The Safari had a very early start this morning, as soon as Frank had been walked and breakfasted we fired up the Land Rover and headed south for our annual jaunt for a meet with our mates of old and a special little bird.
On the way we spotted a Brown Hare, our first live one of the year, then a solitary Shelduck on a flood in a roadside field. The main motorway was dead Pheasant carnage but we were somewhat relieved not to see any Hedgehogs lying on the hard-shoulder, either they haven't woken up yet or there are no so few of them they are no longer showing up as roadkill. A large dead Badger near our destination reminded us we haven't seen a live one for far too long.
We arrived early but one of our comrades was still in the radio studio doing his monthly slot so we had a bit of time to kill. Nothing for it but to go and have a look for the target species to see if we could nail it down for the late comers.
Only one person was in position but he was photographing a displaying Wren so we left him in peace and had a wander a little further down the track where we saw several patches of beautiful Primroses.
Coming back we saw that an organised group led by recent returnee from an amazing trip to Extramadura, Spain (with our compadre AB ), JC . Before long someone gave the cry "up there!" Everyone spun round and there it was, a male high in a dead tree and it started drumming - Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (122) - well chuffed but would it stick around long enough for our late arriving chums to see it too?
There wasn't a great lot else about, a Chiffchaff sang sporadically and we wee put onto a Willow Tit (123) calling behind us but none of the group were able locate it finding a nearby Treecreeper instead.
We left the group to continue their tour and went to wait in the car park for the rest of the gang to arrive. It took them a while but the wait provided us some exceptional views of a Jay in the woods and then flew into a tree which also held a pair of Magpies and a pair of Carrion Crows, three corvid species in one tree!
A chat to a birder who had finished his rounds revealed an Iceland Gull had been on the river earlier and they were now arriving at the arby tip - we must have looked at well over a couple of thousand coming in without finding a white winger amongst them. The day 'looked good' for a passing Osprey and every time there was a little more noise than normal from the gulls we scanned hard but only ever found the local Buzzard.
The others turned up so it was time to have another go at the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but sadly we had no luck. We shudder to think how many hours we stood motionless on those few yards of path over the years, must be well into double figures now!
AB suggested me drive down to the far end of the reserve to have a look at the reedbed, on the way the first pool we passed was seething with gulls - of course we screeched to a halt - you didn't expect us to go straight on past did you? As we came to a halt they were spooked by something unknown and most left leaving just a few to search through.
Nothing outstanding apart from a nice almost white winged 'argentatus' Herring Gull with only small flecks of black on the closed wing tip.
All of the water was packed with gulls when we drew up this is all that remained after what we think was a Buzzard flushed them, could have been a Peregrine we didn't see as a pair is apparently nesting nearby.
At the reedbed a tame Robin entertained us.
We tried to tempt it with some breadcrumbs laid out on the top of our flask which it liked but wouldn't stay still long enough for a pic. Eventually it took the cheese from our butty and was never seen again?????
Across the reedbed we had a couple of Sparrowhawks going north and a superb Buzzard perched on a snag nearby but was very annoyingly flushed by a Carrion Crow milliseconds before the auto-focus had locked onto it - so no pics.
A few Sand Martins (124)were picked up high over the water but they didn't stick around and a single Swallow was missed by us.
Time to go back for another motionless stand on THE track, throwing our gear in the back of the Land Rover two if us simultaneously saw and called 'Brimstone' - our first properly ID'd butterfly of the year.
At the Lesser Pecker track by far the best sighting of the day was had, a day-flying Noctule Bat which hawked over the tree tops for about quarter of an hour.
Again we gave it a while but then gave up and went to look at the feeding station where this little fella turned up.
Two species of woodpecker for us today but no Green Woodpecker, they usually at least give us a couple of yaffles when we visit here.
A change of tactic saw us sneaking round the back of the Lesser Pecker wood to confuse it. On the boardwalk we had a couple of Peacock butterflies and a really bright Comma. At our usual waiting place another tame Robin was performing to the patient crowd and a couple more Brimstones were enjoying the warm afternoon sun, but STILL no mini pecker for our crew...nightmare.
All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head back north.
Did we get a pic?...yes we did - mid drum!
What a great day full of laughter, tales of wonder from Extramadura...if you haven't been - GO we'd love to having heard what we've heard today and raking up wacky wildlife memories from the last 30 odd years - is it really that long??? Liked the 'fell asleep and out of a tree while Badger watching' tale the best - you've all done that - right?
Where to next? Mother's Day duties tomorrow so no safari-ing.
In the meantime let us know which patch of ground you spent hours motionless on in your outback.