"I've got some flotsam."
"That's no good! Get some Jetsam! get my drift...wood?"
So sayeth the sage... and as if by magic, the patch today delivered...
Why is it that time is always so short? Today I had 90 minutes. That was it. A day of stuff, preceded by a typical lack of sleep and necessary early start to cram in the day. No problemo :) We're talking the patch here after all! Besides, the cats woke me early. Wilson decided to have a bit of a purr in my face at about 4am (bless him) and Rosie followed up with a quick pounce on my toes when I failed to drag myself out of bed and feed them both. Delightful creatures. No seriously... they truly are... but I cudda done with a few more zeez pre-river jaunt! Ho hum...
SO, 07:15am... dark... and I'm off to the river. Figure I can get there for first light and take advantage of the fact that high tide was just an hour or two ago and so (a) it would now be receding and (b) things would have been pushed off in the dark and hence eager to feed come daybreak. Happy days. PLUS, there was always the chance of an early morning owl... never a bad thing :) Only today, there were no owls. In fact, as I parked and togged up by the usual black and yellow metal gate, there was only Robin, Blackbird and Carrion Crow. And that's pretty much how it stayed (apart from the ocassional laughing Mallard) until I reached Halfway House about half an hour later.
It was still dark as I set up my replacement fezzie chair on the bank by the river, but at least there was stuff out there - I could hear it. Wigeon mostly, but the ocassional bleat of Teal and 'curlwee' of Curlew too. Yep, things were out and about! Didn't take long for enough light to creep in for me to attempt the first count of the day - 89 Wigeon and 12 Mallard. Smaller stuff out there too... it's the Teal I heard on arrival, just 4 of them though. Further down river 4 Grey Herons are stood on the mud. No gulls anywhere. Odd. On the mud to my right I can now see that there are 135 Curlew hunched in a loose flock. Apart from the continued whistles of the Wigeon, all is quiet. A little sleepy still perhaps.
10 minutes later and there's a little flurry of activity 6 Cormorants fly over from the direction of the Fiddler's Ferry lagoons and 170 Lapwing drift in from upstream and settle by the Wigeon along the far bank. Sharp 'krreeee' to my left as a solitary Dunlin decideds it's time to leave the muddy margin behind the reeds and head off back towards the estuary. Moments later, the first of the morning's gulls arrive low over the water, as they usually seem to do and settle among the Curlew; 7 Black-headed Gull, 2 Common Gull. Other things are stirring too... Great Tit, Dunnock, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Wren, Song Thrush, Common Buzzard.
I do another count. Things are always in flux here and numbers change, but I can see that more Wigeon have emerged and that the Lapwing numbers have swelled. There's also a big flock of Carrion Crows on the mud too, and more gulls. Full tally; 161 Wigeon, 21 Mallard, 4 teal, 1 Gadwall, 34 Shelduck, 10 Grey Heron, 27 BH Gull, 1 Common Gull, 2 Herring Gull, 6 LBB Gull, 250 Lapwing, 129 Curlew, 62 Carrion Crow. Gulls are up! Lapwing and Curlew are off!! Something's spooked them. Quick scan of the skys reveals a Peregrine, powering its way over the river towards its favourite perch atop the pylon to my left. Well, that'll be it for a bit until things settle again. Time to go I think. WTF? What IS that on the waters edge? Biggest bunch of Jetsam I've ever seen on the river... in the form of, yes, a sofa!!!
I've seen some odd stuff washed up on the patch, but that wins the prize for the oddest. Little Grebe on the ship canal by Randal's Sluice (Goldeneye still there too) is another of the day's new additions to the year tally (along with Shelduck, Curlew and Dunlin) as I head back for a quick shuftie of the east end. Funny what you miss in the dark. I must have walked right past these on the way down but only spotted them now. A pair of swan wings.
Juvenile Mute Swan
At this point Farley decides to put in an appearance (cue smell of rusk) and sends me off through Top Scrub and the wet Juncus patches between Shipton's Meadow and the ship canal. I really must sort the little imp out! Seems like he only needs to whisper the word Snipe in my shell like at the moment and he's got me. Well, there were NO Snipe, much to his delight (if the devlish cackles were anything to go by) but I did get a Collared Dove singing by the redbrick houses - another addition to the patch year list.
Arrive back at the car to find I've left the window wide open! Idiot!! Thank god I'd left the river a little earlier than I'd planned. Thank god for that Peregrine! Plan now was to check for thaw on the ponds. Surely by now... Answer? Yes. Lapwing Lake actually has birds on it for the first time in about a month! Not much mind you as there's still a little ice but birds nonetheless in the form of; 6 Mallard, 10 Teal and 3 Tufted Duck in the east corner and 2 Grey Heron perched in the dead tree. Looked like the thaw was taking hold of Birchwood and Pumphouse Pools too (gull city, but no time to sift...) and it had certainly worked a little magic at Millbrook Pool.
Arrived to find bikes. That meant Roy and Harry had got there early and were enjoying the flush of wildfowl that the milder conditions had brought in; 39 Canada Geese, 27 Gadwall, 62 Teal (some in display), 3 Mallard, 6 Shoveler, 5 Wigeon, 14 Tufted Duck, a pair of Pochard and a Coot! Considering there'd been mostly Teal and Shoveler on previous visits, this was somewhat of an upturn in duckage - excellent! Even the Eastern Reedbed had a few birds back; 2 Mallard and a Teal. Happy Days. Well, that was me done. Added Starling and Mute Swan to the year list as I left and checked the barns on the Big Hand Ranch as I drove by. Looks like the Kestrels have set up shop again in the barn owl box - pair sitting on top of it. Would have preferred Barn Owl to be honest, but ho hum. Patch Year Tally 70 species.