18th April 2016 - Rainham Marshes

I woke up the day after getting back from Norfolk expecting to be absolutely exhausted as I'm just coming out of the end of a nasty virus which really aggravated my long term illness, but I was up and about by 8:30 (a miracle for me recently!) so I grabbed my optics and got the train out to Rainham.  It was gloriously sunny but of course pretty much as soon as I left the first hide the rain clouds came rolling in.  I had a walk round with none of the exciting things that had been reported over the weekend but enjoyable nonetheless.  There were plenty of Sand Martin and Swallow, a distant Marsh Harrier and a couple of Avocet.  Plenty of singing Sedge Warbler (not seen or heard a Reed Warbler yet though) and a brief glimpse of my first Whitethroat for the year.  I was wasting a bit of time on the river wall before I had to head back to the station when I heard unmistakeable reeling coming from the reserve side and I made a mad (quiet) quiet scramble down the slope.  I couldn't pinpoint the bird but spotted two gentlemen looking at something and made my way to them.  It had stopped by the time I got there and I resigned myself to this being yet another episode where I heard but didn't see the bird.  After chatting to the gentleman who stayed for around 20 minutes, the reeling started up again, right in front of us and seconds later and Grasshopper Warbler hopped into view.  Lifer!  It was amazing to watch, its whole body vibrating.  I was grinning so much the other guy kept laughing at me, but I think he was happy he'd helped me see a lifer!  Great trip (even if I did miss my train!).

Sedge Warbler
Year list: 175
Lifers this year: 11

16th and 17th April 2016 - Norfolk

We went to Norfolk for the weekend for the third time in 2016, staying again with the lovely Viv and Barley.  Our wonderful (not just because she puts up with us making her go birding!) friend Naomi came with us and we set off from London early Saturday morning.  First stop was just over the Norfolk border at Weeting Heath, where the Stone-curlew were showing remarkably well (not that you'd think that from my photos).  Also at Weeting were some Yellowhammer and a lovely little Treecreeper nest.  The next stop was a brief one at Lynford in the hope of Hawfinch, but to no avail although we had good views of Siskin, which is always welcomed.

After a lunch from Cookies Crab Shop, we wandered around Cley for the rest of the afternoon.  There were plenty of hirundines swooping around and my first Yellow Wagtail of the year were spotted.  Also a first for the year were Little Ringed Plover, Ruff and just as we were leaving, two

Little Egret
Brent Goose
Cley Beach
Before breakfast on Sunday morning we popped out to Kelling Heath where we got a bit carried away (and mildly lost) and nearly missed breakfast!  The highlight was 3 Dartford Warbler, singing away at the tops of their voices.

Kelling Heath is beautiful
Dartford Warbler
After a brief stop off at Choseley, where there were three Ring Ouzel, the rest of the afternoon was spent at glorious Titchwell.  A Water Rail was a first for a very long time and both the Cetti's Warbler and Bearded Tit population were showing remarkably well.  A couple of White Wagtail were seen but unfortunately yet again we missed the Water Pipit.  Out on the beach I was happy to have a flock of Sanderling descend (one of my favourite birds!) and there was a Great Crested Grebe bobbing away out on the sea.  The walk back to the car got us our second lot of Siskin for the weekend and then it was time for the long drive home.

Water Rail
Brent Goose
Sanderling <3
It should also be noted that this trip (the Ring Ouzel specifically) took me over my 2015 total for the whole year!  I did not have a good birding year last year...

Year list: 172
Lifers this year: 10

3rd April 2016 - Dungeness

A lovely spring day lead to a trip to Dungeness.  A brief sea watch didn't produce much but a wander onto the NNR had a lovely male Black Redstart and quite a few incredible views of Firecrest.  My first Swallow of the year flew over but there were no other hirundines seen that day.

Onto the RSPB reserve and the first bird over was a Sparrowhawk.  Looking out from the first hide, we spotted our first terns of the year, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern. There were a few Common Gull around and both Bearded Tit and Cetti's Warbler were seen from the viewpoint.  There were also the first few Sedge Warbler of the year.

Year list: 158
Lifers this year: 10