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Old Thursday 18th April 2019, 22:29   #51
JWN Andrewes
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April 18th

A morning trip out, just me & Arch, to a sensitive site that I'm not going to identify. Didn't get our target bird, but picked up Little Ringed Plover & Mandarin for the year.

Stopped by Burton Mere Wetlands on the way home, and managed to find an uncharacteristically showy Cetti's Warbler, a recently arrived Garganey (clearly exhausted after a long migrate, hardly woke up at all), and some Reed Warblers battling over territory. Arch also got his first White Wagtails, not a tick but well received for all that, and another well spotted Bank Vole in the undergrowth.
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Old Tuesday 23rd April 2019, 18:58   #52
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April 23rd

Didn’t get out till after lunch today, and when we did we headed straight to Great Orme, parked up, and set off towards the sheep field. As soon as the limestone pavement came into view we could see a couple of birders, drawing a bead on something directly between us and them, so we skirted wide to join them and were rewarded with distant views of our target bird; Dotterel. Three of them, in fact, but only one, the female, was really out in the open, the two males were mostly hunkered down a bit off to the right. Like a complete doofus I’d managed to leave the scope in the car, but fortunately one of the birders present kindly let the boys have prolonged views through his while he made a phone call, so no harm done. A couple of Chough were showing well in the sheep field, and we picked up Wheatear, Stonechat & Meadow Pipit on the heath, but not much else before decamping to Conwy RSPB.

No sign at Conwy of yesterday’s Wood Sand, but in the end that hardly mattered. We had a most enjoyable, action packed little bimble round, entertained by fresh-in migrants, Whimbrel & Common Sandpiper from the hides, Whitethroats & Sedge Warblers round the trails, highlight being a Lesser Whitethroat sitting up high to sing, after we had tried to get views of several that had remained obstinately hidden. Spring feels properly underway now, and I feel a road trip coming on… Watch this space!
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Old Wednesday 24th April 2019, 13:47   #53
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A mixed bag for us over the past week. Daniel and I had an abortive search for a blue-headed wagtail at a local site last Tuesday. At the weekend a tour of central Fife wetland sites on Saturday produced nothing new for the year (except for a house martin for me on the way home) but a pair of pintail was rather unusual. Daniel and I then went out again to the Fife Ness area later in the day. Highlight was a female-type black redstart which was a subspecies tick for him - having offended the listing police by seeing Eastern black redstart first! Other highlights included several wheatears, a white wagtail and a few corn buntings.
On Sunday 3 of us went and did my WeBS count (Andrew in teenager mode staying at home). Amazingly calm but a bit hazy. Not as good as the previous weekend had been but 3 slavonian grebes, a red-necked grebe and 4 whimbrel were notable, as was a perched young peregrine basking in the afternoon sun.

Trying to plan a few trips for the coming weekends...

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Old Saturday 27th April 2019, 20:12   #54
JWN Andrewes
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April 25th: part I

An overnight drive delivered us to a dull and gloomy Loch of the Lowes before any useful light materialised, so we grabbed ourselves a quick in-car breakfast, installed ourselves in the hide, and waited. As the light increased and the scenery slowly became discernible, we managed to make out the head of one of the Ospreys poking over the side of the nest, and then, just before six, jackpot! The first of this trip’s three targets paddled its way round into the bay in front of us, along the shore, up into a creek and out of view; Beaver! By now we had company in the hide, including a regular who offered the opinion that another would probably be along soon, so we hung around, enjoyed watching the other Osprey arrive carrying a fish, and then, around half an hour after the first, a second Beaver followed the same course as the first, but this time with enough light for a few grainy, rubbish photos, with which I am stupidly pleased! A couple of Red Squirrels and a year tick Yellowhammer on the feeders and a Roe Deer across the road from the car park wrapped things up. We were on our way again by seven, pleased with our start.
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Old Sunday 28th April 2019, 09:12   #55
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April 25th: part II

Next up was a bit of a punt really. Friend of a friend had seen a couple of Capercaillies from a vehicle track up in Speyside while walking her dog one afternoon. It was a track used by cyclists as well as dog walkers, and it sounded like the Capers were often there, so we decided to break our onward journey there and chance our luck, with a decent possibility of Crested Tit to boot. Well, predictably, no Capercaillies, nor Cresties for that matter. Mainly it was lots and lots of Willow Warblers, a few Coal Tits and a couple of Crossbills. Back near the car though we were lucky enough to stumble across a couple of Green Hairstreaks, settling nicely on the ground in between territorial disputes where they furiously chased each other round in tight circles. I’ve never really pursued a Butterfly list, so this was a new species for me, for all that they’re not particularly rare. Back by the car we found a female Ring Ouzel in a roadside field before we continued our way northward.
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Old Sunday 28th April 2019, 19:58   #56
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April 25th: part III

