Saturday morning was bleak and grey at Leam Valley, but warm enough. I was hoping for some early autumn movement, and wasn't disappointed.
A good haul of birds included my first siskins of the year, a small flock of maybe six to 10 birds. Among them was also my first lesser redpoll of the season.
Down on the scrape the teal numbers had grown, with still more birds emerging bright and cheerful from drab eclipse. Three fieldfare flew overhead, a large flock of goldcrest gathered towards the rear of the site, and jays crissed-crossed the whole time.
Incredibly autumnal then, if it wasn't for the final find of the day - the distinct, if faltering, sound of chiffchaff song. Presumably a first winter male, trying out its new vocal abilities having either moved south already or lingered late. A bizarrely summery note on which to finish the session.
Monday was a rare 'spare' annual leave day, so J and myself headed to RSPB Middleton for a proper day out.
Our aim was 50 species, and we were pleased to reach that by the time we got back to the car.
While I had been hoping to break my long-standing habit of missing / dipping bramblings (I didn't), and I later became aware we had missed the only passage wader on site (a ruff), it was still a decent haul.
Highlights included more siskin, a redpoll, a couple of snipe, four or more little egrets, a sparrowhawk and at least three stonechat, possibly more - for a while we just kept bumping into them, which is always nice.
Bird of the weekend: Siskin (Carduelis spinus), a lively and pretty little finch, an autumn / winter visitor only in these parts. One of the easier autumn specials to find (just locate your nearest riverside alders) but still a thrill every time.