These last couple of days have been fantastic as for the first time in two years we’ve finally had decent snowfall. The result was an inevitable day off work but more importantly it gave me the perfect opportunity to get my Patchwork Challenge under way. You may remember me blogging about this back in December, the objective being to see as many species as possible on a given ‘local patch’. For me this meant formally adopting the areas of Cefn Drum and Bryn-bach-Common, both of which should be no strangers to regular readers. Of course I’m not expecting to get the highest overall count as my small area of Welsh countryside is never going to compete with those who bird such places as Minsmere and Titchwell, but that’s the beauty of the Patchwork Challenge. It’s not the highest score that wins but the person who has the best year in comparison to their last. On that front I hope to be a contender as with a little effort I’m sure I can turn up some really nice finds.
Despite this being my first official outing on patch in 2013 I have been keeping a close eye on our garden which itself is included in my study area. All the usual suspects have been present and I’ve been delighted to welcome back several Starlings now that the temperature has dropped. There have also been a couple of notable rarities, for the garden at least, in the shape of a Pied Wagtail and a Wren, not forgetting of course the regular aerial visitors of Buzzard, Raven, Red Kite, Herring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Black Headed Gull. Yesterday though everything was blown out of the water by a Goldcrest briefly alighting in our apple tree followed by a Grey Wagtail just over the back fence. Result.
Up on Gopa Hill the snowy conditions were not surprisingly having an impact on the number of birds present with just a few Blue Tits and Great Tits skipping through the trees. Both Ravens were calling loudly from atop the telephone mast but other than a couple of House Sparrows that was about it.
If anything Bryn-bach-Common was even quieter and I couldn’t locate a Yellowhammer no matter how hard I tried (rather annoyingly Emma saw one in the garden on Friday but I was still in bed). Instead I had to make do with a distant Red Kite up the valley and a passing Rook.
Down in the valley and the evidence of illegal off-roading was sadly not hard to miss. The churned up ground did seem to have one advantage though in that it let the birds access less frozen earth. Making the most of this unexpected offering were a pair or Robins, male and female Stonechats and a single Meadow Pipit. I did try for a photograph but at the first sign of the birds discomfort I backed off. They’ve a hard enough job surviving at the moment without well meaning birders keeping them off their food. We left some Sunflower seeds to keep them going.
Walking back along the Dulais we kept an eye out for the Dippers from last year but I highly expect them to have moved down to lower altitudes. That’s one species which I’ll probably have to wait until March or April to add. Disappointingly there weren’t any thrush species present though another Goldcrest helped reinforce my thoughts that they are doing quite well on patch. The Red Kite also put in another appearance but never quite close enough for the camera.
Back in the garden and I saw what may count as the first signs of Spring. A Blue Tit was investigating one of the next boxes and was seen to do the same today. Having not bred there successfully for the last couple of years it would be great if they had another attempt.
So where does all that leave me on the Patchwork Challenge? I’ve input all my values into the spreadsheet and am pretty pleased with a score of 33 points for 32 species (Red Kite my only double pointer). That’s almost exactly half my comparative score from last year and is definitely a promising omen for the coming months.