Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Sandbach Flash :: 28 October 2019

Visiting our youngest at Keele University for a couple of days. We woke on our first morning and looked outside - we were surprised to see a significant mist. Oh, what the hell ... we decided to head off to Sandbach Flash anyway. We had encountered several flooded roads on the previous day, including some three feet deep - today was no different. We had a couple of diversions on the way and, as we got to Clay Lane, we came across a rather large pool on the road. Not knowing where the air intake is on my car I opted for caution, taking a rather long route around and thankfully got to our destination from the other side without major incident. As we looked back we could see a BMW trapped in the middle - god that was lucky.

Due to the diversions we were running over 30 minutes later than we had planned, so we didn't have much time on-site. The mist was also against us and lay heavy on the water. A few gulls on the water but nothing of note. Wigeon, teal, mallard, Canada geese and coot moved around leisurely. The water was so high that there would be few waders wanting to show. Across the road we saw great-spotted woodpecker and as Charlotte went for a wander I watched a single goldcrest. On the opposite side of the road we set up the scope and found half a dozen curlew on the waters edge.

GoldcrestJust as we were packing our stuff back into the car, the sun started to break through - bugger. Not much you can do when the weather doesn't play nice.

More diversions and road closures on our way back to pick up Ailsa so ended up taking twice as long to get back too. Racking up the miles and the car covered in mud. It was turning into a nice day though ... off for lunch.

Sightings (27) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, curlew, dunnock, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greenfinch, jackdaw, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pheasant, robin, rook, teal, wigeon, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Blashford Lakes :: 13 October 2019

My eldest had a course to attend in Winchester so after dropping her off at 9.00am, I headed for Blashford Lakes. Not the nicest of days with rain most of the way there and flooding on the roads. Thankfully it had reduced to a light drizzle when I arrived. Nuthatch

I popped into the Tern Hide and in the gloom picked out only a few species but quite a number of Egyptian geese (I counted 10). Numbers of swallows and house martins quartered the lake, and I picked out a single sand martin. As we scanned with our scopes, one remaining chap picked out a very distant female scaup. At least the day would have some upside.

I walked round to a couple of the hides and saw nuthatches, three treecreepers, jays and the usual suspects but nothing else to tick for the year. The fungi was kicking off though.

Sightings (30) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, coot, cormorant, egyptian goose, gadwall, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, grey heron, herring gull, house Martin, jay, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, nuthatch, robin, sand Martin, scaup, swallow, treecreeper, tufted duck, wigeon and woodpigeon.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Boddington Reservoir :: 26 September 2019

As the end to the working day approached I looked at my phone and saw that the little stint, found at Boddington Reservoir by Mike Pollard yesterday, was still present. I opted for a sharp exit from the office and turned left for the reservoir, rather than right for home.

I arrived at a little after 5.00pm and by 5.15pm I was on the shore scanning the mud flats on the waters edge. A wader feeding in a distant bay caught my attention, and as I got my bins on it, I could see it was a ruff. I scanned some more and spotted what looked like a candidate - small in size - but it turned out to be one of two green sandpipers. Soon I was passed by someone who stopped and came over to chat - turned out to be Mike Pollard, back for another look. As I'd just come from work I didn't have my scope, but Mike did. We had better views of the ruff through the scope but couldn't pick up the stint.

After just a couple of minutes another chap joined us - it turned out to be Mike Alibone - Mike A picked up best dressed birder (smart suit), and then the stint from a better vantage point. We all headed across and found it was just about as distant as it could manage. A juvenile yellow-legged gull on the wing was all that was worthy of additional mention.

Sightings (16) included: black-headed gull, buzzard, canada goose, cormorant, green sandpiper, grey heron, greylag goose, lesser black-backed gull, little stint, mallard, moorhen, pied wagtail, ruff, woodpigeon, wren and yellow-legged gull.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Draycote Water :: 18 September 2019

Not much of a birdwatching session as I just found time to dash up to Draycote Water to catch up with the long staying ruff. I've not had the occasion to see one this year and the opportunity was there for the taking. I left work and shot up to the reservoir, filling up the car on the way - reporting to me that it was running on vapour. Ruff

As I arrived the car was showing a balmy 19°C on the dial - just as well as I hadn't taken a coat or jumper when I left home after breakfast. I had contacted @Draycotebirding to establish where it was favouring - near the overflow and along Hensborough Bank - and so had no trouble locating it. I didn't really stop on the way to note other species, just ensured I didn't walk past it!

