Nice Cuckoo by the side of Formby by-pass at 5.15am today, just south of the Lighthouse roundabout as I headed on down to pick up Ralph Jones for a spot of twitchery...next stop Trumpton Marsh near Boston for the Oriental Pratincole I have been criminally ignoring for nearly a fortnight.
Pushed the Baby Black Death up to warp speed on the M62 - until bits of it started to come off, I don't think that's meant to happen, but we got some funny looks in the services as I dismantled the trim on the doors.
Trumpton, sorry, Frampton, is a superb marsh it must be said, with staggering swarms of midges attracting Percy Sledges, Corn Bunting, Cuckoo, Yellow Wags to the reedy ditches and hedgerows and plenty of waders on the shallow water, mainly Dunlin and Ringed Plover, with Avocet, Knot, Blackwits, Curlew Sands. LRPs etc beside Garganey, Brent Goose and Marsh Harrier.
A good mix.
The Oriental Pratincole was feeding, or rather tazzing up and down at the speed of light over a water meadow, so I got fine flight views, but when it settled it was another matter.
The little sod disappeared into the vegetation when it was on the deck occasionally showing, although it did walk out into the open for a few glorious moments.
Faster and smaller than other Pratincoles on the wing I think, with a shorter tail, chestnutty underwing and white edge to the secondaries - it was worth the 17 year wait...sorry about the pix, they're not "magic eye" jobs honest, there really is an Oriental Pratincole in each of these images, I promise.
It was just too fast and crafty to be digiscoped today.
I was pulling away from a hot and sunny Trumpton before 11am and headed west into Derbyshire for a detour to Ilkeston and Straws Bridge ponds, where a Great Reed Warbler was making the usual deafening racket from a small stand of reeds and as is often the way with these big brutes, shimmying up to the tops of the stems to "sing".
With the Great Reed safely tucked away, there really was nothing else for it but to drive back up the M1 and call in at Potteric Carr for the singing Iberian Chiffchaff.
I'd forgotten just how big this site is, and that it takes five day's camel ride to get across it to St Catherine's Fields, the area where the chiffy hangs out.
I also didn't realise that this part of the site is hemmed in by a motorway on one side and a railway line on the other, so it's hard to hear yourself think, let alone pick out the bird's song.
Once we were in the right area by late afternoon things got rather difficult - I could hear the Iberian Chiffy singing from a stand of hawthorn and oak, but it didn't show itself particularly well, and was silent for long periods.
Finally it sang close to the path and we got good views of it - "John Merrick's Chiffchaff" (a new race only discovered this afternoon), rather than Iberian I think - what a mess - knackered tail, unkempt plumage and apparently only one functioning eye.
Apart from the distinctive(-ish) song, this scruffy lemony phylly didn't have much to recommmend it, I'll take the pristine birds in southern Spain everytime I think.
Back home late into Dempsey Towers with just enough time to Blu-tack the car back together ready for work tomorrow.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...