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What a Hoot

I have visited Swillington Ings many, many times in the past for more years than I care to remember (I grew up down the road in York!) but always accessed from the Fleet Lane side and went to the Hide for members. But today for the first time ever I visited the flegdling St.Aiden's RSPB reserve (I used to visit the lake here long before the reserve too).

I've got to say what a brilliant job they've done and are still doing - management work was being undertaken today, but not causing much disturbance at all. The welcome from staff at the visitor centre was great and after this experience I'll be going back lots in the future. My first port of call was the machinery compound in the car park to look for the Little Owls. Sure enough one was sitting on the rigging and gave great views (see pic), I even took other birders back to show them where it was! Also on the machinery were nesting Kestrels and Stock Doves, all three species seemingly living in close quarters in perfect harmony! I headed round the reserve to the far reedbed complex (Western and Eastern Reedbeds) and had a Bittern booming right next to the path, but it never showed. Still a great experience being so close to a booming bird that it seemed to reverberate through my body. Also in abundance were Pochards, Tufted Ducks and a few Shovelers. Lapwings were also numerous and Skylarks sang all around me. On the walk round I recorded my first Sedge Warbler of 2019 and had views of Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings. Finally three superb Black-necked Grebes showed fabulously well on Bowers Lake, the one nearest the visitor centre. What a great morning, I will be back!

After the morning at St Aidan's RSPB I had a couple of hours before I needed to get home so I travelled the short distance down to South Emsall. Without a satnav and with not all roads having road name signs it was a bit of a nightmare to find the right place, but eventually I found Carr lane and headed down to the end. Parking up I walked under the railway bridge and slightly up the slope facing me. Immediately I could hear the unmistakeable song of the Iberian Chiffchaff that has been here a few days. Walking round to get the tree in view I was soon watching it, and it showed it's beautiful lemon wash to the breast sides very well. A clean yellower bird than 'our' collybita and much more Willow Warbler like. Given the way it was flitting around I decided against trying to digiscope it but instead just enjoyed watching it sing its heart out in the warm Yorkshire sunshine, no wonder they call it God’s Own Country.

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