And so to the second of the three targets around which this trip was constructed; White-billed Diver. I’d been keeping an eye on reports coming from the Moray coast from Burghead to Portsoy over the couple of weeks prior to coming, and it looked like there were a number of decent spots worth checking, with Burghead being the first we would encounter on the way up from Speyside, so we started our search there. Kittiwake & Gannet quickly landed on the year list, but twenty minutes of scouring the briny revealed nothing else of note, so I left the boys with the scope to have a go at scanning while I got the camping cooker on for a hot dog lunch. Ten further minutes of scanning after we’d eaten, still no sign, so we decided to try elsewhere, and drop back in to Burghead later if need be.

It was a forty some minute drive from Burghead to Cullen, and after the pleasure of driving up a reasonably clear and freely moving A9 we were faced with a procession of roundabouts, traffic lights and slow-moving traffic. Still, at least if we drew a blank at Cullen, Portsoy was only ten minutes further on. The recommended vantage point at Cullen, from the coast path up by the campsite, is quite a height, giving you an intimidating amount of sea to scan, but at least you don’t lose stuff so much in chop or swell. Took about ten minutes to locate an almost sum plum White-billed Diver, really far out though, and diving, so difficult to track. Managed to get Sam onto it, and then it dived again, and I couldn’t relocate it. A tense ten minutes and I found a different, much more wintery individual, which I succeeded in getting Arch onto. Phew! Views weren’t great though, so we decided to drop in on Portsoy anyway.

Here we enjoyed watching a couple of Rock Pipits on the beach, excellent views of Eider around the harbour, some Long-tailed Ducks further out, and the boys year ticked Razorbill on the sea. At the dolphin statue we found a birder who had seen a Banana-bill a little while since, but then lost it in the swell. A few minutes scanning and I picked it up, and then a second. Again it was a summery one and a wintery one, but neither at quite the extreme ends of the spectrum as the Cullen birds. Photographing very distant birds bobbing up and down on the sea is a nightmare, just trying to get the right patch of ocean in the view finder and carpet bombing it on continuous shoot. The attached is my best shot, the more winter plumaged specimen, which is at best consistent with, but I agree far from diagnostic of, White-billed Diver!

With no need now to revisit Burghead we headed straight for Nairn. Unfortunately the Eider flock was excruciatingly distant, over a kilometre away, with by now quite a lively wind creating a lot of chop. I only located the flock because a drake reared up and flapped his wings as I panned across, and even knowing where they were I struggled to make them out. Sandwich Terns were fishing off shore and there were a score or so nice sum plum Long-tailed Ducks on offer, but probably the best that Nairn had to offer was a nice expanse of sand for the kids to play on for a bit while I scanned. Eventually we called time and headed off to overnight in Inverness, where after a long day and a lot of driving I slept the sleep of the just; good preparation for more driving the following day, when we would be hoping to score the trip’s third and final target.
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Old Monday 29th April 2019, 21:20   #57
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Come on, we need to know the third target, you tease
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Old Tuesday 30th April 2019, 09:12   #58
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Absolutely.

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Old Tuesday 30th April 2019, 18:18   #59
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Sorry folks, didn't mean for it to be quite such a cliffhanger! Back at work yesterday, with a quick turnaround and straight out to the movies, after which it was absolutely essential to catch up with Game of Thrones without distractions, so I haven't had a chance to write up! I'll just grab a drink and get on it. In the mean time, going back through my pics I have found possibly the worst photo of a summer plumage White-billed Diver ever!!
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Old Tuesday 30th April 2019, 19:10   #60
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Sorry folks, didn't mean for it to be quite such a cliffhanger! Back at work yesterday, with a quick turnaround and straight out to the movies, after which it was absolutely essential to catch up with Game of Thrones without distractions, so I haven't had a chance to write up! I'll just grab a drink and get on it. In the mean time, going back through my pics I have found possibly the worst photo of a summer plumage White-billed Diver ever!!
Looks like a winner to me!

