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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Days of Red Thunder2! The Lincs Connection.

With the royal wedding imminent a few phone calls quickly established that 5 of us would be heading well away from any TV set and east for a days birding. I am certain we were not the only birders to take this view. After all it was a free day to go birding in peak migration.
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.

Last week. - Local Birding and Welsh Wonders.

The Perfect Local Day

Sometimes you get days when things fall into place and you really don't expect it. I had been given a 2 hour slot to get a bit of me time and decided I needed to get out there and find some newly arrived migrants. First target bird was Garden Warbler. I know a little fisherman's car park that usually comes up trumps as is surrounded by scrub. I managed to reverse my motor into the tight gateway and noticed 2 Red Legged Partridge on the field opposite. Fortunately cars make good hides and I managed to get this shot out of the window.


On getting out of the car the Partridge made a run for it but my attention was drawn immediately to the trickling call of a Garden Warbler doing its thing deep in a bush near the gateway. A bit of pishing slowly drew the bird further up the bush and eventually it sat at the top singing it's heart out. Unfortunately no pictures here as it was straight into the sun.
So next stop was Venus Pool. On entering the car park I noticed Rob Stokes' car and decided I'd go look for him. On stepping out I immediately heard the well known call of a Lesser Whitethroat which I looked for and found in the hedgerow by the car park entrance. It was in cover so decided to wait a bit before having a go at getting a shot. So off I went down the path and ran into Rob at the bottom. We started chatting and then out of the corner of my eye I saw a large bird being mobbed, my instinct said "that's not a Buzzard" and i looked up to see a female Marsh Harrier flying into the reserve high from the North. Straight away it went out of sight behind the tall trees by the hide so we dived into the hide to view it heading South East with a crow still mobbing it. Consequently it didn't stop but this was a local Mega for us and so we were both elated.
On leaving the hide we stumbled on a toad basking in the sunshine and got this great shot.


Then, once we'd stopped celebrating and telling all we could what we'd just seen we went off for a walk around the top field to try and find Whinchat. This proved fruitless but when we got back to the car park we both decided to go and get a better look at the Lesser Whitethroat and fortunately for me it allowed me this photo.


So back into the hide for the last time I could have and the usual suspects were about but one new year tick for me was present in the form of Common Sandpiper. The LRP's had seemingly paired up at last and one was displaying to the other quite near to the hide so I had a go at taking a few shots of them. Usually I get nothing worthy of showing but this time I was lucky and got my best LRP shot to date.


So Venus pool proved to be the place to be that morning and what a morning it had been!

Later that day I got the chance to go into Wood Lane NR. I made certain this time to keep my rucksack and scope firmly latched onto my back as i did not want a repeat of my last visit here. I was hoping for Garganey but no such luck but did have some lovely views of familiar species. The Reed Warblers and Sedge Warbler were in, the Sand Martins were having fun landing on the mud and the local Mallards were already looking after their new offspring.

The Moorhens particularly look smart, at this time of year, so I grabbed a few shots top show them off.


Then 2 wagtails dropped in, which normally I would overlook, but on this occasion I noticed one was different and so got the chance to compare Pied and White Wagtail side by side.


Then I noticed the LRP count had grown to 3 and normally they don't come anywhere near the hide but today one came just within range, so that I could go for a shot, and this is what I got.


A wonderful way to end the day. I swung into Colemere, in case a tern or two were there, but quickly realised there wasn't anything about, and then I went home. Not a bad day I reckon.

Polemere.
This reserve is relatively new to the list, in Shropshire, and it has only been over the last couple of years that it has been watched regularly. It has a small car park and a new hide to view from and a few of the local birders have started trying to keep a site list for it. Personally I haven't really given it a chance but, one evening, I decided to drop by. I could hear a Lesser Whitethroat without even getting out of the car and then when I did a call I recognised came from overhead and sure enough my first Yellow Wagtail of the year was in view. 


