I only managed a few more walks round the patch before I left for Aberdeen, yet despite the limited amount of time spent there this week, it was eventful and as a result I left very much looking forward to returning again.
Monday 9th April: A check in the morning was really quiet due to dire weather. The Cetti’s Warbler was still singing along Fishermen’s Trail though and 4 Mallard were on Mill Meadow. The female Sparrowhawk was mobbed as it flew over Drayton Woods and the usual regulars were around . We had friends round during the day, so we all went on an alternative route round the area which I hadn’t done before in the afternoon. This involved making our way up on to the cycle path – Marriot’s Way – and walking east, from which I was able to get an alternative view of Drayton Meadows. The walk planned took us off Marriot’s and closer to the meadows, as well as through an area of birches that are viewable from the meadows. Along the way, 2 Red-legged Partridge were seen in the surrounding fields. It was as we went through these birches that I was very surprised to see a pool more or less overlooking the edge of Drayton Meadows. The pool is quite large and rectangular; it is very artificial looking but I wouldn’t be surprised if the odd duck dropped onto it.
It occured to me that if I could see the birches surrounding this pool from the meadows, why had I never seen the pool itself from there? Well, the pool is very low lying and there are a number of dips in the ground along Drayton Meadows that make this pool invisible from the meadows even at a relatively close distance. I later discovered that you had to walk right across the meadows and up to the birches in order to see the pool, thus making the above explanation clear. As it is in line with the edge of Drayton Meadows, this pool is now part of the patch and has been ‘ingeniously’ named Hidden Pool. Furthermore, I decided that Marriot’s Way as far east as the pool and as far west as the railway bridge at the top of Fishermen’s Trail is also part of the patch. Hence the title, the patch extends.
The weather was foul again when I went round the patch again that evening and the same regulars were still about. It was my quest to view Hidden Pool from Drayton Meadows that was successful. There was nothing on the pool itself, but in walking across the meadows I was surprised to flush no less than 8 Snipe, each erupting from a relatively small area of the meadows quite close to the pool in quick succession. This is by far the largest number of Snipe I’ve had on the patch and proves that these birds are regular in wet conditions on Drayton Meadows. An interesting day!
Wednesday 11th April: I had my last check of the patch before leaving that morning. It was a sunny day, which meant more action on the bird-front. Almost immediately on walking up the beginning of Mill Lane I heard the descending, disconsonant call of a Willow Warbler in the hawthorns; my first on the patch and my fourth species of warbler there. It didn’t take long to locate it, soon perching atop the hawthorn it was in. As I walked Fishermen’s Trail, a second Willow Warbler called from the bushes by the bridge at the top but did not materialise; nonetheless I was delighted to discover that they had arrived. The Cetti’s Warbler was again singing from here. Best of all, however, was a Kingfisher fishing exactly the same part of the Wensum at Fishermen’s Trail as presumably the same bird had been a week earlier. This time views were less fleeting, managing several relatively decent flight views as it patrolled the river from the bottom to the top of Fishermen’s Trail and back for 15 minutes. Such beautiful birds, and a cracking way to end my patching this month. It was otherwise as you were for species selection, although 2 Snipe rocketed into the skies on the way to checking Hidden Pool and my first bird on Hidden Pool itself was flushed; a Moorhen. On the way back, a Fox was calmly sitting in the reeds at the start of Drayton Meadows, but it quickly slinked into cover on noticing me.
Before finally leaving the area I bumped into the landlady, who told me that she had seen the Egyptian Geese along the river with goslings a few weeks ago. She explained that she had also seen a Mink and that the goslings had probably been eaten… This could well be true, as I didn’t see the geese with goslings once. Very sad news, I was looking forward to seeing if they would breed and they clearly did, but with unfortunate results.
I had a fantastic time patching Costessey House Private Estate this month. The diverse range of species I saw, both avian and mammalian, has proved that its a good place for birding and wildlife. I am looking forward to returning in a couple of days in early May. It will be interesting to see what’s around then, apparently Grasshopper Warblers are present then and Nightingale seems a realistic bet. On that note…
Thanks for reading,