If you are a regular patch birder, may I be so bold as to suggest an idea?
If you've got into a bit of a rut or routine on your patch, as indeed I have, try to do something a little different. Walk a different way round, or follow a different route altogether. Or, as I did tonight, visit a favourite spot at a different time of day. It really does bring a new perpective to somewhere very familiar.
I've got into the habit of seeing Leam Valley as an early morning site. I nearly always try to be there before seven if I can, and hate being late. Perhaps I'm getting old and grumpy, but I love the peace and quiet before the dog walkers arrive. I've also seen some cracking birds there at the crack of dawn.
For evening walks I tend to favour Ufton Fields, which is close to home, has good paths and is easier to walk around. Perhaps this is why I have such a hard time finding good birds at Ufton - I must try a really early start there.
However - back to tonight. Tonight I went for an after work walk around Leam Valley and saw a very different place to the one I thought I knew. The hedges and woods were quieter, with just a few Blue and Great Tits, a few juvenile Chiffchaffs moving noisily through and the occasional song from a Robin or a Wren.
The scrape was alive, more than 70 Mallards or Mallard-hybrids being joined by 30 Canada Geese, a pair of juvenile Moorhens and a Grey Heron. As I made my way back to the car, four Jays flew past one by one, a Green Woodpecker called loudly, and Wood Pigeons, Carrions Crows and Rooks returned to local roosts.
As a final reminder that I was seeing a different side to this favoured part of my patch, a soft mist began to rise off the fields at about 7.30pm, creating an eerie atmosphere in the fading light. A Barn Owl would have suited the occasion marvellously - sadly, it never appeared.