This post is dedicated to the memory of Maureen Moore, who was one of the original 10 students on Wednesday mornings 11 years ago. Sadly, Maureen passed away on Tuesday morning after a year's illness. RIP.
It was a lovely sunny morning when we started with an icy feel to the wind, but it was much less windy than yesterday. The sun didn't remain out for long! It was a quiet start with just Greylag Geese in the first field and a few Skylarks rising into the air. A Song Thrush could be heard singing lustily in the distance. On the return journey 2 Oystercatchers had joined them, and there were 3 Curlews in the same field by the afternoon. On the first turning on the left we did eventually find a Yellowhammer, but this was after we'd heard and then seen our first Whitethroat - one of the earliest I've ever seen. At the end of the lane we looked into a field and saw a large flock of Shelduck lying among the young crop. In another field were a pair of Mute Swans, and there were more Greylags scattered around.
We retraced our steps and then continued on the main path. In the morning we watched a pair of Marsh Harriers just visible over the floodbank. On both sessions we saw Sand Martins, House Martins and a few Swallows. At the first lake we could hear distant Blackcap and Willow Warbler, whilst Mute Swan was the only bird on the water. We continued along the main path. The highlight here was a Cetti's Warbler, which exploded in a bush near us, and gave brief glimpses of itself as it seemed to view us briefly from every direction. A Little Grebe was heard chittering from one of the lakes by both groups, but wasn't actually seen on either visit. A little further up the lane were three Blackcaps in total, and there was a trio of Chiffchaffs chasing each other. Eventually, we had a decent view of a male Reed Bunting, but they seem a lot thinner on the ground round this particular area than in other years. A Kestrel was seen hunting after lunch.
The riverbank added very few extra species, but we did see a pair of Tufted Ducks on the lake, and in the afternoon we had a Curlew flying inland, and the first Sedge Warbler of the year singing at the edge of the lake.
On the return journey we heard a pair of Kingfishers making a really unusual sound, and one of them flew low over the very still water in a circle before disappearing to where it originally flew from. A little further on Miles spotted a Yellowhammer, and three females were also in attendance. There were also some Pied Wagtails in the same field. A few Linnets flew over in the morning, but we couldn't find any in the afternoon, and neither session had any Meadow Pipits.
We saw a total of 45 species in the morning, so it was almost as rewarding for the number of birds as going to one of the major reserves in the area.