I got over to the local patch about 8.30am and within a few minutes had a brief view of seven WAXWINGS by the railway line before a train disturbed them and they flew off.
Shortly afterwards local birder Jerry arrived and it wasn't long before I noticed some largish dark birds flying in from the north. As they passed over we realised that we were looking at the first five CURLEWS to be seen at Holmethorpe this year (and the 141st species to noted here in 2010). They carried on south towards the landfill site and out of view. As is always the way, I didn't have the camera ready and as a consequence the shot below shows five small smudges that were actually the Curlews as they disappeared into the distance (you'll have to take my word for it!).
(Neil has voted this as the worst of my bad photos - we'll see whose laughing when this graces the front cover of Birding World - where's my award?)
A few minutes later some Fieldfares and Redwings landed on a hawthorn not far from us and amongst them was a single WAXWING. That was two local year ticks for Jerry in the space of a few minutes - if only it was always like that.
Jerry headed off to work and shortly after that I was joined by Neil Randon of 'Randon's Ramblings' fame. We stood chatting for a while and admiring the many Redwings and Fieldfares present along the railway embankment but a Grey Wagtail passing over calling was the best we could do. No more Waxwings showed so Neil headed home.
I had a wander around the path that runs alongside The Moors nature reserve and found two Chiffchaffs in the reeds by a frozen pool and four Egyptian Geese, a pair of which were mating. I know this species often has young very early in the year. Plenty of Teal, Gadwall and a few Shovelers were on the pools.
As I headed home, a male Kestrel was in the brook by the bridge along the road. It was actually in the water and obviously devouring prey. It flew a little way along the brook carrying its meal and hid amongst some dead vegetation and continued ripping its prey apart. Whatever its prey was, it was surprisingly large for a Kestrel to be carrying and I wondered if it was the Water Rail that I have seen at this particular spot on a couple of occasions recently - I hope not.
Later in the day, I had a call from Paul who had connected with the WAXWINGS after failing to see them yesterday. The flock had now increased to around 30 birds but were distant in a tree along the railway embankment.
As is usual, they were soon disturbed by a train and took flight, heading towards Mercers Country Park. A very short while later Paul was joined by Kevin 'Kojak' Guest, one of the regulars at Beddington SF who keeps a Holmethorpe list as well as his Beddington and numerous other ones. Unfortunately, Kevin had just missed the Waxwings but he got a superb photo of a Kingfisher carrying a fish and also noted two Green Sandpipers, 13 Common Snipe, 7 Egyptian Geese, a LITTLE EGRET, around 20 Fieldfare and 30 Redwing.
Later Paul sent me some photos and a video clip of a male Brambling and a male Siskin he had visiting his garden feeders a few miles away from Holmethorpe.
All in all, not a bad day's birding but I'll have to return tomorrow morning as I want to get a closer photo of the Waxwings - some flippin' hope!.