(7) Blog Posts Made in February 2014
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 2 Mar 14
Cream-coloured Courser at Akrotiri Gravel Pits on 26 Feb.
Monday and the standard trip to Akhna Dam as there’s not enough light yet to do anything else. Anyway, 3 Green Sandpipers and a Redshank were still present although a Ringed Plover was new in situ. A Common Buzzard flushed them and around the corner 2 Great White Egrets lurked amongst the 8 Grey Herons. 4 Moorhens was my largest count for a while and a Bluethroat called and showed briefly. A Water Pipit was overhead calling and as I watched, 137 Cormorants were in formation flying NE – a recognised migration pattern for this time of year. 8 Teal are hanging on but there wasn’t much to talk about.
On Tuesday I ventured to the Cape Greco area and although the weather looked promising, there was little about. The male Blue Rock Thrush was still present as were 2 Black Redstarts and several Stonechats. 2 male Cyprus Warblers were present along with a few Sardinians and a single Song Thrush. It appeared that many species had thinned out including the female Finsch’s Wheatear. I continued to Ayia Napa Sewage Works where 46 Little Grebes were on the lagoons and in the area 7 Song Thrushes, a Common Buzzard but little else. The rare Ochris papillionacea palestina (Caspian Butterfly Orchid) is in bud and should be in flower when the AOS are here. I also photographed Yellow Bee Orchid and a good stand of Giant Orchids. That was about it as nothing much of interest was at Sotira Pond and Paralimni Lake but the area is looking good for migrant waders in a few weeks.
On Wednesday, with late news of a Cream-coloured Courser* at Akrotiri Gravel Pits on Tuesday evening , I successfully twitched a very obliging and confiding individual that positively ran at the camera! A superb bird and Cyprus “tick”; the Courser family always gives me pleasure! At Larnaca Sewage Works the Geese made an unexpected appearance 12 Lesser Whitefronts and a Greylag. 2 Gadwalls were also present and on Spiro’s Pool, 11 Ruff. Several resplendent pink Slender-billed Gulls were amongst the Black-heads at the Salt Lake and c850 Shelducks were still present. I returned home as quickly as I could to find that I was subject of a Comp B and was homeward bound.
Due to the fact that I have to fly to the UK on compassionate leave with Debs at 2200 on Thursday, that’s the enforced abridged version of this week’s BLOG. For the first time in 20 months, there will be no BLOG next week – apologies.
Highlights of the Week: The immaculate Cream-coloured Courser – what else?
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 23 Feb 14
Steppe Grey Shrike (palidiostrostis) at Pervolia on 18 Feb.
On Monday, I drove to the north after work and at Fresh Water Lake South, 2 Great White Egrets, nesting Cattle Egrets (c400) and a Common Sandpiper were the highlights. The Cormorant roost had increased to 52, the best count so far. Then something strange happened, Deb and I were invited into the stables next to where I stand by the Turkish owners. In the back there is a BAR. We were wined and dined and the owner offered a BBQ and some beers when the AOS visit if I contact him – an option for sure. Even if we just have a beer. I will be talking to him and sorting out some sort of arrangement. As I had a beer and tried to decline another, I mentioned that I had to drive, he replied “Don’t worry, I’m a policeman, just give me a call” – I thought Oh no – what could possibly go wrong?
On Tuesday, I had to take Deb to the polyclinic in Limasol and stopping at Agia Trias once more, I was unsuccessful with the Margansers. I did however stop in the Larnaca area on route and at the sewage works, 5 Black Francolins strutted their stuff (3 males) and I saw my first Slender-billed Gulls of the year (5). I scanned the water’s edge finding 8 Ruff and 3 Black-winged Stilts and on the water 5 Black-necked Grebes (greatly reduced), a pair of Gadwalls (still hanging on), a female Marsh Harrier and over 150 Little Grebes. The nearby airport fields held a Red-throated Pipit and a Meadow Pipit. I met the recorder Jane Stylianou and purchased a couple of 2012 bird reports as I was “Mentioned In Despatches” a couple of times. She also said she’d show me where the Steppe Grey Shrike* was. I drove to the area, got out of the car and there it was sat atop a bush. Not as tame as the one I saw in Lincolnshire several years ago that many will attest to but it did allow a fairly close approach for some relatively good images. The third I’ve seen in Cyprus and it’s probably been over-wintering in an area that isn’t watched very much – in the middle of a housing estate – very bizarre but perfect habitat for it. I dove to Limasol stopping at Finikaria where a Grey Wagtail was in the stream, a Common Sandpiper was on a muddy island and a cracking adult Bonelli’s Eagle drifted over the nearby hills. As I returned to Ay Nik at break-neck speed an adult Long-legged Buzzard was over the motorway at Zygi.
