Lapwing Lake this afternoon
Funny old thing patching. Take the past few months for example. Much of my time has been spent at the far ends of the patch looking for those illusive winter ticks that have been keeping me from a record breaking 140 for the year. I guess that's the nature of things as new species become harder and harder to find as the year progresses... which in a weird way... makes visiting the patch more and more fun (I use the word 'fun' here as a euphemism for 'challenging'). It can certainly make you work harder and explore new places, or in my case, test the ole tenacity to the full. I mean how many times CAN you visit the same bit of river, looking for the same bird, with the same result - ne pas de sausage - before you crack up? Well, I can tell you that the answer ISN'T seven. Coz that's how many times I've yomped to the east river looking for Goosander during the past few months without any luck... until today! The gorgeous redhead by the viaduct had me whooping and kicking my heels with joy (don't even go there!). Funny. I'd always assumed that when I found a Goosander here (and I always believed I would) it would be a male... and here she was, swimming upstream along the far bank a cute little female and species number 138 for the year. And what's more, my gut showed absolutely no inclination towards today being THE day that I'd find one... go figure.
We'd arrived (I had 'olds' with me) at the Angler's Pool an hour earlier to see how the thaw was progressing. Not bad as it turned out but still nowhere near enough meltage as yet. There was now about 20% open water but the pool still only had gulls; 102 Black-headed Gulls and 8 Common Gulls to be exact. Still, at least it suggested it was worth checking the rest of the pools for birds. WE were clearly not the only ones with that particular idea today. The car park was full as we drove past (meh!) and I could see two silhouttes already in the hide as we approached the reedbed. Ah well. Turned out to be a couple of the local lads I'd not seen for a while and they were already scoped on the Woodcock. Today it was on the big island of Millbrook Pool, seemingly asleep. The thaw here had progressed too and the Teal numbers had swelled from yesterdays' half a dozen to 63 today. There had been a few Gadwall on the wetter flush in the north east corner earlier too, according to our birding compadres, but these had now gone. The Eastern Reedbed was less productive - still iced over and devoid of birds. It was at this point we went and bagged us the Goosander :) Happy days...
Next up was a quick trip to Pumphouse Pool. We'd noticed a shed load of gulls on the ice there as we'd driven past earlier and with my dander now semi-erect from my recent Goosander thrill I figured the gulls were worth a trawl - target: the juvenile Iceland Gull that Mikey had had in the not too distant past. Long story short; c650 Black-headed Gull, 38 Herring Gull, 15 Common Gull, 7 Lesser Black-backed Gull, ZERO Iceland Gull. Birchwood Pool was today birdless - I mean COMPLETELY birdless! Not even a Crow. If I wanted to get even closer to the magical 140 I'd need to scour the treetops for small stuff. There'd been a flock of about 45 Lesser Redpoll at the Eastern Reedbed, but the light was rubbish and it would have been pointless to grill them all for a Mealy... but the light seemed a little better in Birch Wood as we trogged back through the mud to the car. Bins up and... Chaffinch... Chaffinch... Chaffinch... Iceland Gull. ICELAND GULL! Fuck me! I had NOT expected that. An adult Iceland Gull was cruising low over Birch Wood heading towards Arpley Tip... clear as day... not a speck of black on those pearly wing-tips. T'was like a ghost of gull, Sire. The olds thought I was completely mad as I hopped and skipped about cackling, "Iceland Gull, fucking adult iceland Gull - 'scuse my French..." and so on and so forth. So icy puts me on 139, and that I'm sure is where I'll stay - 1 short of the magical 140. I can't honestly see catching up with any patch Waxwing, overflying Whoopers or roosting Long-eared Owls over the next couple of days, especially with visitors up... but hey, patching teaches you contentment. And I am, at this moment, a most content patcher :)
PS: Mind you with 45 Lesser Redpolls at the reedbed and two talismanic old people staying I'd be mad not to bundle them into the car again tomorrow and go Mealy huntin... watcha reckon? ;)