At 4a.m I picked up Mike Stokes, in Shrewsbury, and very quickly realised that he had not been to bed by the fact that the first thing he did was open a can of Carlsberg and start swigging it as I drove down the A53 heading for Stoke-on-Trent.
At 5 a.m our 3 Cheshire lads met us at the usual lay-by and the journey to Lincolnshire began and my first can of Red Thunder consumed. For Mike and Mark Payne there were lifers to be had in the form of Tawny pipit and for me, and Robbo and Ian, just the potential for a good days birding in good company.
The banter started immediately and we reached Derby in what seemed like 5 minutes we were chatting so much. I announced that I was dropping into the 24hr McDonalds to get a coffee and before I knew it they all ordered sausage and egg McMuffins!
Suitably refreshed the talk started about a Red necked Grebe at Hatfield Moor in South Yorks. So maps were consulted, web sites too and route discussed. We got to Hatfield Moor but were we in the right bit? We got to a car park and Ian got out to release the gate. As he did so a Blue tit flew out the locking mechanism which was bizarre but we got into the car park and got out.
Immediately we all listened and heard "Woodlark!" , none of us had expected this and started to head for where we heard the call come from. Me and Robbo lagged behind chatting and this gave us an idea. Robbo pretended to go behind a bush for relief but instead played the call of the Woodlark on his PDA. As you can imagine, calls of "there's another one over here" occurred and we had to hold our faces straight to keep the joke going.
The original Woodlark had done one so we decided to head back to walk the path to Ten Acre Lake where the grebe was meant to be seen. On taking a short cut through some rough terrain a bird flew up off the ground and we all knew that we'd flushed a Woodlark by accident. It flew high and showed us its bulky skylark shape but with no tail as such just a blunt ended look to it.
So Ten Acre Lake, well they may as well have called it Ten Mile Lake, as it took us probably 45 minutes to walk to it! We passed the prison and noted many Garden and Willow warblers en route. Eventually we reached another car park right next to where we needed to be. Well the expletives were unmentionable, "we could've driven!" followed by quick justification that we wouldn't have seen the larks if we had of done.
We scanned Ten Acre Lake and eventually Mark picked out a stunning summer plumaged Red Necked Grebe we had seen the target bird and picked up a year tick on the way! We trudged back to the car, noting that the prison had a nest box erected for a Kestrel, "maybe that's what they mean when they say doing bird". Ian and Robbo discussed the finer points of Chinese cuisine on the way back and made me hungry so as soon as we got to the car a scotch egg was consumed and so was my second can of Red Thunder.
Our next move was to head for Immingham. A Collared Pratincole had been showing well here at Rosper Road Lakes. On arrival we were greeted with approx 30 birders and cars all standing overlooking the lake. None of them seemed to be looking at anything. Was the bird there? Well no it had flown off. It had done this before though and had always returned. We waited about 10 minutes and then in it flew with its erratic and very fast flight. It stayed actually very close to us and seemed to fly in an elongated figure of eight. It was too fast to scope but you didn't need it. My bins views were excellent and picked out the key ID features. The rusty patches under the wing were noted. I got my camera and took several flight shots but the low overcast light and the speed of the bird made it very difficult to get a good flight shot. Then out of the blue it landed. "It's close in behind all these bushes". The main throng moved right. I moved left and found my own personal viewpoint that gave me a clear look at this bird. I used the scope as a rest and shot some pictures. I had got a clear shot of this beautiful bird and it was on the deck!
I called a few people over including Steve Dunn and Mike Feeley (who I'd been on an epic twitch with) so that they got equally good views and we were all elated. On discussion gen was obtained about an establishment, not so far away that would ply us with good grub and tea and at low cost "Baps and Buns". Sure enough we found it and discussed with the lady proprietor the reason we were not watching the Royal wedding that day. Burgers were the order of the day and Tea, big polystyrene cups of tea. We were very happy as you can see below.
We now were headed for Tetney Lock where recently both Tawny Pipit and Dotteral
It had a strange jizz that involved it nodding it's head suddenly opening it's eyes and then closing them again and returning to a position with its head either extended (as above) or flopped downward. A most unusual species.
We arrived and parked up and headed out following the canal. Many birders were here but none had seen the pipit. We made our way up to the field that held the Dotteral and 7 birds were seen. All of us commented on the relief we had of not having to climb a large hill to see these birds. What beauties they are.
Now for the pipit. On several occasions we saw birds that looked pipit like, even called pipit like but we never got on them. We saw where they dropped into fields and scanned and found nothing. There were many other species here including Lesser Whitethroat, Linnet, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Swallow and Yellow wagtail. Eventually, after much searching, we rested on a grassy bank and pondered.
I decided to take this opportunity to look for a shot of something and found a very nice Yellow Wagtail. I sat myself down ready to take my shot and yes it flew off! However, I'd seen it perched in the same spot on several occasions. I waited a bit and sure enough it came back. I got my shot.
We got back to the car and with no other news in the area we were wondering what to do. We decided to head for Covenham Reservoir, as we had seen news of Arctic Terns coming through the country, we got there, got out the car and the more energetic of us climbed up the steps to the summit to view a reservoir devoid of birds. I ate cake, good cake, cake with marzipan in it and fruit. Well at least it gave me the energy to get half way up the steps.
Then news broke, the lingering White Tailed Eagle had been seen near Louth, "That's just down the road!" We sped off in search of a flying barn door. On arrival we got into the field with the other birders and over looked a valley with 2 trout pools backed by tall trees and Fields with Oil seed rape in them. Any raptor that flew was scrutinised but all were buzzards (except one potential Rough Legged which we haven't ticked as it was 2 miles away at least). The eagle had apparently taken refuge in the trees below but was it visible? NO.
The wind was surprisingly cold, I discussed, with two older Doncaster birders, the Hatfield Moor reserve, the cold wind, women in birding and how do you go for a pee when they are around at a twitch? Also they asked me why I was birding with one of the Millibands (Lol) . I eventually took the risk and went back to the car and got my fleece. On my return a few guys were looking at a buzzard when someone called the eagle.
OMG! I saw my first one over 18 years ago on Canna island, my second about 5 years ago on a nest with chick in Denmark, this was my third, a juvenile and jaw droppingly big and beautiful. When I first got on it I had a full broad view of its wings as it banked and then swooped low over a rape field, it's brown wings contrasting against the yellow oil seed rape flowers. Its ability to hold its own, on the fierce wind, was amazing. It was on the hunt and was heading our way. I ran to the car to get my camera (which I stupidly had left in the boot) and as I shut the boot I saw it fly over the road in front of me and over the next fields but against the sun. I fired some shots but only got this.
At least, I suppose, you can see its massive beak but that's all I'm afraid. We watched it for a while, it was hanging in the air (like bricks don't to quote Douglas Adams) scanning for potential prey. It made flying look easy.
So back in the car we got, more red thunder consumed and home we headed but all of us happy with a superb days birding. The eagle gave us all a show and left us all on a high.