National Patch Birding Week. Day two.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My first patch.

How the RSPB sees it.

How google sees it.

How I see it.

If I was to calculate the birding related place that I have spent the most amount of time in, it would without doubt be Havergate Island, but only due to the fact that on one visit I spent a whole month on the island with only two visits ashore for a pub lunch. After that and Fulham I would reckon that the patch of my youth comes in third on the timescale. Here is a little more on it.

Surlingham is a village on the south bank of the river Yare, a few miles south of Norwich. The RSPB reserve is between the river and the village by the rather higgledy piggledy church. The reserve is close to Wheatfen Broad, to the west and a little up river from the relative behemoth that is Strumpshaw Fen. Surlingham Church Marsh (I’ll call it Surlingham from now on) can be ‘done’ in a couple of hours whereas Strumpshaw will take you all day to do it properly – this is one of the reasons for choosing Surlingham as a patch. And the fact that it is never busy. I recently returned to Surlingham after a break of 15 or so years and took Mrs Thing for the first time. It wasn’t the busiest of birding days, but it is still a lovely spot and we intend to re-familiarise ourselves with the patch given the opportunity.

This was my patch between the mid 80’s (just after the RSPB bought it) until the very early 90’s. It had been a grazing marsh, and will have been prone to a bit of flooding. At that time the initial landscaping work had been done. The lagoons had been dug out and there was a couple of shingly islands in the middle. Dykes had been cleared and the natural vegetation was being left to re-establish itself. The lagoons were popular with ducks, especially in the winter and the shingle was proving to be a draw for occasional breeding and the usual vagrant waders. It was here that I learned my Ringed from my Little Ringed, the Wood from the Sand, and how to split my shanks. At one point the Little Ringed were trying to breed, but I remember not how successful they were. Other species of note that could be found included Turtle Dove, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Cuckoo, Greenshank, Water Rail, Gadwall, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge, Reed and occasional Cettis Warblers, occasional Bittern and Egyptian Goose (which was still quite unusual then). Other wildlife could include Muntjac Dear and Swallowtail Butterflies (super super pretty I can tell you).

After a few visits I managed to get in contact with the Warden and got into a bit of the volunteering side of things. Just the usual reserve stuff. Do any of you remember the initiative that the RSPB was involved with in 1987? It was called ‘Follow the Swallow’ and was a Europe wide push to get more people birdwatching. I still have the yellow sticker on the case of my bins, and I was one of the helpful volunteers on site that day. How could I not – it was my patch and I would be able to answer most questions about the place without hesitation.

I never found (or knew of for that matter) anything that would get a twitchers heart racing, but that is, and never was, the point. It's a patch, and it's about more than finding rare birds.

I'll yack on about it again later in the (National Patch Birding) week. For now, here is a view from near the church towards the river.

Surlingham doing patch.


Steve Gale said...

More personal history please Thing, if only to dispell the myth that you are Bill Oddie.

Anonymous said...

I remember it well and still haven't seen the elusive Kingfisher!

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