Today was a celebration of great British wildlife and the woes of the lamentable British traffic.
Standing outside the Island Mere hide, there were birds everywhere with at least six Hobby voraciously feeding on insects around the marshes. A Bittern boomed distantly across the mere with another alighting from the dense reeds and flying past the hide where it was being harangued by an intolerant corvid.
Bearded Tits pinged from pretty much everywhere and Marsh Harrier were performing beautifully in the intense sunlight with a food-pass observed between a faithful pair of adult birds.
A single Cuckoo called persistently with another male bird nervously flying past.
The Savi's Warbler finally broke silence, reeling intermittently somewhere out in the expanse of the reedbed. It would have been impossible to locate - but at least he was out there.
The scrapes were full of bird life. Boisterous Black-headed Gull and decent numbers of really smart Meditteranean Gull. A few pairs of Little Tern and Kittwake were settled on the exposed mud as were around six Barnacle Goose.
Wader numbers were relatively low with spring passage now pretty much over. A small group of eight Black-tailed Godwit were present on the South Scrape, with a lone Ringed Plover on East Scrape and Avocet now in full breeding mode.
Other highlights were a Grass Snake that slinked across the steps toward the East hide, and a Small Copper that settled on the path while walking back from Island Mere.
A lovely day out with some wins and some losses. It promised to be a lovely sunny day, so when a storm came pulsing through late morning, it took us all a bit by surprise.
The Glossy Ibis and two Black-winged Stilt were showing well on the Washland viewed from the river path. The habitat looked prime for these southern wanderers. In situ, Cuckoo and Hobby were passing by - and all of these sightings made within a five minute period - felt fabulously straight forward.
Having met Bob Whatley in the car-park, we decided to head over to Elveden for the White Stork to bide us some time while the rain passed through. We drew a blank and later found out the bird had lifted off a short time before heading high and away.
Back at Lakenheath, a staggering group of Hobby numbering well over 40 individuals scudded over Joist Fen. Rick pickings out there for sure.
A Bittern boomed from somewhere in the reeds and at least four Marsh Harrier were patrolling the area.
It was a shame to hear about the predated Stone Curlew nests at Weeting Heath, but a single bird on lookout for a sitting female was great to see at another location nearby.
Fen Drayton RSPB was the final stop, but unfortunately the female Red-footed Falcon was nowhere to be seen despite an hour-long search toward the end of the day.
After a long drive back from Newcastle from an epic Maximo Park gig, I fancied a look over Aveley Bay which over the last few days has been highly productive.
I was tired, but a two hour wander round the bay and over the Landfill proved to be a good choice. Despite missing out on the calling Quail that inconveniently decided to cower in silence on the slopes of the landfill, there was plenty of interest that included;
Three Bar-tailed Godwit including one spanking summer plumaged adult in the company of five Black-tailed Godwit were present on the bay, nine Grey Plover all of which were in various stages of plumage transition with two in fine summer plumage, a total of 15 Dunlin, most in summer plumage, three Whimbrel flew low onto Wennington, four Ringed Plover, two Oystercatcher, and at least ten Common Redshank.
Common Swift were conspicuous by their large numbers with over 500 wheeling over the reserve including a few Swallow and two Sand Martin.
A single Yellow Wagtail called as it flew through, and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled distantly toward the reserve. A Lesser Whitethroat rattled within the scrub by the car park, and nearby, a male Stonechat flew to the top of a bush. A pair of Northern Wheatear arrived by the car park.
A Hobby was seen actively pursuing prey on the west side of the landfill and another (or possible the same bird) flew low over Wennington.
As with many of the popular holiday island destinations, there are places to see and places to avoid. So when I booked this four day trip to the eastern end of Greek Cyprus, I based myself in Agia Napa because apparently (according to the the abundance of self-eulogising T-shirts available) 'Napa Rocks'. Thankfully it was the off-season so there was no attitude or groups of morons destroying the place.
It was actually very pleasant, and despite having an untimely reaction to one of the medications, the time was well spent. Four days, 92 species, six lifers.
