Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Signs of Spring

Exhausted with work last week, I took the Friday off and was glad I did; it was a beautiful morning to be out and about. The sun's rays have warmth and the birds have been triggered into song. In the garden, song thrush, blackbird and robins are the most vocal, while the house sparrows have begun fighting for roof space, noisily clattering along the gutters as they dispute.

Out in the open, below an increasing number of showy skylarks, the hedgerows are hosting a sing-off. The most notable bird being one of my favourites; the under-stated dunnock. This weekend was the first I've heard them this year and yet they've all come to life at once. This beautiful individual allowed me very close as he laid claim to his strip of thorn. NB: double click on pictures to see them in full resolution

Along the river, a flotilla of 6 goosander split equally drake and duck were seen. I had only seen the odd bird in flight thus far this year, so it was pleasing to see so many together. As I watched them fly up river away from me, I missed what was certainly an otter splash and vanish from sight. Also on the river were the first pair of oystercatcher, joining the lone bird that has been hanging about for weeks.

The year-list has been ticking along slowly after an initial flurry, and I've managed to add linnetferal pigeon (#patchgold), red-legged partridge and waxwing to the list since I last wrote. The latter feels like a bit of a cheat...

I got the call from Nick that they were present in Morton-on-Swale so rushed to see them. There were some 80 birds, but they began to disperse soon after i arrived. Nick put the idea in my head that I'd be able to record them on my patch so I went and stood on the highest point and watched Morton from afar until I spotted the large flock fly-catching at Morton bridge! Here is the best picture I could manage in the brief time they were at eye level.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

4th February

The sun was out on Saturday morning so I took to the long river loop. Goldcrests that have been the bird of the winter on the patch were completely absent and I began to wonder whether they were already working their way back to Siberia. I kicked up a couple of partridge on the way to the river and logged my first goosander of the year, flying on rapid wing-beats toward Morton-on-Swale.

The river has been quieter than normal, but the patch first of two little grebe a couple of weeks ago was followed up by the sighting of a solitary bird about 1km upstream. They're very cryptic and I wonder whether I've just blundered by them in the past.

Each year I've lived here, my first skylark sightings have come at the same place and this year was no different... two birds were singing at the NW-most bend of the river loop. Another sign of Spring, male lapwings have begun to hold territory in Thrintoft Ings. It feels like it's going to get colder before it gets warmer but I love how the seasons aren't defined, but instead feather together.

Fields that were laid to stubble last year are unusually covered in grass and alas the bunting and finch flocks cannot be found. I wondered up to the great hedge opposite the large ox-bow hoping to tick off linnet, redpoll, corn burning or brambling but none could be found.

Instead, I spotted a hare lying in its form in the field. From a hundred yards or so I edged closer and closer, camera held to my face. I find that hares react in two ways: they either bound slowly away at the first sight of me; or they hold their ground until I'm close before bolting at great speed. The hare above did the latter (the image above isn't cropped) allowing me within 20ft. It wasn't until I looked away and looked back that it was on it's heels and in the blink of an eye, 200 yards away.

Other mammals were obvious this weekend too; badger prints led out on the path from Thrintoft and otter tracks and slides were obvious on the far river bank opposite Scruton. Roe hoof-prints are everywhere and I even saw my first pygmy shrew in ages... the last one running up my leg whilst I sat in my hide a couple of years ago.

Friday, 3 February 2017

January Round-Up

As last year ended, I'd pretty much convinced myself that I wasn't going to give up as much time to the Patchwork Challenge this year. I found that despite it leading to some great sightings and a significant increase in my knowledge of Thrintoft and its geography, it had led to me take fewer quality photos... and I have a lot invested in my camera and lenses!

However, every day I've had free this year has been on a grey day with poor light so I've taken to twitching instead of photographing. Annoyingly, the results have exceeded my expectations and I'm hooked again. The graphic below shows my year-on-year progress; by this time last year, I'd logged 65 species and this year that number is 66.

I find it interesting to note the species I've failed to find this year that I had seen by this time last year and vice versa.

Of greatest note, is the discovery of little grebe, siskin and pink-footed goose... three birds that eluded me for the whole of last year. Damn! Now I have to reach 105 species in 2017...

These pink-footed geese have hung around for a week...

Proper updates from here on in...