Sunday 31 January 2010

Ill. January. Kids.

I think I am getting ill. In particular, my throat is on fire. I am miserable when I am ill, so be warned blogosphere, as rants may occur. Luckily it doesn't happen often due to my stress-free and outdoorsy lifestyle, but when it does, I like to let people know about it.

I know exactly what has caused this - the usual story of burning the candle at both ends. Will I ever learn? I went out on both Friday and Saturday nights, getting home at 1am each time. I don't have a social life per se, so this is quite unusual. It just so happened that a couple of things came along, and I could see a couple of groups of friends I had not seen in a long time, so I decided I would do both. Friday evening was fairly restrained - a few pints at the Pride of Spitalfields and then a nice Brick Lane curry. All well and good, and I felt fine for the early swimming lesson on Saturday morning. I spent the rest of the day at Rainham, six hours for little reward, and then back to change, cook dinner, and then I was out again. Just before I went out I realised I was shattered. The sensible part of me said not to go, but the rest of me didn't listen. I had a great time amongst beautiful people in Pimlico. £3.50 a pint, but unlike Bridlington, the floor didn't shake when the local lasses took to the dance floor, so it was probably worth it.

This morning I should have stayed in bed, but birders don't do that. No, in a stupid quest for one-hundred species at Rainham in January, and needing two more to get there, I got up at 6.15 and went over there with Hawky. It was freezing, and my poor new skinny little head really felt it. Yesterday I spent most of the day there, specifically looking for Corn Bunting and Common Sandpiper. I didn't get a sniff in six hours. With Hawky, both birds were safely under the belt in under two hours. Coincidence? Probably not but who knows? The bushes that were devoid of any birds at all yesterday afternoon had a Corn Bunting sat up in the top as soon as I looked at it, with a few more birds pecking about underneath. The foreshore, this time at low tide, was covered in birds where yesterday all I got were a few roosting Lapwings and Redshank. The Common Sandpiper gave itself up in a matter of minutes! Despite this success, it felt fairly quiet and so it proved to be. I had to scoot off home but Hawky soldiered on, and like me yesterday, got nothing.

Knot, Rainham. Pleased to catch up with this one after resisting the urge to twitch it all week

Anglers Friend

Great Crested Grebe

This afternoon, driving back from Cambridge, I suddenly felt rubbish. So rubbish that Mrs L had to take over the driving. ie it was highly serious. Mrs L went off knitting somewhere, and I looked after the kids from the sofa. Woe is me. Nursed back to semi-consciousness by several cups of tea, I am feeling slightly less feeble and thus able to continue to contribute to the filling-up of somebody else's hard drive with drivel. Where does all this stuff end up?

Seeing as it's the end of the month, here is a special section for the statisticians amongst you. People with a fondness for kids and not anoraks should skip to the next section.

Wanstead: 65. Last year 54. Pretty happy with this so far. Being unemployed helps immensely.
Rainham: 100. Last year 52, so amazing, but see above.
UK: 149. Last year 152. Considering my stated ambition of not year-listing this year, this is somewhat grating, but bar one day on the Essex coast, and the Yorkshire jaunt, I haven't really been anywhere. It just shows that seeing lots of birds is really really easy, even for hopeless numpties like me.
London: 123. This, I reckon, is going some. I need to stop before I get carried away. This total is largely a result of Rainham having been so fantastic, I've not been zooming all over London for ticks, and plenty of easy ones remain. 200 by March?
Essex: 130. Helpfully Wanstead is in Essex. So is Rainham. And so is the Essex coast.

Finally, some pics of the kiddos today for those that arrive here not in search of birds or drivel.




Saturday 30 January 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The following photo is not a small pet. Nor is it a lost toupee. It is my hair. I have finally had it cut after I don't know how many months. I was so impressed by the sheer amount of hair that came off my head that I asked it to pose for a photograph. "Sit" I commanded, and it did, whereupon I gave it a biscuit. I have lost about a stone and a half, but my neck and ears are now very cold.

Birds? Not many....

I over-exposed heavily so a lot of it looks artificially white....

