Nothing much on the canal... a few Tufted Duck, Coot, pair of Mute Swan... and that was it. Robins by the bucketful calling, Wren, Dunnock, Bullfinch, Song Thrush... quiet. It's funny, after all these years of variously ambling, slogging and tearing to the river, I still get that little burst of adrenaline as I round the prom to the grassy knoll atop which sits my riverine perch. Never know what you're gonna see... well... you can often have a good guess, like today... but I still get that little spurt of the 'A'. Today I did something different. Today I simply stood to the left of the willow. I had no scope with which to scan (so no need of the usual elevated position) and no camping chair in which to sit as I'd left it in the garage (so little point in even attempting to get comfortable). No, today it was a straight 'look see'. And... Lapwing. Lots and lots of Lapwing... thousands in fact... a few Shelduck on the mud... Black-headed, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls over in intermittent lower case 'v's and forward slashes... a solitary Cormorant, 2 Mallard and 47 Carrion Crows out on the mud. What was more interesting was the evidence of the previous week's high tide... still amazes me how much crap there is in the river.
So it wasn't exactly an eventful sojourn...but I'd popped my 2014 river cherry and that was enough for me. Off to Upper Moss Side. May as well walk a different way back to the car thought I. Lucky I did as I picked up a sleepy Barn Owl near Long Field and Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer on what looks like the only remaining feeding station in Tree Sparrow Field.
Whatever happened to all the winter seed that used to be so lovingly scattered on UMS. Doesn't seem to be any more... and its demise has in turn seen the demise in the numbers of Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer using the site. Such a shame. A few years back there were clouds of Yellowhammers during the winter and the hedges bordering the field by the farm veritably awash with Tree Sparrow AND House Sparrow. Today alas, none of the latter and just singles of the others... No Grey Partridge. No Brown Hare. No Skylark. A shadow of its former self this year. The field near the ever-expanding White House that in the past had reasonable flocks of Curlew on, today had two... and a Common Buzzard... hopping along on the ground like a vulture... presumably work hunting. No Stonechat on the Phrag Field today (this year?) but I did manage to add Collared Dove and Goldcrest to the year list... both by the cottages... and Willow Tit calling just a smidgen further along past Bob's Bridge. And with that, I was back at the car.
Time to hit Lapwing Lane for a brief catch up with two of the patch regulars (Denn & Mal) and have a quick look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and I'd have to head off. Well, there was another Willow Tit at the Feeding Station and plenty of Great Spotted Woodpeckers knocking about... but not a sniff of the Lesser. To add insult to injury, we heard Green Woodpecker whilst trying to track down a light intermittent pecking in the little wood by the board-walk. The prospect of all three woodpeckers was rather nice as I can count on one hand the number of patch triples I've had. But not today. The light tapping turned out to be another GSW and my final tinkling of the Lapwing Lane ivories yielded nothing in the minor key. Ah well, t'was good to get out. The patch vitamins had left the year list looking a little less anaemic than it did a week or so ago... so I can't complain. Simple pleasures dear hearts... simple pleasures.