December 1st and its definitely winter. The wet dismal weather of the last few days has turned to cold wet dismal weather. Everywhere, and everything, outside is saturated. The sheep have looked bedraggled for days. Thankfully wool doesn't lose its insulating properties when wet so they don't appear too bothered. I don't mind cold weather and I tolerate wet weather but put the two together and you'll most likely find me indoors. So much of the morning was spent inside apart from essential tasks that forced me out.
Despite spending most of the day in and around the house the birding has been rather good. This morning started well with another flyover Yellowhammer whilst feeding the sheep. In faint hope I also halved some apples and set them up on a pear tree in our otherwise bare orchard. Then from the bedroom (with its strategically placed 'scope) I had 3 Marsh Harriers (including a wing tagged bird), 2 Common Buzzards, several small flocks of Lapwing and a Barn Owl over the marsh, but the highlight was a startled Kestrel that flew across the patio in pursuit of a Chaffinch and came to a sudden stop perched on the bedroom windowsill only 2 feet away from me.
When the rain finally stopped there was work to be done. The grass is running short on the paddocks grazed by my pampered sheep (the New Year lambing ewes and future breeding stock) so it was time to start feeding hay. We use big 4ft round bales as these are cheaper to buy than the small bales preferred by horse owners and easy to handle with a tractor. Sadly we don't have a tractor but the bales roll well (thank goodness) and can be pushed and shoved on to our trailer. In the middle of one of these manoeuvres trilling calls had us abandoning our bale as 8 Waxwings flew close by, headed for our garden and appeared to be landing in the vicinity of the orchard. Sadly by the time we got back to the house the Waxwings had moved on but one day...
The walk around the marsh to check the sheep still out there started very quietly until a Kestrel flew low over the neighbours wet rushy marsh and I heard a Rock Pipit-like call. This had to be a Water Pipit. Meadow Pipits are very regular out here but we rarely if ever get views of them on the deck as the vegetation is too long and they flush almost instantly on approach. However it was worth having a go for this first for the marsh. I soon realised my task was going to be impossible as I sploshed in ankle deep water through the rushes in the rain, but I did at least flush a pipit giving the same call which circled round, a silhouette in the fading light, before landing in an even wetter area. Its going on the list!
Back at the house a Brambling rounded off the day nicely.
Squirrel wars update: I'm up to 4 squirrels removed from the garden but there are still at least another 2 hanging around. I hadn't realised we were supporting such a big population. The remaining feeders aren't emptying as fast despite the birds having more undisturbed time to feed so the squirrels were probably munching through ££s of sunflower seed