Monday, 19 February 2018

Holywell to St Mary's Island, Including White-Fronted Geese

18th Feb.  The Grey Heron is among a small number of bird species that helped hook me into becoming a birder many years ago.  It was during a summer holiday in the lake District that I watched a small number of these birds for several hours as they sought food in a beck between rests, with Fleetwith Pike to the north and the fell known as the Haystacks to the south.  Incidentally, Alfred Wainwright’s ashes are scattered on the top of Haystacks and my hat may still be there, one I left behind accidently in the 1970s.  I’ve since always found herons of any species interesting and usually attractive, so it was very rewarding when we found an unexpected Heronry on our travels yesterday.  We certainly weren’t aware of the presence of a heronry so wonder if it is just being established.

Our walk began with the sighting of the day in the fields west of Holywell Pond.  I estimated that perhaps there was a flock of between 400/500 Pink-Footed Geese, although having moved further along the footpath and found that behind the slope in the field the flock became denser, I revised my estimate upwards.  There were scattered numbers of Greylag and Canada Geese among the flock, but best of all two European White-Fronted Geese which we saw well.  Skeins of geese were to be heard or seen at stages throughout the walk today.  The presence of Wigeon on the pond was quickly giving away by their whistling calls.  Also present were Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Little Grebe.  Water Rail was heard and the feeders at the members hide were busy with Tree Sparrows and a couple of Reed Bunting along with tit species.  A pair of Canada Geese seemed determined to protect their space and acted to try and remove another pair which landed without much success.  By the time we were down to the public hide there was a large flock of Canada Geese on the water along with a White-Fronted Goose, one of the two we had seen in the field we assumed, but could not be certain.

Sam heard Yellowhammer as we walked down to the dene but there wasn’t much else about the hedges.  By the time we had settle din place in the dene on the look out for Dipper it felt and sounded like spring was in the air and it appeared that the area was in between the deadness of winter and new growth beginning to mark the new season.  It felt pleasantly mild following the cold days that had gone previously and there was much calling and song from the birds, most notably Song Thrush, Nuthatch and the varied calls of Great Tits.  I remembered back a few years to when we had stood in this area and Sam had recorded bird songs, which he tells me he still has.  One of the real pleasures I think is to stand or sit and let the birds come to you, there is far too much chasing after species in the modern birding scene in my opinion. It wasn’t long before we had two Dippers fly up stream whilst in song.  They were quickly followed by another Dipper.  We wondered if two pairs were having a territorial dispute.  We waited for at least one of the birds to reappear, but it never did, and we were unable to find a fourth bird which would have confirm two pairs were active, but perhaps that bird could have been at the nest site.  We know that it is now usual to have two breeding pairs in the dene.  It’s good that they cope with the constant disturbance.

The dene didn’t provide large numbers of species but by the time we had reached Seaton Sluice Bullfinches had provided some interest with calls and tentative attempts at beginning song.  From my observation Bullfinch seems to be doing ok in this region at present.  Nuthatch was seen hammering as if at an anvil and there were the usual large numbers of Robin, a Coal Tit among tit species, as well as the Long -Tailed Tits at the feeders.  It appears that friends of the dene have been busy with clearing ponds and forming a new one on the approach to Seaton Sluice, and a very good job they have done.  This should prove to be a very good area for dragonflies once there is some growth.   Redshank were found before reaching the harbour.

Our only disappointment had been the realisation that the Fish and Chip restaurant was closed on a Sunday now.  Not to be beaten we went to the café for a toastie and piece of cake.

The tide was higher than I had expected and there was very little in the way of passage over the sea.  Waders seen at Seaton Sluice were Oystercatchers, Turnstone and Purple Sandpipers.  We walked along to St Mary’s Island picking up Stonechat along the way and stopping at the cliff edge to watch several FulmarLapwings and Curlews were in the fields.  Once at the wetland it seemed that there were as many ponies on the sites as there were birds.  I had a laugh when one anxious dad told his small son to be quite so as not to disturb the birds.  I felt like saying ‘oh, it’s OK mate, there aren’t any birds here to disturb’.

A Kestrel hovered before flying along the low cliff edge and as we made off a female Sparrowhawk flew low over the field and perched for a time on the fence.  Once disturbed by passers- by, it flew off and landed some distance away.  It ended our day very nicely. 