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Old Tuesday 30th April 2019, 19:36   #61
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April 26th

Great drive down Loch Ness on Friday morning, bit of a crawl through Fort William, and arrived at the Corran Ferry just as the boat arrived, so it wasn’t too long before we were bowling along on the correct shore of Loch Linnhe, then peeling off across country to the head of Loch Sunart, where we stopped, in squally weather, to scan the shoreline on the off chance of maybe a wader or two. No dice in the poor weather, so we pressed on, arriving by the upper bridge over the river in Strontian a few minutes later and clocking the Black Duck almost instantly! Not what I had been expecting given this bird’s reputation for being tough to connect with over the years. Perhaps now he’s middle-aged he’s become a bit more settled in his ways. I can imagine he’ll be harder to spot once the foliage on the overhanging trees fills out, but for now he is extremely showy (although kudos for anyone who can spot him in the pic of the boys). In much improved weather we spent quite a while with the Duck (having come all this way would’ve been rude to dash off) and had Cuckoo over calling while we were there, but eventually we decided to explore the area further. Not for the first time Gordon Hamlett’s vade mecum was pressed into service, as a result of which we headed first to the Garbh Eilean Hide. No Eagles or Otters in our brief visit, but nice views of Common Seals, a few Hooded Crows & a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers.

Next up was Ariundle Woodland, a beautiful spot, horribly marred by what looked like a recently laid down hardcore vehicle track which had enabled heavy plant to cart off timber from a recently felled area of conifers. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled for a bit from by the track shortly after we left the car, but soon shut up, and after a while we passed the extent of the forestry road and found ourselves in a quite wonderful, light, mossy woodland, boughs dripping with epiphytes, choruses of Willow Warblers and Chaffinches belting it out. A couple of Redstarts sang too, just long enough to indicate their presence without actually revealing their location, and a Tree Pipit staked its claim from a pathside perch. This is a site which I really feel we weren't seeing at its best. Nice though it was I'm sure that a visit earlier in the day, or better yet a little later in the season, would be so much more fruitful. A quick lunch in the Ariundle Craft Centre (very agreeable bacon & fried egg roll, decent coffee too) and then off, although we couldn’t leave without another session with the Black Duck, still showing ridiculously well, bird of the year so far!

Straight onto the Corran Ferry, no waiting, again, a crawl through Fort William, again, and then we were on our way, heading east. One of the great pleasures of Scotland trips is driving through glorious scenery on mostly empty roads. Frequently cars would pull over or slow to let us pass when we caught them up, and we always made sure to pay the courtesy forwards (which if I’m honest happened less frequently). General Wade’s Military Road was a new one to me. According to Wikipedia General Wade constructed a series of roads linking various Scottish garrisons in the middle of the eighteenth century, which adequately accounts for the state of the A889 between Laggan and Dalwhinnie. We were booked into a Travelodge near Perth for the night, and I had initially planned to maybe pop back into Loch of the Lowes on the way, but as we were quite a bit ahead of schedule I decided to try and squeeze in a detour up to Glenshee. The weather was not appropriate for an assault on the Cairnwell, particularly not this late in the day, but ever the optimist, thinking that Ptarmigans would probably still have a decent quota of white in their plumage, and recalling that I’d scoped them from the car park before, I was hoping to take advantage in one of the reasonably frequent breaks in the rain to score. Unfortunately the last decent break was about two minutes before we arrived, and after forty minutes of waiting in the car in the battering rain we had to concede that our year tick Red Grouse behind the café was as good as it was going to get. A quick, uneventful call in to Loch of the Lowes and we were done for the day.
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Old Tuesday 30th April 2019, 20:25   #62
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April 27th

So, all three targets hit, plus a few other goodies, just a matter of how to liven up the journey home. No prizes for guessing what we went for (you can probably tell just from the thumnbails), but we nearly didn’t go after tuning in to weather forecasts warning of gale force winds, heavy showers, storm Hannah and the like. The rain was certainly happily splattering down as we bid farewell to Broxden Junction but, as Edinburgh drew closer things changed; the rain abated, patches of blue appeared in the sky, credible claims of sunshine were made… and on arrival at Musselburgh, barely a zephyr and a glass calm sea! Get in! (And if you’re wondering why the Scoters aren’t included in the trip’s targets, well, the White-winged wasn’t on the menu when we laid plans and booked our accommodation.)

Departing birders imparted positive news, and after a fair old walk we were there, receiving directions and getting on to a sleeping American White-winged Scoter. Brilliant! We spent the next half hour splitting our attention between the White-winged and three Surf (two drakes) also present (pic 5 is a three-Scoter pic, none of them Common!), and then another half hour birding our way back to the car, with splendid views of Reed Bunting, a wee mixed flock of roosting waders and plenty of dapper Eiders. And that was that, time for home, a long drive, most of it in the rain, which kicked in shortly after leaving.