As I got to the Bank I could look back and there it was - a couple of photos and I managed to get close enough without being in full view. Happy with that.

I paid a bit more attention on the return but there was nothing worthy of special mention.

Species seen (15) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, carrion crow, coot, cormorant, goldfinch, little grebe, long-tailed tit, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, ruff, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Farmoor Reservoir :: 07 September 2019

The weather was overcast but due to improve, so I opted to try for a drop in species at Farmoor Reservoir. On the way I had a flyover jay as I passed the turn for Tackley. On arrival the car park was heaving with sailors and their boats - some sort of competition in the offing - Novice/ Casual racing day.

CormorantI headed straight for the causeway but before I could get there, I could see a spiralling column of swallows, house and sand martins climbing up into the sky. They rose and rose then headed off west, leaving only 10% of the original population.

Onto the causeway and ahead a female wheatear jumped onto the small wall to the left. It moved on ahead before I could get a photo and then out across the water and behind me. I started back only to find one of the sailors heading my way and driving the wheatear back at me - not for long though and it headed off across the water once more. Chiffchaff

On one of the buoys sat a yellow-legged gull and the only thing of interest for the remainder of the crossing. I dropped down onto the river and along to the Shrike Meadow hide. I sat for an hour but had no sighting of the kingfisher - as I left the chap I'd been in residence with spotted a family of reed warbler in the reeds behind. They moved around low in the reeds - frustrating in that the other chap had great line of sight when he first located them.

Heading back up to the reservoir I stopped at the trees on the brow of the hill. They were alive with chiffchaff - dozens of them. I hoped for a spotted flycatcher as they were all feeding on insects around the trees but none showed - a family of 5 had been noted recently. I stopped at the gate and watched as dunnock, tits, wren and robins flitted between the trees. Then a single goldcrest climbed the branches directly in front of me.

More chiffchaff as I walked to the causeway and back across. Off home for lunch.

Sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goldcrest, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, house Martin, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, reed warbler, robin, sand martin, starling, swallow, tufted duck, wheatear, woodpigeon, wren and yellow-legged gull.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Upton Warren :: 31 August 2019

This was my first visit to Upton Warren, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust - I was due to pick up my daughter from a friend's house in Worcester and this was a perfect opportunity to detour.

Curlew sandpiperOn arrival the car park was full and so I parked across the road in the Webbs, Wychbold garden centre car park. I passed the throng of children queuing to play on the inflatable structures on the boating lake. The entrance was through a gate on the right and walking along I found all hides to be empty, until I reached the Avocet Hide. This hide was full and obviously where all the action was to be found.

The first order of business was to locate the curlew sandpiper - this was easy to do as people were having it pointed out as they entered. Common and green sandpipers were also showing well. As AvocetI started to look around I had initially missed the avocet feeding in various spots - a well named hide.

I was then scanning the site to see if I could add the wood sandpiper to my year list and as I did so, I encountered an adult and single juvenile little ringed plover. Eventually I resorted to looking on the far bank of the Flash and sure enough, there it was.

It makes a change for Saturday morning outings to work out! I then relaxed and watched as the c12 curlews departed in three separate groups. The snipe then decided to entertain and were oddly in display mode - late in the year? Fun to watch.


Another reserve to add to those I can think of visiting, and I'm sure I'll be back.

Sightings (26) included: avocet, black-headed gull, canada goose, carrion crow, common sandpiper, coot, curlew, curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper, grey heron, house Martin, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull, little grebe, little ringed plover, mallard, moorhen, pied wagtail, robin, rook, shoveler, snipe, swallow, teal, wood sandpiper and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Farmoor Reservoir & Bicester Wetlands :: 24 August 2019

All through the week, kingfishers have been showing achingly well from the hide on Shrike Meadow. Some friends have taken some great photos and this was my first chance to have a go. Charlotte joined me, with the offer of lunch - a reward for the early start :-)

We parked in the main visitors car park and headed across the causeway. Quite a few black tern were showing - Dai Johns counting c.30. Managed a couple of photos but at a distance as usual - a few adults but many juveniles. The total rose to c.60 by mid-morning.