In the end it seemed there were in fact 2 pairs knocking about and calling to one another from the fields so maybe  they will be successful in breeding? I went in the hide and hoped again for a Garganey but all I saw were tufted ducks and Teal. One nice thing though was 3 pairs of Goosander and fortunately a pair were very photogenic on the shoreline.


Wales
A work trip to Cardiff allowed me to do 2 things. The first was to get up stupidly early and go to Upton Warren, before work, and pay £3 to dip a Bluethroat
I made Cardiff on time and the weather picked up from being dull and overcast in Worcester to being glorious sunshine in Wales. After work I took the opportunity to visit Goldcliff pools, as it has produced many ticks for me over the years and sure enough I got myself 2 Spotted Redshank and a dashing Spoonbill. A couple of Lesser Whitethroats eluded me in the hedgerow but a Peregrine performed a short aerobatics display above as consolation. Oh and a Common Whitethroat allowed me to take a half decent photo of it for once.


                          Hello. Guess what my name is?


Common Whitethroat.


I then decided to go up the road to visit my birding pal Matt Meehan, who runs the RSPB shop at Newport Wetlands. On arrival I was greeted with the site of Matt peddling expensive optics, to unsuspecting dudes, and also to a list of birds seen on the reserve that day. One caught my eye immediately "Red Backed Shrike". WHAT! 
Nobody seemed to know if this was a real sighting or not but I got a bit of gen and, after tea and hobnobs, went and had a look. Nothing was there to speak of but did hear a Cuckoo and saw 3 little grebes have a fight. Also I got to have a go with the new Nikon EDG Bins and must say they are rather dandy with a very bright image. 


With the Royal Wedding looming my next birding trip will be while Wills does the deed. So I'll let you all know the outcome very soon.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Local, Staffs and Cheshire Forays (including heart attack moment!)

A report of Wryneck had me and the list inspectors arriving early doors at Cannock Chase to look for a Wryneck that had appeared the previous day not far from the old shooting butts. On arrival a Gropper was heard and seen by one of us (not me) and in the distance at least 3 Cuckoo's called and many Green Woodpeckers. A glorious sunny morning. One would've thought that a Wryneck would have indeed enjoyed basking in the sunshine but after much searching, over a wide area, it was a no show. One consolation prize had been a pair of Tree pipits displaying and one obliged me a distant canopy photo.




Walking back we bumped into Ian Grant who was optimistic until we told him our findings but he continued with his mission (as we all would undeterred). Another birder approached and gave us hope of seeing a Cuckoo but the morning was not really in our favour and the showy Cuckoo "just up there on the right" was not there. Obviously we could hear him but that, after all, is the elusive Cuckoo for you. On nearing the car park a Green Woodpecker did allow me one attempt at getting a photo of it. One day I will get a real close up shot but for today this one will do.


so home we went knackered with only a can of Red Thunder to keep our chins up!


Quite often I travel to Manchester and Liverpool for work. The route I use gives me a couple of good birding options for easy drop-ins. One is Wood Lane NR in Shropshire. Not watched by many people it does turn up the odd good bird from time to time. Certainly I've seen Pec Sand here and Temmincks Stint over the years. It always looks excellent for waders and in the winter it does really well for gulls as it is located next to an active landfill site.


Now is the time of year to increase my watching here and my visit the other day produced 2 LRP's and a Black Tailed Godwit.






I also heard my first county Reed Warbler for 2011 and had close views of male Blackcap and Reed Bunting. Other usual suspects here are Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Snipe, Lapwing, Tufted duck, Teal and many other common species including this rather stunning Woodpigeon which always remind me of vicars with their white collar.




The many Carp pools here also prove a good breeding area for Mallard and one busy pair had already got 9 chicks on show (last year one pair had 15!). A pair of Great Crested Grebe are the proud parents of (we think) 4 chicks.




A report of a Blue Headed Wagtail (which quickly morphed into Channel Wagtail) got me going off to Venus Pool on one of the days for an hour. No Yellow Wags for me here but enjoyed it anyway and particularly liked this smart Teal on the pool.


A walk over the fields disturbed a feeding Yellowhammer which allowed me a little shot of him.


