The chance to see whiskered terns at Willington Gravel Pits in Derbyshire was surely too good to resist, wasn't it? Well, not for this birder, although I have to confess to having toyed with the idea on Saturday morning.
I'm not impartial to the odd twitch as regular readers will know, but this year I am trying to avoid anything other than local excursions for rarities. Derbyshire isn't so far away, but I would have had to drive there and back on my own, and the likely throng of twitchers that would greet me as I arrived didn't really appeal either.
Quite aside from all that, I'd planned a new route on the patch, so putting another notch on the birding bedpost would have to wait.
So off I went at 8:00am this morning, sporting a new pair of walking shoes that Mrs Reg had kindly bought me for my birthday, which was on Thursday. In case you're wondering how old I am, let's just say that the entry on my year list that matches my age was a dunnock. Actually, that makes me sound quite young, but I should say that it took me a surprisingly long time to see this relatively common bird this year!
The shoes were great and so was the birding. Two lapwings in the magic field kicked things off nicely, but a common whitethroat that appeared from the hedgerow was even better. I'd felt privileged to see one of these little characters at Earlswood Lakes last week, so to see another was brilliant.
Funnily enough, just a few yards down the road another was spotted across the field. Perhaps not so scarce around these parts then? A singing skylark was noted too, and shortly afterwards a pair of breeding reed buntings were only the second ones I had spotted on the patch this year. So far so good, and I was only about a mile from home.
Weatheroak Hill produced two or three house martins. Swallows were around in good numbers too, and a common buzzard was enjoying the thermals. A detour at this point took me to the bridge that crosses the M42 on Lilley Green Road, where I was pleasantly surprised by my third common whitethroat of the morning!
The birding was put on the back burner for a bit whilst I surveyed the motorway for Eddie Stobarts. Annoyingly, two came past within five minutes, but I didn't catch the names of either of them. You need eyes in the back of your head sometimes. Still, I thought if I'd seen a couple so quickly surely many more would come past if I gave it half an hour or so, but it wasn't to be. A convoy of about 50 to 100 Chryslers was the highlight, which tells its own story.
A bit further down Lilley Green Road I saw orange-tip and green-veined white butterflies, and a blackcap was heard singing, but having walked about three miles I figured it was time to head back. The whitethroat was still in Hill Lane, plus a male yellowhammer, and about five lapwings were now flying around. They seemed very agitated and it didn't take me long to find out why - some of the birds have now successfully reared young. With a bit of effort I managed to spot a chick amongst the vegetation. Great stuff!
Birds Seen On Foot 2009: 75
Distance travelled: 78.3 miles