Tuesday 11 August 2009

Ye Gods!!

Moseying past Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats this morning at 5:50am, on the way to the scrubby area to find a Pied Flycatcher, a small wader flew past me low against the water. "Fuck me, that's a wader!" I thought, reflectively. Then I saw the white rump, and thought "Bloody Hell, Green Sand!" Then I noted it was paler than I expected it to be, especially the underwings and thought "Well what the hell is that then?" By this stage the wader was just passing out of my field of view, and I was running. The south side of Alex is basically a miniature South Downs Way. A path goes up and down fairly steep hummocks, from where you can see down onto the muddy fringes. The wader had come from behind me, had flown past me, and had now disappeared past one of the hummocks, which I now legged it up to scan further round the fringes of the pond. Nothing. Despite half an hour of methodically going round the whole pond I could not refind it, and I didn't know what it was. Bugger. I had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't a Green Sandpiper as I have seen lots of them and they appear very dark in flight, which this bird wasn't, and they almost always call, which this bird didn't, but beyond that I didn't know. I came back to the house to look up Common Sandpiper, ruled that out immediately, and then realised I had seen a Wood Sandpiper - nothing else it could really be (with the exception of Lesser Yellowlegs, but it was more compact than that, and anyway, that would truly be rare so it couldn't possibly occur in Wanstead). Obviously I didn't get a photo, it was all too quick. I could probably rustle up a Puffin if anyone is interested. Funnily enough I saw Wood Sand at Dagenham Chase two years ago on August 12th, so the timing is pretty good for it. Vince found that bird, a juv, and I twitched it for a tick. His bird stayed for several days, whereas this one stayed for about 20 seconds. Still, I am not complaining.

So, to the subject of the Birding Gods. Once again I had set the alarm for something starting with 4, and I was out at 5:23am. This requires effort. I think they are beginning to realise I am getting serious about the patch again and this is perhaps encouragement. If so, it is some kick ass encouragement; they could have thrown me a Common Sandpiper, or, if they were feeling especially generous, a Green Sandpiper. I am pretty stunned really. I did predict a Tringa only a few days ago, but that was on a different pond which now has water in again, so that doesn't count, and anyway I had given up on that idea entirely. So it must be fate, there is no other explanation.Tonight I am going to sacrifice something in the back garden. East London birders should therefore be on the lookout for Terek Sandpipers on their local ponds, starting from tomorrow.

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