2 April 2007

Wonderful Warwickshire birding

A simply superb day of birding in mid-Warwickshire today. A day off work, fine sunny weather, three sites and a pile of birds, some rare and some not - what's not to like?

I started at 7.30am, checking out a set-aside field near the Napton Reservoir for Barn Owls. No owls in sight, but a best-ever Chiffchaff photo opportunity. Nice start.

At the reservoir itself there was still an early chill, not helped by a bitter north wind. Chiffchaffs sang around the site, perhaps five in all, and there was an abundance of Reed Buntings flitting from hedge to hedge. As the temperature rose the Chiffchaffs were joined in song by some Skylarks, Chaffinches and Great Tits. Then came an extraordinary but familiar sound - the explosive call of the Cetti's Warblers. It's not uncommon to hear of these secretive birds one at Napton these days, but this time I got good close up views as well - a real bonus.

I moved on to Draycote Reservoir, the region's biggest water, hoping for some more early migrants. Not many on show today - a few Chiffchaff and a lone Swallow, with no Wheatear in sight. But there were still plenty of birds to enjoy, and plenty of great photo opportunities to grab. Highlights included two Great Northern Divers, a Sparrowhawk high overhead, a couple of Treecreepers, a lone Wigeon and Goldeneye, plus a Goldcrest.
By this point I was well satisfied with my morning, but there were plenty of highlights still to come. I went to Brandon Marsh, and highlight one was breakfast - full English of course. Highlight two was the Grey Wagtails at Streetly Hide. Highlight three was the array of waders on East Marsh Pool - an Oystercatcher, three Redshank, a few Lapwing. Then a group of 20 or more Sand Martins flew overhead - I was so busy watching these that I almost stood on an exceedingly unimpressed Grass Snake.

And then for the finale, as a male Garganey flew into view. This is a decidedly uncommon bird, our only summer migrant duck with perhaps only 100 or so seen annually in this region. They are famously secretive so always a thrill to find. In fact, this was only the second I have ever seen, and the first in Warwickshire. The perfect day was sealed.

In fact, there were so many photo opportunities, that I have only managed to squeeze in a few here - from the top, these are: A perfectly posing Dunnock at Brandon; the Chiffchaff near Napton; A Pied Wagtail and then a Meadow Pipit, both at Draycote; and finally the drake Gargany at Brandon.

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