Right, better catch up this weekend's fun and jollity. Sunday was the day out, but Saturday morning was a walk round Uttoxeter Quarry.
A cool breeze and a little bit of drizzle in the air when leaving home. Could be good for some hirundines, and by jimminy it was. The first Swallows of the year were in, six of them along with around 50 Sand Martins.
Also LRP's back in, 3 Green Sands, 7 Goosander and 4 Goldeneye.
Onto Sunday, and a big thank you for being invited and made welcome. Despite the thought of a really early start filling me with dread, it's much appreciated. The main targets were two species which, although not lifers, were still birds that I haven't seen for a very long time.
The first port of call were the two Long-billed Dowitchers on the Somerset Levels, King Arthur's fabled land of Avalon! Never birded Somerset before, usually for me it's somewhere to drive through along the M5, or watch the Albion receive a thrashing at Yeovil Town! When arriving at the Ashcott Corner car park and the walk along Meare Heath, what have I been missing out on!
The Dowitchers were happily feeding away on the drained lagoon here, along with 23 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard and Gadwall.
Also on the lagoon was a Great White Egret, the dark colour in the bill fooled me a bit, but no mistaking it for a Little Egret when it took off! Plenty of warblers around too, including Cetti's, Chiffchaff and freshly arrived Willow and Sedge Warblers. The reedbeds contained a few boombastic Bitterns, and luckily one decided to show itself.
But what a place! I'm sure the Somerset Levels have many more great spots to try, but onward through Glastonbury (with it's Tor and rock festival) and Wells (with it's baby-eating Bishop!) to Chew Valley Lake.
Stopping off first at Herriott's Bridge for the Spotted Sandpiper. It was a pity that the bird had decided to wander off right into the far corner of the bridge wall here. Viewing was very awkward on the small pool side of the bridge, very similar to the conservation pool at Tittesworth actually.
Over on the dam, the female Long-tailed Duck was still present with Tufted Ducks, although looking towards sun, digiscoping wasn't easy. Returning to the Spotted Sand, it had moved onto an island on the pool. But again, looking towards the sun, easier to see through the scope but impossible for digiscoping.
The final stop was through Bristol and over the first Severn Bridge, to Newnham on the the Severn Estuary. Another really lovely spot.
The first-winter Bonaparte's Gull was still present, alternating between a rest and paddle on the edge of the river, and flying over the fields to the west with Black-headed Gulls, hawking on insects.
Even when in flight the Bonaparte's was quite distinctive, more reminiscent of Little Gull. Then back on the river it provided good comparisons with the Black-headed Gulls, and also in the company of Common Gulls.