We got a taxi home and had an interesting conversation with the driver about garden birds, the differences between Dartmoor and Exmoor Ponies (her brother had apparently been bitten in the stomach by a Dartmoor Pony…oooch) and the shambles North Tyneside Council are making to the green land that remains in the county.  Our friendly taxi driver seemed to know much about Dartmoor and its wildlife and I’m wondering if she would act as a guide. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Bay Watch

12th Feb.  We were greeted by the calls of Pink-footed Geese, ice sheets, potholes and puddles on arrival at East Chevington today, but the brisk walk to the mouth of the burn quickly warmed us through and the chill air was soon forgotten.  The reward was excellent sightings of the flock of Twite which to me seem to be getting more and more accustomed to folk passing by and certainly giving the watcher far more opportunity to study and/or photograph these birds than the flock used to further down the coast near Bell’s Pond.  There were no rarities among the flock, but the Twite were enough to please us after having visited in strong winds recently and found no sign of them.  There was a little wind today and the sunlit dunes made all the difference.  A small raft of Common Scoter and the odd Red-breasted Merganser appeared on the sea directly in front of us although waves made for difficulty in picking them up.  Sanderling and Ringed Plover were feeding along the tideline.  Two Skylark flew south along the dune line.  To the west the Pink-footed Geese lifted at times and flew amongst the wind turbines.  Having spent a good bit a time  by the mouth of the burn and having chatted to interested passers by we found that the geese had landed in the fields behind us and so we took a short walk south to take a closer look.  The majority of these birds were Pink-footed Geese, although there was also a sizeable flock of Greylag Geese.  Our checking of the geese paid off as Sam picked up a Red-breasted Goose at the back of the Pink-footed Flocks.  Such a smart species these Red-breasted Geese and its going on my year list, whatever the thought.  Full marks to Sam for picking it out as we weren’t aware that it was being reported here.

Twite

Beauty and the Beast

We took a walk along the east side of North Pool but didn’t find a great deal in the area or on the pool.  There was a number of Goldeneye, the odd Little Grebe and a few regular birds on the pond.  Our next stop was to be Druridge Pools.  As we approached the pools we passed an old friend of ours, but he must have been day dreaming and didn’t notice us.

Twite

We have still to catch sight of the Water Pipits!  There were numbers of Shoveler on the pools and of course numbers of Wigeon and Teal and we found a male Pintail.  Common Snipe was also seen.
We’ be getting a bad name as the café near Cresswell Pond was our next stop for a bacon sandwich and a chat to another old friend of ours who we met inside.  If that café issues shares I’m going to grab some!  It’s always full and I wonder where folk went before it opened.  After we had had our fill, the coffee cake was tempting, but the bacon sandwich filled me up, we returned to Cresswell Pond.  Once again there seemed to be little about and the water was of course high.  After watching the sizeable flocks of Wigeon and Teal at the north end of the pond and the Curlews in the fields to the East we decided to return to patch and check out the lake, but not before watching the Kestrel being harassed by corvids.

Twite

Twite

There are numbers of Goldeneye on the lake along with a small number of Goosander and today we found at least four Gadwall.  We remembered when Gadwall were never seen on the lake until maybe the last two or three years.  Best of all a Great Crested Grebe had returned, which to para-phrase the poet Ted Hughs, shows that the globe is still working!

A very enjoyable day, although even I (as one who likes winter) am looking forward to some warmer days.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Blowing In the Wind

How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand
How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they are forever banned
(Bob Dylan)

31st Jan.  Whether it be cold, rain, sleet, snow or mist, it doesn’t usually dent my birding enjoyment, but strong winds are something else, and so it was today, with very little about in the way of birds.

A stop at an icy cold and windswept Mitford in the slight hope that Hawfinch might appear proved fruitless, with the hornbeams blowing in the wind there was little in the way of birdlife showing.  I guess any Hawfinches will have been deep into the centre of the trees.  We’d seen a Kestrel on route.   Later all we saw at the burn, East Chevington was a flock of Ringed Plover seen at the tideline.  Sand blew around the area giving a rather pleasant look to the place, although if you had been standing amongst it, it would have perhaps been a lot less pleasant.  As we moved off the flock of Whooper Swans was found in the fields behind the dunes.  We didn’t even bother stopping at a barren North Pool which looked more like a choppy sea.  Greylag Geese were in the area.  Druridge Pools weren’t very rewarding, but I did add Black-tailed Godwit to the year list and as we sat eating lunch skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over giving us our highlight of the day.  We could see no White-fronted Geese amongst them.  A Stonechat appeared too.  The walk between hides and out of the wind was mild and pleasant in the sun.  Being blown about in the open Budge hide was not!  Other birds seen at the pools included Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Shoveler.