This also helped draw my attention to my first Peacock butterfly of the year.




Another evening homeward visit had me going to Frodsham Marsh to look for a Wood Sandpiper on No.6 tank. On arrival I by chance bumped into a regular Frodsham birder who took me under his wing and gave me a guided tour of No.6 tank. Although the Wood Sandpiper had shown well in the morning it wasn't showing that evening (well not to most of us) one chap claimed it and had us looking in a corner for about an hour, to be honest though, there is that much habitat there it could hide away for days. This site never bores you though and I had great views of both Marsh and Hen harriers, RP and LRP, Redshank and Black Tailed Godwit and to top it off a prolonged view of 3 (proper)  White Wagtails and a Short Eared Owl. I also met some friendly locals who all were only too willing to tell me loads about this site.




So what was my heart attack moment? Well it goes a little something like this...



  1. Take bag with scope into hide at Wood Lane NR
  2. Talk to local old boy who insists on showing me a Woodpecker on the feeders
  3. Keep talking to him and shut windows in hide and leave
  4. Spend an hour tootling around lanes in Shropshire looking for birds
  5. Get home, open boot of car and suddenly realise that my scope and rucksack are still in the hide at Wood Lane NR (30 mins drive from my house)
  6. Leave in blind panic and drive as calmly as possible (i.e not very) all the way back to the hide.
  7. Relief! Phew! Had a sit down and caught my breath when I found my rucksack and scope still where I left them.
I know I'm not the only person who will have done this but I really hope I don't ever do it again.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Days of Red Thunder!

Portland Bill & Beyond!

At 2.30a.m I left my house in Shrewsbury to head for Portland Bill (Dorset) for 2 days of birding. The previous few days had seen southerly winds bring in Woodchat shrike and Whiskered Tern into the Poole area.  With Short-Toed lark and Long-Billed Dowitcher, also about, it looked a good bet for some year listing.
            Although I have the week off I agreed, with my good lady wife, that Monday and Tuesday were the best days for me to go birding and so I thought I’d make the most of it and get to Portland for first light.
            Driving on your own at night is never fun and after the first hour I started to feel myself flagging, not good, but then something happened to help me on my way. Radio 6 decided they would play a 2hr essential mix by Howie B (hip hop/ breaks producer) and so the volume went up and I rocked the party to old funk and hip hop classics. Niceness.
            Once more I started to feel tiredness creep up on me so I sensibly pulled up at a services and had a 15-minute powernap. This did the trick but to doubly ensure my alertness I decided to open my first can of Red Thunder! Yes forget another well known red drink, this is Aldi’s version, laden with Caffeine and with six cans (£1.59) being about the same price, as one can of a more expensive brand, it was a no brainer.

                                                                        Mmm Caffeine.

On arriving on the outskirts of Weymouth the sun was just coming up and a lovely new dual carriageway appeared that brings you right into the town a lot quicker than in the past. On the link road to Portland I had a quick glance at Ferrybridge but realised quickly that I was too early for Little Terns and so headed onward and up onto Portland arriving jaded but enthused and first on the scene to begin a seawatch off the bill.

I was meeting up with another Shropshire birder who was already in the area. Sure enough Ian Grant arrived at 7a.m and we started a seawatch. Winds were from NW, which meant not an amazing chance of anything unusual but picked up Puffins, Gannets, Guillemots, Fulmar, Common Scoter, Kittiwakes, Shag and the usual gulls. Typically the previous day they’d had Black tern and Little Gulls off here.
            The seawatching was so poor all the locals went back to the obs by 8 and so we joined them picking up Rock Pipit en route. My hope was to see the Short-Toed Lark in the ploughed field, by the obs, but alas this had done one! Aaaaaaaaargh!

           There were plenty of migrants coming in but of limited variety and essentially every bird seemed to be Wheatear, Redstart or Swallow. There were lots of Skylarks and mipits about and the only birds of note were a Whitethroat and a stunning Stonechat, which I later learnt, was a continental bird of the Rubicola variety.


Distant Redstart.


                                                           Stonechat of Rubicola Variety.



