There was no patch visit at all yesterday, due to the violent storm that blew through during the day and most of last night.
This morning, after a sleepless night, disturbed by the strongest winds i've encountered since the great storm of Oct 1987, I ventured out, getting soaked almost immediately by a heavy prolonged shower, which just added more water to the already flooded footpaths and fields.
I headed for the Lakes, picking my way over fallen branches and huge puddles that obstructed my way as I walked through the through the Small Holding and Wet woods, the water of which was overflowing into a nearby garden. Having reached the lakes, I had seen just a handful of birds, GREAT and BLUE TIT, BLACKBIRD and ROBIN, a Singing WREN and a a few WOODPIGEON, the rain and wind picked up and wondered why I bothered going out at all!!
I took shelter from the elements, and after a while the rain stopped so I checked out the lakes, all of which were overflowing, very little was seen at first, apart from the obvious MUTE SWANS that had returned to the Ornamental lake, but slowly a few MALLARD came out of hiding, as did a drake MANDARIN DUCK and the first MOORHENS appeared, a CORMORANT dropped in whilst I was there, and the KINGFISHER was also heard.
I didn't stay much longer, and only briefly looked at the Scrubby Woods as the water was still cascading off the tree branches, and I was already wet enough! Only BULLFINCH and SISKIN were of any note there.
I then headed for the Greenhouse Grounds, via the Ashes lane Field, where a party of 15 REDWING were seen, easily the highest number this month, the LITTLE OWL was also at home in the old shack, which still stood after the gales of last night, despite its decrepit state. The same could not be said for a big Eucalyptus tree that stood in a large garden next to the Greenhouse grounds, this garden seemed to have suffered badly from the gales, it had also lost 3 medium sized pine trees, and a very large Leylandi tree, all much loved by both Little Owl and Goldcrests. There is something very saddening about loosing well loved and familiar trees, I pass them every day, and to see them lying prostrate, ready to be sawn up and burnt, fills me with a sense of loss :-(
On a brighter note, I did see my first GREY WAGTAIL (61) of the month as it flew up from a large puddle at the Greenhouse Grounds, a couple of PIED WAGTAILS and a MEADOW PIPIT also flew up, and the male KESTREL was perched up on the glass roof.
I had a scan over Migrant Alley from my seat, and saw a large flock of gulls crowded round the flooded part of a paddock, I noted at least 60 HERRING GULLS, 12 BLACK HEADED GULLS, 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS and the bonus of 3 COMMON GULLS (62) the first for December :-) On an adjacent paddock there were a minimum of 60 STARLINGS, mixed in with a flock of ROOKS and JACKDAWS.
The months list now moves on, and has reached 62 species, the joint fifth best December so far. It would be nice to get 66 species this month, this would average out my monthly species count for this year to 70, something that has only been achieved in one previous year, that of 2010.
The weather looks like calming down tomorrow, so my traditional Christmas day full patch walk should take place, hopefully it will be bright enough to take my camera out :-)