Over two weeks have passed since my last patch update but there’s certainly been plenty going on. As you may have guessed from the title above I saw my first spring migrant of the year on Monday evening with very brief views of a Swallow disappearing into the valley from Bryn-bach-Common. Given that it didn’t reappear it’s likely that this individual was just passing through as opposed to the usual pair which remain resident throughout the summer. Not far away and a flock of Linnets overhead represented another new patch tick for the year and I’m sure that I heard a Dipper flying upriver out of sight. As with the previously muted Pied Wagtails visual confirmation will be needed before I count it as a definite tick. More easily detected was a Grey Heron flapping its way slowly across the front of our house yesterday evening, my second sighting this year of what I’m almost certain is the same bird. Rumour has it that a nearby garden pond is destination of choice. Speaking of ponds I’m delighted to say that our first, and so far only, Frog was finally good enough to pose for photos upon our return from Cornwall.

P1070389 - Frog

The exact origins of this chap are unclear as frog spawn we introduced a couple of years ago was seemingly unsuccessful though there is a small stream not too far away. Either way it’s very nice to have around and finally kick-started our ambitions to build a much larger pond. The present structure is simply an old bin sunk into the soil so although it has substantial depth the surface area is severely limited. Our new construction on the other hand was to be entirely above ground on an old concrete slab that up until now had been nothing more than an eyesore and some vague plans stored in my head. Several trips to B&Q later and we had a wooden frame into which normally a butyl liner would be placed. We however had a cunning plan that involved recycling a large buoy that we’d found washed up on a beach several years earlier. Cut in half it had already provided a raised planting bed and the other section was perfect to form the new pond. Watertight and sturdy it cut our time and costs dramatically with this being the end result.

P1070392 - Garden Pond

Of course one problem of building a raised pond is access so in the far corner a pile of rubble and wood provides ingress from the surrounding garden. Thus far it’s doing a fantastic job of attracting mosquitoes but hopefully friendlier fare is not too far away.

On the garden bird front I’m delighted to report that we now have a regular pair of Greenfinches visiting along with two Goldfinches. Together they add a real sense of dynamism to proceedings with the Goldfinches in particular being very vocal. This was exemplified last week when we moved a Niger seed feeder from one side of the garden to the other, only to be met by a barrage of abuse from one of the birds who kept landing where the feeder used to be. Then, as if in protest, it flew onto a Sunflower seed feeder and proceeded to throw its contents to the ground. In the end we returned things to their status quo and peace was once again restored. Thankfully the other regulars are not so demanding and have been getting ever tamer.

P1070390_2 - Blue Tit, Garden
P1070393 - Greenfinch, Garden
P1070398 - Greenfinch, Garden

Back to the patch and calling Chiffchaffs have now more than doubled with Meadow Pipit numbers steadily rising along with the associated territorial displays. There still appears to be just a single Stonechat pair present but I was very pleased to find three calling Yellowhammers up near the old colliery. In poor light they didn’t allow much of an approach but I shall endeavour to get some better photographs in the coming months. Even better perhaps was the appearance of two Swallows this evening and an influx of Willow Warblers. At least eight were singing along the wooded valley with one individual in particular giving superb views. Back over at Gopa Hill and this Robin proved unusually approachable while a few meters away a Dark-edged Bee-fly came as something of a surprise.

P1070411 - Robin, Gopa Hill
P1070412_2 - Dark-edged Bee-fly

I’ve never seen this species of Bee-fly before so to find one on patch was a real bonus. Sadly I lost sight of it before I could get a better angle but where there’s one there’s likely to be more.