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Biggest Twitch
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A taste of Honey and more

A very early start to our birdwatching weekend "up north" saw us driving up the motorway in ideal conditions: dry, sunny and warm. After a breakfast stop we reached a lovely valley and found a good vantage point to wait. We were well prepared with folding chairs, cold drinks and snacks. As the temperature rose we enjoyed plenty of birds in the tranquil spot. A Green Woodpecker fed on a grassy bank, Tree Pipit posed for us, Stock Doves looked on from a dead tree. But it was birds of prey that we had come to see and they were keeping their heads down.

Common Buzzard mobbed
At last a raptor appeared!

A Common Buzzard, not what we were hoping for but always good to see. We kept scanning and picked up Kestrel and an Osprey soaring high, but still not what we wanted.

Honey Buzzard Cumbria
At last! A Honey Buzzard soaring over the valley!

Our long vigil was rewarded with prolonged views of a Honey Buzzard soaring above us, what a brilliant bird. Many thanks to the local birder who told us about this special place. We were all elated by the brilliant views of this rare raptor. Through the Leica telescopes every detail could be seen.

A celebration lunch was called for and we headed for a nearby cafe for a very tasty lunch and to re-live the morning's great birding.

We then headed off west and to a very different place indeed. No scenic valley here, instead the nuclear power station at Heysham in Lancashire. But we had come to look for another very special bird.

We followed the razor wire perimeter fence down to the shore, then walked along the concrete seawall out below the brooding reactor towers.

Heysham Power Station
Not the prettiest birding location!

Grey Seal Heysham
A large Atlantic Grey Seal was just below the wall.

Heysham birders
We settled in for another wait for our target bird.

Black headed Gulls ad juv Heysham
Gulls were coming in to feed at the outfalls, Black-headed Gulls here.

Med Gull juv Heysham
Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were also giving brilliant views.

Black headed Gulls juv 1 Heysham
The close looks were ideal for improving gull ID skills.

Med Gull juv Heysham 2
Another Mediterranean to compare with the Black-headed above.

Heysham Harbour
The nearby Heysham harbour mouth: giant cotton reel or miniature lighthouse?

Our careful scanning of the gulls coming and going at the power station outfalls was rewarded when the adult breeding-plumaged Bonaparte's Gull joined the other gulls just below us! This vagrant from North America was very mobile, dip feeding over the boiling water of the outflow amongst the Black-headed, Common and Mediterranean Gulls. It was so mobile we failed to get a good picture but the views were very good indeed. All too soon the Bonaparte's Gull moved off north and flew around the harbour wall and out of sight.

A great day of very special birds in very different habitats! We ended the first day of our weekend with a lovely pub dinner, sitting outside in warm sunshine, overlooking a tidal river that was alive the birds. Perfect.

Part two of our weekend coming soon....


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