I started off indoors with a cup of tea, but soon realised that I needed to be on the terrace to stand a chance of flyovers. Reward was almost instantaeneous. I had only just opened the door and set my cup of tea down on the wall when a small bird flitted into the Acer at the bottom of the garden. I had to return back indoors to get my binoculars, which I did with lightning speed, and just as well for as soon as I had clapped eyes on it, it flew low, disappearing behind the greenhouse and into a neighbour's garden. A female Blackcap, easily the latest I have seen on, and a garden tick for good measure. To say I was surprised to see a Blackcap in December is putting it mildly, but I suppose if a Chiffchaff can do it, so can other small birds, and a wintering Blackcap, whilst perhaps not as frequent as Chiff, is by no means unknown. But in my garden, it qualifies as a mega. How I didn't get one during the spring and summer, neither this year nor any of the others I have lived here, is somewhat of a mystery, but nevermind, I now have my very own wintering Blackcap. Except my neighbour now has it.....
Encouraged by this success, I continued watching. A small flock of Thrushes that landed in a large tree about five doors down were Redwings, the first I have seen land here, and I began to rack up species at a rate of knots. A Goldfinch swittered over, and a Green Woodpecker yaffled from Bush Wood. By about 10am, after only about half an hour of scanning, my day-list was up to 20, with all four of the expected Gulls, all of the expected Corvids bar Jay, and regular garden birds like Robin and Blackbird.
At about 10:15, I became aware of an odd sound that I couldn't quite place. Didn't take me long to sort it out though, as two Ring-necked Parakeets screeched over heading for the Flats. Ker-ching! Given the recent surge in numbers of this species in Wanstead recently, with my largest count now 27 birds from a few weeks ago, I had known it was only a matter of time before they and I coincided in the garden, but I have to say I hadn't expected it to happen quite so quickly. Unfortunately my tiny brain was so busy trying to place the sound that it couldn't also inform my hands to lift the camera up and take a photo. Maxed-out I believe the expression is. The birds flew past in a dazzling display of bright green, and only once they had passed did my feeble synapses kick into life, and I managed a couple of shots as they departed. This did nothing to diminish my elation, for this was another garden tick, #59 in fact, and following so soon after #58, wow, what a morning!
These are the two garden Ring-necked Parakeets. I thought about grabbing a photo from the internet that better pictorially described what I saw, but realised that would be dishonest, sneaky and manipulative. We don't do things like that here.
I continued my watching, to see how many species I could get before lunch, but it dried up shortly after that, with several gimmes unaccounted for, so I went inside and played with Lego - tough life I know. It took a short session in the afternoon while the kids were pretending to sleep to add Collared Dove, Chaffinch, Sparrowhawk and Wren, and I never did get a Jay. I also missed Canada Goose, Mallard, Cormorant, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit, all of which I would normally expect. The final tally was 25, hardly glorious, but may in fact take some beating. I need to dig out my Big Garden Birdwatch notes to see if we ever got more than that.
So what next for the Garden of Dreams? The most likely is perhaps Meadow Pipit. They are present only a few hundred yards away on the Flats, in the same area as Skylark, which I have heard and seen from the garden - if I have never mentioned it the rules are that either I or the bird have to be in the garden/house - so surely I stand a chance of that, plus they squeak distinctively and I'm happy to count heard-onlys on the garden list. Or any other list. Other than that perhaps a few more ducks, a la Shoveler flyover last week, or a winter wader like a Lapwing. Whatever it is, it'll be #60, and you will be the first to know.