We didn’t even bother stopping at Cresswell Pond as from a distance it was apparent that the area was another windswept desert.  My visits to Cresswell of late have been unrewarding with either wind or high waters or both.  A stop at Newbiggin provided nice sightings of adult Mediterranean Gulls in flight and lit by the sun.  Nice to get the gulls sorted early in the year then I can forget about them. (just joking…well sort of).  The cafes were doing good business today and there were a few hardened walkers out and about.  We decided to add to the café coffers and stop for a cup of tea before heading for home.  So, the year listing has slowed down somewhat with only three new species added today.  I need to ensure I catch up with things during February.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Sunday Birding...Adding to the Year List

14th Jan.  I don’t suppose many birders are drawn to a Morrisons carpark of an early Sunday morning to do some birdwatching.  It was purely coincidental that I was.  As Sam purchased his breakfast at Greggs, I watched an almost empty carpark, as Rooks searched for left overs.  I guess much of it litter left by humans.  The lines of empty parking bays assisted me in gauging the space that each Rook seemed to take for a feeding territory.  Given more time I felt that this would make a good study, not that Morrisons carpark is ever empty for long during daylight hours, so the researcher would need to choose timings well!  We soon left the Rooks to their business, as we headed for Northumberland Park.  I’ve just completed my first read of 2018, begun in 2017, The Raven by Derek Ratcliffe.  There is a short chapter about intelligence in Ravens and I wondered to myself where Rooks would fall in the intelligence stakes amongst corvidae.  I very much like Derek Ratcliffe’s writings and hope to get around reading his work on the Peregrine this year.

We found no sign of the Firecrest as we stood in the cold, although admittedly we didn’t stand around too long.  Time wasn’t wasted however as we heard our first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker of the year and we were soon watching it drumming enthusiastically.  Stock Doves and other parkland species were seen, but overall it was a very quiet morning in the park.

Our next stop was to be Prestwick Carr with a view to getting the Great Grey Shrike onto the year list.  We were diverted somewhat when we passed s temporary flash, on the northern boundary of our own patch as it happens.  We wanted to check out the geese more closely.  It turned out that whilst most of the geese were Greylag among them were twenty-two Pink footed Geese and a flock of Lapwing.   The stop off and short walk across the fields had been worthwhile, although we didn’t search anymore of the area, preferring to leave that until another day.

Prestwick Carr was soon reached and parking spaces were again in mind.  On this occasion we couldn’t find one.  After some frustrations, which I won’t go into, we did manage to park up.  Sam asked the question ‘isn’t birding meant to be relaxing?’ having spent a few minutes that very much weren’t.  Never mind we did have good scope sightings of the Great Grey Shrike adding to our sightings of the last few years of what we assume is the same bird returning year after year.  I’ve seen that Great Grey Shrikes will continue to return to a good winter territory once found and will defend it much like a breeding territory, and whilst I see their average lifespan is 3-5 years there has been incidences of them living up to 12 years.  Common Buzzards and Kestrels were seen as we watched the Great Grey Shrike.  Later we walked a section of the ‘bumpy road’ and added Willow Tit to my year list.  The feeders were being visited by a number of species as they usually are at this time of year.  We eventually left and made off for Gosforth Park N R.

We added Nuthatch and Sparrowhawk to the year list whilst watching at the feeding station before setting off for the circular walk around the reserve.  We found the kill of a Sparrowhawk, a Woodpigeon, so likely a female Sparrowhawk.  Sam checked out the mud for signs of animal tracks and found the tacks of both Roe Deer and Badger and a small area where a Badger had been feeding.  Our walk was generally very quiet and peaceful, as whilst numbers visiting the reserve of late have grown, we never see too many folk walking the tracks far from the hides.  I did on this occasion bump into someone I’d worked with over 20 years ago and I’m surprise she recognised me as by now I was wrapped up to keep myself warm.  I have to say the NHSN is flying high these days, and last Friday’s presentation by the ‘Seal Man’ attracted an audience of what seemed to be over 200 individuals including a few youngsters.  There was some excellent underwater footage shown of Grey Seals and auks and good information about White-beaked Dolphins.  The reserve itself is once again threatened by house building nearby, and I must get my letter off to the council.  Many have already sent letters and it is good to see members taking such action.  I’ve been involved in the past with some organisations where action by members seemed to be the last of their concerns!  Anyway, I’d no sooner mentioned Siskins, Sam already had them on his year list, when a small number flew and called overhead, so they are now on my list too.  They appeared in the area where normally seen.  Jay was seen briefly at some point.  Water Rail was heard a couple of times.


