Wednesday, 7 September 2022

A change of ID and a sneak across to the SouthSide

The Safari got a txt from old friend TS the other morning telling us that the Hobby we'd seen reported on the local birders' WhatsApp group at Marton Mere was still there. Not having seen one there for many years, and not anywhere else for only slightly fewer and not hardly having been there at all this year we decided to go and have a look, it shouldn't be too busy as the schools have gone back to the annoying adjacent caravan site would be a lot quieter.

The walk in was very quiet, just a calling Chiffchaff and Blackcap breaking the warm silence. We soon found out where to look as a couple of other birders were stood half way down the main drag looking towards a particular bush. We stopped and scanned and saw the unidentifiable silhouette of a small falcon perched on the edge of said bush. Joining the others, who were unable to see it on the far side of the bush, we stood waiting and chatting until it decided to hop around a bit - which eventually it did.

The light wasn't brilliant, looking towards the sun but we got a couple of snaps. It did a little fly around chasing dragonflies too. It was then that top local birder PE when reviewing his pics realised something wasn't quite right and the Hobby might not be a Hobby after all. After a phone call he rejoined the small group and announced the bird was in fact a juvenile Red-footed Falcon. So one off our list and one on our list! Still not seen a Hobby at that site for many years! But a Red-footed Falcon makes up for not being able to get to the one not too far away a tad over 30 years ago. The rubbish pic above is also a much better view than the very poor flight views we had of one at Spurn well over 25 years ago too. The big question is had we come across it on our tod would we have questioned the original ID or like PE twigged something was amiss, sadly it'd mostly likely have been the former.
All too soon we had to leave but came back for another look later in the afternoon when we hoped the light would be better. It was but now the little falcon was performing at the western end of the reedbed hawking dragonflies so for viewing purposes the light still wasn't great.

When it was in better light it was back at its favoured bush but that was now miles away from our new position.
At least this distant shot shows the barred tail confirming it's not a Hobby. None of the flight shots of the underwing we got were very good unlike others we've seen on Flickr/Twitter etc which should the underwing coverts are buff coloured so it's not the very closely related but much much rarer Amur Falcon either.
With news of it still present we went down the next day too and watched it catching dragonflies. But still very much against the light.
It did perch up in nearby Willow tree for a while too.
And so onto Day 3, gosh - hardly been to the reserve all year and now thrice in three days! This time we had CR as company. But we couldn't find it anywhere, then TS came along and told us it had been favouring the NE corner the previous evening, so we had a look there and met other birders looking too but to no avail - had it moved on after an earlier shower? We took the opportunity to do a circuit of the reserve, noting not a lot apart from a few Cetti's Warblers singing half-heartedly from unseen perches deep in the reeds. As we come towards the NE corner along the embankment we could see a bigger pack of birders and they looked to be looking at something - sure enough when we approached there was the Red-footed Falcon sitting almost directly over the path in a tall Willow tree.
At last a decent view in decent light but we still couldn't manage any half-good flight shots...and still nothing else to point the camera at. 
The other birders told us that a proper Hobby had been seen too as well as a juvenile Cuckoo, that would have been good to bump into, the last one we saw here was being fed by every passing species of small bird while it sat in its Sedge Warbler foster parents' diminutive nest many years ago.
We didn't get a fourth day as the Saturday was earmarked for a safari over the river to meet up with the old gang at the 'other' place we don't mention by name.
As we approached the entrance we could see a shiny white patch in the field opposite - looked like about 2-300 gulls..."hmm that bodes well must be a Mediterranean Gull on the cards today", we thought.
Another white bird was first up though, we'd passed through the check-in desk and through the facing window we could see an egret sat on a pontoon in middle of the lake. A telescope was set up in the window too, manned by a volunteer - not seen that before. Well it was a Cattle Egret hence the excitement, they're sort of regular just inland of the Ribble estuary now, more so on the south side but there may be not so many records from this site which is a little further inland still but does have the herd of Longhorn Cattle grazing sort of naturally on the wet fields so Cattle Egrets might be expected to turn up there.

