As I wrote that I would at the start of the year, I've been doing as much of my birding as possible on foot. But the arrival of the longer spring evenings does mean that I can do a bit of birdwatching on the way home from work, so last night I made a couple of stops.
I was hoping there might be some Wheatears around, or even an early Ring Ouzel, so I had a quick wander around at Beacon Hill. No luck, so I took myself off to the fields, maybe half a mile away, that have been a reliable spot for Curlews in the past (in fact, many years ago, they definitely bred here - more recently, I'm not so sure).
Well, I had no luck with the Curlews, either, but one of the best things about birdwatching (possibly THE best thing, in my experience), is that you almost invariably go out looking for one thing, and find something completely different. At least, that's how it works in Britain, as a consequence of us having so many birds moving in and out of the country at any one time.
So, as I focused my binoculars on the field, I realised it was full of Fieldfares, chattering away and busy feeding themselves up ahead of their imminent return to Scandinavia. I counted 550 (the largest flock I've seen this winter), but I'm pretty sure there were more, hidden in the various folds in the ground.
Closer to home, I stopped at the crossroads just at the foot of Iveshead. There's often a Little Egret or two on the brook here, but all that seemed to be around was a male Kestrel on the telegraph wires. I caught a bit of movement on the stream on the far side of the road, though - two Mandarins. There's a small flock at nearby Blackbrook Reservoir, but they usually stay tucked in at the edges. You also sometimes see them on the little pool or on the stream in the woods at Charnwood Lodge, just up the road, but again they're elusive.
Once I got home, I was able to write up a few notes to the sound of a pair of Tawny Owls hooting and ke-wicking in the cemetery behind my house, then I made a rare pre-dawn start this morning to go and check back at the same sites. The Mandarins were still around, and the Fieldfares had been joined by at least one Curlew (I couldn't see any others, but the one I could see did his songflight more than once) and up to a dozen Skylarks.