Both the beloved camera and lens combo have been away from my grasp for about two weeks now, getting themselves serviced and checked after incidents involving mud on Scilly. On the upside, its forced me to do some proper local birding with a pair of binoculars (apparently birdwatchers are supposed to use them?) down at my local patch, Stoke's Field- a place so overlooked, that if you don't own a walkable dog within a mile radius, I can guarantee you wouldn't have heard of the place. Surrounded by the A308 on one side and a housing estate on the other, Stoke's Field basically consists of a few muddy paths trodden into a two or three hectares of woodland, with a small grassy hillside at the top- it's so small, you can quite easily walk the entire site in about 15 minutes.
I've think I've mentioned it just once before on this blog- a few years back- which considering the fact that it's not even a two minute walk away from my front door, gives a bit of a bad name to the idea of regular patch birding. Anyway, I've been visiting more frequently this year, and just the other week notched up a brief flock of 15 Crossbills making their way high over the hill (it doesn't have a name), as well as a Woodcock back in March, and a pair of Mandarins on a 'pit' of water, which I think might be a pond.
However, the real breakthrough came last week, when a pair of stocky finch dropped down into a large sycamore whilst I completed a normal circuit of the patch. Looking down at me were two stunning male Bullfinch, only my second in the London area, after a few isolated records in Bushy Park in the last couple of years...
Admittedly, they can be locally common birds, but to see them in such an urban setting, just minutes from my own back garden, in such a familiar setting, really highlighted what I've missed about patch birding... I won't ever abandon you again, my beloved little Stoke's Field.