The Safari had a bonus day off today and went out on a mission north of the river. The prime targets were some farmland species. The first stop was the first feeding station where we immediately saw lots of Tree Sparrows and Chaffinches along with a pair of Red Legged Partridges (which we don't count). We've never seen so many Starlings on the seed here and there were a Stock Dove and Moorhen too. Then a flock of four really bright Yellowhammers turned up, that made the trip worthwhile in itself. We waited around a good while as the lane was very quiet but our target species didn't put in an appearance. Time to move on to the other feeding site, loads of Reed Buntings here and more super bright Yellowhammers, bright male Chaffinches too. And then there in the top of the tree right above the strewn seed was the one we were after, four of them, Corn Buntings (116).
We filled our boots with passerines before moving on down to the salt marsh were the tide was just on the ebb. A Little Egret stalked through the wet creeks not far beyond the fence.
Scanning round there were loads of little white blobs out there and even two in the pool behind the car park. A Little Grebe trilled away here too but we couldn't find the Kingfisher that sometimes hangs around these pools. A duo of calling Buzzards drifting over the pool was split by an interloping Little Egret - that would have been unheard of round here only 20 years ago.
There weren't many geese out on the marsh and they were along way to our right but scanning quickly through them with the bins brought a big smile when we easily picked out a Barnacle Goose (117). Pulling the scope round to get a better look we got another pleasant surprise; there tucked in amongst the nearby Pink Footed Geese there was a Pale Bellied Brent Goose (118) - get in! The Brent Goose started wandering around an soon was stood near the Barnacle Goose, time to try a bit of digi-scoping. Rubbish results but you get the idea; they were over a mile away!
Another birder turned up but lust before we could get him onto the 'quality' geese they flushed and flew off. What a shame, but we did show him a huge swirling flock of Black Tailed Godwits which was very impressive if a little distant.
Next up was the nature reserve but on the way we stopped off at the flooded field where the Green Sandpiper was still in residence but unlike the other day when it was feeding in the nearest part of the field it had returned to the furthest corner. At least we had the camera today and weren't reliant on holding the phone/bins combo still.
At the nature reserve we had a couple of Patchwork Challenge species to try for, both a little tricky or harder. Meeting up with MMcG he told us the Long Eared Owl was showing well, well enough for us to be tempted! A few digi-scoped shots were in order.
Then it was a slow walk through the scrubby areas to isten for the low distincive call of the elusive Bullfinch or the harsh call of the Dusky Warbler, either may or may not still be present and we heard not a so much as a semi-quaver from either. A walk though the rough field, must do a dusk session, or a very early morning, here to watch the Barn Owl hunting. Owls weren't our target though it was the couple of Tree Sparrows that visit the feeders at the cottage at the end of the lane. We did two circuits of the hedges along the lane and looked at the feeders in the garden but only saw a flock of Long Tailed Tits, a couple of Blue and Great Tits and some Collared Doves.
Mooching slowly back round the reserve we bumped into Young Un AB and older un MJ watching the Long Eared Owl. So we teamed up and went for a look from the Viewing Platform in case the Firecrest should turn up. We chatted about the Iceland Gull and the fact AB hadn't seen it yet and within no more than three minutes he'd found it down the far end!
A gorgeous male Goldeneye provided the beauty while three Cetti's Warblers sang explosively at each other. A pair of Little Grebes were very interested in each other....ooohh hope they stick around, that'd be good.
The other two went off to look at the Green Sandpiper and we declined the lift back to the Land Rover, glad we did as when we popped into the 'ICZ' hide the Iceland Gull was one of the closest birds on the water and the Little Grebes were trilling for fun deep in the reedbed to our right.
So three new year birds for our challenge with Monika, eye-wateringly bright Yellowhammers, a cracking view of the Long Eared Owl and the Iceland Gull all adds up to a quality day's birding!Where to next? Another day out in the sticks somewhere hopefully with another new year bird or two.
In the meantime let us know who was putting on the colour show in your outback