First up Shoulder of Mutton and a bit of Sharming paid dividends when I got a reply. The first returning bird of the winter. Buoyed with that success I made my way through the middle of Reservoir Wood, until I came to a fallen tree blocking my path. So backtracking I went via the garages on the sunny side of the wood, which in the past has had Firecrest. A solitary Goldcrest was in with a tit flock which moved between feeders in the gardens and the upper storey of the trees. I checked all the branches, just in case of a case of Nuthatch or... wouldn't it be great to get a Treecreeper. I've got a bit of previous when Mr Lethbridge is called away filthy twitching, so there was every chance of history repeating.
With no Firecrest or anything else forthcoming I moved across the road to Bush Wood, to find... absolutely f'in nothing. A couple of Great Tits, Robin (of course) and plenty of pigeon, but nothing else anywhere. Did all the favoured spots of yore, tape lured, tried a bit of sip, sip, sip, s-sip sip sip. Nothing.
Circling back just left one ride un-checked. Immediately I picked up a female Firecrest feeding in the Holly by the path, but just as I was texting that out a movement up a trunk caught my eye. Oh yes! Oh no! it didn't appear again even with hard stares at the trunk. Bum, or should I just call it anyway?
While I thought about that I tried a few snaps of the Firecrest, which came out predictably badly. Even the tape lure wasn't encouraging her to be more visible. Might as well try Treecreeper calls. So I did. And it worked: one little fella hurtling out of the trees to a chestnut behind me, and then another, which chased the first one round the tree for a bit. Sweet.
Patch gold. The first birds for two years. Common as the proverbial everywhere else, so to you maybe not such a big deal, but here we should have them, literally crawling all over the place. We don't. I have to say I am somewhat blase about the birds when I see them elsewhere, but this is on the patch and now I can fully appreciate the beauty in their plumage, their movements, their calls, their song. Absolutely wonderful birds. In a world of lists, the patch is pre-eminent and I'd go as far as to say if a Glossy Ibis turned up here I might even run for it!
And to emphasise this a mini-twitch of our own developed. Dan arrived first, then Bob, then Richard. That now meant we had to find the birds again. We picked them up about 20 minutes later on the main and most easterly of the North/South rides, the tape lure working wonders. Result. Patch lifer for Dan and most likely for Richard. Then it got really interesting. Several times when I started the tape a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker called. "Did you hear that?", I said the first time it happened. We all had after the third time. Could we find that bird, well no! I tried Lesser-spot calls. Not a peep. Give it a TC, bingo. Probably where we've been going wrong all this time.
Today's other star
Pics above by Richard Rae