wagtail and 2 Reed Warbler that were singing just a few feet from the platform.

At just before 8:00PM the Marsh Harrier decided to put in another appearance as it flew low over the reed bed for a short time before going to roost. The sun was setting, the harrier had gone to bed, I was starting to feel just a little less stressed - time to head for home.

Sunset over Flyash Pit, Willington.

Sunday morning found me out of my “comfort zone” as I turned my attention to Long Eaton Gravel Pits. Two years ago to the day I was at these old gravel workings watching Black Terns. On Sunday, I returned once again in search of the same species and I wasn’t to be disappointed as two gorgeous summer plumage birds flew around often just yards from me. It was only 6:45AM but I had species 109 for my list. I had almost forgotten about work.

In the hour spent at Long Eaton I located 44 species. Birds of note included Great Crested Grebe, Shelduck, Gadwall, Common Tern, Cuckoo (heard only), Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Linnet. If I had had the time I’m sure I could have added to my count here but I had other places to be.

Since Friday a Cattle Egret had been reported from Attenborough Nature Reserve and, after rechecking the limits of my 10-mile zone, it was inside my listing area, just. Fifteen minutes after leaving the Black Terns I was trying to locate the egret. It may have only been 7:30AM but there were already a number of birders on site looking for the egret - 2½ hours later they were still looking. The egret had gone and along with it went a tick that I’ll probably not get another chance of this year.

The visit to Attenborough did turn up two other species I needed though, Egyptian Goose and Tree Sparrow. I now had species numbers 110 and 111 on my list. It was turning into a rather good Sunday, even if it did keep trying to rain on me. For the record, I listed 44 species here. All the usual contenders turned up along with a single Wigeon, 2 Oystercatcher, a Little Ringed Plover and 2 Wheatear.

During one of the heavier rain showers I took a little time to sit in one of the hides and watch the birds at the feeding station. It was here that I got to see the Tree Sparrows, and also received a text message telling me that a Black-tailed Godwit wad turned up at Willington. It was time I was back on familiar territory.

Tree Sparrows at Attenborough.

Once at Willington I was given details of the godwit, and also a Whinchat that had been found, by my good friend Mike who had sent me the text message. The Whinchat turned out to be very easy to locate as it was a superb summer plumage male - possibly the best I’ve ever seen - and even in the rather dull light it stood out like a beacon. Mr Whinchat, you’re species number 112 on my 10-Mile List!

A very distant Whinchat, in poor light, at Willington!

The Black-tailed Godwit was a totally different kettle of fish. I couldn’t locate it for the life of me. I spent almost two hours scanning the water’s edge, and small islands, of the two main pits without success. Maybe it had gone. Maybe my Leica’s had decided they’d found me enough good birds for one day. Maybe I just kept missing the bird whilst I was watching something else.

Before the hunger pains set in, that had me heading home to a roast beef dinner at 12:30PM, I was lucky enough to see the Marsh Harrier again a number of times as well as 12 Common Tern, a few Swift, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, numerous Sand Martin, 4 Swallow and the two Reed Warblers that were again singing close to “P3”. I’d spent just over five hours out birding, visited three different locations, seen 61 different species and added 4 new birds to my list. I was happy, if a little hungry!

At just after 5:30PM I was sat at home watching TV and feeling somewhat full of roast beef, Yorkshire Puddings, vegetables and potatoes when my phone sprang into life. It was a text from Mike; the Black Tailed Godwit had turned up again at Willington. I was happy with my day’s birding but the temptation of one more new bird was a little too much, I was back on “Platform 3” by 6:15PM and this time the godwit showed itself as soon as I arrived. Species 113 was in the bag.

Just to show that I haven’t turned back in to a fully fledged twitcher again, I hung around at Willington for another 1½ hours with Mike and Chris, another birding friend, and even got to see the Marsh Harrier once again. By 7:30PM the idea of having a long sit down with a glass of wine became too much for me, I left my friends to it and headed home. I was totally chilled and work didn’t even exist!

My “10-Mile List” now stands at 113 species.