When we started birding you had to go to the Carmargue in southern France, the  Ebro delta in SE Spain or SW Spain and southern Portugal to see these - how times change! 

JG was already in the Discovery Hide when we'd finished gawping at the egret and pointed out a few Ruff and a Buzzard on a post, there's always a Buzzard on a post at this reserve. Something put the Lapwings and gulls up and in the throng we picked out a Mediterranean Gull but it must have left the reserve with most of the other gulls as we never saw it again all day despite concerted efforts whenever the gulls were in view.

Moving round to the screens before the rest of the crew arrived at the first one we had great views of a snoozing juvenile Shelduck, a stunning pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, iridescent Lapwings and a deep wading Snipe

The second screen provided a lone Black-tailed Godwit and a Green Sandpiper obliged by flying in and running round in the gloopy mud in front of us.

We arranged to meet the late arriving remainder of the gang at the Feeding Station so sat up there for a while enjoying the Brown Rats (always a star attraction for us), Greenfinches and Goldfinches on offer. No sign of any Willow Tits this morning although there were very few of the regular Blue and Great Tits knocking about.

The gang arrived and had a quick look before moving on to the Harrier Hide with it's throngs of feral Canada and Greylag Geese. A couple Little Grebes and Gadwall broke the gooses' monopoly on the water while overhead a small number of Sand Martins tazzed about. The most exciting wildlife wasn't a bird though, a tiny orange beetle was clambering about the shelf and AB's camera, on closer inspection by AB he declared it to be a type of Leaf Beetle. A few photos and a bit of research later it was identified as one of the Sphaerodermas, of which there are two species to choose from in Britain. All the info about them is here.

Time to move on - we hit the UU Hide to enjoy distant views of not a lot. Easily pick of the bunch was an arriving but immediately disappearing Kingfisher which put in a second brief appearance a few minutes later and a quality Kestrel hovering not too far away.

Another Green Sandpiper flew in but landed on a muddy pool miles away. They do remind us of giant - well not that giant - House Martins when they swoop across the water. Scanning around we found a Buzzard on a post, a Buzzard on a stick, a Buzzard on a gate and a Buzzard on a bonfire with a distant Marsh Harrier to break the Buzzard monotony. With not a lot else happening we soon moved on to the next hide. Well would you believe it we couldn't get in - the ginormous camera brigade were in there and not for sharing the space so we didn't stay. Lunch beckoned anyway so it was no hardship turning back and we got great views of a bright Comma butterfly on the path outside the hide.

Back at the reception area we met our remaining late arriving gang member and aimed for our butties in the boot of the car while noting that the earlier Cattle Egret was no longer on its pontoon. 

After a selection of butties, chips, salads and more were eagerly scoffed it was time to hit the trail again. T'other way this time to the as yet unvisited hides. Nowt doing in the first three but that's only to be expected at this stage of the autumn as the wintering ducks and geese from the northern latitudes haven't arrived yet, another week or so and they'll start steaming in. 

From the elevated Kingfisher Hide we watched a juvenile male Marsh Harrier cruising around and the Cattle Egret appeared landing among the Longhorn Cattle where the scene was looking decidedly primaeval.

No Tree Sparrows were on the feeders nor were there any on the walk up - where  are they we wondered, they're always along this stretch.

On the approach to the final hide there's a pool, sheltered by some tall Willows and a hedge, this sheltered area was absolutely hooching with dragonflies, mostly Migrant Hawkers with a few Common Darters thrown in for good measure. It was like a scene from a tropical documentary they were everywhere, dozens of them, absolutely awesome. And looking good for a Hobby slicing through in search of an easy meal or two. But when a passing cloud obscured the sun they disappeared. Well not quite they were spotted roosting up high in the tree tops of the hedge waiting for the sun to come back out. Some trees had good numbers - here's a couple of twigs with seven Migrant Hawkers on them.