I had driven as fast as I could because I’d been informed that the Margansers were usually present from 1530 – 1630, which would explain why I hadn’t connected with them previously. I eventually got to Agia Trias at about 1615 and after seeing 5 Grey Plovers, a Greater Sand Plover and a Yellow-legged Gull on the rocks, I eventually found 4 female Red-breasted Mergansers floating on the sea a distance away. I drove to another bay, only to see the birds flying to the area where I’d previously been scanning them. Flushed by a fishing boat, I returned to scope them and attempted to move closer, when a fisherman flushed the birds giving me flight views. I drove along the coast and the birds alighted once more heading toward Cape Greco and were lost to sight. I returned to the car muttering about being given the run-around and chasing what are common British birds. However, they were a Cyprus “tick” for me and after Debs commented “STOP Winging”, I thought she did have a point.
In the morning as I walked out of the house a Blackcap was singing as was a Chiffchaff – the first I’ve heard singing this year. In work at least 1 pair of House Martins have returned to last year’s nest. I walked around Cape Greco in the afternoon but sadly there were no early migrants. 2 female Finsch’s Wheatears* were present along with a male Blue Rock Thrush. Several Black Redstarts and 3 Linnets were to be found and Stonechats numbered 8. A couple of Meadow Pipits hung around and a lone Swallow passed through. I checked Agia Trias once more but only the 5 Grey Plovers, 1 Greater Sand Plover, coming into breeding plumage and 1 Yellow-legged Gull was present with no sign of the Mergansers.
On Thursday afternoon I visited Oroklini Marsh, stopping on the way at Dhekelia Power Station where 2 Shags were sat on the mooring buoys, at Dolphin Rocks, Oroklini Coast, 2 Sandwhich Terns were amongst the Black-headed Gulls with 1 adult Common Gull, an adult Armenian Gull and 3 Caspian Gulls. At the manmade JUMBO Drainage Channel, 3 Temminck’s Stints were still there with 6 Spur-winged Plovers and 6 Little Ringed Plovers. At Oroklini Marsh, finally, a year tick with 2 male Penduline Tits, first heard calling ant then seen in the reeds. On the water were 4 Red-crested Pochards (1 drake), 3 drake Pintails, 9 Greater Flamingos and 3 Black-winged Stilts. At the south end of the marsh, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Redshanks, 11 Shelduck and a displaying Fan-tailed Warbler. I returned home via Akhna Dam, where a Great White Egret perched in the tamarisks and a Black Francolin male called from a raised mound of earth. 2 Redshanks were vocal and there had obviously been a small movement of Green Sandpipers as 5 were present.
On Friday morning, the Blackcap in the garden continued to sing its little face off amongst the morning fog. If only there is fog like this in a month’s time when the AOS tour is on – there will surely be a big fall to work through, I live in hope. On Friday afternoon at Akhna Dam, the 2 Great Crested Grebes had returned, Bluethroats were seen singing as were Blackcaps and with Fan-tailed Warblers in display flight, Spring had certainly arrived. 3 Great White Egrets were present and a Marsh Harrier passed overhead. As I returned home 5 Common Swifts, my first of the year passed over the house.