Next we headed for the Barleycrates lane area to look for Ring Ouzel and Gropper but got nothing other than Dunnocks ,Wrens and more Wheatears.

           
So we decided to head off to Radipole Lake RSPB to see what we could pick up here. En route we dropped into Ferrybridge as we had heard reports of 2 Little Tern but still none were to be seen. The only consolation was the locals pointed us to a local cafĂ© and within minutes we were scoffing bacon and egg baps and drinking fresh coffee (and boy did I need it). At Radipole we went into the shop to see the list of birds they’d had and noted a recent sighting of bearded tits. Ian needed Cetti’s so it was a good spot for him and Sedge and Reed warblers were in. The now famous Hooded Merganser was still there and I hadn’t seen this so it was worth it for an insurance tick just in case it gets accepted? On the way round we had heard many Cetti’s and picked up a small party of Bearded tit, one Reed warbler in flight and one Sedge warbler singing in the usual difficult to see bush arrangement. Just as Ian was about to give up on seeing Cetti’s one decided to be unusually very vocal from the top of a bush right next to us. Indeed it was that close I had to step backwards to get it in focus.


                                                          A rare view of Cetti's Warbler.

Next we headed for Lodmoor RSPB and very quickly found the long stayer  Long-billed Dowitcher which duly went to sleep just as I wanted to take a photo of it! Just up the road at Red Cliff we had seen a report for both Great Northern and Red Throated diver and so we spent a while scanning the bay here and picked them out pretty easily.

                                                             Distant Sleepy Head.

With no reports of the Whiskered Tern or the Woodchat Shrike still the only other birds of note reported locally had been 3 Firecrest the day before from Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens.
            On arrival what we hadn’t realised was 1. The gardens were 20 acres big and 2. You had to pay to get in. We did a bit of detective work with the gardeners and then decided to pay our money and take our chances. The conditions were not favourable as there was a stiff breeze, which was ripping up the trees but after about 2 hours of searching we finally heard the high pitched loud calls we were after and picked up 2 birds high in the canopy. Job done.
So back to the obs via the local chippy and consumed them sat outside in the sun overlooking the Obs garden. Ian had to clear out to get back to Shropshire and I had to shower and rest for a bit as the early start was taking its toll. Eventually I stirred myself to go back out and walk the fields but all I picked up were more Wheatears and an obliging Kestrel.

                                                         Portland Obs Viewed from top fields.


So back into the obs and I sat and read the Bardsey Island bird report (and wondered why I have never been there) and drank 3 bottles of beer, Ironbridge brewery IPA, Ironbridge Brewery Golden Ale (which unfortunately tasted rancid and had to be dumped and it was meant to be bottle conditioned!)  and Innis and Gunn Rum Cask, which tasted sublime. Conversation with the obs residents was “If you’re cold why are you wearing shorts lad!?”. Nothings changed here except the showers are revamped and the beds all have new mattresses! Debates were also had about the relationships between foxes and the obs cat Bess, the disappearance of the lark and what good birds would turn up tomorrow. All this for a bargain £15 a night. SLEPT LIKE A LOG. (They put me in the tower so my snoring could be used as a back up to the fog horn)

Day 2 had me up and out at 6. McVities farmhouse fruit cake for breakfast (not quite as good as bacon and egg) and a yomp around the fields. Nothing of note just loads of Wheatear, Skylarks and Linnets. I went back in the Obs and noted all the local old boys had decided to seawatch from the Obs as the winds were so poor. I did the same and picked up 7 Manx Shearwater but apparently the main Manxie flocks are late arriving this year. Nothing was being caught in the nets except a Blackcap and so discussions started about the road works in Weymouth, and what the hell are they doing with them they make no sense, and a local aerial fitter had had the cheek to tap into someone’s aerial but still charged their neighbour for the dish. The local youth, by the way, are referred to as “nippers” round these parts.