The hoped for Hobby didn't show up, neither did the Kingfisher or Stoat that fairly regularly hang around the bridge. A distant small raptor circling with a couple of Buzzards could have been a Hobby but could easily have been a Sparrowhawk. With all the hirundines over the adjacent farm and all those dragonflies behind us there just had to be a Hobby somewhere close by, all we had to do was wait. A Peregrine flew over high up and didn't bring about a panic, several Ruff fed on the mud including a couple of nice bright white males, along with a few Teal. It was during that wait that we ran out of time and had to head back to the car for the drive back across the river.
We stopped at the Discovery Hide on the way to the car just to check the gulls but alas very few gulls were visible. The couple in there had seen a Stoat or a Weasel a few times hunting among the rocks but it refused to show for us. Then just as we'd got through the door it reappeared - black tipped tail they said so a Stoat

And that was that, time to go after a great day with great company, lots of laughs catching up and reminiscing and lots of fantastic wildlife too.

Where to next? Not sure yet, new Base Camp is having some modifications so we mightn't be very far afield for a while but you never know what we might find on the garden or a cuple paces from the front door - it's all out there just waiting to be seen.

In the meantime let us know who's been tazzing through your outback.

Friday, 26 August 2022

Base Camp has moved!

The Safari upped sticks and shifted Base Camp a couple of miles to the north a couple or so months ago. What a palaver that was; we found things that were lost, things we didn't know we'd lost, found things we didn't know we had, moved boxes that hadn't been unpacked since our last move 18 years earlier (they have been unpacked and sorted now) and lost things we know we've seen in the new does that happen?

And then only two weeks after moving in we had yet another hand operation that kept us out of action for over a month. That meant the race was on to get the 'blank canvas' of a garden something like before the surgeon got his hands on us. Luckily we'd brought a load of pots from our previous garden so we weren't starting from total scratch. A bare patch where a giant kiddies trampoline had stood was sown with perennial wildflower seeds and another from where we removed a chunk of rotten decking was sown with cornfield annuals. The latter proving us with brilliant views of a pair of Goldfinches while we recuperated from our op.

We now have two local patches to enjoy and work too; Patch 1 is the Promenade with its too often too close mown grassy area and the sloping remnant dunes, beach and sea. and Patch 2 is a small woodland plantation just a few streets inland that we had a tiny part in setting up about 10 years ago.

Already Patch 1 has given us Bottlenose Dolphins, unfortunately our new upstairs windows have such a limited sea view we are unlikely to get them on the 'Garden' list. We've also had our best ever Arctic Skua action from along the Fylde coast so there's going to be plenty of excitement to look forward to.

After we had sufficiently recovered from the surgeon's handiwork LCV took us on a couple of days glamping trip to the east coast primarily to have a look at the Black-browed Albatross that had made its home on the cliffs there with the Gannets.

An 8 1/2 hour wait ensured for the albatross to fly and when it did it went well out to sea and didn't give us the hoped for cliff-top fly-by, only passing fairly close low over the water.
At least we saw it and were able to get lots of other birders and non-birders onto it while it snoozed very inconspicuously on the cliff face amongst the Gannets.

A later trip to the south Lakes with CR gave us the hoped for Adder. About to slough its skin judging by that cloudy eye.

Lots of dragonfly action too, with Golden-ringed being the highlight.
Both Roe and Red Deer performed well for us.

A good day out on safari!

Patch 2 came into its own during the Big Butterfly Count where we had some high scores of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns but the highlight was this dodgy looking butterfly that the Twitterati plumbed for as a Ringlet in the end. They aren't regular round here indeed this is the first one we've seen on the Fylde coast or anywhere near it for that matter.

Perhaps even better was this Brimstone, nectaring only a few feet away from a row of Alder Buckthorn plants we had asked the planting scheme to include all those years ago...the big question is is it a female and did it find those bushes for its eggs?
A couple of things we had noticed this summer were a) it took us until early August to find a Common Blue butterfly - have they been hard to come by everywhere or was it just us missing the first brood while out of action? and b) we hadn't seen any butterflies on a Buddleia bush anywhere until we hit the south Lakes and locally we only saw our first a couple of days ago this lovely Painted Lady.
A trip out east aways to the hills with old chum AH suggested that the lack of water might be a reason, the bushes were full of scent but held no nectar so the butterflies were avoiding them. The reservoir on our walk was well down like all the others in the region.
That's a lot of water to make up, a dry winter isn't an option!