On Saturday I attended a KUSKOR field meeting, taking in a few new sites, but there wasn’t much doing although at Konyeli on the beach, 4 Yellow-legged Gulls were with 3 Caspians and a 2ND winter Audouin’s, with 6 Swifts over the house. I did see my first Cleopatra butterflies of the year and a Red Admiral at Merchinlik Dam. Silver Beach on the way home held 48 Greater Flamingos and at Gulserin a Common Gull was a surprise but 2 Slender-billeds less so amongst the Black-heads. 2 Little Stints and a Dunlin fed actively, whilst 8 Ringed Plovers were amongst the Spur-winged Plovers. On Sunday, I had arranged to meet a friend to conduct the first Orchid hunt of the season. A little later than last year, I need to get my skates on to catch a few early ones I missed previously. On route to the Orchid Glade at Akrotiri, I stopped in the Larnaca area, where 8 Ruff and 4 Black-winged Stilts were on the sewage works lagoons with a Marsh Harrier. At least 3 Black Francolins were heard calling and a Red-throated Pipit flew over calling. At the airport fields, my first Isabelline Wheatear of the year put in an appearance. I moved onto Petounta Point – this looks like an excellent migrant spot for the AOS trip! To prove the point, my 2nd Isabelline Wheatear of the year showed well.
At Phasouri Reed Beds, 2 Penduline Tit were in the open and a rather more skulky Bluethroat sang from the reeds. Marsh Harriers were above the reeds and Song Thrushes flushed from them. A female Blackcap put on a show and a Common Buzzard flew from its perch. Along the road 15 Shelducks were on Akrotiri Salt Lake. I met Lynne at the orchid glade and the hunt began, quickly adding Orchis funerea* which I’d missed last year. As we walked around we saw at least 6 species and as we returned to the car, my first Great Spotted Cuckoo* flushed and then unusually sat in the open for the camera – a great moment as I’ve wanted to photograph one since being here, a truly spectacular species. That over we drove to Anoigya in the hills above Episkopi where we passed 3 Griffon Vultures and a Black Redstart. In the Anoigya and Agia Thomas area orchids were everywhere and I soon caught up with Orchis quadripuctata (Four-spotted Orchid)*, a delicate species and another I’d missed last year. We continued the searching and racked up a few more species eventually finding Ophrys sintenisii* and Ophrys transhyrcana* (2 types of Spider Orchid), which I’d also failed with last year. By the end of the day, we’d seen 17 species of orchid – not a bad count and 4 new species. On the way home over the motorway at Zygi a Long-legged Buzzard drifted effortlessly. Stopping at Oroklini Marsh briefly revealed 2 Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and a 1st Winter and at the coast at Dolphin Rocks, 10 were present including 8 adults (2 in complete breeding plumage), a 2nd winter and a 1st winter – the biggest count this year, with a single Sandwich Tern also being present.
Highlights of the Week: A Cyprus “tick” with 4 female Red-breasted Mergansers and a Steppe Grey Shrike – my 3rd for the island, with news of migrants moving, Isabelline Wheatears and a chance encounter with a cracking Great Spotted Cuckoo.
Look Forward: Migrant hunting and preps for the AOS Tour.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 16 Feb 14
Monk Parakeet at Athens National Garden-14 Feb 14
I managed to get out after work on Monday for the first time this year, it’s getting lighter and birding opportunities are improving. Akhna Dam held a Great White Egret, Redshank, 4 Snipe, a couple of Song Thrush and a Cetti’s Warbler, whilst on the way home a Little Owl had returned to its roost site in Vrysoulles. On 11th I visited the Larnaca area and at the sewage works found a lone drake Ferruginous Duck amongst 500 or so Coots. A pair of Wigeon were still present but wildfowl had reduced considerably. With 3 Black-winged Stilts and a female Marsh Harrier with 24 Black-necked Grebes, that concluded the interesting sightings for the site. In the airport fields, a lone Lapwing fed and was flushed by a female Hen Harrier. 2 Cormorants were offshore but little else was present except for c250 Golden Plovers on Spiro’s Pool. At the north airport pool, 5 Stone Curlews were unexpected with 4 Redshanks being amongst the numerous Black-headed Gulls. I progressed to the north end of the salt lake as I hadn’t visited for a while. Shelducks had increased to c900 making quite a site and Greater Flamingos only numbered about c150. As I waded about in my wellies, I heard and then located a singing Moustached Warbler – always nice to hear but usually means that they’re not going to be around much longer. Certainly seeing one in the last week of February is unusual. A Reed Bunting responded to a bit of “pishing” but the 6 or 7 Water Pipits flushed along with a Bluethroat. Snipe were numerous and 8 Spur-winged Plovers were very noisy and must be breeing. A Green Sandpiper flew from the reeds calling with Redshanks as 3 Swallows and a Marsh Harrier were overhead. As I returned to the car c4500 Starlings in mermeration made quite a spectacle before they roosted in the reeds.
