Monday, January 03, 2011
The Little Things...
Two hours? What am I gonna get done in just two hours?! That's how much patch time (including getting there and back) that I had at my disposal amid pre-work chores (I start back tomorrow...) and that's what occupied my mind on the mad drive to Moore at 8:15 this morning. Well I'd have to do the east river as Mikey had texted me that there were a couple of Goldeneye there... but I really needed to get to Halfway House too and they are at opposite ends of the patch. It would be a squeeze. Ah well, wtf - go for it! Floored the old Volvo and headed for the east end barely slowing to check for Peregrine by the viaduct. None there, but did pick up the first new species for the day - Stock Dove - two of them on the railway bridge. Nipped in to the Eastern Reedbed in the hope of nabbing the temporarily resident winter Woodcock, but no joy. What's more, everywhere was still pretty much frozen and so devoid of birds. Teal numbers were down on Millbrook Pool (just 16 today) and there were no Mallard or Gadwall. Odd. The reason though soon became apparent. Even before I'd lifted my bins and turned around I knew that the crisp pattering on the ice to my left was a fox - the mangey looking female I'd seen a couple of weeks back by the look of it. And there was another... edging around the island, also on the ice. Not surprising that most of the the ducks had scarpered! Slim pickings these days. The Teal though were a year tick, and I have a soft spot for the patch foxes anyway so I couldn't really complain.
As nothing else was showing I trotted to the car and parked up at the east end by the substation for a quick check of the east river. This is as good a spot as any for the 'trickier' winter diving ducks on the patch; Goosander, Goldeneye etc. Not today though. Just a solitary Moorhen. Ah well, at least it would give me time for a fair crack at the west end. Bumped into Roy on his bike as I left for Halfway House. He was meeting up with Dave to take a gander at the Yellowhammer flock on Upper Moss Side. Unfortunately, for me, UMS was going to have to wait for another day. I needed to get to the river. Parked up by Bob's Bridge and instantly got a few more new species for the year; 2 Bullfinch over, 4 Fieldfare on top of a large Hawthorn and a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from the very top of the tallest poplar by the redbrick houses. Seemed like there was more stuff out and about today, despite the chill (sub-zero again according to my car) as Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit and Goldcrest were all calling nearby. The Goldcrest surprised me a little. I'd had one at the Feeding Station on New Year's Day and it now struck me how pleasantly odd that this was. Goldcrest can be like hen's teeth on the patch and it took me months to find one last year, funnily enough where I was now, Bob's Bridge, and so birds in two different parts of the patch was very good indeed, especially as I'd figured these little things would have been hammered hardest by the cold snap on account of their small size and insectivorous habits. Apparently not!
Decided I'd be better taking the path along Shipton's Meadow to the ship canal today as (i) the canal was weirdly frozen from the swing bridge to about as far as the black and yellow gate and (ii) there was a good chance of some farmland stuff along the way. Added Greenfinch, Pheasant (a male being pursued by 4 females), Dunnock, Song Thrush, Rook (10+ with a load of Jackdaws in one of the fields), 2 Skylark and a male Yellowhammer over - so not too shabby a detour at all. The ship canal by the warehouses was free of ice but there was nothing on it at all, just a solitary Redshank on one of the little muddy embankments. I'd have probaby missed it if it hadn't wing-stretched. Not to worry. There was bound to be something further down. And so it was. A group of Tufted Duck (3m,8f) and something else with them... scope up and... 2 female Goldeneye. Could be the east river birds I guess. Nice. And that brought me to...
... the bend in the river - Halfway House. Well, there was stuff about sure enough. Nothing spectacular mind you, just patch basics, but it all added to the feel that things were ticking along nicely. So here's the first of the year's HWH counts; 260 Black-headed Gull, 26 Herring Gull, 38 Great Black-backed Gull (a good count that!), 2 Common Gull, 0 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3 Grey Heron, 41 Mallard, 3 Gadwall, 21 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 21 Canada geese, 1 Cormorant, 39 Lapwing. No Shelduck, Curlew, Little Egret or Golden Plover though - shame. Time was pressing so I had to dash, but not before I found yet another Goldcrest. This time in the brambles opposite 'The Prom' and there may well have been a second bird. Made me smile that... ah the little things eh ;) SO, headed off happy as the proverbial sand laddy with a few more species under my unfortunately expansive post-Chrimbo belt. Had a quick look for Collared Dove by the houses and Moss Side Farm on the way back - no luck. No Stonechat in the Phrag Field either, nor Grey Partridge on any of the field margins. Did get Mistle Thrush and Kestrel by the swing bridge though as I headed home. I make that another 23 species which puts me on 55 for the year. Not too bad really given that we are only on Day 3 :)
PS It's now 16:08 and I've just got text from Mike 'Pair of Goosander on the east river' - doh!