I managed to make the patch just after we lost Henry. The idea that we now have named winter storms is weird. Suddenly we have personality traits to watch out for, rather than it just being windy. Perhaps we will also become a nation of rare cloud watchers and gawp at dying sperm whales.
I could not get parked in the small car park on the patch and from a distance I could see the Paps were out photographing the Short-eared Owls in the lull after the storm. This included the guy from Chester-Le Street walking the footpath on the east of the grazing fields as though field craft had not been invented. I was glad to hear that they still had a chance to feed after he had gone.
In 2007 when I found ‘my patch’ I never envisaged too many people was going to be a problem. Anyway I found another parking space and covered the west end until it got dark.
When I have more time I will do a piece on my views on (re)introducing species, but until then watching a Kite circle its wood is mesmerising. I remember my first Kite in England in Cambridgeshire in 1986 and I remember later getting one in mid-Wales in 1992 cutting the edge of a reservoir. Both were distant birds, but seeing one up close as it just delicately turns its tail to steer and slowly moves across the sky is poetry.
Flight, both its metaphors and reality is a key thing about birds for me. Even when you know the physics of air moving across the wing causes lift it does not ruin this magicians illusion. There is a great spot on the hillside that looks out across the valley. Here with a scope you can get up close and personal with this mastery of the air.
Not just Kites but Buzzards put on a show too. When you watch a Kestrel hunt, its head remains still while its body goes through all types of contortions. A buzzard though can just hang as if some sky hook holds it in place without the effort. Mewing, he too is staking claim to his wood.
Behind me a Song Thrush hammered snail against stone. Small mammals moved as they take their place in the food web of the valley. A Sparrowhawk not anticipating I would stand up at this point as it travelled along the hedge. Eyes on the prize. The sound of air through its feathers; close enough to touch.
There was just enough light to see a Woodcock flight out from the Birch wood, but it was dark by the time I reached the car. Several new patch birds for the year and even got a patch tick; @ramblingwalker1 is the only other birder who does that side of the hill regularly.