Black ternBlack tern
Black ternBlack tern

We arrived at the Shrike Meadow hide having seen a single common sandpiper and two little egrets on the reservoir perimeter. There were three people in residence - included my work colleague and his wife (Dan and Trish Miller). Migrant hawkerThe other was a chap who had been there from first light and we were informed that the kingfisher hadn't shown all morning - this was 9.10am. Some noisy reed warblers showed well and a single sedge warbler dropped in. Throughout our time there the kingfisher stayed away and it was left to the dragonflies to entertain - many brown and migrant hawkers.

We sat and waited and as we did, a long-tailed tit flew amazing close passed the hide - it took us a minute to realise that it had in fact entered through the window and was now trapped at the far end. I opened a window and guided it out. Migrant hawker

Back on the edge of the reservoir, I saw what I thought might be some birds acting as if they were spotted flycatchers - when I got to the trees I had seen movement, there was nothing to see. A family group of chiffchaff were in the bushes at the end of the causeway.

Walking back across the causeway we bumped into Mr and Mrs @old_caley. They had been at RSPB Otmoor and had been enticed to visit when Nick had heard there were black terns - he can't get enough of them.

After lunch at the White Hart in Wytham we headed across to Bicester. We stopped and did some shopping at the garden centre and then opened up the gate to Bicester Wetlands, heading for the main hide. From here I could see green sandpipers (4) and two chiffchaff behind.

Sightings at Farmoor Reservoir (30) included: black tern, black-headed gull, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, dunnock, great crested grebe, grey wagtail, greylag goose, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed warbler, sedge warbler, snow goose, starling, swallow, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Seamill & West Kilbride :: 12-15 August 2019

Our summer visit to the family in West Kilbride. As usual this gives me the opportunity to do a bit of birdwatching between dawn and breakfast. So on the first morning I woke and left the hotel to change into walking shoes at the car - don't want sand everywhere! Rock pipitI then headed for the beach, only to find the gate from the hotel onto the beach locked ... I returned through the car park, along the road and down Sandy Lane. Overhead were flocks of greylag geese on the move, in v-formation.

Four species of gull were visible at the end of the burn, as it flowed into the sea. The sea was dead-calm. There were also oystercatchers and curlew. I stopped on the bridge over the burn but the water was deep and flowing fast - no chance to catch a dipper feeding as the rocks they feed from were submerged. Grey heronI continued along the paths through some bracken noting that it was still quite wet from the previous day's rain. I added rock pipit and linnet on the rocks and dunlin feeding in a distant pool. When I reached the Waterside Inn I had two distant fly-bys from a peregrine, spooking many of the birds resting on the rocks. There appeared to be good numbers of redshank and curlew all along the coast.

I turned for home and came across a few sedge warbler chatting away in the scrub beside the path. They were quite mobile but only once gave decent views. Unfortunately the photo I took had foliage right across the eye. To the right were reed bunting, showing better. There were also half a dozen stonechat (mostly juveniles) resting on the posts and fence to the fields on my right.

When almost back to the burn I spotted a greenshank feeding in a pool, but almost as soon as I did, it took off and landed far in the distance - I'd look again tomorrow. Sedge warbler

The following morning wasn't as still but it promised to be another nice day. Although the burn had slowed, there was still little chance that any dippers would show so I headed on quickly. I passed the spot where I had seen greenshank the day before and I soon picked it up - unfortunately already quite distant. Fortunately it was possible to navigate to a closer vantage point and get a couple of photos - after a few minutes it took to the air and headed left, and was joined by another that had been out of sight.

I had better views of the sedge warbler and as a result better photos. WhinchatThere were more rock pipit than you could shake a stick at. I reached the turn, at the Waterside Inn and spotted what might be a likely candidate for whimbrel on the sand. As I turned to get a better position I noticed a small bird on the fence behind - it turned out to be a female whinchat. I decided to cautiously make my way forward and was treated to decent views and photos of the whimbrel. Satisfied, I started off for the hotel when I saw a small flock of birds offshore. Luckily for me, they spun round and passed reasonably closely - around 45 knot!

I didn't go for a walk on the Wednesday due to rain and blustery winds. On the Thursday it started heavy grey and rain could be seen over towards Arran. I doubted that it was a good idea to head out, as I was likely to get a soaking. I decided to take the chance and was rewarded with the rain staying offshore until breakfast time, when there was a short shower. There wasn't anything to add and I could locate the greenshank. The blustery wind didn't help.

