Thursday, 2 January 2014

Patch bang wallop!

New Year's Day was an absolute shocker weather-wise after around 10pm, so bar a pub lunch Debs and I kept a low profile. Today however was a perfect opportunity to get the 2014 patch list up and running, albeit flying solo. This was a bird race, versus no-one.
Beginning at Surlingham Church Marsh, the bright sunshine meant the resident birds were seemingly more active than usual at this time of year. It did not take long to add Marsh Tit, Goldcrest (2) and wintering Siskin to the list. Looking across the river to Wood's End, an early contender for bird of the day: a Peregrine Falcon! Not recorded anywhere on the patch last year, back of the net! A real powerhouse in flight, a female I reckon. The Falcon had forced most stuff off the marsh, but a second treat in the shape of 15! Curlew circled and landed, a patch record smashed and to boot a tricky bird on the year list. Moving on round the muddy circuit, the expected species were added including Bullfinch (female), Lesser Redpoll, Treecreeper and Kingfisher. Heading to Wheatfen, I had amassed 40 species, the only 'dips' being Little Owl and Gadwall (elusive in Winter).

The warden agreed that it had been quiet of late, and the main focus of their work had been dealing with storm damage. I walked most of the circuit and saw very little, let alone new species. The Redpoll hotspot was silent. The 15 Curlew were seen again, circling over Rockland now. Into Tuck's (Surlingham) Wood and I fared a little better, picking up Song and Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare and to complete the set Redwing.

I had hoped for a few Wildfowl species on Rockland Broad but as is par for the course there was bugger all on the water apart from a few Coot and Tufted Duck. A Marsh Harrier with a green tag on either wing was of note, this female bird from the ringing project based at Sculthorpe I understand. Walking back to the carpark past Hellington Beck Outfall, something inside me suggested a closer look at the water's edge was necessary. A Grey Heron was flushed, and then the bird of the day was found; a Grey Wagtail. These birds always look so dapper, and apart from an old Church Marsh record from a few years back I had assumed is this species no longer bred on the patch. Now, this could be a wintering bird, but upon close inspection this is ideal habitat; have I overlooked this species? The patch continues to throw up surprises, and another species not recorded anywhere last year. Now on 50 birds, 60 do-able?

Claxton Marshes handed me Short-eared Owls last Winter, no such luck so far this period but an early Barn Owl was out and about. Looking across the river, I cheekily added Golden Plover, Barnacle and Canada Geese. A group of 6 Linnet were a bonus. 2 more Peregine, how the hell did I miss them last year?!

Last stop with the light fading, Langley Dyke. The 2 birds I needed for a nice round 60 soon appeared.  A Little Egret was fishing the dyke, and a hunting Barn Owl flushed patch favourite Green Sandpiper! I waited until dark for a Hen Harrier, but instead was treated to the Corvid roost commuting overhead and a calling Little Owl- 61 at the finish!

I occasionally pine after a coastal patch, or at least a location closer to the sea. The chance of finding a rarity increases, passage birds in evidence, sea watching etc. But today reminded me why birding the broads as a patch is hard to beat. Quality and quantity on tap, you just have to find it!

Driving home got me thinking what I had missed, and would 70 species be possible? I think with colder weather it would. Birds out there that I missed today:

Nuthatch
Pink-footed Goose
Meadow Pipit
Gadwall
Great-spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Skylark
Yellowhammer
Brambling

And that would bring me to 70. Add to that (a mix of birds I HAVE seen and birds I KNOW are out there):

Common Snipe (an obvious miss today)
Kestrel (as above)
Cetti's Warbler
Reed Bunting
Hen Harrier
Pochard
Short-eared Owl
Tawny Owl
Waxwing
Wild Swans
Jack Snipe
Merlin
Long-eared Owl
Bittern
Bearded Tit

and you're over 80 for a Winter's day south of the Yare. It would have to be an exceptional day, preferably more than one pair of eyes would help.

Apologies for the listing and extended musing, but this again got me thinking about targets for this year (cannot be arsed with a 2013 reflection, Red-flanked Bluetail and Surlingham Redstart nuff said).
This bit needs careful consideration so for now I will just type OSPREY and go away.

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