Sunday, 12 January 2014

Patch birding - time for Rough-legs at last

I woke to a crisp, frosty scene, the first of the year if not the winter, with a bright winter sun. It was ideal conditions to head out with my Jack Russell to the Haddiscoe New Cut, the north-eastern boundary of my patch, in pursuit of the Rough-legged Buzzards on the Island.
The Island was surprisingly quiet, no geese, no ducks apart from a few Mallard and no waders apart from a large distant flock of Lapwings. There was no sign of either Rough-leg although there were plenty of other raptors including a close smart Peregrine on a gate post gleaming in the sun and a very pale Common Buzzard a little further away. Hares were boxing as if it were spring, Chinese Water Deer seemed to be everywhere and Little Egrets flying along the distant River Yare and popping up in dykes vastly outnumbered Grey Herons. I ventured further along the Cut, stopping as I met a birder walking back towards me. He hadn't seen the Rough-legs either but as I scanned again in to the distance suddenly there they were, close together on a gate. I watched them for some time hoping they might come closer but the juvenile moved steadily further away eventually followed by the adult which dropped on to the ground out of sight. The zoom on my scope was definitely needed and it came in useful again when the other birder mentioned he had seen a covey of partridges which could be Greys on Thurlton Marshes behind us. At full zoom the rusty faces and dark brown horseshoe markings on their bellies were clearly visible on a total of 12 birds, the biggest flock I've seen in this area.
With feeding time approaching for the lambs, I turned for home but not before my dog disgraced herself. We've always put her on a lead near other dogs as she's very timid around dogs and tends to act aggressively when they approach. My behaviourist colleague suggested this was the worst thing to do as it suggests we're scared of the dogs too and makes her fear worse. As I walked back, a party with 2 medium sized dogs approached on a parallel path. I decided to leave her off the lead and hoped she would stay close by. Big mistake! As they got nearer her tail shot up and she rocketed off towards them ignoring my calls and launched straight in to the attack. The skirmish was brief, the other dog was bigger and a well aimed kick from the other dogs owner had her scuttling away with her tail between her legs. I'll be having words with my colleague tomorrow!
After lunch for the lambs and myself, I decided to ignore the temptation of Parrot Crossbills in Waveney Forest, stay on Patch and explore the arable marshes. My walk there gave me a year-tick Fieldfare but the marshes at first seemed deserted. Suddenly a flock of about 50 Skylarks ascended from the newly emergent cereal crop I was walking by, closely followed by a large flock of Linnets that bounded off in to the distance. The farmer here always leaves wide field margins and has a variety of crops in a smallish area including some winter stubble. The Grey Partridges were on his fields too.
A close Barn Owl hunting over a patch of waste ground on the way home was a nice finish to the day.

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