Saturday, 22 August 2015

Patch Walk- Langley to Surlingham Ferry

I had been meaning to do this for some time, and with a clear day forecast and little migrant activity on the coast I set off from Langley Dyke at 9.30am on the 21st with the eventual aim of having a late lunch at Surlingham Ferry. The route followed the Wherryman's Way to a large extent, and much of it was riverbank walking, taking me through every inch of the patch bar Church Marsh at the other end. Church Marsh itself threw up a flyover Greenshank on the 15th, but I did not intend to do the circuit here today.

I added many common species to my day list at Langley, including Green Woodpecker, Stock Dover, Kingfisher, Kestrel and Pied Wagtail. An early fillip came in the shape of not 1 but 3 Little Egret resting in the grazing field, a patch record (maximum 2 birds at Church Marsh briefly a few years ago). Heading away from the marsh and walking through rural residential areas I was pleased to see 3 separate House Sparrow colonies and the odd group of Greenfinch. The Beauchamp Arms in Claxton was my first obvious stop, and en route I ticked off Coal Tit, Song Thrush and best of all a calling Willow Warbler. It was here I discovered the camera had no battery, complete lack of planning.

10.30 seemed a little early for a pint, so I pushed on with the river now directly on my right. A few fisherman were chancing their luck, AI understand the swims here can be productive. With the day warming up, not many species were added between here and Rockland Broad, save for a Reed Bunting, Linnet and a late family of Reed Warbler making a racket from deep in the phragmites.

I positioned myself in the hide, lamenting the lack of wildfowl to myself when a female Marsh Harrier cruised by and a Common Tern alighted from a boy. Two expected, but nonetheless decent birds for the day list. The Tern then made an almighty noise, alarm calling and flying higher above the tree line. It's target? An Osprey! A massive bird, even compared to the female Harrier who joined the Tern on harassing the fish-eagle. The 3 jostled for around one minute before the Osprey headed off east. Wow. I knew I had seen the bird of the day and indeed one of the birds of the year on the patch. I have contrived to miss Osprey in the previous 2 years here, and the year in which it appears scarcer than ever in The Broads is indeed the year I connect! I left the hide on 49 species, a patch lifer, and keen for a beer to celebrate.

Pint of Trawlerboys at the New Inn, second only to the irrepressible Little Sharpie as beer of the day. It was now approaching midday, and so followed a lean spell in terms of new birds. Heading across country towards Wheatfen, Bullfinch and Great-spotted Woodpecker were welcome additions. Little activity at the fen, so I headed on to the next scheduled stop at Coldham Hall. Here I enjoyed a nice pint of Fatcat Bitter, saw a Kingfisher and heard a Cettis' Warbler. By now the birds had taken a back seat to the beer and the idea of finishing the patch walk, so I dumped my bag at home and headed down to The Ferry. Fully expecting the day to be done as I tucked into a Bacon baguette and pint of said Sharpie, 2 Common Sandpiper flew low upstream. A patch year tick! With a Wader species in the bag for the day, I was content to head home for a kip, only for a group of the local House Martins to alert me to the presence of a male Sparrowhawk as I neared the house. Day done, 54 species, and what about that Osprey!

Looked back over my notes for the day, and noticed an absence of both Great Tit and Starling? Presumably down to time of year because both species are often present in or around my garden which of course I passed on route to The Ferry. Mistle Thrush didn't show today, but I find they often don't at this time of year. Skylark have stopped singing but will be present, and I perhaps could have tried for Nuthatch in Surlingham Wood. 60 species certainly do-able in August, and I hope to compare today's outcome not just with next year but in Winter and Spring too. Using Buckenham (birds seen from the patch) maybe 70 species is possible in the Autumn?


  1. Sounds like a cracking day. I also did Coldham Hall got great meal and three soaring buzzards.

  2. Cheers guys, was a memorable one.
    Funny you should mention the Buzzards, had one calling over the garden yesterday for the first time. Green Sandpiper over too. Stuff is moving.