I always say that when you set off birding with a wish list of species you always end up disappointed, but when you just go adhoc to enjoy the outdoors you can end up trumps! Today was one of those rare and exciting moments.
I'd completed some shopping in Leamington this morning and returned to the boat to find the wind hitting a healthy average of 27 km/h, gusting to 35 from the ESE. My roof plants were already taking a battering so in preparation for tonight's forecasted downpour I battened down the hatches early.
After a late lunch and my chores complete I decided to have a bracing stroll up to Napton Windmill before the rain set in. With reports of various migrants around the area I was quietly confident of at least a good count of Spotted Flycatcher, but really wasn't that bothered about scanning every tree and bush, my normal routine.
I arrived at the church just as the first spots of rain were beginning to fall and set off towards the windmill. A quick scan of the churchyard produced Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Treecreeper and a fair number of House Martin and Swallow. As I reached the Leys Farm gate the rain had begun to fall a bit heavier and so I took time out under the trees to search the surrounding area and came up trumps with a count of no less than 7 Spotted Flycatcher, all in the immediate vicinity. To my astonishment in the field were two of what I can only identify as Helmeted Guineafowl, domesticated of course, but I'd never seen these here before and a shock to the system nevertheless!
The rain had eased slightly and so I continued to the windmill with Mistle Thrush, always around this location, along with Buzzard, Raven and Kestrel. I emerged at the top and decided to have a sit looking out across the county and down towards the old quarry, with the wind from the south-east this was a lovely sheltered spot too and the rain had now stalled.
Halfway down to the quarry I paused again to take a look at a small flock of tits which were feeding happily on the tumultuous selection of Blackberry, Elderberry and Hawthorn. Amongst the flock were Long-tailed, Blue a few Great and what I initially thought were 3 Goldcrest. You can imagine my delight when looking straight at me in the centre of my binoculars was a very pristine looking Firecrest, fiery orange crown and white eyebrow almost bursting out glaring at me, what an amazing jewel of a bird!! I watched the flock for about 10-minutes, only just managing to text my find to others, before I lost site of them as they went deeper into cover.
I continued down to the quarry and turned for the accent back up to the windmill, trying to beat the incoming shower, when something caught my eye perched atop a nearby bramble. An amazing co-incidence as just as I identified the bird as a Whinchat I received a text message from Brandon Marsh informing me of one there too. Delighted with my work I picked up the pace and made it back to the car just as the heavens opened once more, two gems under my belt and headed back a very contented man.