Thursday, 18 April 2019

Patch Magic

You can't beat a patch, or several patches as I have. A patch could be as small as your garden, or as large as an estuary. You can record anything from invertebrates, to wildflowers, birds or mammals on it. You can visit a patch once a day, once a week, once a month or even just once a year. The excitement and motivation is getting to know that patch, and when you record something new for your patch, even if it is common, you get a buzz from it. It's also excellent citizen science, and records from your patch can contribute and make a difference to conservation.

Some of the sites that I survey for my job have become patches, like my nine plantation woodland sites in Cumbria. I've got to know them well, even though I only visit them three times per year. And when I record something out of the ordinary for that patch, a little bit of patch magic happens.

I stumbled upon a bit of patch magic yesterday morning at one of my sites near Wigton. I had just started to survey the first woodland compartment and was walking along the edge of the trees adjacent to a field that had been ploughed and tilled ready for re-seeding, when a 'white rump' bounced past me! A 'White Arse' as they used to be known , but Wheatear to you and me! Now, a Wheatear isn't unusual by any means, and if back at the Obs all I had recorded was a single Wheatear on any given day in April, I would be disappointed. But this was a new bird for the 'patch', a bit of that patch magic if you will!


I carried on under the grey gloom and biting easterly wind and notched up a few bits and pieces; three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two singing Blackcaps, three Willow Warblers, two Ravens, two Song Thrushes, eight Tree Sparrows (one carrying nest material), two Chiffchaffs, fourteen House Sparrows, three Stock Doves, a Buzzard, a Swallow, a singing Redstart and a Jay.

My survey finished, I headed to one of my patches on the Scottish side of the Solway between Gretna and Eastriggs for the second bit of patch magic, although I didn't manage a photograph this time. 

As I was scanning a section of rocky shore and counting the Redshanks, I caught a movement in my telescope and there on the water's edge was an Otter! I couldn't believe it and I could hardly contain my excitement. I had cracking views through my telescope, but unfortunately it was just too far away for a photograph. Another bit of patch magic!

It was still quite cold down on the Solway and I had to don woolly hat and gloves! In the scrub along the edge of the estuary and around the gardens of the hamlet, I had 17 Goldfinches and 18 Tree Sparrows. Other passerines along this stretch included six Siskins (5 east), 31 Meadow Pipits (27 grounded), a singing Chiffchaff and two singing Willow Warblers.

Out on the river were 23 Goldeneyes, a pair of Gadwall, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, a pair of Goosanders and 20 Shelducks. There wasn't the same number of waders around and all I had were 87 Redshanks, twelve Oystercatchers and four Curlews.

The Easter weekend is looking glorious weather-wise, but I'm out surveying on Good Friday and Easter Monday, but I'm hoping to get some birding and ringing done at the Obs over weekend.

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