And finally with a new garden comes a new moth list. So far so good and as we get more plants growing there should be some interesting finds coming along. Pick of the bunch so far, Elephant Hawkmoth, always good to see in the bottom of the trap especially as they went missing for the last few years at the old place. And a pristine fresh male Antler Moth was a very nice surprise one morning.

That's all for now folks, get out and have a look for the amazing wildlife in your outback.

Hopefully we'll be back with tales of more adventures on safari shortly...we'll try not to leave it nearly a year this time!


Wednesday, 3 November 2021

An impromptu safari up north

The Safari was supposed to have a reunion with a couple of very good old friends we've not seen for well over 20 years. A 'booze cruise' round the bars and pubs of Scouseland was planned and train tickets bought...just going on a train would be an adventure in itself, it's a few years since we've done that. But one of the crew members came down positive for the dreaded Covid at the last minute so an emergency Plan B had to be hastily devised.

We shot down the motorway to pick up AH who we'd fortuitously bumped into after all those years going for a bag of chips in a chippy we didn't know existed until we were about to set foot through the door when he came out. While waiting for him outside his home watched a large party of Long Tailed Tits work their way through the front garden bushes and heard Whooper Swans passing over. Once in the car AH told us there were two of them heading northwards. And so off we drove aiming for an old favourite AH hadn't been to for maybe at least 25 years, Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.

Half way up the motorway an absolute deluge struck, well that wasn't in the forecast which had suggested a decent day...and neither of us had full waterproofs. But the weather gods were on our side and the squall was long gone by the time we got to the car park. 

Having not been to the reserve for so long we took AH up the 'fairly' new Sky-tower for a panoramic view of the wetlands and reedbeds in the hope that now the weather had bucked up a Marsh Harrier or two might be on the wing. 

Lillian's Hide was quiet  the usual waterfowl being present, mostly Shoveler, Teal, Mallard and Coot with a smaller number of Tufted Ducks and Gadwall. Compared to our previous visit a couple of weeks earlier the recent rains had filled the pool and there was now very little mud showing. Consequently numbers of wading birds was well down. A trio of small islands held a handful of Snipe and a few Black tailed Godwits, some of the latter still looking resplendent in their brick coloured summer finery.

On the path to the other hides we saw a small tree very close to the path that had been absolutely shredded by a Roe buck's antlers, a species we've always assumed was here or very close by but never seen on the reserve. No Bearded Tits were at the 'new' grit trays - apparently we'd just missed them by five minutes or so.

At the hide it was good to chat with SB again and we learned he'd been at the Long Toed Stint at the same time we had. But what about the birds? Nothing much to talk about really all was pretty quiet out there. A Great White Egret stalked about in the distance beneath the new Osprey nesting tower and a Little Egret was a little closer...more like the Carmargue or the Danube delta than NW Lancashire, just needed some Dalmatian Pelicans and/or Greater Flamingoes to complete the scene.

After a while a small party of Bearded Tits came to the edge of the reeds and began to work their way to our left giving distant but good views as they flew across a little bay in the reeds rather than taking the long way round. As they moved on we could still hear them calling and had an inkling they might well arrive at the grit trays. Off we went hoping to beat them there. We did but didn't have long to wait before their characteristic pinging was heard coming through the reedbed. And bingo our hunch was right there they were. Fantastic close range views of a gorgeous little bird. Like the other camera-laden folk there we filled our boots.

But have a good look at them. Don't you think their name is a terrible misnomer? Look again not a beard in sight! Surely Moustachioed Tit would be a better name. Donde esta mi sombrero, hombre?

We were entertained for a good ten minutes but wit the birds still there and more birders arriving for a look we moved on to make some space for them...actually if truth be know it was getting close to lunch time our tummy's were rumbling and the car boot held a couple of super tasty homemade pasties just waiting to be dipped into a dollop of brown sauce.

