Here in east Norfolk we seem to have escaped the worst of the severe weather that has been battering the country for the last 2 months. We had average rainfall in January and although February has been wetter the rainfall maps suggest only a little bit more than average. Consequently our marshes don't have much more standing water on them than in previous winters, a far cry from the Somerset Levels and Thames flood meadows. It has been windy but, apart from the neighbours rotten fence, there has been little damage too apart from part of an old Alder which came down in the last storm.
The mild weather continues to keep the patch fairly quiet and it feels rather like March, the winter birds gone (well actually they never really got here) and the spring birds yet to arrive. I've only managed to add 3 species this month to my Patchwork Challenge year-list. A Lesser Redpoll in the garden on the 8th was the first of the winter and for the first time in 17 years I've seen wintering Chiffchaff on the patch, two birds in fact. One of the Chiffchaffs was singing in the welcome sunshine we experienced last week. The lack of sustained cold can only be good for the local Barn Owls which were completely wiped out by last winters bitter weather. We had got used to regularly seeing up to 6 Barn Owls from the house so to see none last summer was very disheartening. One lone bird eventually moved in but I was delighted to see two together hunting over the marshes with a third bird more distantly earlier in the month. I hope its a good vole year.
The rooks have returned to their rookery to roost at night but apart from the odd bird carrying the occasional stick to an old nest, they have yet to start building in earnest. Meanwhile, small flocks of Lapwings have been moving through over the last few days, some stopping om the scrape marsh. On the advice of the RSPB, we turned down the pipe on the scrape to expose a little mud as Lapwings start prospecting for nest sites about now.
With the Patchwork list moving so slowly I've ventured further afield, firstly to Titchwell to catch up with some winter ducks, where Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Goldeneye and Common Scoter duly obliged and also get a fix of that wonderfully evocative sound of flocking Brent Geese. Today I persuaded my elder daughter to accompany me to Covehithe where I caught up with the female Long-tailed Duck that has spent the winter there. The sea was very stormy but I managed to find 3 Red-throated Divers bobbing wildly up and down giving now you see me, now you don't views.
With winter fizzling out, it's very much roll on spring now.