A very short half term now follows, with plans already in place for a Whit road trip, as well as a cheeky little bank Holiday Monday next week, which I’m actually off for. Happy hunting everyone!
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Old Wednesday 1st May 2019, 07:58   #63
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You had better luck than we ever had with the beep black duck!
We had a decent weekend. Saturday afternoon saw a family outing to the Fife Ness area for a smattering of scarce migrants in a Fife context. A very showy pied flycatcher at the lower end of Kilminning was followed after a bit of hard work by an equally obliging lesser whitethroat at the top end. We then had very nice views of the wood warbler in Denburn wood (only about 1 a year in Fife).

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 13:58   #64
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Exactly what Edenwatcher said. except I would add an extra bleep.

Have been five times in three trips over the last four years to try and nail this beastie. (and its a long, long way from Leicester). Think I would have more luck trying to find that other Scottish lake dwelling myth. On one trip we did see a couple of his offspring but never the daddy.
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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 14:50   #65
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We've also seen the offspring.
Sunday saw the family divide. Sue and Andrew went off into the hills and climbed a couple of Munros - birding highlights were golden eagle (white-tailed as well for Sue) and ptarmigan.
Daniel and I headed for the Lothian coast. We started at Musselburgh for the scoter fest. Really good views of both the white-winged scoter and surf scoters with the highlight being getting 4 scoter species in a single scope view!! A singing whitethroat was our first of the year. The fabled midden between Torness and Skateraw was full of life(!) - male yellow wagtail, at least 3 white wagtails, 2 tree pipits and a wheatear. However nearby Whitesands quarry and Barns Ness where a disappointment with no sign of either glaucous gull or any grasshopper warblers, both of which would have been lifers for Daniel.
On the way home we stopped off at a few Fife sites without seeing anything terribly unusual. Over 75 species seen in the day without too much effort however.

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 17:02   #66
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Its a long weekend this weekend, and the Black Duck is currently co-operative. Do I have to draw you a diagram?

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 17:42   #67
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Sadly Daniel does not get the Monday off. We will be up there again later in the year...

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 18:23   #68
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Sadly Daniel does not get the Monday off. We will be up there again later in the year...

Rob
Yeah, but it won't, not after the breeding season. Come on Rob, its a day trip from where you are!

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 18:58   #69
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May 2nd

Apart from anything else, once the foliage fills out it will become harder to spot even if it stays where it is. In the mean time, a few more pics for you, and whenever it is any of you manage to get back up there - very best of luck to you!

Arch year ticked Swift on his way to school yesterday, I'm still waiting for my first of the year. I went on a bit of a recce this morning while the boys were in school, so I now have local sites lined up for Garden Warbler, Whinchat & Pied Flycatcher, ready for when I get a chance to head out with the boys (Lord knows when though, what with all their various other extra-curricular pursuits).

Then had excellent views of Hobby on the walk back from school with Arch, as well as Dipper on the Alyn.
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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 19:17   #70
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Much less predictable in summer certainly. I had considered it - in combination with the pied-billed grebe - as a day trip.

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Old Thursday 2nd May 2019, 19:27   #71
JWN Andrewes
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Yeah, was kind of tempted by the Grebe too, but it would have been a lot more driving in an already pretty full on itinerary, plus the walk. Some other time.
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Old Friday 3rd May 2019, 11:53   #72
Paul Longland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
Its a long weekend this weekend, and the Black Duck is currently co-operative. Do I have to draw you a diagram?

John
That's as may be. unfortunately my weekend is already planned out for me. As this includes packing in readiness to fly off to the Camargue for a full weeks birding next Saturday I don't mind too much. There's always next year
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Old Monday 6th May 2019, 18:23   #73
JWN Andrewes
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May 6th

A nice low octane day out today, over to Anglesey to pick up a few of that island’s specialities. First birds of note were the two long staying Hooded Crows lifting off from the roundabout in the A55 next to Holyhead’s McDonalds, and a few minutes later we were parked up by the harbour where careful scanning revealed a few very distant Black Guillemots out by the end of the jetty. South Stack next (the boys' Great Great Grandfather was lighthouse keeper here), hordes of Guillemots covering the cliffs, Razorbills lower down, both liberally scattered on the sea below, which is where we eventually picked out a single Puffin bobbing about. A few Chough were kicking about too, including fantastic point blank views of one feeding on the turf by the car park that we watched from the car before setting off for Cemlyn.