The pasties were as good as anticipated, even though a couple of days later we realised we'd forgotten to put in a top secret mystery ingredient - no worries they'll be even better next time!

After lunch we hit the trails again showing AH the 'new' (haha) boardwalk - well if you've not been for 25 years it'll be pretty new. On the way we stopped to inspect the by patches of Ivy growing along the roadside. Lots of insect activity, mostly Common Wasps and Drone Flies but no Ivy Bees, we've yet to catch up with one of those anywhere. A couple of Red Admirals were still on the wing taking advantage of the now warm sunshine...a very welcome change from the deluge we'd driven through to get here.

There wasn't much happening at the Causeway Hide apart from a few dragonflies buzzing around the small patch of cut reeds below the windows. Unfortunately they were very active and kept disturbing one another so getting a pic of them was impossible. Then a Marsh Harrier came in to view in the distance and kept us amused for a while and a Buzzard soared over the hillside further back.

Time to move on again and venture down the track to Lower Hide where SB had told us Otters had been seen in the last few days. Through the gate the regular Robin was by the bench ready to mug passing birders for any seed they may have secreted about their person. Other than him though the woodland was deadly quiet, not a peep from nothing. From the hide only a few Mallards were particularly close, the rest of the 'usual' ducks sitting much further out, Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall, a couple of Pintail snoozing on a mound of cut reeds, with plenty of Coots and a few Tufted Ducks diving in the deeper parts of the pool. Pick of the bunch were a handful of Pochards. So sad that these beautiful and intricately marked ducks are now becoming increasing rare.

With not a lot happening and certainly no Otters our eye started to wander all over the place finally resting on a lone cow in the field opposite. Odd we thought; you don't normally see a solitary cow in a field, bulls yes but cows no. We hadn't twigged there were probably more hidden behind the trees lining the road but for some reason this cow kept standing on its own with no friends. Our eye kept going back to it and then all of a sudden we saw it leap into action charging down the hill after a smaller animal, pale brown in colour that we assumed to be a Fox when it disappeared behind the thick hedge. Well you don't see that every day! But it wasn't a Fox, a few minutes later a Fallow Deer palmate antlers and all appeared on this side of the hedge. Wow! We've not seen one of those here for at least 20 years and bizarrely in the same field as we last saw and in our chat to SB earlier we'd actually mentioned we'd not seen Fallow Deer here for many years - spooky or what? Bit far for pics but you get the gist.

After all that excitement time was just about up and we had to take the leisurely stroll back to the car park stopping at a gap in the reeds to have a bit of a reminisce and a giggle where we both had watched a Bittern in full view for ages at practically point blank range years and years ago when a photographer came along asked what we were looking out and started to get his kit out of his silver peli-case. Yes you've guessed it as soon as he got his camera onto the trip the Bittern took one look at him and walked casually into the reeds never to be seen again. Apparently he'd only just put his camera away at the hide 100 yards away and was going back to his car to go home. Moral of the story - don't put your camera way until you get to where your going! Although these days with much more weather resistant kit you rarely see a camera case now.

Happy days, some great memories and new ones made all made possible by some fantastic wildlife.

Where to next? We've got a couple of short safaris to tell you about and of course we're still doing our Photo Year List Challenge - how are we getting on?

In the meantime let us know who's sneaking into the vegetation at the critical moment in your outback.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Last days at Spurn - and a runner!

The Safari and LCV left our salubrious accommodation hopeful that today would be a better day than yesterday. No fog, light winds but a clear sky meant conditions were good but not brilliant for watching migration in action. 