On Wednesday I had to visit Troodos for a meeting which ended at about 1500. I walked to the village seeing many of the common mountain species along with my first Jay of the year. 5 Crossbills were nice to see as was a close Short-toed Treecreeper. As I continued to walk the area a large flock of birds flew up from the ground and perched in the surrounding pines, I got onto a few and they were Yellowhammers - a difficult bird in Cyprus. As I followed them around there must have been 20+ in the area. Several perched in a pine in front of me and I was struck by a brown and white bird lacking any yellow undertones with a brownish/grey head and an obvious whitish supercillium. I soon realised that it must be a female 1st winter Pine Bunting – probably annual in the Troodos range but rarely recorded. I have submitted a description pending the adjudication from the Cyprus sub-rarities committee.
On Thursday morning we flew to Athens although, a House Martin was a Larnaca Airport before we left and a Black Francolin was calling. We arrived in Athens to warm sunshine and the first birds were House Sparrows, Magpies and Kestrels. We walked around in the early afternoon and many of the usual city and park birds were present including an obliging Starling*. On 14th, Friday we visited the Acropolis where Yellow-legged Gulls and a Peregrine were overhead. As we descended the slopes and walked around, a Robin* posed for the camera as did a Blackbird*. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing and seen as was a male Sardinian Warbler. Finally, a female Black Redstart* sat up for the camera. Song Thrushes were dashing between the trees and after watching the “changing of the guard” at Syntagma Square – the Presidential Palace (not sure this drill or dress will catch on) we moved to the city’s National Garden. I was extremely pleased to catch up with…… wait for it a Blue Tit*, having not seen one for 20 months since leaving the UK, it was a good moment. Commoner birds like Magpies* posed for the camera and Blackbirds were everywhere singing. I photographed a sign* which in Greek and English, a Greek Cypriot would surely understand and yet at the same time have absolutely no comprehension of. It reminded me when I saw common birds behaving like they do in the UK what a detrimental effect a destructive culture like the Cypriots have on the environment and wildlife. As seems to be the norm in Southern European cities now, the ubiquitous Parakeet colonies – this time Monk Parakeets* with several Ring-necked Parakeets*. I also photographed a Grey Wagtail* in the park and in the nearby Temple of the Olympian Zeus, I photographed a Serin which was one of about 15 feeding on the grass with Chaffinches.
As we walked around Athens in the evening, I heard a pair of calling European Scops Owls and a Little Owl. My final bird before leaving Athens on Sunday afternoon was a Hawfinch at the Acropolis flying into an area of old oak trees. A respectable 24 species on my newly started Greek List. We returned to Cyprus at 1815 and it was dark. I opened my email to find that Bramblings in Troodos, a Steppe Grey Shrike at Pervolia and 4 Red-breasted Mergansers at Ayia Trias had been seen in my absence.
Highlights of the Week: A 1st Winter Female Pine Bunting amongst Yellowhammers (description submitted – awaiting acceptance by the Sub-rarities committee).
Look Forward: A hunt for a reported Steppe Grey Shrike and the rarity chase.
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It is still very wet with roads flooded and bournes full. Tilshead and Shrewton have traffic lights in place to control traffic through the floods. The tracks are covered in mud from armourd vehicles and tanks are about. I have been out twitching especially the Red-flanked Bluetail which was not too far away. I even drove to Cepe Country Park for the Leser Yellowlegs after watching a Bittern at Blashford Lakes. I finished the day with Hawfinch at Blackwater Arboretum. Yesterday during the Hen Harrier survey I added Merlin to this year's list of birds. At NZ Farm a firefight put off quite a few birds from flying direct including a Hen Harrier but afterwards a Short-eared Owl did not deviate. The previous day a Short-eared Owl flew low right past me at Vedette 6. At Thorncombe Farm a Woodcock and 2 Snipe were flushed and another Woodcock was flushed at Grant's Farm. In the wood a male Bullfinch gave fantastic views and 3 Goldcrest were flitting around at the entrance into the woods by the valley track. There were 18 species on the walk despite the very strong winds. There are hundreds of Fieldfares and Starlings scattered across the Plain and Golden Plover are still present as are Lapwings. A drive around woods and hedgerows at midnight did not attract a Long-eared Owl and all the surveys conducted suggest that they are not present but I am sure there has to be one somewhere. The area is so large that not all of it is covered and all this rain does not help by limiting nights out.
