I was out on patch on the 18th more in hope than anticipation of Chiffchaffs having arrived as they had done on the 18th last March. My hopes were dashed as I walked through mud, waterlogged ground, cold air, rain, sleet and hail! There were large numbers of finches about, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch and a Song Thrush greeted me as I left the house. The only sighting of any note was a Great Spotted Woodpecker getting quite excited where I had seen pairs in a tussle last year near a probable nesting site.
Today, the first day of spring, wasn’t much better weather-wise. The sun appeared for a short time, but it did little to warm me up and I arrived back home feeling colder than I have done for sometime. There are still no Chiffchaffs! Their arrival is going to be later on patch than in any recent years, although I have found the odd one over wintering in the past so they are not too bothered by cold weather. One might think that the weather can only improve from now on, but the forecast suggest differently and there is hail lying on the ground as I type.
It was good to see the regular Song Thrushes again today and a small flock of maybe eight Redwings remain in the area. I found a single Siskin feeding with the more numerous Greenfinch. I stood around for sometime watching the finches and tits and hoping that the familiar sound of the Chiffchaff would be heard, but eventually give up. As I slowly walked along the muddy pathway I caught, in the corner of my eye, the sight of what I thought was a dog. I was surprised anyone else had been daft enough to take this path such was the mud and pools of water. It quickly became clear that it wasn’t someone’s pet dog, but a close encounter with a Fox. I stood perfectly still and it came with ten to fifteen yards of me and stopped to look into the trees. It was clearly unaware of my presence and it stayed put for what seemed a long time, but no doubt was only a few seconds. It seemed to sense my presence and walked off into the trees and I saw it no more. It had looked quite small, but in good condition. This is the second time I’ve had a similar experience in almost the exact same spot. I didn’t have my camera and if I had moved to use it I don’t think I would have got a decent image anyway as we were so close the Fox would have been off at the slightest movement. I have to say this type of experience thrills me as much as any bird find.
I walked over to the lake and found that we have three Great Crested Grebes present. The pair of Shoveller seemed quite settled now.