The Patch delivers once again

An early Saturday morning ‘constitutional’ with Stephen around our Patch on the Levels once again comes up trumps with good birds from beginning to end.

Large rafts of whistling wigeon ducks and gadwall erupt from the large pond as we entered the Patch. Coots and moorhen scuttled for cover and a large heron takes flight. In the trees above our heads is a flock of tits; mostly long-tailed, but great, blue and coal tits follow us along and down the birch avenue, with robins and wrens popping up for good measure. We hear at least three cetti’s warblers singing from the reed beds and just once we were quick enough with our binoculars to grab a brief glimpse of the rather nondescript LBJ with the explosive song.

Great spotted woodpeckers were in the wood and fly their looping flights overhead. Rooks cawed, and wood pigeons do what pigeons do – they impersonate exciting raptors from a distance raising Stephen’s and my heartbeat, only to morph back into wood pigeons on closer inspection.

Female Marsh Harrier

Female Marsh Harrier

Out above the reed beds, there she was – our marsh harrier – a beautiful female. She’s chocolate brown all over aside from an almost bright burnished-bronze crown, which seemed to glow to yellow in the low sunlight this morning against dark and ominous skies. The scene is framed by a splendid double rainbow in the distance. What a picture – it is for moments like this that we get up early each Saturday.

Stephen is taking several photos because the light is so good – they are to illustrate a magazine article he’s been working on. He tells me that recently he brought some of his students down here from the nature writing course which he coordinates based at Bath Spa University. A few weeks ago he walked them round our patch and as an assignment they had to knock-off 2000 words on the experience – I will see if I can obtain some of their work to let you read them, although I’m not sure where we stand about the rules/copywrite regarding that sort of thing, but it would be interesting to read their take on our special place. I would guess that the budding authors might be delighted with the vast readership this blog commands (!?).

In the meantime you’ll have to make do with me.

Reed Buntings were out; we spotted a dunnock, blackbirds were in the high trees, and three smart cock pheasants strutted along the footpath just ahead of us. A snipe then squawked, and shot off from its cover unseen - but I knew what I had heard.

We also heard another strange call  coming from the reed beds – we both ceased our chat to strain our ears… was it? could it be? This was the spot where we’d seen six stunning bearded tits about this time last year.

Well, it might have been, but, nope… nothing conclusive.

Oh well, perhaps next time.

Our walk was a splendid start to the weekend; we caught up with all our news and goings on, seen a few great birds and missed out on a few others.

Good old Patch.


Graeme Mitchell