It was a superb morning today, bright sunshine, no wind and mild for once. Up early as usual at the moment to check and feed the sheep I reached our main gate and noticed a grey bird creeping through the ivy opposite. Putting down my buckets and lifting my bins (always carried when I'm outside especially at this time of year) the shining black cap was obvious, my first Blackcap of 2013. At the same time I became aware of a strange song, a bit like a mad Goldfimch with a bit of thrush thrown in. Scanning the tops of the oak trees from whence came the sound I found a small group of Redwings. The singing continued for a couple of minutes until the flock of 12 birds took flight and headed east. Suddenly there were Redwings all around me calling and flying from tree to tree plus a Fieldfare and briefly it felt like October. The thrushes moved on and a singing Chiffchaff restored the seasons to their proper order.
After breakfast I headed off around the marshes in the hope of some more new summer migrants. Marsh Harriers and a Sparrowhawk were displaying, Skylarks and Reed Buntings singing but there were no new migrants. There was however a new summer visitor and Patchwork tick in the shape of 3 Coot on one of the pools. Coot breed here but disappear in the late summer only returning in spring.
Returning back to the house I got my first views of Chiffchaff after only hearing them before amd a butter yellow Brimstone butterfly flew through the garden.
The afternoon was spent weaning the show lambs, now 14 weeks old, and shearing the 2 ewes (Mary and Mildred) which will be my entries in the "aged ewe" classes in the upcoming summer shows. I have a professional shearer do the shearlings (1 year old sheep) and ram in February but the older ewes have to be sheared after the 1st April as they have young lambs to rear first. As it's not worth getting the shearer back just for 2 sheep I do them myself. It takes me about 1/2 hour per sheep, rather than the 2 minutes the professionals take and although I do them standing up rather than turning them over it still makes my back ache. They don't look too bad when I've finished although I do have to hand finish them to get all the little bits of wool off that I've missed with the electric clippers.
We found this unfortunate creature, a Long-eared Bat, on the floor of one of our sheds. I suspect it woke from an overlong hibernation too weak to fly and find food, if there were any insects to find.
Sadly it died yet another casualty of the cold, late spring despite trying to rehydrate it and give it and energy boost with glucose solution. The photo was taken post-mortem so it wasn't put under any unnecessary stress if you were wondering.
Checking the sheep after dark this evening there were yet more Redwings going over, their thin, high calls taking me back to autumn again.