I’m in Norfolk, and since my arrival on Saturday night I have got back into the routine of checking my recently adopted patch surrounding my mum’s house on the edge of Norwich, Costessey Private Estate. What a change has taken place since I was last here in the heart of winter. Just a few months ago, everything was bare and Redwings filled the trees. Now, the greenery is back and some of the first spring visitors are in evidence, signifying the beginnings of this long hoped for season. This post accounts my first two days of patching and takes you on a pictorial tour of the area; pics of the resident birds will follow in later posts.
1st April 2012: Yesterday I started my first check of the patch at midday, walking out the door to immediately connect with my first Song Thrush at the patch, darting out of the bushes around the garden. I was delighted to hear at least 2 Chiffchaffs in the vicinity of the cottage and it wasn’t long before I connected with one of them in the trees by Mill Field, my first warbler species at the patch and a yeartick. Covering the whole area, I estimated there were at least 6 singing Chiffchaffs around.
I came across 3 of the Mute Swan young on Mill Field, part of a family I have been watching the progress of since coming here. They have more or less passed their cygnet stage, with much of their white adult feathering now in evidence. However, there are similarly traces of their grey cygnet feathering in place, and their adult bill pattern is still to develop, now a salmon pink rather than a mat grey as before. They appear to be independent from their parents as the family has not been seen fully together yet. It’s fantastic to see the whole family group faring well.
The two Egyptian Geese were on the River Wensum with a pair of resident Mallards at the start of Fishermen’s Trail and then flew onto Fishermen’s Field on noticing me. I walked up to the top of the trail when I flushed a passerine which revealed itself to be a beautiful male Reed Bunting. A patch first I had not entirely expected, it’s possible that these could be summer visitors to the area as at least 3 (2 females) were seen at different points along the Wensum, signifying there are a couple of pairs around. We shall wait and see if they remain for the summer or even breed.
One of the Grey Herons flew over Mill Meadow, and other regulars were around, including several Pheasants and Jays. Towards the end of Mill Lane, a male Blackcap burst into song and was seen dipping into a bush, my second warbler at the site; hopefully this will increase. Drayton Meadows was relatively quiet, but 2 Meadow Pipits were a patch tick and seem to be a patch regular now, not surprising considering the habitat. The walk back produced much of the same, although a Buzzard seen heading north high over Mill Meadow was a patch second and a few Green Woodpeckers were heard, including one drumming. At distance I got a brief view of one dipping over Drayton Meadows; yet another patch first. The route takes about 45 minutes at a slow pace.
I had another look round in evening in search of the Barn Owl that my mum has seen regularly in the past month, but to no avail. 2 Lesser Black Backed Gulls were going to roost though, another patch tick and my 4th species of gull at the patch. 10 Roe Deers were around; 4 in Mill Meadow and 6 in Drayton Meadows. The latter group included 2 young stags rutting as the sun sun set; making for a dramatic end to an exciting first day back on the patch.
2nd April 2012: Two visits were made to the patch today again, with it pretty much being ‘as you were’ for species selection. A nice start to my first check mid-morning was the male Kestrel zooming across Mill Meadow, only the third time I’ve seen this resident raptor. The Egyptian Geese were both in Mill Field with the spread out Mute Swan family, and at least 2 Song Thrushes were singing to each other in the trees surrounding this area. Chiffchaff numbers were yet again around 6, and a single Reed Bunting was once again along Fishermen’s Trail. The woods held the same regulars, and a couple of Meadow Pipits were still on Drayton Meadows. A Skylark singing high over the meadows was a patch tick and a group of 8 Jays erupting from a tree along Mill Lane through Drayton Woods took me by surprise.
This evening held a few nice things. 2 Long-tailed Tits in the hawthorn at Mill Lane adjacent to Mill Meadow were my second record of this species, and a pair of Reed Buntings were along Fishermen’s Trail. As I headed through the woods towards the meadows, a group of 15+ Redwings took to the air from a tree and quickly moved eastwards; a passing group but a pleasant reminder that this smart winter visitor hasn’t yet fully disappeared. The Grey Heron pair and 2 Moorhens were on the meadows and a Lesser Redpoll was a handy patch tick, seen in flight and calling over Mill Meadow on my way home. After two days of spring patching, the list stands at 48; would be nice to reach the fifty landmark before I leave.
Tune in for more accounts of my patch ramblings here at Costessey House Private Estate over the next week or so.
Thanks for reading,