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Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 9 Feb 14
Great Crested Grebes at Akhna Dam
* Indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.
It’ll soon be light enough to get to Akhna Dam on a Monday after work but not quite.
On Tuesday I visited the Larnaca area and there appears to have been mass exodus of Wildfowl from the sewage works as numbers were greatly reduced and no Geese were evident. A drive along Spiro’s Beach revealed 2 fishing and plunge diving Sandwich Terns and a Marsh Harrier over the Airport Fields. On the South Pool, a Heuglin’s Gull was present amongst the other white headed Gulls and 14 Shelduck were present. Moving on to the North side of the Salt Lake, the gull roost was looking healthy but other than a Mediterranean Gull there wasn’t much of interest. As I walked along by the hide a Reed Bunting sat atop a reed but sadly that was the highlight of the day.
An enjoyable couple of hours was spent at Cape Greco on Wednesday where a number of decent birds were seen but not any early migrants. On route to Ayia Thekla a field near the road revealed the presence of 15 Golden Plovers, a Stone Curlew and 3 Lapwings. At Ayia Thekla, I quickly located 4 Greater Sand Plovers with Kentish Plovers and a couple of Dunlin. I moved onto Kermia Beach where not surprisingly a pair of adult Audouin’s Gulls were still in residence and in the sea offshore, drifting east a pair of Great Crested Grebes which is unusual. A wander around the Cape Greco produced a couple of Linnets and further on a pair of Cyprus Warblers, Spectacled Warbers and Sardinian Warblers. The male Blue Rock Thrush continued its winter stay as did the female light-throated Finsch’s Wheatear. A Common Buzzard was at the rubbish tip as I returned to the car. On the way home I drove around the back of the Ay Nik camp area close to the buffer zone. The first Fan-tailed Warbler of the month was noisy and a Common Buzzard drifted overhead. As I searched the edge of the Mesaoria Plain, I sighted a dark falcon that perched on a clod of earth. I scoped it and the heavy streaking on the breast and small bill with distinct creamy supercillium identified the bird as a fairly large dark female Merlin - a difficult bird to catch up with in Cyprus and one that’s easily missed off year list even though they winter in small numbers. An early Swallow was on the wires in Vrysoulles as I returned home.
In the afternoon, I drove to the North and at Clapsides Beach a Temminck’s Stint and Redshank were in a muddy channel and a Grey Plover with 15 Golden Plovers was on the rocks. At Gulserin 136 Greater Flamingos were feeding and 7 Shelducks were present but not much else. I stopped a the Fresh Water Lake South on the way home but nothing out of the ordinary was present. On the 6th Feb, I drove to Akhna Dam in the afternoon and a female Sparrowhawk was chasing a flock of c100 Starlings with 3 Great White Egrets around the dam. A Cetti’s Warbler gave itself up eventually and 13 Swallow passed over the dam. I located the Great Crested Grebe* only to find a second bird the Grebes posed perfectly in the setting sun reflection* - I almost got emotional. On the 7th I wasn’t feeling too special so stayed in and watched the Bucket List – what a great film. The 8th saw a day out in Nicosia with Deb but on the way home 19 Golden Plovers were in fields at Pervolia. I eventually located Petounta Point, having not been there before it was a recce for the AOS trip – it looks like a great place for some early morning sea watching and a real migrant trap. On Sunday I was busy with work so couldn’t get out.
Highlights of the Week: A female Merlin was a good find.
Look Forward: The search for early migrants and firsts for the year has commenced.
Birding Highlights for the Week Ending 2 Feb
Spotted Redshank at Oroklini Coast
*Indicates that a photo of the species is included please visit Flickr site to view.