After breakfast we headed for the Ardrossan Ferry Terminal and boarded the ferry to Arran. I took a seat on the rail and watched for passing birds. On the way out I had several gannet and a couple of Manx shearwater. We had a great day on the island and enjoyed a lunch at the Auchrannie Resort. On the return journey we saw a couple more Manx shearwater, and around six or seven groups of guillemot, in groups of 2 to 5.
Manx shearwaterGuillemot

Sightings (47) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, carrion crow, chaffinch, collared dove, common gull, cormorant, curlew, dunlin, dunnock, eider, gannet, goldfinch, great black-backed gull, greenshank, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, guillemot, herring gull, house martin, house sparrow, jackdaw, knot, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, magpie, mallard, manx shearwater, mute swan, oystercatcher, peregrine, pied wagtail, redshank, reed bunting, robin, rock dove / feral pigeon, rock pipit, sandwich tern, sedge warbler, song thrush, starling, stonechat, swallow, whimbrel, whinchat and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Rutland Water :: 03 August 2019

We decided to do something a bit different for our annual osprey pilgrimage, booking on the Rutland Water Dawn Osprey Cruise. Rather than try and get up and aim for a 5.45am arrival, we booked into 'the noel' hotel, just 5 minutes from Whitwell Harbour. Arriving in the evening before the visit we checked in, had a drink and headed to a nearby pub restaurant, the "Fox and Hounds - Exton'. Having booked, we turned up at 8.00pm and were surprised when they instantly knew who we were - they have had good reviews and this is why we picked them out ... unfortunately they said that 'they had a bad night, the earliest they would be able to serve us was at 10.00pm', and that 'we would be better going somewhere else'. Slightly taken aback I asked why they hadn't called; they said that they hadn't known until now. All very strange ... easily solved by going back to our hotel, where we had no problems being served some great food.
Rutland BelleNormanton Church

We arrived at Whitwell Harbour, joining the queue for the Rutland Belle at 05.45am. It was very misty but we hoped that the sun, just rising above the horizon beyond the boat, would burn it off quickly. As we waited, an osprey cruised by offshore. We boarded at 06.00am and set off into the mist. We passed great black-backed gulls, common terns and large numbers of cormorants, but it wasn't until we reached Normanton that we saw any clearing of the mist. The organisers decided to hold-up at the bay beside Normanton Church to see if conditions would improve.

We listened to the history of the church; when the demands of a growing population had to be met at the end of the 1960s, consultation had taken place to decide on a suitable site for a much-needed new reservoir and the Gwash valley in Rutland was chosen. The valley had to be cleared and so Normanton Church was deconsecrated and scheduled for demolition, but the general public had other ideas and their protests were successful. When it came time to flood the area, it became obvious that the church would be partially submerged once the high-water level was reached. This would mean the gradual erosion of its lower walls and foundations. A hastily formed trust was organised with the aim of rescuing the building from a watery demise and various proposals were considered.
Mandarin duck

Finally, it was decided that the lower level of the church should be filled with rubble and topped with concrete to create a new floor. This would be approximately 60cm above the water level. The church would become a small island once the reservoir was filled, and so a causeway was built connecting it to the nearby shore of the lake and an embankment was constructed around the building. A layer of boulders was then put in place as a defensive breakwater.

We sat and spotted common sandpiper flitting along the shore, grey wagtail and then five mandarin duck. Little egretCalling ahead were wren and green woodpecker. Pied wagtails hopped along the parapets of the church and common tern fished around the bay.

Conditions seem to have improved and so we eventually took to the water again. Not too long into the journey one of the other passengers spotted an osprey running fishing circuits off towards the shore. We watched and sailed to try and get a closer look; unfortunately, after a few minutes the osprey turned and headed away into the mist without any actual diving for fish. The mist was still hanging on across most of the reservoir and so we made for the sailing club and then along to the dam. Willow warblerWe didn't see any other ospreys but it had been a magical cruise on an atmospheric reservoir.

We disembarked, jumped into the car and returned to our hotel for breakfast. Bizarrely, the couple we had been sitting beside on the boat were doing exactly the same! Full cooked breakfast ... get in.

We checked out and decided to head for the Lyndon Visitor Centre and to head for the Shallow Water hide in Manton Bay. As we pulled into the car park, there was the couple we had sat with on the boat, and who had stayed at the same hotel - stalking?

