Saturday, 20 April 2013

Birding with a bucket

It was a beautiful spring morning. After a tiring week I decided to stay close to home today and concentrate on patch birding. The sheep are all turned out on the marsh apart from a few stragglers enjoying the flush of grass that is at last starting to grow. I'm still feeding the rams however as they're still a long way off show condition so set off for an amble around the marshes with a bucket in hand. I expected the rams to meet me at the first gate where I would be able to abandon the bucket but it wasn't until I was a quarter of the way round that they spotted me. The bucket would just have to come with me.
Birding with a bucket turned out to be quite easy. The empty bucket just hooks over your arm when you use your bins. It also seemed to be a lucky charm when my first Barn Owl for several weeks came in to view and then my first burst of Cetti's song since January. Whitethroats were singing in a scrubby corner too and Marsh Harriers seemed to fill the sky.
Everything was going well until I entered Colin's field. Colin is a very large, normally docile, Romney ram to whom buckets mean tasty sheep nuts. He spotted me halfway across his field and raced towards me. I showed him the bucket was empty by letting him stick his head in it but this wasn't good enough for Colin. I had a bucket, therefore I must have food. I escaped being butted by walking across the field leading him with his head in the bucket but this only worked for a short while. He started to get more belligerent so reaching the corner of the field I dropped the bucket, nipped over the fence to the neighbours and watched Marsh Harriers for a while hoping he would get bored and wander off. Feeling it was safe to return I picked up the bucket and started to set off but looked back in time to see Colin taking a step back, pawing the ground and dropping his head about to charge. Facing 120kg of angry Romney ram I felt like a matador in a bull ring but with no cape or picador to come to my rescue. My life flashed briefly before my eyes. Somehow I managed to deflect the charge, threw the bucket away from me to distract him and escaped a severe bruising. The only way I could get out of the field with the bucket was to kick it along the ground in front of me.

                                                    Colin, towering over his ladies

Safely back in the garden, the Cowslips in our wildflower meadow are coming in to bloom.

Our swallows were enjoying the sunshine and also providing a sparrowhawk early warning system for the other garden birds, their alarm calls ringing out as a Sparrowhawk whooshed through.

I decided to investigate the bushes from where the Cetti's had been singing so walked along a track that I've never been down that went through some trees, then bushes before opening out on to the marshes next to ours. A Redpoll coming down to drink in a dyke running through the trees was a surprise and there was a very showy Whitethroat actively feeding and singing in the hedgerow. The Cetti's turned out to be singing from yet another path bordering some shooting ponds just across a small field but the best bird here was a singing Willow Warbler. Surprisingly I get only 1 or 2 records of Willow Warbler a year on the patch as they pass through in spring so it was a good bird to get. With persistence I managed to see the Cetti's Warbler for once and also had brief views of a Grass Snake slithering into cover. There was also a Brimstone butterfly and several Peacocks.
The day ended with Patch year tick no 99 with a distant Feral Pigeon

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