On the 28th I visited the north to find the usual species at Clapsides beach including a Grey Plover, 5 Ringed Plovers and 14 Kentish Plovers. Gulserin held good numbers of Teal and a couple of Redshanks amongst the Spur-winged Plovers whilst the highlight at Fresh Water Lake South were 2 Great White Egret – not what can be described as an epic start to the week by any stretch of the imagination. On Wednesday, having not been to Akhna Dam for a while a visit was due. No sooner had I put my bins up, I got onto an adult Little Gull*, a new bird for me at the site and my 198th for Akhna Dam. 11 Reed Buntings flushed – somewhat of a record count and on the water I managed a distant shot of a Great Crested Grebe* – a scarce winter visitor. A Water Pipit and male Blackcap were worthy sightings.
In the hope of finding some early migrants I visited the Cape Greco Rubbish Tip area on Thursday. Not the most aesthetically pleasing place you’ll ever visit (and the AOS will), but it does turn up the birds. Last Spring I saw 6 species of Wheatear in a morning! On this occasion it was situation normal with 3 Blue Rock Thrushes, 2 Black Redstarts and several Song Thrushes. 17 Starlings were strange for the site and a Long-legged and Common Buzzard were predictable for the time of year. At Ayia Napa Sewage Works birds were at a minimum, however, my first orchids of the year with the early flowering Fan-lipped* and Giant*, with the rare Caspian Butterfly Orchid, showing leafs.
At Akhna Dam on Friday, a Swallow was hawking the water and the Great Crested Grebe was still present. 3 Wigeon were also still there with 2 Great White Egrets, although to be honest it was a fairly dull affair. When I returned home there was an email from Colin Richardson reporting a Rock Bunting in the north at Five Finger Mountain and a Red-fronted Serin at Anarita Park. I decided to go for the Rock Bunting on Saturday and await news of the Serin for a possible trip on Sunday. Deb went with me to the mountains in the north, a site that I will visit again as it has lots of potential for migrants. After about an hour or so, I could hear a Bunting but I couldn’t find it. Descending the steep slope, I caught site of a bird with white outer tail feathers and as it perched on a bush, I got my scope on it for about 15 seconds. With an unmistakeable head pattern it was a young male Rock Bunting – result, a Cyprus “tick”. 2 Black Redstarts and a male Cyprus Warbler were noted with commoner passerines. We drove along the mountain road towards Esenteppe and at a viewpoint got another couple of year ticks with a Wren and the difficult to find these days, pair of Raven. Driving back to Famagusta, I stopped at Guvercinlik plains and amongst the numerous Skylarks and Crested Larks were 3 Calandras and a flushed Black Francolin female. The Famagusta Wetlands held little of interest so I returned home to negative news of the Red-fronted Serin, so I’d made a good decision with the Rock Buntings.
On Sunday, driving past Akhna Dam 7 Starlings and a ringtail Hen Harrier flew over me. At Oroklini Coast, the first Spotted Redshank* of the year posed for the camera, a Little Egret fed and numerous Black-headed Gulls loafed. Dropping Deb at the dreaded JUMBO, I checked the newly found drain and in it was a revelation, 6 Temminck’s Stints, 6 Little Ringed Plovers – the first for the year, 2 Teal, a Spur-winged Plover, Cattle Egret and a Snipe. I proceeded to Oroklini Marsh where 4 Pintails (3 males) were the highlight. A Bluethroat was present and my first 8 House Martins of the year were amongst good numbers of Swallows. In the Larnaca gull roosts, at least 9 Armenian Gulls, 2 Siberian Gulls, a Baltic Gull and large numbers of Caspian Gulls with 3 Mediterranean Gulls were present with the usual C600 Shelduck. On the edge of the salt lake, waders were well represented with Little Stints, Dunlins, Redshanks, Kentish and Ringed Plovers and a single Sanderling was a good find. A male Peregrine fed on a freshly caught wader and a ghostly male Hen Harrier quartered the cereal fields. At the Sewage Works, 11 Black-necked Grebes were present, 2 in breeding plumage but in windy conditions viewing was difficult. I returned via Akhna Dam where at least 100 Spanish Sparrows roosted and 2 Swallows were present.
Highlights of the Week: A Cyprus tick was a good start to the year with a couple of very scarce wintering Rock Buntings.
Look Forward: With Swallows, House Martins, a couple of waders and Great Spotted Cuckoo being reported, Wheatears must arrive soon.