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Grey Phalarope- a new patch bird

The 7th of April was another bitterly cold Spring day, hats and gloves in prime position on pegs and in bags ready to be deployed. A few brave Garganey have been reported north of the river, but it was a bird from the north itself that had me rushing for the thermals and the telescope late in the day.  I was thankful for the local Whatsapp group who were quick to report that a Grey Phalarope had been seen on Rockland Broad. This tiny Wader would have come in on the northerlies over the last few days, although to grace one of the broads is a real surprise, since most stick pretty close to the coast before moving on. Indeed, my experience of the birds has usually been on a sea watch in the Autumn, waves crashing and foam flying, my eyes straining to pick them out as they fly low just above the surf. They are fantastic birds, and now one was here on the patch. I had a brief panic when I realised my scope was in my car at the garage (thankfully I do have a much older spare) but once the ho
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A change is as good as a rest

Casting my mind back to February 14th, survival rather than love was in the air for the birds of the Yare Valley. Tramping across the Surlingham corner of the patch, I recorded 8 Woodcock within 2 hours. These Cryptic Waders had been forced out of hiding, and even amongst the woodland floor they were easier than usual to spot against a backdrop of snow. The small pine wood opposite the church and adjacent to the parking area held at least 2 birds, creeping around and huddled up low to the ground. A further investigation of likely habitat around Church Marsh and I was presented with 6 more, a record count for me in a single day. I hope they made it through the trial sent from the north in the form of ice and snow. A Great Egret exploring a dyke at Postwick must've been thinking twice about the whole range expansion thing. However, a small Squadron of Bewick's Swan and a single Goosander over Claxton fitted the mise en scene nicely during this period.  That image and that day fee

A mole from Duncton?

 I've had Moles on the mind of late. As a child, I eagerly read books about anthropomorphic animals, as many as I could get my hands on. The Redwall books by Brian Jacques were a nice compliment to the embryonic stages of tabletop wargaming with my father, pitting Badger against Weasel (and many more besides) in a medieval-type high fantasy setting.  Watership Down followed, as did of course Wind in the Willows. When Moles did feature, invariably they were worriers, loners, reverent, led by 'better' animals.  Earlier this week, I finally finished reading Duncton Wood by William Horwood, a feat I was unable to accomplish as a child. Perhaps I was put off by the intimidating size of the book and the adult themes inside. It is a stone-cold classic (pun intended for those who have read the novel), that follows the lives of a group of Moles living in the Duncton Wood system. Their stories of love and loss soon stretch to other systems, culminating in an unforgettable trek to Sia


 Although it was not quite the Christmas we wanted here in the valley, the rain has bought its own gift. A grim vision of the future, perhaps. But right now, the patch is peaking and is alive with birds, and for that I am thankful. On Christmas eve, it was a job to navigate away from the village due to standing water that had left abandoned cars and undelivered presents in its wake. The rain had been persistent and unforgiving, the ground, saturated. Over on the marsh, where there had once been a muddy puddle amongst the pasture, a city had sprung from the leak, with a plethora of new occupants noisily laying claim to a patch of sodden marsh. Wigeon and Black-headed Gulls in their thousands now wheeled and whistled over and amongst the newly formed pools, accompanied by smaller numbers of Teal and Shoveler. A flock of two hundred-strong Lapwing enjoyed feeding on the less damp spots where green grass was still exposed, and thrown in for good measure have been a couple of Ruff, the firs

Reflect on a Pec, and a look at the new norm

In a year that has delivered more than its fair share of loss, grief and uncertainty, it is perhaps ironic that the period of national lockdown provided myself and closest family with both happiness and security. Like everyone, it was hard not to hold loved ones away from home, but the enforced measures meant we had more time together as a 3. We are lucky to live in the South Yare Valley, complete with garden, home to some chickens and as it turns out, 3 Hedgehogs and a lot of Moths. Many a happy day has been spent teaching my daughter how to tend to the chickens, explaining what makes a tomato happy and of course walks down the marsh. Only the other day we stumbled across an Otter, a piece of magic from a box of tricks that keeps on giving. With no choice but to stay at home, every day became an intimate look at parish life for the flora and fauna. Water Voles, dyke dipping, the garden Mole and passing Cranes- experiences I would have missed had we not all been at home. Historical rea

Everything is about edge

Hardley, where it is often confusing to define where the garden ends and the marsh begins. Tumble-down houses and rickety shacks, away from any bus route and Team Sky sorts wrapped in lycra, this is a village that by choice is cut off. The secret is out, and pre-storm Ciara as many as 10 large lenses littered the river bank firing at will. Their target- Winter ghosts. First, the classic Scooby-Doo type, as a Barn Owl responds to an ill-advised squeak in the grass and heads towards the onlookers. Another quickly joins the hunt, their formation a picture of double-edged stealth. But these year-round residents are not the key objective today, that honour is given to the Short-eared Owl. 3/4 of these can be seen from the staithe at the minute, floating like giant moths over the tussocks and edges.  In a recent article in The New Yorker, Jake Fiennes states "Everything is about edge". Hedges, ditches, scrub, forgotten tracts of land that link nothing and no-one. Fiennes, now

Rockland and Hellington- looking again

I just need a kick up the arse sometimes, and what with November in the broads coming across a little turgid (water rather than Duck), it was the report of a local Long-eared Owl that got said backside out amongst the fields and the furrows once more. I relish the WeBs counts, but the lack of any notable Wildfowl has found me heading away from the river, seeking out the edgelands of the local parish. The Owl itself had been seen at roost in a thick hedge of Hawthorn, but the scrub and briar held nothing as I pushed on to the Hellington and Rockland community reserve. I recall passing through here in the summer, hot and tired, too thirsty and out of water to give the place the time it deserved. Now, I looked on anew. OS map in hand, I traced with my finger the broken lines that encircled the small reserve before splitting up and heading back home to Claxton, or onward to Rockland village. For me, there is nothing quite like the slide of mud and crunch of rotting reed under my feet whe