With the tide in we decided to spurn early morning seawatching and hit the wetlands first. It didn't take LCV long to pick out a Spotted Redshank among the waders roosting waiting for the tide to drop and feeding to resume. It was right at the back of the pool so pointless trying to get anything submitted to the SD card. Three Greenshanks were there too among a nice mix of waders including Bar and Black Tailed Godwits, half a dozen or so Ruff, and a few Knot and Dunlin - couldn't see any Little Stints though despite them being seen recently. Try as we might we couldn't pick out any Garganeys among the 250 odd Teal. Still couldn't find LCV a Caspian Gull for his trip list either. We did spend a good while pointing out the intricacies of the ID features of the various ages of Mediterranean Gulls to a some newby birders while we waited for something more out of the ordinary to turn up. We also showed them the Little Owl. In the end the only 'out of the ordinary' was a lone Siskin heading south. Back up to the village a small crowd caught our attention at the church where a Yellow Browed Warbler had been showing. It took a while before both of us had got anything like decent views as it flitted about high in the dense canopy of a still more or less fully leaved Sycamore tree. We heard a single Brambling fly over too. 

News then broke of a Purple Sandpiper on the river along the canal so off we went for a shuffy at that. Another couple were looking for it on the pebbly beach but we couldn't see it there either so scanned around the nearby mud to find it tucked upon a small island of saltmarsh grasses with a few Turnstones. It wasn't there long as another birder walked past with his tripod with legs fully extended over his shoulder and flushed everything in the immediate vicinity. 

Next we had a drive down the lane to see if anything was happening at the Warren or on the sea. Walking beyond the gate we had a Redwing go over and some Meadow Pipits. With the pipits going over we asked LCV would he would know the call of an Olive Backed Pipit if one flew over us. He replied that like us it's not a species he's familiar with so got his phone app going and played the call for us to listen to. By now we were reaching the ringing area today manned by the young ringing crew, despite being at least 30 yards away and possibly even 50 and the phone not that loud one of whom, JS, called out to us OBP? No no we shouted back - just playing it on the phone. But what fantastic knowledge and finely honed ears - very impressive!

With nothing much happening down there we made our way back to the Canal Scrape Hide, where nothing much was happening either. A Little Grebe climbing out onto a clump of vegetation kept the camera occupied - what is it with Little Grebes at Spurn in the autumn? Can't recall seeing this behaviour anywhere else.

We had no sight nor sound the the small flock of Bearded Tits that had been in the area a couple of hours earlier that we had hoped to see but a couple of bickering Water Rails kept us occupied for a while. Getting a decent shot of them was another matter though. Best we could manage was this effort in the shaded part of the gap in the reeds, when they had been on the other sunny side they'd been obscured by fallen vegetation.

After a bite to eat it was off to enjoy the Short Eared Owls again - and why wouldn't you! As you can see we filled our boots - and why wouldn't you! Thankfully this time they are flying of their own accord and hadn't been disturbed by anyone entering their field.

Owl and tractor in the same shot - heaven!!! If only we'd focused on the tractor - there might have been a Mediterranean Gull in the following flock - even better!

While watching the owls we were told of a Yellow Browed Warbler further along in the bushes that had been seen about an hour earlier. LCV took the high road and we took the low paths. Not much about at all. A couple of Blackbirds, a Chiffchaff and a Chaffinch were all we could muster. A couple of minutes later a small movement caught our eye in a Hawthorn bush alongside the big ditch. Seconds later a stonking Yellow Browed Warbler came to the outside of the bush and sat up in the uppermost twigs, an absolutely splendiferous view. We shouted out to LCV and whoever else was stood up on the bank - 'in the bush with lots of berries by the ditch'. That info must covered about a dozen bushes but we thought folk would home in on where the shout had come from. No-one came which is probably just as well as a Short Eared Owl flew right over the top of the bush just as we were lifting the camera and flushed it. Despite several minutes hard searching we never saw it again. So back to the owl field we went for yet another look at the beauties doing their thing.

It was beginning to get late into the afternoon but another call about the Yellow Browed Warbler came up so we went back to the bushes for another look. This time it was in bushes at the top of the bank close to the track where, apparently, it had first been seen that afternoon. Nothing but a couple of flits back and forth low down that we couldn't get on. A little disappointing we couldn't get a pic would have been nice to get one in natural habitat to compliment the in-the-hand shot we'd got earlier in the trip. There was very little about and when this Sparrowhawk turned up the very little become nothing!

By now the light was fading fast - time to head back to the Crown for some grub. We stopped on Peter Lane to have a look at the owl box and in the dim light could just about make out the white disc of a Barn Owl's face, that made it a 'three owl day' - can't be bad!

