Yesterday we spent a large portion of the day visiting a couple of sites with some interesting scarce migrants, and then decided to have a look round one or two places that were on the way home and see what could be found.
Willington gravel pits in Derbyshire has always featured in the rare bird reports as it seem to be one of those places that attracts migrants. Each year, one or two Whiskered Terns appear as spring overshoots so it was not too surprising that one would turn up here. The finders must have had a shock on Friday when they found one, and then realised that there were another ten with it, by far the largest flock seen in the UK.
Unfortunately, by Sunday there were 'only' eight present and by mid day they had dispersed to various other sites in the Midlands. Luckily we got there early in the day and had superb views as they flew round the pit, perching on the posts from time to time. At one point they flew off to a hidden pit, only to reappear just above head hight. Prior to this, I had only seen three Whiskered Terns in the UK since my first in 1994.
After spending some time failing to see a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, we departed and moved on to a small reserve at Cossington not that far from Leicester. This complex of grazing marsh and pools was host to a Pectoral Sandpiper, an American wader that is frequently encountered in autumn. Spring birds are not as common, and this bird, which I suspect is a male was very approachable enabling me to get some very good images of a plumage that I have only seen once or twice before.
The latter half of the day seemed to fizzle out a bit, as there few reports coming. We tried to find a male Ring Ouzel near Stilton, to no avail (luckily one had been present in Stevenage earlier in the week) and then popped into Graffham Water to tick off a female Scaup hat has been present for some time.
Finally I paid my first visit to the RSPB headquarters at Sandy for something like fifteen years. The place has changed a bit, with vast areas of heath being developed, but the old trails were still worth wandering round since the woods were full of bluebells. Not much bird life though, but we did see the first Small Coppers of the year, Natterjack Toad tadpoles and several Common Newts in one of the heath pools.