Monday 27 March 2017

Patch Mojo

Most of my recent birding has been away from the patch, but with a day off and some half decent weather forecast I decided to get back out onto patch to look for migrants. The weather was very spring like indeed with bright sunshine and blue skies, although the coolish north-easterly reminded me it was still March.

Starting at Burnt Mill Farm I was a little disappointed to find no Wheatear on the main paddocks, but a few Common Buzzard and Kestrel were keeping the local Meadow Pipits and Linnets on their toes. Moving around I checked the fields around Burnt Mill Farm and was pleased to find some fairly decent numbers of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, along with good numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet again.

Driving down Carr Lane I could hear Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing from Great Boar Wood. Parking up on the bridge I could hear plenty of woodland species in full song including Nuthatch and Treecreeper, whilst various tits and finches were clearly making the most of the spring-like weather. I had a little off-road explore and was pleased to find a very smart male Garganey at the back of the flooded field, sharing the area with 3 Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mallard and the usual Coot and Moorhen.

Moving across the road I immediately picked up 5 Water Pipit feeding very close to the road. 2 of the group were already well advanced into summer plumage and I enjoyed watching them for a while. The pools looked relatively quiet with a handful of Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and the expected assortment of ducks. A female Marsh Harrier swept through the back of Carr Lane Pools before heading off and out onto Hale Marsh and away.

Moving around to Town Lane the Pools held pretty much the same that I could see from Carr Lane, but a Ruff was mooching around in one of the secluded corners, whilst a pair of Gadwall were also present amongst the expected Eurasian Teal, Mallard and Shoveler. Wandering along towards the bridge I heard a loud Thrush "tuking" overhead, looking up I was greeted by a male Ring Ouzel. The rest of Hale Marsh was relatively quiet other than 2 Little Egret.

I decided to have a look along Within Way, hopeful that my run of Spring migrants would continue. The Little Owl was again showing well, and a female Merlin was briefly perched up on a distant bush, but otherwise it was a quiet and rather blustery stroll. Scanning across Hale Marsh there were 5 Golden Plover, 2 Turnstone and a single Dunlin among the Redshank and Lapwing.

Strangely Gadwall is one of the first signs of Spring on the patch, and the pre-breeding flock was already starting to build on Hale Marsh with at least 57 birds, whilst a further 12 were out on the Mersey. A small group of 14 Wigeon still remained, and it will be interesting to see how long they remain before heading north. Scanning the grassy area at the bottom of Within Way I was pleased to finally pick up my first patch Wheatear of the year, whilst out on the Mersey 3 Avocet were feeding in the gutter which runs off from the Weaver outflow. By now the wind had really picked up and I had to head home, however the return walk produced probably the best patch bird of the day.....

.....searching through the corvids I stumbled upon 3 Rook! They are a remarkably rare bird to see "on patch", and with no local Rookeries, most birds are singletons during autumn migration. Returning via Carr Lane I had another brief look at the Water Pipits and Garganey, before heading home. So a pretty good return to form for the patch and it finally felt as though I was getting my patch mojo back......thank God for Spring!! 

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