My mission, should I choose to accept it, to get out the of house at an ungodly hour (again) and find Brambling on the patch. I did accept it. Having spent the first winter season not really bothering very much, this autumn I am all systems go, and as we move into yet another season I am well up for it. My list of winter wants is great. Earlier on in the year I didn't see Lapwing. I didn't see Water Rail. I didn't see Woodcock and I didn't get Brambling. It's like I'm starting at zero again - except I'm on 105 - so the excitement is palpable.
I met up with Bob in the mist just after seven. So not that ungodly, but barely light and the sun not yet over horizon. He had the same idea, and so together we made our way to the Vizmig Point. This is on the central path immediately to the east of the main broom fields, marked by the Wheatear logs at one end, and a "Keep your fucking dogs on a lead you bastards" sign at the other. It was also marked this morning by a dead mouse, but that disappeared a little later on, either by Crow or by Fox, so don't rely on it. The first birds were thrushes, and lots of them, but it didn't really start happening until a very tardy Nick turned up. He's the patch Double Decker in many ways, and within about five minutes of him turning up a Brambling wheezed through heading west. Called twice in the end, but once would have been enough. Easy when you know how.
It didn't end there of course. It hadn't been more than a few more minutes when I became aware of a funny tootling call. Couldn't place it for a while, and then the bird was over our heads without much of a tail. My brain struggled with the thought of Woodlark, Nick's mouth managed to say it. Bob's mouth fell open, for it was a full fat patch tick for him and nullifies my little sprite from the other day, honours even at 144. Two year ticks in the space of a few minutes, getting up and getting out had been an inspired decision. Birds continued to pour through. Groups of Chaffinch up to 30 strong, more thrushes, the first signs of Woodpigeon migration, and then..... Lapwing! Eight birds, flopping west, swiftly followed by a further four. Get in! Suddenly from being a total lightweight I find myself within a couple of Bob for the year*. How did that happen exactly? And as mentioned above there are plenty of what ought to be sitters to come as all the winter stuff remains unseen. So does Tawny Owl, and one lives about 200 yards from my house. I just have to risk my life and go out in the dark to find it - taking James along for protection later this week.
An excellent morning all in all, with a supporting cast of Snipe, a few Redpoll and Linnet, and Reed Bunting. And it was beautiful too. Tomorrow? Don't bet against it, the weather is on the turn, and that usually means birds.
*Note that we don't compete with Nick as that's pointless. He lives on the patch, and in a day spends more time birding it than we do in a fortnight. In the past I used to attempt to keep up, but no more.