The May Bank Holidays have lived up to all the cliches - roads full of traffic, queues in the car parks of DIY stores, and endless rain. Fortunately we birders are made of stern stuff...
Actually I generally avoid birding in the rain at all cost. I think it's an age thing - as a younger man I could be found trekking across mountain ranges in the foulest of weather, but these days I'm more inclined to sit it out and wait for a resumption of drier weather.
Sadly, with nothing but rain forecast for the rest of the long weekend, today presented me with little choice. So having dragged out my old wet weather gear (waterproof jacket, trousers and silly waterproof Aussie-style hat), I set off for a walk to, and round, Leam Valley.
It had actually dried up a little by the time I arrived, and a few of the residents were taking the opportunity for a sing-song - Whitethroat, Blackbirds, Robins, three Chiffchaff, a couple of Song Thrush and Dunnock. When I arrived at the scrape, the drizzle had started to fall once more, so I settled into the hide with some relief. And it was nice to see the scrape about as busy as it gets.
A pair of Mute Swans and their neighbours the Canada Geese both had youngsters in tow - three and four respectively. Two Swallows flew low over the water throughout my stay, joined periodically by a few Swifts and House Martins. Two adult Grey Herons watched on impassively as a youngster stalked methodically around the edge. And all the time, a little colony of Reed Warblers chirruped away, flitting from reedbed to trees and back again.
But I forgot to mention my star bird! Although I come to it last, I actually saw it first, before I even got the reserve - and in fact saw it twice. First, as I was walking out of Radford Semele, I looked up just as its silhouette swept across Lewis Road. "Surely that's a Hobby," I thought to myself as it attempted to pluck a House Sparrow from a rooftop. But with only the briefest of views I decided I couldn't be sure. Then, as I walked down Radford Road towards the reserve, I saw it again, attempting exactly the same manoeuvre with a Starling on a television aerial - again with no success.
It was my first Hobby of the year, and found hunting just a couple of hundred yards from home - a real bird of the day.
Bird of the day: Hobby (Falco subutteo), a sleek elegant falcon which hunts small birds, dragonflies and other large insects. When seen swooping in silhouette like today, it resembles a giant Swift with long, swept back wings.