We stopped at the small hide were two Bitterns had recently been seen by photographers, although they did not reappear for us.  We may have heard one call quietly from the reeds, but can’t be certain.  I think the hide had acted like a freezer and we were both feeling very chilled as we moved on so decided to call it a day at this point.  I’d added ten species to the year list today and enjoyed doing so, although unusually found my self dreaming of a warm sun on the way home.  I’m more than happy with my year list so far, and it is only mid-January so some quite easy to find species can wait.  I enjoyed a hot chocolate and a hot bath, taken separately on my return home.  Today is very much a rest day.    

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Birds and Brass Monkeys on Northumberland Coast

8th Jan.  I ate my cornflakes whilst temperatures remained at -5C outside and I thought to myself ‘it’ll warm up a bit before we leave for the coast’.  The temperature did rise ever so slightly, but I’m pleased we took so many layers of clothing when we headed north to Fenham Flats, having first ensured that the garden birds were fed.  I should have guessed we were going to face low temperatures when we stepped from the car, having passed the sign which had warned ‘brass monkeys enter this area at their own risk’.  So hard was the frost in places that areas to the sides of the AI looked as though they were scenes from a Christmas card.  Common Buzzard, Kestrel and a large flock of Lapwings were seen before we turned off onto icy side roads and headed to the hide at Fenham Flats.


The hide at Fenham Flats offered some protection from the biting cold and offered a splendid view of a tranquil area where skies were blue, and the windless atmosphere was very much in contrast to our visit to Lindisfarne two days before.  It was only a pity that Lindisfarne Castle remains under scaffold, as it and the reflection on the water below would have offered a near perfect photographic opportunity.  Once again we had good sightings of many Brent Geese, some close by the hide and others far more distant as were many of the waders.  Flocks of Dunlin were amongst waders that showed well and flew across our field of view.  We looked for Little Stint but were unable to find one.  Shelduck were here in large numbers as were Grey Plover.  We chatted to a young lady who was on holiday and traveling up the coast towards St Abbs.  She appeared to be a keen photographer and could not have picked a better day and had chosen well to view the area from this point.

After spending some time at Fenham Flats we made off to Budle Bay, but not before finding Redwing and Song Thrush in the hedge.  Stonechat was seen but for the life of me I don’t remember where.  This time we had a little better luck with some birds being a bit closer to shore although many were not and despite our best efforts we were unable to locate the Spotted Redshank although Redshank were numerous along with Curlews and Bar Tailed GodwitsShelduck were again there in numbers and the field held a large flock of Greylag Geese with a few Canada Geese and Brent Geese among the flock.  A skein of Pink footed Geese flew overhead.

After a break for lunch we returned to Stagg Rock where today the sea was much calmer and there was just enough wind to make for a biting cold atmosphere.  I don’t remember feeling so cold for a long time.  We took shelter behind a wall and that seemed to fend off the worst of the cold.  It wasn’t long before we had sighting of rafts of Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Long tailed Duck, numbers of Red Throated Diver, a Great Northern Diver, Shag and Eider Duck.  These birds were quite close to shore so were seen very well.     Purple Sandpipers were also seen north of the Stagg.


With the days being still short we next made off to East Chevington and after checking out North Pool amongst other birds we found another Long-Tailed Duck, Red breasted Merganser, Little Grebes and Goldeneyes.  Instead of walking to the mouth of the burn we decided to get down to Druridge Pools before the light disappeared.    I had thought it couldn’t get any colder, but it did.  We looked from the budge screen to find the ponds frozen solid and only one solitary bird present, which was a Shelduck that finally gave up and flew off.  We too gave up at this point and made for home after a last quick stop at Cresswell Pond were a large flock of Lapwing had gathered in the centre of the frozen pond.


As we headed for home threatening cloud began to approach from the south.  In the west the sky reddened, and the sun formed a huge red ball of flame as it reached the horizon.  A bitterly cold but very rewarding day.  Give me a cold bright winter’s day over a damp squib of a summer’s day anytime!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Lindisfarne...Birds, Turneresque Skies and Rough Seas

6th Jan.  I know it’s just another date on the calendar, but birding during the first few days of a New Year always feels exciting and a challenge which brings rewards, so on waking I wasn’t going to be put off by the sound of wind and sleet upon the window.  Yes, tomorrow was to be a nicer day, but I was eager to get out so when Sam arrived we were soon on our way north to Lindisfarne, almost running over some dare devil Pheasants along the route and finding our first flock of Lapwing of the year.