That evening we ummed and ahhhed about the relative merits of continuing to stalk Spurn in the morning or up sticks for the day and head half way home to twitch the recently discovered and finally re-identified Long Toed Stint near Leeds. If we did that we could then do a detour on Monday for the long staying White Tailed Lapwing across the river on the way home. The stint won!!! Butties were made in the evening for a quick getaway in the morning.

What a morning it was too, bright and sunny and as warm as summer. An hour and a half later were amongst an eager throng of birders all jostling for position to try to get a good view on a tiny bird on a little island of mud over 100 yards away. With a bit of patience, good manners and bit of luck on the part of the bird deciding to show itself everyone got a good view. At that range even in the excellent light getting a good pic no matter how well it was showing was another matter...but you've gotta try haven't you.

With all that sunshine we now wish we'd taken the teleconverter - hindsight is such a wonderful thing...NOT

A Cetti's Warbler scolded the crowd from the bushes behind us and a couple of Jays flew over the pool, their crops bulging with acorns. We misinterpreted the directions LCV had got from one of the locals and somehow missed the pool with the Spoonbills. As we were leaving we met old friend MJ coming along the path. He told us a couple of other friends were already in the crowd, we'd missed them, and he was bring up the rear. Yesterday we found out another friend, SB, was also there at that time - would have been like a Fylde birders reunion down there! And a Red Kite was soaring over the hillside as we got closer to the bursting-at-the-seams car park. A cracking morning in glorious sunshine.

Butties and pies were eaten back at the car when LCV says 'we'll do the lapwing on the way back - saves going on the way home tomorrow'. Good man...

Easy to find, it was the nearest bird to the hide when we arrived. No messing about - we like em like that. Mind you it was asleep. But good thinks come to those that wait and it woke up and had a mooch about and started feeding...nice one. Two Lifers in one day - it's a long long time since that's happened!

A Curlew Sandpiper had been seen from the hide nearer the car park...well we were going that way anyway...

Then LCV went one better and found a second one. We had both feeding together with a couple of Ruffs but sadly a little too far away for any decent pics. With time now pushing on and no Bearded Tits showing we high-tailed it back to Spurn and the Crown just in time for tea.

Our final new bird for the trip was heard late that night, a Tawny Owl hooting from the small wood behind our digs.

For our final morning we had a quick seawatch and a mooch round the hot spots but only submitting a Pale Bellied Brent Goose, one of three at the bottom end of the canal, to the SD card. They'd been in that area most mornings so we thought we'd best point the camera at them.

At Cliff Farm we heard a shrill call, Chiffchaff like-ish but then also a bit like a very loud Yellow Browed Warbler too. Unsure as to what it was we stopped to see if we could get on but only saw a few low flits. Somehow it evaded us and ended up calling from the pub car park...we chased after it, again without any success getting on it. Eventually we gave up and it was time to say goodbye and hit the road back to the west coast. Back at Base Camp the following morning we had a look on Spurn's Twitter feed to see a recording of a Western Bonelli's Warbler (can you see a sound???) taken at the very same place - cor blimey it didn't half sound like what we'd heard the day before...Had we missed the best bird of the trip by far (at Spurn) or was what we heard 'just' a Chiffchaff - sadly we'll never know but that nagging doubt still lingers.

A great time was had by all even if the birding was hard work at times. A massive thanks to LCV for organising the trip, even if the accommodation was dodgy at first, and doing the driving marathon and thanks to to IH for joining us - great to have most of the old bird race team back together.

Thanks to all the other birders, especially SE in the sseawatching hide, for all the info, directions, laughs and general birdy banter. And to the lad from St Helen's who let us look through his new Swazza NL Pure's - WOW We want them!!!!!!  Need to save a lorra lorra lorra lorra lorra pennies though.

In the end the Tawny Owl was our 97th bird of the trip, just couldn't quite nail that ton - maybe next time!

Where to next? An impromptu dart up north.

In the meantime let us know who's giving you the runaround in your outback.