With Dan on family duties and Tim deciding to stay at home following his bird/rail travels during the midweek myself and Wayne decided to go twitching in Somerset and Devon, a late phone call to Geri made up a three and we set off from Cardiff at 08.00 with Wayne at the helm.
Our first port of call was to be Knighton in Somerset where an obliging Hoopoe had spent most of the previous week,this would be a U.K "tick" for me having disappointingly dipped on one at Tredegar Park,Newport about 5 years ago and being away on holiday when the Cefn Cribbwr bird turned up in 2005.
We duly arrived at about 09.10 thanks to Birdguides excellent directions and were greeted by about another 15 birders all looking for what was appearing to be pretty elusive bird despite it being seen regularly every day previously.
It had been seen briefly about 1/2 mile from it's favourite haunt at the rear of the farm buildings and people set off in various directions in search,we walked to the brow of the track,the highest point,and scanned the surrounding fields but to no avail.
After about 1 1/4 hours we were starting to get a little despondent(as you do when on a tight schedule) as we really thought the bird would be very easy to find when I decided to relieve my aching bladder behind the hay barns and possibly add a Hoopoe to my p**s list.
Feeling much relieved I scanned the fields at the rear of the barns and through the bins spied what I first thought may be a Little Owl on top of a fence post about 250m away,hurridly putting up the scope the Little Owl magicly turned into the Hoopoe.
A quick phone call soon had the rest of the crowd on the bird and although distant a good view was had by all and we even got a flight view as the bird was disturbed by a dog walker and it flew to it's regular patch at the rear of the farm.
With a U.K "tick" under my belt and feeling pretty pleased with myself for finding the bird we set off in search of our next target species which was the 2nd W Laughing Gull at Countess Wier in Exeter.
This was to prove much easier as the bird was on a flood at the side of the roundabout on the main road as you turn left to Dawlish and a few birders were already on the bird.
A convenient lay-by soon saw us parked up quickly and Geri soon picked up the gull which with it's dark grey mantle stood out like a sore thumb.
It really looked dark compared with the accompanying Black Headed and Common Gulls.
With another bird in the bag and being so near to the turn off from the main road we headed along the back lanes to the fields above Exminster village in search of Cirl Bunting and Woodlark.
A walk across the stubble field soon had Geri picking out a male Cirl Bunting in the hedgerow which was quickly joined by another male and a couple of females,there were also good numbers of House Sparrows,Chaffinches,Linnets and Reed Buntings.
We walked back to the car across the field searching for Woodlark as we went but were unlucky on this occasion and notched up our first "dip" of the day.
Next stop was Exminster marshes for a Green Winged Teal which we were particularly anxious to get as this was a "lifer" for Wayne and only a 3rd for myself after previous birds at Starcross on the Exe and at Penclacwydd.
We scanned every visible pool from the canal towpath but each Teal we picked out had the horizontal bar and not the vertical bar we were looking for.
Wayne suggested we go back to the car and return along the track to view a pool closer to the track that was not very visible from the canal,this we did and as soon as we got out of the car Geri picked out the bird,we had driven past it and spent the best part of 3/4 hr seaching the marsh in vain !!
It was a nightmare to try and digi-scope as it was into the sun and the bird kept moving behind small reedy tussocks whilst continuosly feeding so apologies for the crap photo.
With another target bird in the bag we headed for Otterton nr Budleigh Salterton where a Cattle Egret had been hanging out for several months.
We found the location and despite a thorough search of the fields we chalked up our second "dip"of the day.
We did however enjoy a pleasant walk along the river bank adjacent the fields where the bird had been frequently seen and Wayne picked up on a Mink on the riverbank which hadn't noticed us,I quickly got my scope up but just as I took a photo the bl**dy animal turned it's head !!
It was by now early evening and so we set off to our last location which was to be a detour to Cheddar Reservoir on our way home.
Lesser Scaup with a supporting cast of Greater Scaup and Great Northern Diver had been reported from there and not long after arriving in the gathering gloom we were soon on the Lesser Scaup which was associating with a small group of Tufted Ducks.
The GN Diver was soon picked out but the Scaup were proving far more elusive.
A large gull roost was assembling and in the gathering gloom Geri picked out a 1st W Iceland Gull which despite the darkness stood out like a beacon because of it's white plumage.
We kept scanning as gulls were coming in thick and fast and about 20 mins later yours truly picked out a 1st W Glaucous Gull which was quickly confirmed by our illustrious County Recorder.
The light was now failing fast and since arriving digi-scoping was very difficult,all the target species were very distant and with darkness closing in my camera was setting itself to 800 and 1600 ISO so apologies once again for the quality of the pics.
That said the day had turned into one of my best ever,3 "Yanks",1"Med",2 high Arctic and a very localized scarcity,a U.K first for me,a lifer for Wayne and several "year ticks" for Geri to boot,not a bad day for a bit of "fairly local" twitching !!