On arrival and stepping out onto the causeway it was immediately clear we needed several layers of clothing to protect us from the cold winds which were worth braving in order to breath in that fresh air, take in the almost silent surroundings and the Turneresque skies that were for ever changing as the sun rose whilst occasionally showing through forever moving cloud patterns that were pouring rain in areas not far from us, but thankfully not onto us.  Between the land and cloud formations to the south of us was a bright yellow strip of sunlight.  We soon had our eye on a close by Little Egret feeding just off the causeway as we picked up the sound of Curlews, Oystercatchers and in Sam’s case Fieldfare.


There were very few cars in pot-holed car park when we arrived.  Message to authorities, I agree that folk should be charged to park, but don’t you think you ought to use the cash taken to provide a car-park that is fit for purpose?  We walked down to and through the village barely seeing a soul but being serenaded by large numbers of House Sparrows.  We were soon watching one Slavonian Grebe, then two, then four as they swam as a group although constantly diving.  This was to be one of our sightings of the day s they did show very well.  As we took the path towards the harbour numbers of Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin and Grey Plover were noted, as were Red breasted Mergansers, Red throated Divers and 2 Great Northern Divers.  Shags passed as we watched the divers and the occasional Grey Seal showed its head above water.  This reminded me that the NHSN has a talk this Friday evening concerning Grey Seals which is to be given by a speaker with diving experience along with years of research concerning Grey Seals.  During our walk the Golden Plover flocks put on a good flying display as they flew lit by a now bright and occasionally warm sun (warm if you were sheltered from the wind).  We had a quiet laugh to ourselves when someone told their family that they were Swallows.  Well we all make mistakes!   By now a few more folk were on the island, but it never at any point become busy and most of the time we had areas to ourselves.  We were also blessed with another rainbow, this one across the island.  A Rock Pipit was added to our list.


The harbour held a few waders including Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew and Bar tailed Godwit.  We checked out the pool and found the likes of Shoveler, Teal and Lapwing.  By now we had seen a small number of Brent Geese in flight and thought larger numbers would be in the fields taking shelter, so we made off past Gertrude Jekyll’s garden.  Sea watching didn’t appeal for long, with the sea being so rough, although Sam did pick up Long tailed Duck and Eiders were easily seen.  All the time the sky continued to put on a good display of cloud formation and we noted that it appeared to be either rain, snow or sleet out over patches of the sea and also inland just a little south from where we were.  Happily, we went all day without getting wet.  We heard that there were White Billed Divers coming north but we had no intention of hanging around on the off chance we might see them.



At some point Sam had a laugh when I told him I wasn’t interested in lists and then I got excited when I added Turnstone to my year list.  Excited, as they had been difficult to find.  We did find a flock of about 200 Brent Geese in the fields and watched as others flew in to join them, some flying along the tide line which gave a very good and wild like view as the waves met the rocky shoreline.  A small number of Brent Geese were also found among the rocks.  On our return walk we came across a flock of Fieldfare and some Long -tailed Tits.

More than satisfied with our shortened visit to Lindisfarne we made off to Buddle Bay, but not before a last watch of the sky and the Little Egret which was now only feet from the car) where we found the birds were well along way out in the estuary.  Shelduck and Oystercatchers could be easily made out, but we decided not to hang around and return at a later date.  The quick move on maybe partially explained by our hunger and the imagined aroma of fish and chips blown in the air from Seahouses which was to be our next stop before returning to Stag Rock.  There was little on Monk House pond as we passed by, but we did add Wigeon to our list.  Lunch enjoyed, we headed off to Bamburgh.
By now conditions were deplorable, high rough seas and strong winds.  We found nothing but the odd Eider Duck and Oystercatchers.  Even the Purple Sandpipers were no where to be seen.  We’ll make another return in better conditions.

We were well satisfied with our bird count today, but more so with the day in general and it was only 6th January so there is no rush and we remain laid back birders!  Our day hadn’t ended however as we headed for Alnwick and more precisely, Barter Books.  A very nice way to end our day.  Oh, and we added two more species outside of the bookshop, Goldcrest and Pied Wagtail.  I’d set a target of 30 species to add to the year list today.  Because of difficulties at both Buddle Bay and Stag Rock because of conditions we thought we had fallen below that target.  On writing up my list I found that I had added 29 species and if taking into account the Long-tailed Duck seen by Sam we were exactly on the 30 targets.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2018...New Year's Day Traditional Walk on Patch.

