After dropping the little lady at school for the first time this year I thought what better way to spend my first child free time in weeks out on the patch, peace, quiet and in the warm embrace of natures rich bounty.
First Patch Walk of 2017
Monday's brilliant blue skies had been replaced by dark and foreboding rain clouds today; spots of rain dappled my warm winter coat and the sounds of winter filled the air around me as I wandered the fields below the old church heading for the old lock and my first birding of the year.
Gathering clouds over Old Wolverton
Dunnock, Robin and Goldfinch hopped from branch to branch, twittering calls and subtle sub song tantalised the ears, while raucous Magpies and Carrion crow ruled the air, cackling at each other as they battled the cold winds their wings flaring from the fast moving air.
The soft, whistling, piping call of Bullfinch arose from the thickets of scrub as first one, then two then eventually 7 finches emerged and made their way down the hedgerows. A lone male bird, stunning in his orange/pink waistcoat leading the way as 6 duller, but equally beautiful, females, or young birds, followed on.
Young or Female Bullfinch
As I made my own way through the old lock, following the path, and calls of the beautiful finches, all around me Thrushes fed voraciously on the berry bushes, Blackbirds mainly, but the odd Redwing and larger Fieldfare skulking in amongst them.
A Flash of Orange
Following the river downstream my ears picked up the tell tale sound of a chat, scanning across the tall grasses a male Stonechat popped up briefly looking glorious in a moment of brief sunshine, around it a couple of Wren flitted through the golden grass stems.
Onward, along the river and onto the nature reserve I plodded, the cold of the air slowly seeping through my gloves. Standing by the waters edge, I watched as a Little Egret took to flight, taking with it a Grey Heron, both birds circling around before dropping back into the margins.
Little Egret in Flight
Little Egret through reeds
Several tiny Teal took to flight as I passed, their alarm at me presence echoed by a lonely male Shoveler, who skittishly pattered across the water desperate to get away from me.
From the window of the first hide three Goosander could be seen swimming the swollen waters, and while I made notes on the birds already seen a 4th bird appeared out of nowhere (3 males 1 female), a few moments later 2 females and male flew off and headed off along the river Ouse, an 8th bird flew in from the East, later as I continued my walk.
Male Goosander flying in.
Carrion Crow on a post
Another of the Carrion Crow
A Moment of Sunshine
Looking out from the main hide windows several Common Snipe could be seen stabbing their bills deep into the mud as they bobbed their way through the scrubby margins. Wigeon whistled mournfully in the dull light of day, when a moment of brilliant sunshine, lit up the surrounding reserve in glorious color.
Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve
Sunshine suddenly breaking out
Moving on to the Viaduct hide, the temperature was starting to really drop, and for the first time since my new jacket arrived I wished I had added a mid layer, sitting in the viaduct hide I scanned through the flocks of gull settled on the water in front of me. Mainly black headed gull, but with the occasional larger Common Gull mixed in, then swooping out of the gray skies a large Herring gull set down in the middle of the flock, calling excitedly as it did so. Scanning further round a number of Lesser Black Backed Gull could also be found and a lone Greater Black Backed Gull dwarfed it's similar appearing relative.
The single bird theme continued as I spied a Green Sandpiper walking on the muddy edges, and a lone Pied Wagtail dropped in, in front of the hide briefly. The numbers of birds then began to grow, as a flock of 100+ Lapwing wheeled and whirled their way onto the waters edge, and skeins of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese began to fly through.
As the cold wind continued to blow the chill in my bones began to become uncomfortable and I knew it was time to move on, get the blood flowing. Heading along the river path once more, heading west up stream this time, more Wigeon could be found feeding in the long grass, near the millennium bridge, although my arrival soon saw them scurrying and whistling away into the water.
Mill and Stony
I decided to extend my walk for once and headed right along the river past the mill buildings and on to Stony Stratford nature reserve, as much to get my extra miles in for my 2017 challenge, the area wasn't as a live with wildlife as the rest of the walk, but the day seemed to have warmed up and was an enjoyable walk.
I eventually arrived home having clocked up 5.7 miles and in a seriously odd coincidence had seen 57 species of birds, a great start to my patch year and nice chunk of walking completed.
Grey Heron along the banks of the Ouse
Rook feeding in the fields
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