The Safari headed off full of hope down the motorway for an hour and a half to meet up with our mates from our former haunts for our annual exploration of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker-land. We went straight to the the Lesser Pecker zone and saw a couple of photographers standing waiting. We joined them and stood on the path and waited. A nice flock of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls fed on the ground from what was probably fallen Alder seed. Some of the male Siskins were as bright as Canaries! Great Spotted Woodpeckers were about and we heard Green Woodpeckers several times. Buzzards soared overhead all day but the only Kestrel we saw was on the drive down. A Sparrowhawk was seen by some of us completing the raptorage for the day.We waited until we needed to move to warm up, snow had been trying to fall as we left Base Camp. Moving to the feeding station we watched numerous Reed Buntings and the usual Blue and Great Tits but no sign of the wanted Willow Tits at all.
Canada Geese were too vocal! As were several Little Grebes.
Not as impressive as the Great Crested Grebe that swallowed a Frog. Our collective binoculars couldn't find the Smew but a Kingfisher (122) was seen very briefly as it dashed past the hide - we only heard the shrill 'peeee' but hey-ho they all count.
A young Cormorant gave some ID puzzles, we think that gular angle is just about wide enough for it to be a 'sinensis' type.
Whichever subspecies it is it gave a nice reflection and the iridescent bronze on its back was gorgeous in the flat afternoon light.
While we were watching the Cormorant and waiting for the non-existent Bittern this Robin became bird of the day when it almost landed on AB's head - looked as if it might and if we'd had mealworms probably would have done.
Back in the Lesser Pecker zone the dedicated group of semi-professional path standers put in another half hour or more's tree watching but again all to no avail; even the site's regular Tawny Owl wasn't giving itself up today.
So there our have it - a great day out but barely a bird to be seen and all our target species kept themselves doubly well hidden! The Robin was easily beaten as Bird of the day when almost back at Base Camp just before we left the motorway we saw a Barn Owl hunting the hedgerows a few hundred yards from the road.
Once back at Base Camp we learned that a Scaup had been seen on the canal only a few hundred yards from where we'd been...not the luckiest of days.Where to next? Back to the Common Scoters of Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know if you had more luck in your outback today.
Of some 'good' news we finally completed our set of the Handbook of the Birds of the Western Palearctic with an Ebay purchase of volume 7...only 36 years after we paid £20 for Volume 1 - a small fortune in those days when beer in the student union bar was 14p a pint!