Having spent a pleasant morning staking out Halfway House (see Patch Persistence, Day 4 - Part I) the plan this evening is to do the east end for drop-ins and Upper Moss Side for owls. Arrive at Pumphouse Pool to find it occupied by a couple busily working their way through a stack of beers. Chat for a bit but as there was nowt going on bird-wise decide to check the Black Fields north of the Eastern Reedbed as the new scraping had held a couple of Green Sandpipers recently. Same story tonight... in almost the same spot, but alas no Wood Sandpiper or similar goodie to add to my tally. There IS a late reeling Grasshopper Warbler though, which is totally unexpected. Not had one reeling here since April! Wonder if it's the resident or a migrant just passing through?
As it is still hours until sunset and I've done the east end rather more quickly than I'd imagined I would, I think I'll sit in the south hide on Lapwing Lake for a bit and see how many Cormorants and Little Egrets come in to roost. Quickly becomes apparent though that you can't actually SEE the roost tree from the hide, so I head instead for the bench near the raptor view point and pour a coffee. Trouble is, it's no better from here. Ah well, time to just sit and soak up the evening glow. Not a lot going on except for the too-ing and fro-ing of gulls, the odd Coot dispute, a few Gadwall unable to make up their minds about where to settle for the night and the occasional sweep of a Cormorant doing laps of the lake before finally landing on the far side of the roost tree out of view. Thankfully one or two things are calling to spice up my temporary loaf... Linnet in the willow in front of me, Willow Tit calling from the gorse to my right. Curious that. The Willow Tit. I'd had one calling this morning at HWH having not heard any for a ages. It's beginning to feel like things are getting a bit restless on the patch. Signs of birds starting to think about making a move?
19:15 and still some time to kill before it gets dumpsy and I can start looking for owls. A stroll through Hillcrest Quarry is pleasant but unproductive as far as birds are concerned and it's Bob's Bridge before I see anything of note - 49 Swallows on the wires. Numbers up from yesterday. Flock is building before heading south. Also on a different line of wires are 28 Goldfinches. Lots of juveniles among them. They flit between the wires and the thistledown in the White House Path Field. Many will stay now for the winter I think. The sun is against me here and I can see nothing. I'm relying on my ears. Brief snatch of Yellowhammer song is about the only new sound. Not long before I reach the fields by the Norton Marsh hide. The field on the right (Long Pond Field), has a muddy pond in it. Looks good for passage waders (if only the Longhorns would stop using it), but I've yet to have anything except Moorhen, Mallard and Gadwall on it. Tonight though there's a solitary Common Snipe - woo hoo!
20:00 I let the Longhorns gingerly sniff my phone (they are such softies!)...
...and decide to watch the sun set on the marsh from the hide. I can hear Lapwing close to the waters edge. Plenty of them it sounds like. They must have come in early. Curlew are arriving in ones and twos and heading towards Halfway House, calling. There are gulls there already... Lesser Black-backeds and Black-headed judging from the size and shape of their distant silhouettes. There are more pouring in from the east now... and geese too. Regular large groups of Canada Geese and smaller, occasional groups of Greylags. The gulls are silent as they drift in, the geese noisy, but it doesn't last long. They either fly over and are gone or settle on the edge of the marsh. It is SO quiet. Quiet enough even to hear the soft scratch-scratch-scratch of a wasp on the outside of the hide as it scrapes off tiny pieces of wood to chew into paper for its nest.
21:00 The light has drained from the marsh and has taken with it all trace of colour. Everything now is monochrome. As I leave the hide a Wren slips in to roost. She popped her head around the doorway twice earlier... and both times chittered scoldingly at me for keeping her up. Time to walk the fields! I use up the last remaining binocular-available light quickly, even with my Leicas, and it's not long before I'm birding by moonlight. Naked eye stuff - movements and dark shapes are what I'm after now. There's a Long-eared Owl out here somewhere and I'm determined to find it. Tree Sparrow Field... Balloon Hut Field... Lane End Field... Daisy Field... nothing. Nothing to see, nothing to hear. I cut through the short overgrown path to the ship canal track in the hope that the light from the warehouses will help me spot things. It doesn't. There are no owls out tonight. I get back to the car, hit full-beam and drive down Lapwing Lane in one last hope of getting a Tawny Owl. Nothing. Car park and I use the headlights to illuminate the field in case of Barn Owl. Nothing. Ah well, the sunset was gorgeous and the sound of the marsh going to sleep pretty damn lovely. Home for some kip then up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to see the sunrise at Halfway House. Wonder what THAT will thow up? Can hardly wait. Why twitch when you can patch I say!!!