Tuesday, 20 October 2015

11 Days in the life of a patcher........

Despite being part of the PWC admin team I am useless when it comes to using Facebook but the last 11 days on patch have been some of the most enjoyable days I’ve had at Hemsby and it had finally given me the kick up the backside I needed to post on Facebook but I soon realised that it is too long for a FB post so here we are: 11 days in the life of a patcher!

It was on the 8th October when it all really started kicking off here, a pre-work walk round the Kings Loke (a small patch of trees, scrub and long grass near my house) was duly rewarded with some notable patch birds and this is what I wrote in my notebook:

“Great morning, finches constantly moving overhead including 4 Crossbills. 2 Yellow-browed Warbler near east entrance to Kings Loke and a Swift overhead. Another YBW and 2 Firecrest with a large tit/crest flock in the middle of the Loke. Also a Ring Ouzel on the hedgerow. Finally, a Black Redstart on the roof of house two doors down from my house and 4 Snow Buntings south over the dunes.”

A great 2 hours birding but no #PWC2015 ticks....

The 9th was very similar with good numbers of finches, larks and pipits moving north during a bit of vismigging. Other notable birds were a Great Spotted Woodpecker moving south over the dunes and a Tree Pipit heading south too. The Kings Loke was quite quiet but a Treecreeper was a #PWC2015 tick and only my second ever on patch and 2 Cranes overhead was only the second time I’ve seen them on patch.

The 10th started with me searching the Kings Loke as usual but there seemed to be a bit of a clear out and the only new bird I noted was a Lesser Whitethroat so I headed off to seawatch. The seawatch was full of birds but nothing rare, 500+ distant auks was a good count and Sooty Shearwater was the highlight. A search round the southern edge of my patch in the afternoon added two #PWC2015 ticks, 2 Egyptian Geese flying overhead and a Green Woodpecker taking a liking to fence posts.

Sunday the 11th started with a 3 hour seawatch and it soon became clear there was a lot of bird moving out to sea with hundreds of Brent Geese, Red-thoated Divers, Gannets and auks all going south. A Hobby flew south over the surf shortly followed by 6 Snow Bunting over the beach and then a Short-eared Owl came in off the sea.  I then received a text that a Balearic Shearwater was heading my way and after about a half hour wait I was watching it fly south, full fat patch tick #201! A few Sooties followed south not long after and another 3 SEOs all came in off the sea, including one carrying food! A female Velvet Scoter finished off the seawatch with another #PWC2015 tick. I then headed for the Kings Loke hoping that some migrants had been pushed in with the NE winds. It soon became clear that a lot had dropped in. Finches, crests and thrushes were everywhere and a Ring Ouzel, Whinchat and Firecrest were the highlights at the Loke.  In the afternoon I headed to the south end of the patch, flushed my 5th SEO of the day out of some long grass! Thrushes started to drop in during the afternoon with 77 Song Thrush, 46 Redwings and 14 Fieldfares in one hedgerow. Brambling numbers also increased today.  Day estimates for the patch were 200+ Goldcrests, 175+ Song Thrush and 30+ Brambling.

The 12th and 13th saw me seawatching before work, a few interesting birds including 5 Sooties on the 13th but otherwise quiet. After work on the 13th I had a quick check of the Loke and flushed a Jack Snipe off the path! Pure patch gold and only my second on the patch.

The 14th started with another seawatch and although numbers of the common seabirds had dropped off a lone juvenile Pomarine Skua drifting south gave me another #PWC2015 tick. Added to this were a few Sooties, Arctic Skuas, Bonxies, a Manx Shearwater and another SEO in off the sea. I left work early to get an hour or so birding in and was soon rewarded with a Great Grey Shrike sitting on top of a hedgerow near the Kings Loke, a patch tick (#202) and finally some bonus points. The same hedgerow held hundreds of thrushes including 2 Ring Ouzels. It was a very impressive fall with birds still arriving as the light failed with many thrushes and Bramblings sitting on the road exhausted!

Waking up on the 15th and a quick look round the patch produced lots of common migrants, crests, finches and everywhere, another SEO in off and two pieces of #patchgold, a Rock Pipit (#PWC2015 tick) and Mistle Thrush (only my 2nd of the year).

It was at this point I was going to write about the great birding autumn brings even if the rarities don’t come, 9 ticks 19 points and a great weeks birding. However, this was just the beginning.....

The 16th Dawned wet and miserable, a quick seawatch produced very little so I headed off to the Kings Loke. It was soon evident that there lots of birds about, thrushes flying out the hedgerows and trees, crests busily feeding and finches overhead, a Woodcock flushed from under my feet but the rain made it hard to find much else. While sheltering under a tree the warblers started to show, a few Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and then in amongst a flock of 20+ crests a Pallas’s Warbler flitted past, feeding in the tree in front of me for about a minute and then gone, moving through the trees with the flock. Amazing, the third one in four autumns on the patch!

Saturday the 17th was relatively quiet, bird numbers were down on the previous days but still a good mix of common migrants, the only new species of note was a Redstart. A glimpse of a interesting bird in the undergrowth in the late evening got me wondering..........

The 18th October 2015 will probably go down as the best day ever on my Hemsby patch. I was joined by a friend and we headed straight for the Kings Loke, plenty of birds about in the gloom, a Ring Ouzel chacking away, Redwings, Fieldfares and finches passing overhead regularly and a Grey Wagtail heading north. A Green Woodpecker started calling followed soon by a Great Spotted Woodpecker, an unusual duet for the patch! And then the heart-stopping moment! As a flock of tits passed us a small bird flitted amongst the undergrowth, bright orange flanks standing out instantly. It started flitting closer to us giving us great views for about 30-40 seconds before darting off to the right. A 1st winter RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL!! Although a lot more common nowadays still a dream find for us. We tried to relocate it but with no success, although we did rustle up another Treecreeper. We decided to have a break and put news out so climbed out of the undergrowth to the grassy edge of the Loke when we flushed a pipit. It called a bit like a Tripit but not exactly. It had us intrigued. We played a game of hide and seek with it over the next hour or so and then it finally landed in view and it looked good, photos were taken and we were soon realising we were looking at an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT just 50 yards from the bluetail!! Wow! We hadn’t seen the back properly so slowly waited for it to reappear and after another hour or so we had documented the bird well enough to make the call. It felt strange writing a tweet that contained both RFB and OBP for Hemsby!

Afterwards I decided to have a well deserved rest but no sooner had I sat down when a friend rang to say a Great Grey Shrike was on the dunes no more than 750m from my house. So the best day on my patch end with me watching a GGS eating a Goldcrest all on my own! This is why I do patch birding.

11 days, 114 species, 4 patch ticks, 12 #PWC2015 ticks, 52 points, 1 patch!

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