Back on patch this morning, and feeling much better for it - what a great return to Leam Valley.
Over the years I've grown really fond of this local patch of river, wood and scrape, and it's never more beautiful than early on an autumn morning as the mist lays on the flood plains across the river.
It was quiet at 8am, with even the birds only just starting their day. At first there was just a little Robin song here and there, but gradually the Blue Tits, Wrens and everyone else joined in. As I strolled along the river I startled Moorhen after Moorhen - five in all - and Carrion Crows, Rooks and Jackdaws started to cross hither-and-thither overhead. Half way to the hide I had my first real magic moment - a Red Fox just across the water from me. I froze, watched it pounce unsuccessfully, and then moved into position for a photo. It heard the first shot, turned and looked at me, gave me a great second shot, and then it was off into the undergrowth.
As soon as I sat down in the hide and looked out over the low low water and shallow pools, I knew I needed to leave quickly. Not because of any problem, but because far away to my left I could just make out a wader - I needed to get down to the viewing screen to find out what it was! I half-walked half-ran there, waders being a rare treat indeed at Leam Valley. And there, nice and close was a Green Sandpiper - a migrant I had long hoped to find here, but never had. A Leam Valley tick and a patch tick to-boot. Hurrah.
From then on the birding was great. A pair of Teal nosed around the end of the scrape, a flock of Long-tailed Tits flew past and around me, and Jays busied themselves with their acorn storing. Down at Offchurch Bury weir there was at least one, possibly two, Grey Wagtails, a cock Yellowhammer in all its glory, and a Kestrel being persistently mobbed by a Jackdaw. Finally, as I left, a Chiffchaff sang loudly (and a little unseasonably) from trees near the golf course.
Only 28 bird species (plus a fox), and nothing of spectacular rarity. But still my perfect morning's birding.
Bird of the day: Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), a distinctive, contrasty bird (dark on top, white below) and a classic migrant / winter wader.