I've just reached the end of a week off work. I'm going back to work tomorrow probably more tired than when I finished a week last Friday. May is one of my favourite months with plants and tress bursting in to life in brilliant fresh shades of green and the excitement of our summer visitors returning with the chance of a rarity thrown in. However May is also a month when all of many interests and tasks collide and I seem to spend most of my waking hours trying to keep on top of everything. I'd like to be out birding but the start of the Show season has me busy with the sheep, plus I'm in charge of the vegetable garden, greenhouse and flower borders which are also at their busiest with sowing seeds, planting out and weeding to keep on top of, plus most of the housework, all to be fitted around a full-time job. Oh yes, I have 2 children as well, though at least they're at an age where they can be left to their own devices!
I have managed a few walks around the marshes, and I took time out yesterday afternoon to go to the North Norfolk coast and visit Titchwell and Cley. Some birds have also come to me. My first Reed Warbler for the year on the Patch was singing in the privet hedge by the house on Sunday morning, and 2 Sand Martins flying across the marshes were no. 111 for the year yesterday.
In the sunshine and relative warmth of Monday the first Hairy Dragonfly of the year flew in to the garden off the marsh and the first damselfly emerged from the garden pond.
I'm not sure what species it is but we usually get Blue-tailed and Azure. The first Flag Iris was also blooming in the pond as was Ragged Robin in the adjacent bog garden
There was also excitement in the rookery with the first young rooks fledging. Sadly one bird's maiden flight was straight in to the electricity cables that cross the marsh and it plummeted lifeless to the ground. At least the ground is soft this year so there should be plenty of food for the other youngsters. Dry years usually leave numerous fledgling rook carcasses scattered across the marsh with the birds unable to find enough food.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent at the Suffolk Show. I've camped in previous years but after last years appalling weather I decided I'd had enough of trying to sleep next to a mainline railway with heavy horses kicking their stable doors all night and farriers staggering back from the bar at 2 in the morning, and commuted to the showground every day instead. Despite having to get up at 5.30 am I felt considerably better. We didn't do very well but this was the National Southdown show with the best breeders in the country so I hadn't expected to win anything anyway and in a case of "if you can't beat them join them" I bought the 1st placed shearling ram, a huge solid beast of a sheep and brought him home. As a consolation my eldest daughter came 2nd in Sheep Young Handlers.
On Friday it was time to weigh, worm, vaccinate, copper bolus and fly treat this years lambs, which took me most of the day with the help of youngest daughter marking each lamb as it was done. A Cuckoo provided a back drop with only the second of the year here calling most of the morning.
This left me with Saturday to go birding. On my morning walk around the marsh to check the sheep there was a steady passage of Swifts and House Martins with the aforementioned Sand Martins going north. In the afternoon I headed up to first Titchwell then Cley. It felt like winter at Titchwell with an overcast sky and such a cold wind off the North Sea that I ended up wearing gloves on the 1st June! Highlights were Spoonbill, 10 Little Gulls, 3 Red-crested Pochard and a pair of Garganey. I moved on to the East Bank at Cley hoping to see the White-spotted Bluethroat. During the drive there the sun finally broke through the cloud and the day was transformed from winter to early summer. The Bluethroat was on show on top of a bush as soon as I turned up although it was very distant and heat haze made the views ever worse. Is was at least possible to see its blue throat and its beak open as it sang but it was too far away to actually hear it. The calls of passing Sandwich Terns added to the summery feel although a Red-breasted Merganser on Arnolds Marsh was more a remnant of winter. A distinctive gull call drew my attention to 2 Med Gulls flying over the East Bank. The reserve was otherwise fairly quiet both for birds and people and I had North Hide all to myself. Looking across to Daukes and Avocet hides I could see that these too were also empty. Walking back along the East Bank Swifts were flying so low past me you could hear the rush of their wings and see them in close detail. It was all in all a very pleasant evening.