At last I have a week off, my first since October but a busy few days lies ahead. The Southdown Sheep Society is holding its National Show at next weeks Suffolk Show and with 9 sheep entered I've got my work cut out getting them ready. Washing them for the Hadleigh Show was the easy bit. For Suffolk, and the following shows the sheep have to have their fleeces turned from fluffy to plush velvet by a process of repeated carding and trimming. I think the Victorians started it and the equipment used hasn't changed, a carder, hand shears and a secret concoction to spray on the fleece to tighten and fix it. No one has come up with an electrical device to get the work done quickly or easily so its a case of good old elbow grease and a lot of patience.
I was outside much of the day working on the lambs but concentrating on what I was doing meant a procession of patch ticks and rarities could have flown over and I wouldn't have noticed. However two high pitched peeps drew my attention and I looked up just in time to see a flash of blue shoot along the nearby dyke, my first Kingfisher of the year on the Patch bringing my patch total to 109.
Late afternoon I went for a refreshing stroll around the marsh. There was nothing else new just the usual Marsh Harriers and a Little Egret with splendid plumes. Swifts were around in good numbers along with a couple of House Martins. There was still not a single dragonfly out but this was hardly surprising given the cold northerly wind blowing across the open pastures. Stopping on the bridge over our main sluice my husband pointed out a shoal of hundreds of baby tiger-striped pike just downstream of the outflow presumably enjoying the current and the food particles it might be bringing. Pike are just about the only fish we ever see in the dykes and they range in size up to 3 feet in length. We assume their main prey is smaller pike plus the occasional duckling. Viewing the shoal through bins I noticed a different small fish with a scarlet belly close to the mud at the bottom and a second similar fish without the red belly nearby, our first record of presumably Three-spined Stickleback.
Back at the house, the House Sparrows have become regular visitors. Note the plural. Last week we saw a female regularly and now we're seeing a male but not the two together yet. However they seem to fly in from the same direction so just maybe they're breeding close by.