So another yomp ensued around the top fields and a local chap they call the “Director” told me he’d had Cuckoo and 3 Groppers at Barleycrates lane that morning. To be honest I was getting a bit despondent at this point and wondered what to do.  There is a beautiful 2 seater bench on the top fields walk that you can sit on and take a rest and so I did just that, it looked so inviting (it’s built into the dry stoned wall) and I thought to myself what do I do now. I found myself actually close my eyes and have a ponder and opened them again to feel like the bright sunshine was just that little bit brighter and I decided that Portland wasn’t going to do it for me that day. I needed to accept that and get off the bill so that I could pick up a 3G phone signal and get the bird news. So at 11a.m I said my goodbyes to Martin Cade, after having a chat about cameras and lenses, and made my way off the bill and in the general direction of home. I dropped into Barleycrates lane again but no sign of Gropper or Cuckoo but did get a good photo of Wheatear at last.


                                                                             Poser!

So back on my journey and every so often I would stop the car and look at the bird news but nothing was about other than a Woodchat Shrike in Glamorgan on the Gower and no way was I gonna go for that. Eventually I got to Bridgewater services and stopped for a coffee and a sandwich. At this point I still wasn’t certain about what to do but quickly realised it was all about attitude and decided that maybe being mad was good and at this point I decided like the Woodchat Shrike was a good bet and anyway it was an adult and I’d only ever seen a juvenile in the UK before (Great Orme). So fully fuelled I got back in the motor and headed up the M5 onto the M49 and then onto the Severn crossing and the M4. It was at this point that panic struck as I had £4 cash and the toll is £5.70 and they don’t take cards. There was no way of turning back so I thought all I can do is go up to the kiosk and see how they handle me. On arrival I looked sheepish and said “I’ve messed up I’m afraid I haven’t enough cash” at which point the words “don’t worry love, we take cards these days ever since we had the Ryder cup”  GAME ON!!

I sped onwards with joy in my heart and got up to Swansea and thought I need some gen. Matt Meehan wasn’t answering his phone so I called another birder I know from down here called Paul Roberts. He answered his phone and sounded out of breath “ don’t worry Rich I’m just climbing a mountain I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t” LOL.  So a panting Mr Roberts gave me instructions on where to aim for at Llangenith. On arrival at the caravan park I parted with £3 and parked up. No other birders in sight. No sign of where the footpath was through the dunes. I needed more gen and so phoned Robbo and he told me what the pager said and then it all clicked where the path was. I started to walk/run and then almost fell in a watery ditch, as the path wasn’t well marked. At this point excitement and my bladder didn’t mix and I had to find a safe relief stop out of harms way (note to self. Large amounts of coffee and walking don’t mix). All I could think of was I hope it’s still here. Eventually I came to the first patch of buckthorn and on my left saw 3 birders at distance. I put up my bins and half way between them and me was the bird. I had done it. I crept round to join this birding family and they had been a bit worried when they saw I had a camera as they thought I would probably spook the bird. I reassured them I was a birder first and photographer second. We all watched this bird for about 30 minutes. It frequented the same bush and every so often dropped down and caught large black beetles and then hopped back up onto the bush to eat them.
All of us decided that the bird would allow us to go nearer and it did but we were still some distance away. The family started to move around to walk back home and I stayed put. Their movement cause the bird to go to another bush further away from me and out of sight. I used this timeframe to position myself in a dip in front of the main bush it used and I sat down and waited, out of the wind. Within 5 minutes the bird returned to the perch and my finger pressed firmly on rapid fire on my camera. I had got the shot I wanted.

                                                                           Stunner!

I moved away slowly and went back to the car happy with my lot but no one to celebrate it with. Then a Ford Transit pulled up with a screech next to me. These were birders, actually these were birders I knew, it was Matt Meehan and Steve Hinton. I jumped out the car and celebrated! How random was that.

So I had a long but happy journey home, called in the chippy at Pen-Clawd and picked up Little Egrets as a year tick. Another can of Red Thunder was drank, a radio 4 comedy had me laughing out loud (Down the line) and eventually got home at 9.11pm to find an Indian meal waiting for me. Life is sweet. Maybe having that little ponder and changing my attitude changed my luck? Who knows eh?