Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Out of Patch (and a Patch tick)

Today was January 1st. Having entered Patchwork Challenge you would have thought you would find me working my Patch hard. Erm, no..... I'm tied to the patch this coming weekend so I decided to head cross-border into Suffolk for some waterfowl year ticks.
With a few sheepy things to do first thing and 2 (nearly teenage) children to drag kicking and screaming from their beds we were hardly early getting out into the field. It was late morning before we arrived at a busy but sunny North Warren and stopping first to view geese by the road quickly found the 4 feral Red-breasted Geese amongst a large flock of feral Barnacle Geese plus some wild Whitefronts. A Sparrowhawk cruised up the dyke in front of us.
Moving on we walked across the marsh to the viewing platform where a single Tundra Bean goose played hide-and -seek behind some reeds, along with a better showing single (what had it done wrong?) Pinkfoot and yet more Whitefronts. A Stonechat was using the wire fence leading away from the platform as a convenient foraging post.
Next stop was Minsmere where the car park was packed presumably by people out for a stroll in the country as my fears about equally packed hides proved unfounded. South Hide and West Hide (I refuse to call it the Wildlife Lookout) were closed due to flooding and East Hide was only accessible wearing wellies so we just did North Hide and Island Mere. Fortunately my target bird and favourite duck, Smew, and 4 of them at that, 2 males and 2 females, were showing well from North Hide. Water levels on the Scrape were extremely high and it was covered with ducks, mostly Teal and Wigeon, but waders were absent apart from Lapwing. Island Mere was surprisingly deserted with just a few Coots and Mute Swans on the water. Marsh Harriers, however, were much in evidence with a steady procession past the hide. At one point there were 7 in the air together almost within one binocular field of view. A couple of Cettis gave a brief half-hearted burst of song but that was about it. To end the day as we walked back a Bittern gave a brief but close flypast.

Looking back to the last 3 days of 2012, last weekend was dry during daylight hours but with fences to mend, sheep to move and a sheep shed to muck out I had to wait until Sunday before heading out to Haddiscoe Island. The morning started with another foray for the BTO Winter Thrush survey. Yet again there were no Redwings or Fieldfares, just Blackbirds and a single Song Thrush. The bonus bird was a Little Owl flushed from a wood pile. Reaching the Island in the early afternoon we were too late to see the Rough-legged Buzzard which had earlier been seen crossing the Waveney but we did have two distant views of the Great White Egret as it flew from one patch of reeds to another and back again, an (extended) patch tick for me. The Rough-leg was seen to fly over St Olaves today so I'm hoping it will do the decent thing and pay a visit to Thorpe Marshes. I wonder if staking out some road-kill rabbits will help?

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