Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Patchwork surge

My Patchwork Challenge has been somewhat lacklustre this year. February was terribly slow with just 4 new birds added and I didn't expect a lot from March. Forced to stay home on Sunday due to my role as Mummy taxi for my elder daughter and German exchange student gave me plenty of time for some Patchworking. The weather was gorgeous, clear blue sky and warmth enough for just shirt sleeves. The garden had burst in to life with Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone butterflies, and newly emerged bumblebees re-stocking on nectar on the Red Dead-nettle flowers in the vegetable garden. Marsh Harriers were doing their looping display flight and on the scrape marsh, the Lapwings were still fending off potential nest predators and the first Patchwork tick of March appeared as a noisy Oystercatcher flew in.
Encouraged, I headed off with the dog for a Sunday stroll down the road to the northern limit of the patch. Here a rustle in the dry leaves at the edge of the path alerted me to a Grass Snake slithering away, disturbed from its sun-bathing. I can't recall seeing one so early before. Emerging from a line of trees by the marsh, two more Oystercatchers started alarming and I glanced up to see a harrier coming in to view. Except this wasn't the usual ubiquitous Marsh Harrier, the different profile, the barring on the underside of the wings and the white rump made this a Hen Harrier, my first for the year. I had been thinking I wasn't going to catch up with one of these birds on patch this year. My return towards home also produced 2 Chiffchaffs in the same bush.
Today was my half day, so after doing some long overdue weeding in the vegetable garden (but leaving those Dead-nettles) I headed off around the marsh. Another patch year tick came in the dowdy shape of a returning Coot in its usual dyke. I took a diversion on to the neighbours rushy marsh in the hope of a Water Pipit but almost immediately flushed a Jack Snipe that erupted from near my feet and flopped half-heartedly across the rushes before disappearing in to the dense vegetation. The day was going well! Nearing the end of my circuit, a small group of gulls came towards me heading up the valley. A jet black hood on one caught my eye which with the blood red bill, white eyebrows and clear white wingtips revealed it to be a superb adult Med Gull. Despite the Med Gull capital,Great Yarmouth, being only 8 miles away, this was my first on the patch since 1998. Obviously we've not got enough chips (Med Gulls favourite food in east Norfolk) on the marsh. So, a great end to the day and excellent Patchbirding !

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