I stayed at the pleasant EuroNapa hotel in Agia Napa - Return flights were on British Airways to Larnaka from Heathrow.
Sites visited included Cape Greko, Agia Napa Sewage Works, Oriklini Marshes (which is an amazing site), Larnaca Salt Lake (and surrounding pools), Larnaca Sewage Works, Akrotiri Salt Lake, Lady's Mile, and Zakaki Marshes.
eight at Oriklini. Mallard
A few birds at Oriklini Marshes and a couple at Zakaki.
a couple of stragglers in Oriklini. Garganey
Three lovely drakes at Oriklini Marshes. Ferruginous Duck
A pair swimming close to the far reedbed at Oriklini. Red-crested Pochard
Female at Oriklini.
a few birds seen on Greko and one with young at Agia Napa Sewage Works.
six birds in total heard, two at Greko with one seen when flushed, one at Oriklini, and three calling at Zakaki Marshes.
cor Little Grebe
at least six adults on Oriklini.
A single group of 25 flew over Lady's Mile.
six adult birds circled Oriklini Marshes
three birds flew in off the sea at Greko with another bird flushed from a bush near the Picnic site. Another adult seen at Oriklini Marshes.
single birds seen at Oriklini Marshes, and Zakaki Marshes.
a pair seen really well as they noisily alighted from the reeds and flew round the hide at Zakaki Marshes. Little Egret
10+ birds at Oriklini Marshes with an interesting 'grey' plumaged bird at Lady's Mile.
At least 100 birds present at Oriklini Marshes with many on nests. Glossy Ibis
Decent sized flocks seen at Greko, Oriklini Marshes, and Akrotiri.
Single adult at Oriklini Marshes
Two birds at Oriklini but small groups still present at Larnaca Salt Lake, Airport Pools, and larger numbers at Akrotiri Salt Lake.
female flew over a road just outside Episkopi.
A single bird in off the sea at Greko.
Seen on Greko and en route along the southern highway.
a single bird flushed waders on Akrotiri Salt Lake with another seen at Zakaki Marshes.
one flew over Greko.
at least 15 birds providing an impressive aerial display at Kensington Cliffs. Little Crake
A real target - single bird seen feeding on the reed margins at Oriklini Marshes.
Common everywhere and seen at most sites. Common Moorhen
Five at Oriklini and a couple at Zakaki Marshes.
The most common wader seen at most sites. Most abundant at Oriklini and Lady's Mile with 65 birds on one pool. Wood Sandpiper
Fairly numerous at most sites. At least 20 together at Oriklini.
Small groups seen at Oriklini and Akrotiri Salt Lake. Little Stint
Plenty seen with small groups at Oriklini and Lady's Mile. Ringed Plover
Five at Oriklini and 10+ at Akrotiri. Common Snipe
Two birds at Oriklini. Marsh Sandpiper
Two birds at Oriklini and a single on Akrotiri Salt Lake. Spur-winged Lapwing
Seen at most sites. Stunning birds most numerous at Oriklini Marshes with around eight birds there including one nesting by the road-side.
Singles at Oriklini and Akrotiri Salt Lake. Kentish Plover
half a dozen seen at Lady's Mile and small groups on Akrotiri Salt Lake.
A total of 12 birds seen at Lady's Mile with a couple of summer plumaged adults. Bar-tailed Godwit
A rare bird in Cyprus, a single bird at Lady's Mile. Broad-billed Sandpiper
Three birds feeding on the edge of Akrotiri Salt Lake. Collared Pratincole
Four of these lovely birdse at Akrotiri Salt Lake. Yellow-legged Gull
A couple at Greko Lesser Black Backed Gull
a single bird at Greko Black-headed Gull
three first-year birds on Akrotiri Salt Lake.
A pair at Oriklini and another pair at Akrotiri Salt Lake. White-winged Tern
Five stunning adults at Akrotiri Salt Lake.
common at various sites.
a common bird at various sites. Turtle Dove
a single bird flew purposefully in off the sea at Greko. Laughing Dove
a single bird seen while driving outside of Larnaka. Great Spotted Cuckoo
Lucky to have connected with a single at Oriklini. Common Swift
around 100 birds at Oriklini.
