We don’t normally record our summer car trips, but this one was such a birding experience that I felt it more than merited inclusion in our newsletter and website.

For a start we went mid-week instead of a weekend. 6 – 7 members rendezvoused at Tegg’s Nose lower car park at 7.30 am on a bright but partially overcast morning. We were a ‘floating’ group, as one member arrived late and luckily found us; Liz unfortunately went early and missed all the action.

The lower woods were alive with birdsong as we set off, and we immediately saw the first of our summer visitors, the Chiff-chaff. In a short time we had excellent views of the Garden Warbler , whilst a very sleek and shiny male Pied Flycatcher sat out for all to see and admire. In the distance we heard a Cuckoo calling, but he was too far away to find. We started upwards on a moderate track to the large boulder which provided a welcome break, seat and coffee stop, as well as giving extensive views over the surrounding farms and reservoirs. From there it was a short climb straight to the top, through bushes full of swelling whinberries, which attracted Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Linnets, with the Cuckoo calling from much closer to. At the top we saw a Common Redstart, in silhouette only, Pheasant and Meadow Pipit, whilst a flock of about 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls passed overhead. At this point 3 ladies with 4 dogs were walking up slowly as 1 man with 3 dogs was walking down; we decided to stay put for several minutes whilst they met and sorted themselves out. Walking down through the woods, the sun finally came out and it was just magical. It was how you imagined springtime in England should be, with the fresh lush green leaves, dappled sunshine and swathes of blue under the trees from the bluebells and violets covering the ground.

Once back at the car park we carried on to Bottoms Reservoir adding a pair of Mistle Thrushes and Common Sandpiper to our growing list. We started to walk along the bottom road skirting round Tegg’s Nose in an attempt to gain higher ground and look into the woods from an elevated position hoping to get better views of the Common Redstart. Although this proved unsuccessful, we were more than compensated with Siskin and grand views of a Green Woodpecker. All the time the Cuckoo was calling, ever closer!

It was then on to Trentabank Reservoir and the heronry. The Herons were well down on their nests, but we did see heads and 3 or 4 flew in during our visit. Cormorants were aplenty, nesting on the opposite side with a good dozen sitting out. Little and Great Crested Grebes were on the water with a Buzzard floating overhead.

Our final destination was Standing Stone car park where we hoped to be high enough to see the Cuckoo as he flew around the hill. Our theory was right, but only Alison managed to see him before he dropped down below the wall and flew away round the hill again still calling. Somewhat dejectedly we followed a small track into a field to get a better view of a stand of nearby pines. Movement right at the top of the trees caught our attention and suddenly a flock of 30 – 35 birds took flight; Common Crossbills – wow!!! They circled around and landed back in the same trees again, and we were absolutely mesmerised. The males were showy and gaudy in their bright red plumage, the females less so with their yellow rumps and greyish green flanks whilst the juveniles were a dull grey and streaky. Every so often they flew up, made a couple of circuits and returned to their favourite branches to continue feeding.
We were unable to find any reason for their unease and twitchiness. At one point we saw 4 males perched together facing us, their feathers brilliant crimson in the sunshine. Through the scope you could see every detail of their plumage and the crossed bills. It was lovely to see the males extracting the seeds from the pine cones and feeding the juveniles. As Gordon Yates would say – “it doesn’t get much better than this”!

We finally managed to tear ourselves away at a quarter to one, having watched them for a good 30 minutes. As we drove slowly down Toot Hill the first big drops of rain splashed on the windscreen. What an exciting day!!!

Our total count for the morning was just short of 50.


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