I have spent most of the morning planting summer bulbs, a Buddleia and some heather in the garden. The Snowdrops underneath the tree are perhaps past their best, but the Daffodils and Crocus that have materialised are welcome and look smashing. The mild weather has had me removing layers in the middle of the job, and the local wildlife scene appears intent and with purpose for the first time this year. Driving along Slade Lane this morning, I saw my first Butterfly of the year, a windswept Small Tortoisehell. Always a red letter moment in any calendar year. Back in the garden, 2 more Small Torts and a powerful looking male Brimstone. Added to this a large Bee species (I intend to get to know Bees much better this year) and a Ladybird species and Spring has truly sprung.
Although our feeding station is rarely utilised by the resident Tits unless early in the morning, the garden and surrounds has certainly thrown up some good birds. A reservoir to the south of us pulls in a variety of wildfowl at night, and standing in the dark I have heard Egyptian and Greylag Geese, Teal, Wigeon, Little Grebe and Mallard. Oystercatcher are heard most nights since early in the week and Black-headed Gulls are a noisy distraction. Our garden borders a large paddock, which is nicely overgrown, pleasing the Rabbits. We had a nice surprise one evening whilst washing up, since it was not just the Rabbits who enjoyed using the paddock:
Although less exciting, Linnet are regular over the garden and probably breed in the surrounding farmland. Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk, common Tit Species, House Sparrow and Tawny Owl have all been heard or seen in the garden.
Weekends have been spent unpacking and sorting the garden, hosting parents and paying bills so little time for proper birding. The last full visit I managed at Church Marsh was on the 20th of February with Ricky, and thankfully was the best trip of the year so far. The first Oystercatcher had returned to Wood's End and 2 Tufted Duck were on the river. Ricky picked out a Little Grebe, soon followed by a second. Not an easy bird here. Best of all was a small passerine perched on the reed stems near the gun club. I looked, and looked again to be sure. Stonechat! A patch lifer. So full of character and a bird we both hold in high esteem. I checked if he was still about on Sunday morning, but there was no sign.
I have been inspired since moving here, and knowing I can walk down to the patch tomorrow morning before breakfast is a freedom I will do my best not to take for granted.