Tuesday 14 April 2015

Halycon Days

I confess to loving patch birding. At this time of year. I've been out early every day for the last couple of weeks and it has been building and building. Whether any future day this year will top today is another question, but the patch is on fire. Today was exceptionally good, though it took a while to warm up. As has been the norm for every day this week, I met up with Dan, Nick, Bob and Marco on the patch, as well as Barry (hereafter known as "Hero") who has been coming over now that it has got good. We wandered around not seeing a huge amount, though a couple of Wheatears and Swallows made themselves known, as did the year's first Whitethroat. As we meandered around the Pub Scrub we got a message from Tim (hereafter known as "Legend"), surveying in the Old Sewage Works like wot a proper birder does, saying that he had a reeling Grasshopper Warbler near the allotments. Marco, being the proud possessor of transportation, showed his true colours and cycled off immediately. He did ask to be fair, but for myself, Dan and Nick it was a longer slog over there. As we neared the OSW, a message came through from Hero, who had a Red-legged Partridge near the Vizmig Point. Whaaaaat!!!!! Two patch lifers at opposite ends of the site! The Gropper a massive gripback from Nick, the Partridge an even massive-er gripback from Bob! What to do? Charge around like nutters basically.

The Gropper had apparently reeled for quite a few minutes when Legend had found it, but was now only doing the occasional burst, but that was enough. We soon located it in a bramble where it gave killer if brief views, and without Bob present! I then hoofed it back over towards the Flats for the Partridge, but unfortunately Hero hadn't stuck with it and in the brief time I had I couldn't find it - it was probably in the long grass somewhere. Nervously departing from the patch, it was no surprise when the boys sauntered over some time later, and laden with armfuls of paninis and litres of coffee managed to pluck it out in roughly the same place. I meanwhile put in a fulfilling day at work, but managed to leave at a vaguely sensible time to give it another crack, tweeting a request that all able-bodied patch-workers join me so that I had the best possible chance. A short wander around the Skylark area produced zip (although every Mistle Thrush got the blood racing!), but an inspired decision to try the Alex scrub found me come face to face with it pottering around under a goalpost on the main playing fields - it had stayed all day! Having fallen two behind Bob in as many days, this was almost karmic. It didn't last of course, as Bob was in the OSW reeling me in (did you see what I did there?), but still, it's a big grip back on the boys at the top, and it came out of nowhere. Bob and Dan joined me marvelling at the Partridge, still feeding in the open, and I dashed home to get a camera as the light was fantastic - I actually jogged and it really hurt, so I drove back. Happily the bird was still there, as was James, albeit briefly as he was off to the Gropper. I threw gear all over the place but swiftly put the kit together and got a couple of low shots before the light went - a sublime finish to the day. I've had a celebratory beer now, but remain incredulous at how today has panned out. When patch birding is good, it can be totally exhilarating!

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