Saturday, 16 January 2016

River Regulars

At this time of year I don't get to see the patch at all between Monday and Friday, so I was very pleased to see that the sun was due out on Saturday morning. I set about my normal route out of the village and then north along the river with the sun on my back. I was hoping to tick off a few outstanding familiar birds and was optimistic that something else might turn up on the river while the floods lie frozen.

I ticked off snipe at the wooded pond, which I was nearly upon before the pair exploded out of the damp, long grass. Somebody should produce a bird ID guide for clumsy people like me, as 90% of birds I see are flying away and calling out in alarm; I NEVER see them first. This guide will just show rump shots in flight and detail their alarm calls.

Again at the river, the goosander saw me first and flew up and away, circling me as it did so. Pied wagtail was a bit more approachable and the wish to see a grey wagtail had barely entered my mind before one bobbed round the bend of the river and into full view. I walked as far as I could along the river before it becomes private land and turned up nothing new. 3 Little egret over, repeated wagtail and goosander sightings and a couple of teal pairs added some interest.

Reed Bunting and corn bunting were glaring omissions from my list so I paused where I often see them in good number. A scan of the fields and surrounding trees was proving fruitless as I heard the familiar creaking sound of swans flying behind me. Turning to see a skein of 15 birds, I was disappointed they weren't whoopers, but mute swans are not a regular bird here either so I was glad of the tick. Reed bunting, dunnock and song thrush were added on the way home.

After a cup of tea to warm up, I grabbed my camera and headed to the north of the patch. A walk along the river revealed the extent of damage the recent floods had caused, with many uprooted trees and the carcass of a drowned sheep filling the air with the smell of death. I was pleased to see these five-toed otter tracks alongside badger, heron, fox and domestic dog tracks.

I saw the first snowdrop of the year on 3rd January, but today they were much more evident; these ones right on the edge of the flood strand-line.

At the river, I added kingfisher and greater-spotted woodpecker before I heard what I'm 90% certain was green sandpiper. I moved upriver and sat quietly hoping it would emerge again but it didn't. I was joined by a large group of long-tailed tits, but shooting into the sun the best I could manage was this ethereal shot, with strange artefacts in the bokeh.

Heading home I stopped at the ox-bow lake again and ticked off moorhen which had taunted me last weekend. The reeds there are really looking promising for Spring and whilst I walked along them planning a location for my hide, I noticed 3 grey heron working the field opposite looking for worms.

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