It was back to work for me as usual yesterday but, with January drawing to a close, after I had left for work husband set off on his last big Footit walk. As lunchtime approached I checked my phone to find a text from him about not one but two Great Crested Grebes on the Haddiscoe New Cut. Strange what Patchwork Challenge does to you. This was a species completely new to both of us on the patch so, particularly as one was by the houseboats just by the main road, I just had to twitch what is otherwise a common bird!
I pulled up by the houseboats to find no grebe. There was a strong, bitterly cold wind blowing across the marshes and I was dressed for work not birding but there was only one thing to do. Fortunately I had a jacket, walking boots, bins and scope in the car (when you work right on the East coast these things are essential in case of bird emergencies) but it still felt very chilly as I headed out along the New Cut. As I walked a flock of Pink-feet dropped on to Thorpe Marshes distantly to my left. I stopped, scanned the flock and was rewarded with a brief flash of white on the forehead of one of them. Surely a Whitefront? I scanned again and then another flash of white. It must be. My eyes were starting to water looking into the wind so I set off again. I had to walk a mile before finally locating my quarry, a fine Great Crested Grebe fishing in the river. Fantastic!
Feeling cold I turned for home and took the easier walk along the concrete road. A car load of birders approached and stopped alongside me. The driver introduced himself as Chris Murphy and asked if I had seen the Rough-legged Buzzard. Slightly embarrassed I explained that I had actually been looking for Great Crested Grebe for Patchwork Challenge and hadn't looked for the Buzzard at all. As it turned out Chris not only had heard of Patchwork Challenge but was also doing it himself on his patch in Ireland so understood perfectly where my priorities lay.
Husband had only just got in from his Footit walk when I arrived home and was telling me of his 4 Footit ticks and the two Whitefronts he had seen with the Pink-footed Goose flock when I happened to glance out of the window and noticed a Brambling on the birdfeeders, a third Patchwork tick for the day! This was not what I expected on a work day. Strange it should appear after the thaw but I had also seen 2 Redwings in the garden that morning, a bird that had been absent during the snow. I guess it's birds moving again. Here's a photo of aforementioned Brambling taken by husband through the window.
My Patchwork Challenge score has reached 78 species and 91 points, not bad going for January although I suspect it will slow dramatically now until the spring.