The park was far to dark for anything to be active at that unearthly hour although the Mistle Thrush across the road somewhere on the golf course was singing. No Foxes were found despite all the sniffing, Frank not the safari! On the way back we counted the Magpies, 66 of them, but the lighting on them wasn’t good and there could have been several more. The number of thrushes poking about for worms had increased to nine, at least one was a Song Thrush the others ‘probably’ Blackbirds. The top Song Thrush wasn’t heard again this morning but the bottom one was in full song.
Going back a few hours, before our fitful sleep was rudely disturbed, last night we watched ‘Pool throw away a good two goal advantage and be denied a penalty early in the second half only to give away three goals late in the second half...no points again! This run of defeats is beginning to get worrying, hence the fitful sleep. They still need another 15 points from the remaining 15 games. After the match Frank was viciously attacked by the menace that is Blue; we hadn’t realised he was in his garden until we heard the snarling and yapping and saw his gnashing white teeth flashing from under a bush...if we’d have know he was out we’d have had the camera ready on video mode.
We were able to get in a pre-work Patch 2 safari on a very pleasant morning, no cloud and the sun was still below the horizon so the light was good, it was mild and more or less windless, conditions couldn’t have been much better.
There were a lot of gulls in the pool along side the outfall pipe and many others stretched across the beach. Unfortunately two dogs were running amok just to the north. We had a look at those by the pipe and found a Grey Plover (98) with them. Then the dogs arrived and everything flushed before we could get a count of the numerous Redshanks and Oystercatchers and have a look at the Turnstones working through the Mussels on the pipe itself...blummin marvellous!!! Need a surface-to-dog missile launcher – think it’s called an AK 47; or is that a surface to Rhino/Elephant missile launcher?
However, all was not lost, the dogs and imbecile of an owner were going southwards and eventually the birds settled down on the water’s edge to the north of the pipe and were nicely spaced to work through. As they waded up the beach with the slowly rising tide a fine crisply plumaged adult gull appearing a shade or two darker than the others caught our eye. Now was it a trick of the light or deffo a darker shade of grey? Fortunately the sun still wasn’t fully up and grey tones were more or less ‘real’. A typical adult Herring Gull walked past as did a Common Gull giving us an accurate confirmation of the mantle colour, eventually the bird walked out of the water on to the beach and we could see leg colour too, our first Yellow Legged Gull (99) of the year.
We ran out of time and weren’t able to continue through the gulls for that elusive Caspian or have a proper look at the flat calm sea, which was annoying as conditions were so good. A very quick scan gave us only a distant flock of four Red Throated Divers in flight. It was one of those mornings when we really could have done with being able to stay out for a couple of hours or more...flamin work!!!
At lunchtime we had an errand to run and decided to nip over the moss to the Ring Necked Parakeets in the nearby cemetery. It was like a mini twitch with a couple of the local lads already there staking them out. Not that they are difficult, that high pitched screech gives away their whereabouts immediately. We got a best count of seven although eight had been seen a few minutes earlier (100). Most were asleep or dozing high in the treetops effectively out of range of our lens.
We missed an opportunity of flight shots when one fluttered about a bit then moved trees. Talking of the trees someone has had a go at doing a bit of tree surgery on a some of the larger Poplars...not wanting to sound too critical (but we will anyway) they should have read the Beginners Book of Branch Pruning (or How Not To Hack At Trees) before firing up the chainsaw.
On the way back to the office we stopped at the site of a recent Short Eared Owl sighting but in the few minutes we had to spare it didn’t show, wasn’t really expecting it to, just being hopeful. They have been a bit thin on the ground locally this winter. This fact was evidenced by the hordes of birders there, also refugees from their place of work, desperate for that all important year tick...and they’re not even in competition with Monika! Perhaps they think their club year list challenge is more important than that.
In one of the fields right on a sharpish corner was a herd of Whooper Swans, right out in the open, easy to work through and easy to see if any were blinged with Darvik rings. Sadly we didn’t have time to stop and check for any Bewick’s - that flamin work again!!! - this being the same flock as we watched a week or so ago there probably were – the other birders had stopped and were looking through them.
Back at the office as we pulled into the car park a Pied Wagtail fluttered out of the way of our wheels and its 'big brother', a Magpie, hopped about on the far side of the garden, two additions to the Patch 2 list. We love it when we’re doing school’s work and the little ones say they’ve seen baby Magpies (= Pied Wagtails) on the school playground or field. Well you have to admit they do look sort of similar all black and white and long tailed and all. (P2; 33)
A look at what’s been about over the last few days back to the weekend shows that in the local area and on the South-side marshes just over the river (a short flight to the ‘correct’ side of the river) there are a total of 34 species of birds which we could add to the year list, well 33 if you don’t count the Red Breasted Goose, or do we go to see it as a ‘banker’ in case it gets accepted at a later date? Two are lifers. Most will be picked up in due course over the next few months, tricky beasts in January/February like Blackcaps won’t cause any problems come late April, others like the rarer geese and Waxwings might not make the list at all unless Lady Luck has a large part to play. If we could cross our fingers we would!
Where to next? More patch nonsense and maybe even the opportunity of a much longer look at Patch 2 – weather permitting naturally.
In the meantime let us know if anything’s blinged in your outback.