Small groups at Kensington Cliffs and three more seen just outside Agia Napa.
a group of 11 seen at Akrotiri Salt Lake, with further birds heard at Kensington Cliffs. A group of 13 seen at the Sea Caves on Greko.
a stunning adult at Akrotiri Salt Lake.
common at most sites.
plenty passing through at Greko.
a single bird flew through at Akrotiri Salt Lake, and one through on Greko. House Martin
around 20 at Oriklini.
five birds seen at Oriklini.
A single near the picnic site on Greko and two more towards the cape.
Single at Oriklini. Yellow Wagtail
Small group at Larnaca Sewage Works that included feldegg and flava. Single feldegg at Oriklini.
Two in scrub just outside of Greko, with a single bird on Greko.
Cyprus Pied Wheatear
At least four birds on Greko.
a single male at Akrotiri Salt Lake,
one sang briefly just before the Greko turning with two more in a scrubby area nearby. Eurasian Reed Warbler
A common bird at Zakaki and Oriklini Marshes.
single migrant bird seen well on Greko. Cetti's Warbler
Heard at Oriklini Marshes Blackcap
single at Agia Napa sewage works, and one at Oriklini Marshes
a single by Larnaka Airport North Pool.
singles at Oriklini and Akrotiri Salt Lake.
three singing males at Agia Napa Sewage Works. Spectacled Warbler
a common bird at many sites. Sardinian Warbler
single bird seen just outside Greko. Cyprus Warbler
Another target - seen in scrub just outside Greko and at Agia Napa Sewage Works.
a single in scrub by turning for Greko and another near the picnic site.
Two seen at Agia Napa Sewage Works and a further two at Oriklini. Golden Oriole
a single stunning adult male on top of a bush at Agia Napa Sewage Works Hooded Crow
commonly seen at various sites. Jackdaw
A few seen at Greko Eurasian Magpie
Three singles seen en route to various destinations House Sparrow
Abundant everywhere. Spanish Sparrow
A dozen present at Agia Napa Sewage Works. Greenfinch
seen at Agia Napa Sewage Works. Goldfinch
around a dozen at Agia Napa Sewage Works. Ortolan
two near the picnic site on Greko.
small groups seen at Akrotiri Salt Lake. Desert Finch
a real bonus - this male arrived right on cue as I was about the leave Greko for the final time. Sat in its favoured bush before swiftly departing.
It was a stellar day at the Marshes, the highlight being our monthly Wildlife Explorers group in which we welcomed fifteen children all of which enjoyed dissecting owl pellets and getting their grubby mits covered with mammalian detritus. It was all good fun.
Arriving a couple of hours before the start of the group, it was evident that there were plenty of migrants around in gloomy and mizzly conditions. It felt rare! Around a dozen Common Whitethroat were scratching away in the scrub opposite Aveley Bay and on the receded tide, a total of seven Whimbrel were noted, six of which deserted the exposed mud in hot pursuit of a lone Greenshank that too noisely fled the area. Also in attendance were four Dunlin (including three summer plumaged adults) and a smart Grey Plover not quite yet into its summer finery, and three noisy Oystercatcher.
From the car park, a Corn Bunting jangled as it sat low in the grass on the eastern slope of the landfill. Two Grasshopper Warbler were reeling intermittently adding to the symphony of bird song of which Sedge Warbler too were particularly evident.
The old Landfill also held, at least eight Northern Wheatear with the possibility for many more there.
On the reserve, a rattling Lesser Whitethroat showed well in the Woodland, and two Ruff were skulking along the margins of Wennington.
It warmed up in the afternoon, and despite missing a fly-through Red Kite, there were a couple of Marsh Harrier, three Buzzard, and two Peregrine enjoying the thermals.
A couple of Water Vole were seen around the reserve and a first Orange-Tip was on the wing along with Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, and Peacock.