Great-crested grebeOn the trail to the hides I stopped to watch a mixed flock of blue and long-tailed tits - a couple of 'yellow' birds flash across. I left the path and headed for the tree/hedge-line to investigate. About halfway across the meadow a grass snake broke cover and shot off towards the hedge. It didn't half move - really good views. When I got to the edge of the meadow I found the birds and ID'd them as willow warbler.

We eventually reached the hide and set up the scope. The only ospreys we could find were roosting in a tree opposite. Those who had been there for while said they had been treated to a flyby not 30 minutes before, and that there were another couple of birds in the trees - just not visible. In front of the hide there was a great-crested grebe nest; the adults swapped over several times showing a couch of eggs - surprisingly large! Another pair on the water had already fledged their young but only had one visible - perhaps the others under the wings of the adult, or already predated?

From the trees one of the fledged youngsters flew onto the rest beside the nest. It called for a while and eventually another took to the pole to the left of that. After another five minutes or so, the adult arrived and at one point we had four osprey in the air and another two in the trees. One of the birds dropped into the water near the nest and rose again without a fish. We waited until it was late lunchtime and having watched an adult fly off towards the trout farm, we decided that it would like be a while before we saw much more action. We headed back for an ice cream and the journey home.

Sightings today (38) included: black-headed gull, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, collared dove, common sandpiper, common tern, coot, cormorant, egyptian goose, great black-backed gull, great crested grebe, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, kestrel, lapwing, little egret, long-tailed tit, mallard, mandarin duck, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, osprey, pheasant, pied wagtail, reed bunting, rook, sand Martin, starling, swallow, swift, tufted duck, willow warbler and woodpigeon.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

RSPB Otmoor :: 25 July 2019

The hottest day of the year - 37°C locally and 38.7°C in Cambridge - and so I decided to go looking for redstart along Long Meadow. It was last chance I had to use up some the holiday's I'd carried over from the previous year. I had to stay at work later than I'd planned but made my way down arriving at around 2.30pm. Marbled white butterfly

Boy it was hot, so after a drink from my water bottle, I set off along Otmoor Lane to the entrance of Long Meadow. No signs of bird call and as I walked on the most obvious fauna were the hundreds of butterflies and the ocassional dragonfly, including Emperors. Butterfly species I could identify were: meadow brown, gatekeeper, small white, large white, ringlet, peacock, speckled wood, red admiral, small skipper, brimstone and marbled white.

I walked until I reached the tall brick wall and stopped to survey the area. A lone common tern screeched overhead but apart from this, there were no signs of activity. BitternI continued on until the hedge by the ditch and followed it across the meadow, on the far side. Again, apart from butterflies and dragonflies there was only a flyby from a kestrel, chased by a crow.

As a headed back I spotted a couple of small birds hopping in the base of a bush; as I approached they went deeper and then exited out the far side, never to be seen again. In the hedgerow to my left I could hear the chatter of great tits but nothing more.

I got back to the car, had another swig of water and set out towards Greenaways. Green woodpecker

Still no avian company by the time I got to the bridleway but then found a reed warbler calling, and then showing briefly. Hoorah!

I walked along the bridleway watching numbers of ruddy darter until movement to my right caught my attention - a bittern had taken to the wing and made a 6-7s flight into some distant channel. I hadn't been ready but did get my camera to shooting position, and opted to ensure I got a photo rather than mess around trying to zoom closer.

BullfinchGreen woodpecker, juvenile moorhen and pheasant were all of note at the hide and so I continued down to the first screen. Along the path there was a cloud of dragonflies and a range of butterflies. Despite the water levels having reduced there were good numbers of ducks on the water, with a couple of common tern and black-headed gulls. Some swifts cut the sky to the distant left.

Back on the bridleway I added a pair of bullfinches, three sedge warbler and five fly-through swallows.

Species today (32) included: bittern, black-headed gull, blackbird, bullfinch, carrion crow, chaffinch, common tern, cormorant, goldfinch, great tit, green woodpecker, grey heron, greylag goose, kestrel, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pheasant, red kite, redshank, reed warbler, rook, sedge warbler, shoveler, stock dove, swallow, swift, teal, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

RSPB Arne :: 27 June 2019

A few months ago I booked a place on a nightjar walk at RSPB Arne and the day duly arrived. The weather has been unsettled but the forecast was set for 27°C, and wall-to-wall sunshine. I enjoyed the journey down in my new car (Katya), trying out the various modes of automatic drive.

