The forecasters got it right - it was a scorcher. 30 degrees plus by lunchtime, so I planned on beating that kind of heat with an early start. It turned out to be not as early as scheduled (alarm at 5.50am, up by 6.30am), but not a bad effort.
Without a car for the weekend, I planned a complete circuit from my house, down to Leam Valley, around the scrape, then right across the Offchurch Bury Estate to Offchurch itself and back via the Millennium Cycleway. A much-needed downpour at first light seemed to have sent insects and birds alike into a frenzy of activity, so all looked set fair.
And indeed it proved to be so, the walk uncovering plenty of uncommon, if not actually rare, sights. Along various stretches of the River Leam I found perhaps ten Reed Warblers (where previously I had only found a single bird in three years), a dozen or more Whitethroat (including great views of a newly fledged juvenile), a quarrelling family of five Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Grey Wagtail picking his way over the lily pads, and several Moorhens including a juvenile.
Other than the birds, I was thrilled to observe a grass snake swimming a short stretch of river before disappearing under a weeping willow. I also noticed a couple of beautiful Marbled White butterflies as I crossed the estate.
In the Leam Valley woods I found some real favourites of mine, several Jays, a pair of Bullfinches (I got even better views on the return leg when I found another pair on the cycleway near Offchurch), a Song Thrush, two Goldcrest (one a juvenile) and a probable pair of Marsh Tits (sadly they made no sound, so I cannot confirm 100% whether they were Marsh or Willow).
Chiffchaffs sang on the Leam / Offchurch leg of the journey, and Willow Warblers on the Offchurch / Radford Semele return (I have no idea why this should be, but the difference was marked). Swallows swooped over the scrape, while a pair of Grey Heron fished. Skylarks and Yellowhammers sang over farmland throughout the walk, their sounds accompanying me through the last mile or so as the temperature soared and I wilted, staggering back into the village after nearly four hours out and about. 40 species of bird recorded and a cooked breakfast in prospect - that's how to start a Sunday.