Ctrl H. That, as many of you will know, is the shortcut key for Replace in Word and Excel that allows you to replace one string of text or set of numerical values with another, lots of times, in one fell swoop. You've probably used it and very useful it is too... especially when renaming or recoding bird records. Why am I telling you all this? Because it was a bit of a Ctrl H type session on the patch today. Take for example the Angler's Pool... my first brief stop off point this morning. Now I know we've had the odd chilly day of late but you'd have thought that on the whole, overall, taking all things into consideration that it had perhaps been mild enough to return the patch pools to water wouldn't you. Not quite... and there was a twist to boot, hence the moniker of today's post. Where once there was ice [Ctrl H and in the Find what: box insert the word 'ice'] there was now thinner ice (and less of it) shrouded by a low-hanging mist and an ocassional sprinkling of drizzle [in the Replace with: box insert the word 'mizzle']. Oh the irony. We have, at last, a partial thaw with which to draw birds back (if I may go all Hot Fuzz for a moment - YARP!) but limited opportunities to spot them on account of the crap visibility (NARP!!). Such was today's theme. SO, condiments at the ready dear reader... todays counts may be a little 'off', but I've done my best.
The Anglers Pool earlier
Angler's Pool - nothing. And I'm pretty sure there really was nothing lurking in the mist (see pic above) but at least it was a little more 'chirpy' there today... mostly Great Tit sure, but one was actually singing as if t'was a spring morning, bless his scaly little socks.
Big Hand Ranch - nothing. No mist here (just seemed to be over any open water / ice today) and so I'm sure of it. Not even the resident Kestrel. Not even sure I remember any of the resident horses being there today either come to think of it. Hmmmm.
Pumphouse Pool - Loadsa stuff! Ooo. Well waddayano! Slid the car through the mud to the east hide and got my trusty black notebook out. There was mist here too (I couldn't see the west hide), but at least I could see 2/3rds of the pool and there were birds on it; 14 Mallard, 12 teal, 4 Shoveler, 1 Moorhen and 2 Canada Geese.
Pumphouse Pool today
Then there were the gulls. Hundreds of them. Actually, maybe even a couple of thousand. It was like Birchwood Pool had come to Pumphouse! The vast majority (~90%) were Black-headed Gulls, but there were Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Common among them too. Shame, but I didn't have time to go though them all for the likely Med Gull hiding in their midst. Had a brief chat with another birder, Ian, who'd come in from the east end via the river (no Goosander seen) and who was on the patch for the day, clocked a couple of Bullfinch in front of the hide, and headed off to...
... Millbrook Pool - more stuff here today; 11 Mallard, 73 Teal, 14 Canada Geese (first back since freeze), Coot (likewise, and the only one I saw on the pools today - they still haven't returned from wherever it is that they went when the cold snap hit last year and I'm now getting a little worried about them), 13 Shoveler, 20 Gadwall, 1 Grey Heron. No Snipe though... which was a little surprising. the wet flush looks ideal for them at the moment.
Eastern Reedbed - still frozen, though looks about ready to break. Birdwise...Nada... I lie... 1 Carrion Crow... on the ice.
East River - for Goosander. Yes I know it's already been checked today BUT... just in case. Well, they do come and go a bit to be honest, so why not? PLUS it gave me a chance to take a couple of phone snaps of the south and north ends of the river there that together dlimit the eastern boundary proper, of the patch. SO, here they are...
The east river looking south
The east river looking north
...oh and another, which I thought was quite funky... Giant Hogweed on the river bank...
and one that really annoyed me... why do people just dump crap???
Birds. Well, there's a flock of 25+ Goldfinch twittering away, a male Pheasant coughing in one of the fields, a Song Thrush 'tsip-ing' somewhere, Wren churring and...oh... ripples near the far bank. Fish up or bird down? Bird down it turned out as it's just bobbed up again. Cormorant. Had me going for a moment. Further down there's another and beneath the trees on the near bank by me, a pair of Mallard roosting... and that's it. No Goosander, just as Ian had said.
At this point, suffering as I was from intermittent stomach cramps (the result I'm sure of last nights' encounter with a somewhat disagreeable sausage), I was set to leave when the familiar imagined smell of rusk heralded the arrival of my imp, Farley, who proceeded, as he usually does, to bend my ear about leaving the patch prematurely. Today the little devil perched on my shoulder wanted me to check out the Black Fields.
"No Farley! I have gut rot and need to get back!"
"But Master might find a Green Sandpiper there or one of his Snipes"
Oh brilliant! The little bastard had me and before I knew it I was off down Firecrest Alley to view the Black Fields from the bank. Well, there was sod all on there (much to Farley's obvious amusement), BUT there was a flock, yes flock (!) of 5 Goldcrest working west along the hawthorns. They all looked really well fed and healthy too - smashing. And that was pretty much me done... except for a quick check of Birchwood Pool from the road (frozen - no birds), Lapwing Lake from the east hide (frozen - no birds) and the loop through Upper Moss Side in the hope of anything new for the year (I'd drawn a blank so far). Now there's a small stand of newishly planted trees just before the White House with all the building works going on and it has been good for winter Woodcock the past couple of years. Thought it was worth a go. Alas, no joy and I wasted 10 minutes... and now there was this big fuck off truck trundling my way and blocking the road so I'd have to wait another 10 minutes for it to pass. Meh. May just as well check the little field to my right then! First birds I see (and, it turned out, the only ones in the field) are 4 Grey Partridge! Happy Days - an addition to the year list after all. Year Tally 62 species.