Sunday, 10 February 2013

A tale of two seasons

This weekend Saturday and Sunday were like chalk and cheese. The sun came out yesterday and in the windless conditions it felt almost spring-like especially with snowdrops and hazel catkins out in the garden.

I believe snowdrops are not strictly native but who cares? They are always a sure sign to me that spring is definitely on the way, shrugging off snow and ice in defiance of winter. The catkins too ignore the cold temperatures.

I ignored news of a Green-winged Teal at Breydon thinking I would look for that on Sunday and instead concentrated on tasks in and around the house. I retrieved the trail camera from the now disappeared staked out rabbit flushing the first Gadwall of the year from one of the dykes in the process. The camera revealed the only beneficiaries of the rabbit to be a rat and a Great Black-backed Gull. Humph. I also planted out strawberry plants in the vegetable garden to the sound of the Rooks chatting away to each other in their rookery, another sign of impending spring.
In the afternoon I took the dog for a walk up the road to investigate a different corner of my Patchwork Challenge patch and patch ticked House Sparrow and Little Owl. House Sparrows are rarities in my garden despite seemingly ideal conditions with 11 different bird feeders, livestock and chickens. We get about one record a year which always triggers a rush for the binoculars. Other than that there was little new.
Today was utterly different and felt like the depths of winter again. The rooks stayed away from their rookery this morning. I went to Breydon as planned but how I wished I had gone yesterday. There was a bitter, raw strong southerly(!) wind blowing and the light was appalling. Everything was a flat grey. I was too late for the Green-winged Teal which had been seen only briefly early on in the morning although I searched through the otherwise spectacularly large flocks of Wigeon and Teal for about an hour before the cold drove me home. There must have been about 10000 Wigeon and 1000s of other birds all flocking together in vast groups making the hunt for the Teal very difficult indeed. Highlights were big flocks of Black-tailed Godwit (c1000?), Lapwing and Golden Plover, with some Pintail, Barwits, Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin and a few Sanderling.
Back at home I ventured outside again in the afternoon to feed the sheep. I startled a male Sparrowhawk out of the hedge which flew off across the sheep paddock clutching a dead Blackbird before dropping it on to the turf. I checked the slightly gruesome carcase for rings but found none. After feeding the sheep I noticed one of the ewes taking an interest in the body too. When I investigated she had bitten off and eaten one of the Blackbirds feet!

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