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Early Spring on a frosty Local Patch

An earlier start on my Newchurch Common patch on March 15th at around 7.30am, with the weather being very cold but dry overhead and wet underfoot!! The pools looked atmospheric and eerie with a thin veil of mist hanging just above the surface, this wasn't going to be a Sand Martin morning!

The wildfowl highlight was a female Goosander on Small Pool with 2(1drk) Teal on Gull Pool being the only other duck report of note. Tufted Duck numbers were definitely lower than on recent visits as the winter wildfowl disperse to their breeding grounds for spring and summer. The Canada Geese all seemed to be paired up and holding territories, mainly on Big Pool Island . The only Little Grebe was on Gull Pool whilst several Great Crested Grebes are now in superb summer plumage but not yet displaying. The single best sighting for me was a 'patch year tick' in the shape of 3 Oystercatchers, first heard and then seen over Gull Pool Wood and then seen feeding in Abbot's Moss Nursery fields. A flock of Lapwings was again in the fields east of the Pine Belt, but not counted today. Whilst walking the mossland paths 2 Common Snipe flushed up from areas that they are not usually in, immediately by the paths, a result of the overnight freeze no doubt. A Grey Heron flew over fields by Common Farm.

All the expected corvid species were seen and included a group of 3 Ravens tumbling and cronking over the horse paddocks by Novia Scotia Lane. At least 4 Collared Doves were near Common Farm but only 1 Stock Dove was seen on the whole walk. A total of 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers included 3 birds chasing and drumming in Gull Pool Wood, a sign of spring on a very ‘unspring-like’ day. A Nuthatch was calling from Gull Pool Wood, a stronghold for this species. A total of 10 Redwings were seen in ones and twos across the whole site but the total of 10 Fieldfares were in a single flock flying over Big Pool. A flock of 30 Starlings fed in long grass near Common Farm, a flock of this size being quite unusual on my patch other than flyovers around dusk as they head towards roost sites.

Also over near Common Farm 2 Meadow Pipits were still on the muck heap with a Pied Wagtail nearby, all attracted by the small insects on the rotting manure. Across the fields, behind the muck heap, 3(2m) Reed Buntings were amongst other passerines attracted to spilt seed near the farm pheasant feeders. A male Bullfinch was near Finch Hedge whilst at least 12 Goldfinches were on Shemmy Moss. A Skylark was heard over the Nursery fields and a Linnet flew over here, both of these species being ones that breed in that locality. A Goldcrest was seen flicking along the hedge on the main track between the two fishing pools. A pair of Long-tailed Tits were watched near Totties Hall Farm, all these small birds now more interested in breeding and having abandoned the winter feeding flocks which were so commonplace a month ago.

Away from the bird sightings a fortuitous turn of one fallen log produced a treasure trove of amphibians with a Great Crested Newt and 6 Smooth Newts. The log was replaced very carefully with a stick laid under it to guarantee nothing was squashed.

Also on the walk a few fungi were noted, Turkeytail, Birch Polypore, Hoof Fungus and Witches Broom, but the glut of autumn fungi is in the past and only the hardy ones have survived the recent snowfalls and frosts.

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