This was now Good Friday and the start of the Easter weekend so me and my mate John returned to the site again the following morning but despite getting there early (5.45am) we were just that little bit too late as they flew before we got there and despite a very thorough search of what felt like the whole of the north of the county we failed to find them again. We also failed to locate the Green Winged Teal at Stanwick despite looking everywhere but as all the bays had completely frozen over (it had got very cold again) we didn't hold much hope for it. By lunchtime John and I went to McDonalds to make ourselves feel better - getting up early is ok so long as you see the birds you're after but unfortunately birding isn't always like that and today was one of those days. We had been fruitlessly birding for 8 hours already and the cold was starting to seep into our bones. Then I remembered the field the Avocet was found in (the one I dipped earlier in the month) and realised this area had "Teal" written all over it! Surely if the Green Winged had left Stanwick this is where it would come? So we headed over and parked up at the bottom of Lime Street in Irthlingborough and it wasn't long before I found it. Thank heavens for that! John looked a bit happier (by now I think severe depression was setting in) and I'd forgotten how cold I was. We put the news out that the bird had been relocated and was thankfully a little easier to see than before and it wasn't long before people started to file in to have a look. Saturday was spent patching again for little of note and I spent Easter Sunday relaxing - until a text came through that a drake Garganey had been found at Ecton Sewage Farm. John was already out and offered to pick me up enroute and it wasn't long before we got there getting great views of it swimming around in the stream. Here's the video below.
A bit of a "comedy" moment ensued as we arrived at the Garganey site as we accidentally spooked a Mute Swan who had only one way to go to get airborne - and that was straight towards us which only just made it. I don't know who is more surprised to see who in the next pic as I managed to get a shot as it nearly flew into me. It certainly made me duck!!
After this my holiday was over and I spent the next week at work until the Friday when I had been invited to head down the Kent with another mate if mine called Sam. We headed down on the Friday evening so we could be up nice and early on the Saturday but once again the weather was really having an effect with almost no migration at all. One thing that was there though was a Penduline Tit that had been reported as "showing well" at Stodmarsh. Now in my experience the name Penduline Tit and the phrase "showing well" don't really go together, in fact after dipping twice the phrase "showing at all" would have been a welcome one. The first dip was last year when me and John went to Marston Vale reserve and watched reed constantly for several hours not to see it and I have to admit the whole experience kind of put me off. As there wasn't much about in Kent though and the thought of finally life ticking this bird just proved too good an opportunity to miss so we headed over first thing, and I am so glad we did. When we arrived the only information we had was that the Penduline liked the area around the boardwalk, so first things first we had to find the said boardwalk. Luckily the map in the car park was quite informative and we headed for the area were a boardwalk was obviously present and hoped this was it. We stood on the board walk for a while still not sure if were in the right place before a couple of other birders arrived and confirmed this was where the bird was seen - but sometimes around the corner too. So after we'd spent what seemed like hours (but was in fact about 45 minutes) we headed around the corner and almost straight away Sam picked it up in a bush. At last a Penduline Tit and I can see it! Trying had to contain my excitement we enjoyed great views of it preening itself before it flew into the reeds. The other 2 birders we had met left when this happened but something was telling me to stay. I wanted a better view as although the view in the bush was good it was still slightly obscured and the pictures I had seen on the net were quite often of the bird feeding on the seed heads of the reeds. As me and Sam waited in the cold we talked and looked around before my eye caught something on one of the reeds infront of us. I couldn't believe my eyes and I think the video below speaks for itself.
I keep watching this video over and over as I still can' believe the view we got. To watch it pulling out clumps of seeds with it's foot like it does at the start was incredible. We watched it like this for quite a while before we left it in peace - what a little cracker! We spent the rest of the day birding Kent with a highlight of a self found Purple Sandpiper (which I was jumping through hoops about until I found out they aren't that unusual around here) and the impressive sights of large numbers of Dunlin and Black Tailed Godwits on the mudflats. It was a great day just ambling around and seeing what we could see. The Purple Sandpiper is below.
The next day we headed back to Northants with the hope of seeing a previously reported summer plumage Black Necked Grebe but we dipped, the first Sand Martins of the year though made up for it slightly. Unfortunately all this cold weather and early starts had taken it's toll and the cold I had for over a week turned into Bronchitis. I had to nip to the chemists to stock up on more painkillers (it was turning into serious man flu) and while I was on my way out Steve Fisher called to say he'd had a very good morning indeed. He'd managed to find not only another sum plum Black Necked Grebe but also a male Firecrest! I was in two minds whether to go or not as I did feel really ill at this point but I did have to leave the house anyway to get to the chemist and luckily both the birds were right by the road so I headed off. The Firecrest was just by the road entrance to the disused railway line under the A6 bridge near Stanwick Lakes, and when I got there other birders were already thumbing up to say it was still there. Steve Fisher and Big Jake got me onto it pretty much straight away and I was awarded with the sight of this amazing little gem flitting around in the Willow Trees. What a stunning bird and I don't believe you could ever tire of watching them. What they lack in size they certainly make up for in character and colour. I watched it for quite a long time and rattled off some passable shots like this one below.
From here I headed to the Stanwick Lakes car park to try and see the Black Necked Grebe. By now I was really flagging with the Bronchitis but Steve mentioned the bird had headed into the south east corner of the lake which as luck would have it was right next the car park. I headed up through the screen where I knew there was a bay and hey presto! Right under the trees infront of me a glorious looking Black Necked Grebe was almost sparkling in the sunlight. We normally only get these in the winter when they look fairly drab and the only other sum plum Black Necked I'd seen in the county was so distant at Pitsford Reservoir you couldn't appreciate it like you could this one. To add to it I even managed to get it to pose for the photo below.
Anyway things are now looking up. The weather is changing finally for the warmer and I'm finally starting to feel better too. I've seen my first butterflies of the year with 2 Peacocks and a Comma so it looks like spring is finally around the corner!