I stopped at Branksome Dene Chine on the edge of Poole as this has been a consistent spot for firecrest; despite searching for half an hour I could only spot a couple of candidates high in the treetops, and no positive ID was possible. I was entertained by several common lizards basking on the side of the road as a paced up and down the slope.

I moved onto a small reserve on the other side of Poole, beside a Caravan Park - Ham Common Nature Reserve. Parking is free for half and hour but I paid the £1 fee as I hoped to stay longer. There are numbers of dartford warbler on the common here, but after a couple of circuits I couldn't find any. I ventured further into the reserve and came across three jays staying close to a row of trees. Lots of magpies circled the area and they became more active when the jays called. I haven't heard chiffchaff calling recently but there were a few in good voice here, as were some blackcaps. Good sightings of butterflies with some I didn't know - on the wing and I couldn't get photos for ID. It was getting late for lunch so I decided to move onto Arne. Chiffchaff

As soon as I arrived I popped my RSPB card onto the dashboard (in lieu on the parking fee) and made my way to the Visitor café for a sandwich and drink. Afterwards I headed back to the car and changed into my walking boots, and loading up with a camera, scope and bins. Looking on the sightings board it appeared someone has spotted pied flycatcher in the trees leading to Coombe Heath, so I headed in that direction. Needless to say I didn't find it and no-one I asked had seen it either. Stonechat

I made a circuit of the heath spotting goldcrest, coal tit, chiffchaff and juvenile male / female stonechat. On the estuary there were many shelduck and 12 curlew. As I watched, four oystercatcher flew to the far end. Small herds of sika deer grazed on the far shores. I also added little egret and black-tailed godwits.

It got later in the afternoon and I headed back to the Visitor café for a coffee, having dipped on dartford warbler. Perhaps the wind was too strong ... Dartford warbler

I still had an hour before dinner was scheduled, so I decided to try a stroll down the Raptor trail. The only raptor I saw was a buzzard. As I reached a fence blocking the path ahead, I heard a dartford warbler gently call. I got a couple of clear views through the gorse and bracken and a few photos - many more out of focus or 'hopeful'.

With 10 minutes until dinner I reluctantly turned back. Dartford warbler

After a dinner (chilli, then fruit salad) we went out onto the Coombe Heath again to talk about the habitat. Not even stonechats this time - I think the wind was a little stronger.

As we got to 8.45pm we headed off to a new area of heathland that the RSPB have purchased, on the other side of the road from Coombe Heath. The area was a commercial pine forest until 18 months ago. We followed a path along the lower side of the heath, bordering the woods. Dartford warblerThe gap between was filled with bracken.

We talked and waited for the main event. The guides were starting to look a little concerned that perhaps to wind would scupper our evening, but at 9.45pm we could hear the 'churring' of nightjars back along the track. Then a nightjar struck up right behind us, but no sighting. At about 10.00pm we eventually saw a single nightjar quarter out ahead of us and it disappeared for a minute or so before we located it on the branch of a tree ahead. No sooner than we spotted it, it alighted. Nightjar

We could then hear 'churring' in several directions and saw a couple of birds on fence posts further down the track. It was effectively dark but a took a couple of photos handheld at 1/6s and ISO 12,800! A decent record and there was little chance I would be able to catch one on the wing. As we walked back we caught sight of three more. In my mind I likened their flight to terns; very slow wing beats.

We almost needed torches to navigate back to the cars and I set off for home at 10.30pm. Unfortunately the A34 was closed just passed Winchester and I had to detour through Basingstoke and Newbury, to get back onto the A34 - eventually arriving home at 1.05am. Sloped into work at 8.45am.

Sightings today (42) included: blackbird, blackcap, black-headed gull, black-tailed godwit, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coal tit, collared dove, common tern, cormorant, curlew, dartford warbler, goldcrest, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, green woodpecker, greenfinch, grey heron, herring gull, jay, lesser black-backed gull, linnet, little egret, long-tailed tit, magpie, nightjar, oystercatcher, pied wagtail, raven, robin, shelduck, siskin, song thrush, stonechat, swallow, swift and woodpigeon.