My Patchwork Challenge for 2014 ended 3 species and 8 points down on 2013. The mild winter of 2014 with a consequent lack of winter wildfowl was the main cause of this downturn in fortune but undaunted I've registered for 2015.
I left my patch (and Norfolk) on New Years Day and headed south to the Stour Estuary in Suffolk, and with work yesterday, today was the first day I could spend some serious birding time at home. There were other important duties to attend to however with some of these guys due this weekend:
but the seven ewes left to lamb were languidly chewing their cud every time I walked through the rain to check them. The rain kept me indoors much of the day but with a handily placed scope at the upstairs bedroom window birding could continue in comfort and warmth regardless.
Surprise of the day was the doubling of our seemingly now winter resident Tree Sparrow population from two to four birds. With birds popping in and out of the hedge, it was a while before I managed to see all four together on top of our privet hedge. The rain kept the local raptors down but, as it eased a little, a ringtail Hen Harrier appeared (always good to get safely on the patch list for another year). A Barn Owl was doggedly hunting through the rain too. Also out hunting, but happily unsuccessfully, were three wildfowlers who had built a temporary shooting blind and laid Pinkfeet decoys across a marsh directly out from the house. The Pinkfeet flock sensibly stayed up by the A143 close to Haddiscoe and the wildfowlers clearly cold, wet and bored from the way they ended up out of the blind stamping their feet and waving their arms gave up mid-morning. Within minutes of them leaving, the geese moved up closer to a more favoured feeding ground. The wary geese were obviously not easily fooled.
The rain finally cleared in the late afternoon in time for a pleasant walk around our marsh. A Woodcock flushing from our alder wood as I passed was my first of the winter. Then an owl lifted off the next marsh clutching prey and turned out to be a Short-eared, surprisingly scarce here this winter. Barn Owls seem to be returning to their former abundance after the disastrous winter of 2012-13 with 3 in the air at once and finally 2 Stonechats put on a show amongst the reeds of the neighbouring marsh, another bird that disappeared in 2013.
The bird that has been surprisingly missing from patch all winter is Rough-legged Buzzard. Haddiscoe Marshes were until very recently particularly favoured by Rough-legs but have yet to appear this year and have only been reported once or twice from nearby Haddiscoe Island despite there being a big influx in to the UK this autumn. Hopefully its just a matter of time.