Following the successful quick dash to see the Dotterels I had a day off on Saturday, and planned a trip with Colin on Sunday. We decided to keep it fairly low key and not travel too far by staying fairly local, starting at Part and seeing and taking it from there.
Unfortunately the weather wasn't all that great, being rather cool and breezy early on with the easterly wind increasing through the day.
Paxton didn't deliver a great deal. Plenty of warblers singing though we couldn't find any Lesser Whitethroats in the usual spots, and one of the Chiffchaff songs was a bit odd, with a Willow like finish. Reading up on this it seems like most of these mixed singers are actually Willows-I didn't see the bird well enough to confirm this.
Nightingales were a bit of a struggle, and we only managed to hear three birds on our circuit, and all of them remained hidden deep in the vegetation. No Turtle Doves, no Cuckoos and very few hirundines. checked the terns, but there was nothing unusual, so overall a bit disappointing.
We stopped off for a bit at Graffham where we finally got a Lesser Whitethroat in the Plummer car park. Three Black Terns were off the dam, but tended to stay well out, never coming close. Scanned through the Common Terns and eventually found three Arctics, but they were feeding well out near the opposite shore.
Our main target was to have been the three Black ringed Stilts which had been seen at Eldernell on Saturday. By the time we got there, the wind was getting really strong as we trudged east for about a mile to scan the few remaining pools over on the far side (a consequence of the very dry winter). Didn't see any Stilts, and hopes for a Garganey or two in the ditches or a passage wader on the grazed areas never materialised. Had a pair of Marsh Harriers which was nice, but that really was it. Back in the car, had a sandwich and luckily was looking out when seven Cranes flew in, dropped down about 800 yards away before flying off low east.
Our last destination was Fowlmere, which we reached early afternoon. The main target, Turtle Doves kept their heads down due to the weather, and we didn't really see much at all. In a sheltered spot, a pair of Orange Tips were mating and nearby I saw my first Azure Damselfly of the year. Over the main lake, low flying hirundines included my first House Martins of the year.
Overnight and long overdue rain promised much for Sunday, so I thought I,d get down to Amwell a bit earlier than usual. I had expected, based on early messages to see William, Phil and Beachy, but they had left. I later discovered they had gone off to Pitstone quarry for a Kentish Plover, which occasionally strayed over into Hertfordshire-the first for something like 40 years. I did think of going myself, but I was suffering a bit with the cold wind and decided against the hour plus trip-good job as I would have got there after it had flown off.
Got a few good year ticks, with Tony, Colin Wills and a few others appearing, but the only bird ticks were a distant Cuckoo over in the Ash Valley and a couple of Common Sandpipers. Lots of hirundines low over the water, but I missed three Hobbys that appeared later in the day. Best bird was the lingering Black Tern which I attempted to photograph alongside Jay on a flying visit. It stayed well out and I never got any good images. I was watching it with Ade when it dropped down onto the exposed mud joining the Common Terns, and we were astounded to see it fly off alongside another one. No idea when the second one arrived but both stuck around all day.