At Cemlyn we were greeted by excellent views of White Wagtails by the pool by the car park, and then settled to watch the tern colony for a while. Mostly Sandwich, some Common, and a couple of Arctic. At least three Med Gulls too. Back at the car park there was a single Golden Plover in an adjacent field, a long staying injured bird (limping severely), hence its reluctance to migrate. While photographing it my SD card hit capacity, so on the way home we stopped off at Tescos in Bangor to pick up a new one.

Checking the news here we learned of a possibly Slaty-backed Gull nearby at Rhos. Hmmm. Bird had flown off, so no need to dash off or anything, better to stop and consider a course of action over a quick lunch in the café. First off, what the hell do first winter Slaty-backed Gulls even look like? Wonders of modern technology, quick google and… ah, as I suspected. Looks just like all the others. Well, there was no way I was going to spend the afternoon grockle-dodging my way along a bank holiday North Wales coast looking for a feathered turd on legs, but no harm remaining in the environs. So we headed up Conwy Mountain for a poke around, loads of Stonechats facing off against each other, quite a few Wheatears, Mipits & Whitethroats but not much else. Fabulous views though, and a nice walk. No news on the Gull when we got back to the car, so we headed home, finishing off the day mid-afternoon.
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Old Tuesday 7th May 2019, 10:09   #74
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A fairly quiet weekend with a few highlights. On Saturday I went down to my old stomping ground of the Eden Estuary. I soon picked up a nice drake garganey, and shortly afterwards a second! Text messages sent and Sue and Daniel came down to join me. Other notable species included 4 little egrets and at least 5 whimbrel.
On Sunday afternoon 3 of us (Andrew in teenager mode again) headed to Fife's prime whinchat location. We found 2 males without difficulty, also 3 stonechats (one startlingly bright) and a couple of ravens. Returning via various Fife wetlands was rather unproductive. A garden warbler that refused to show was the most notable record.

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Old Saturday 11th May 2019, 18:22   #75
JWN Andrewes
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May 11th

This morning’s programme was to track down Wood Warbler & Redstart for my year list, as well as to help the boys catch up on the Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warbler & Whinchat that I had scoped out sites for at the beginning of the month, if they decided to join me. I opted to start off with an early morning visit to Loggerheads, and was quite surprised when Arch was keen to join me, in spite of the pre 06:00 wake up call. Sam stayed in bed. Loggerheads Country Park near Mold holds three of our day’s targets, Wood Warbler, Redstart & Pied Flycatcher, although I don’t think I’ve ever managed all three in one visit! Today Wood Warbler was the one we wanted most, with the other two usually fairly easy at World’s End, where we would be going later, so we made our way straight to where we’d had one singing last year. All quiet, so we slowly zig-zagged our way through the woods until eventually we tracked down a flighty and restless, but fortunately very vocal, individual on the southern edge of the Hanson Quarry. Neither Pied Fly nor Redstart were audible, so we headed home for something to eat.

After a leisurely breakfast we set off up to Waun-y-Llyn Country Park, where I’d had a Garden Warbler singing the other day away past the lake. No need to leave the car park today though, with one singing from the hawthorns between the car and the road, showing reasonably well for a Garden warbler too. On then to World’s End, where we bumped into a Cuckoo to kick things off; it had been sitting up on the phone wires, but was unfortunately mobbed away up the slope by a Meadow Pipit just as we came round the corner and clocked it. Wheatears & Skylarks along the road, and then a fine ringtail Hen Harrier off to the left just as we approached where Offa’s Dyke heads off on the right. We kept pace with it for quite a way, until we reached the valley on the right where we would be looking for Whinchat. We could hear one singing as we got out the car, but it took a while to get visual lock. No Black Grouse on their regular patch the other side of the valley, so we headed down, over the ford, and into the valley bottom, to look for Pied Flycatcher & Redstart.

Stopping first at my Pied Fly spot from the other day we instantly found a
Treecreeper gathering bugs in a roadside tree, and could hear a bizarrely out of habitat Sedge Warbler singing from a hedgerow across the field. Hope he manages to get his bearings, because he’s on a hiding to nothing up here. Didn't see any Flycatchers, in spite of hearing one singing a couple of times, so we headed further along the valley to Rock Farm to look for Redstarts; we could try for Pied Fly again on the way back. Very quickly found a Redstart singing from a hawthorn bush, then another from by the river as we relocated back for Flycatchers. This time we almost immediately got onto a very active, vocal showy male Pied Flycatcher. Brilliant! Clean sweep! Steven Tyler would have loved it!

Currently deliberating whether to head over to East Yorkshire tomorrow, but whatever we decide it’s been a great day today.
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