1st Jan.  I awoke early today and heard the wheezing calls of Collared Doves, no doubt feasting on the seeds I provide.  Looking out of the window before breakfast my first three sightings for 2018 were Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon and Starling.  Well, not the most exciting of birds to begin the year with, but others would soon arrive, and I’m pleased to say that despite the ‘killer’ domestic cats which prowl the area the House Sparrows returned in number last year, and were soon feeding today.

I’ve been completing a walk on patch for so many years now I think it can be termed a tradition.  I find this more rewarding personally, than shooting off all over the place or to a nature reserve, to begin the year with a long list of perhaps rarer birds.  It’s certainly more relaxing and each year tends to throw up something interesting.  It’s all a matter of taste and choice of course.  Today I felt I needed to do the patch justice as I’m only too aware that it has been neglected by me of late.  By the time Sam arrive I was eager to get started.  We thought the lake would be a good starting point.

Hoping the pot of gold contains some rarities for the patch during 2018.

The lake has been very quiet in recent months and even the Great Crested Grebe seems to have chosen the past few days to leave the area.  It was such a calm, mild and sunny day with blue skies a lack of large numbers of species wasn’t going to matter too much.  Before we came close to the lake Brown Rat had become our first mammal of the year, as it had last year.  Amongst the regular waterfowl we found several Goosander, Goldeneye and Pochard.  The family of Greylag Geese remain with the Canada Geese.  Best sight of all was a skein of Pink-footed Geese numbering about 120 and heard before seen, which flew high over the lake.  It seemed that in the west some areas may have been experiencing a shower, as the colours of a rainbow deepened in hue as we walked around the lake.  I’m hoping that may be a positive sign and I’d be pleased if any pot of gold includes an occasional rarity on patch this year.

The lake area is always the busiest area on the walk, in terms of people, although I saw no birders this year apart from ourselves.  We soon headed east and to more peaceful sites.  We found Jay, only the third time I have ever seen this species on patch, all seen in the past couple of years.  It seemed possible that this one was caching food.  As we passed a hedge of bright red berries I suggested that these same berries didn’t seem to appeal to birds, at which point we found several Blackbirds feasting on them and a little later our one and only Redwing of the day flew from the hedge and perched in the tree opposite us.  A little later Grey Squirrel became our second mammal of the year.  Yes, I know they aren’t popular!  Stock Dove was seen in the same area, a regular haunt for this species.    A little further on and we came across our first Bullfinch of the day.  We found pairs of Bullfinch in four separate locations on our walk.  As we were standing on the edge of woodland a Woodcock was disturbed and lifted into the air causing some noise.   It wasn’t long before a Grey Heron rose from a pool which is hidden by trees.

We continued our walk eastwards and out onto the most open area of the patch.  It appeared to be deserted of life, but it was worth exploring anyway and perhaps because of the disastrous to the environment plans to cover this area in housing, roads schools etc, it is perhaps best we take the opportunity whilst it still exists.  This is always the coldest area of the patch and even on this mild day I felt the need to put my hat on.  It was soon taken off again as I became over heated.  By the time we had completed a circular walk of this part of the patch, the tracks must be over a mile in length we had found very little in the way of birds.  The hedges were cut low and appeared lifeless.   Our time wasn’t wasted however, and a small flock of calling Golden Plover flew around the area, our only Great Black Backed Gulls of the day flew over, a distant skein of Greylag Geese was heard and then seen and just before we were back to the roadway we found two Reed Buntings.  We found the area to have been planted and somewhat tamed.

It was now time to head for home and we followed one of the old wagon-ways rather than enter the housing estates.  I’ had no sooner said that we had surprisingly not seen Coal Tit today when within seconds one appeared amongst a mixed flock of feeding birds.  Not far away we had another one of our four Bullfinch sightings.

I was feeling cream crackered by now and it was somewhat reassuring to hear from Sam that he was tired also.  We had walked several miles, but had by no means covered the entire patch.  I listed the birds later and was surprised to find that on what had seemed a very quiet day we had a list of 45 species of bird.  It had been a wonderful start to a new year (and didn’t the team do well for once?) and I just knew I was going to sleep well (I did).  I don’t make new year resolutions, as I always think they are made just to be broken, but I will try to devote more time to the patch this year.