Friday 29 January 2010

Of Late...

I've stayed local since coming back from Yorkshire. And there has been much excitement of the tick variety. So, in decreasing order of happiness:

Third spot goes to a group of five Siskin feeding in the Dell. Siskin, it has to be said, are fairly common in the Dell. If somebody challenged me to go and find some Siskin in Wanstead Park, that is where I would go. Luckily nobody did, as it took me three weeks of looking to find them. Some stats in case there are any anoraks reading: 147th bird for the year, 120th in London, and 65th in Wanstead.

Second place goes to a superb Little Slavonian Grebe that Paul found in a ditch at Rainham. Well, Monkey found it actually, but the less said about that the better as I'm sure he'll agree. This was a new bird for Rainham for me, and thus also for London, and one I didn't expect to get without shlepping all the way over to the pits on the west side of London. It rather unfortunately turned up when I was at Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire, but had the good grace to continue its stay this week. And it is by far and away the showiest Slav Grebe I have ever seen, you can get to within about 15 feet of it. All my pics of it are rubbish, as I twitched it in a rainstorm and have yet to get back there.

But pride of place goes to a Wanstead Patch Tick - Bullfinch. As is my habit, I get up really really early on Tuesday mornings and fail to see Woodcocks anywhere in Wanstead. I did the same this Tuesday, failed to see any Woodcocks, and then went for a quick look in the Old Sewage Works. Bullfinch was in the back of my mind, yet I was stunned when what I initially took to be a Chaffinch on colour popped out of the big hedge and resolved itself into an immature male Bullfinch. I didn't drop everything, whoop, holler, and raise my fists to the sky as I usually do with patch ticks. Instead I was mature and savoured the moment. It moved semi-ponderously through the hedge for a couple of minutes and then slipped quietly away. Wonderful. Speaking later to another local birder about my elation at finally finding one, he commented that he gets them there quite reguarly. This didn't diminish my satisfaction at all - it's all about the effort you put in. You walk round, oh look, another Bullfinch, boring! See, no big deal? If however you have lived here five years, holding out for a Bullfinch but have never come close, when you finally get one, well, wow! Hope I don't see one for a long time now, lest they become Snipe-like - I kicked up another three birds on the Flats a few days ago, that makes eight this year. Yawn!

What else have I been doing? Well, I have successfully done a week of not twitching Rainham after the ridiculousness of the geese last week. Apart from the Slav Grebe, obviously. And after that I went for purgatory on the Sea Wall for two hours, got wet, froze, and saw very little, and certainly not what I was hoping for, which was Corn Bunting or Oystercatcher. I could have twitched a Not three days on the trot, but chose knot to. Ha ha. Actually, now I think about it, I did go for the Barn Owl with the kids on Wednesday evening, does that count as twitching? I knew where it was roosting, and so positioned myself in a good spot and waited. It must have been hungry as by half-four it was out and hunting. Pie got to see it, and was delighted, but the other two chose to stay in the car. Barn Owls are a bit boring apparently. Personally, I reckon they're in the Kingfisher category - a bird that when you see one gives you a lift that few others can.

In between not twitching Rainham at the slightest hint of a year-tick, I have still failed to get a haircut. The most notable achievement is that I mopped the conservatory and the middle room. Mopping is basically extreme damp-dusting, and scores many BPs. I even passed the mop under the sofa, and fabulous quantities of fluff came out. This was such an eye-opener that I did under the armchairs as well to see if I could get any more. And I did!

The children are happily engaged in some kind of Star Wars role-play, thus allowing me the time to write this. Pie is Padme, and is shouting orders out. Pudding is only responding to "Captain", and is on her way to Tatooine. When I called her down for lunch she said she couldn't come down as her hyperdrive was broken. As a sometime-fan of the films, this is most gratifying....

Tescos today, and heavy trolley score. They both fitted in = stress-free shopping. Except I ran into a blind lady...

Monday 25 January 2010

Yorkshire birding. Yorkshire drinking.

All you need to know about Scarborough

Good sleep last night, really needed it after all those hours awake in the car chatting to the guys. Feeling much better now. So back to the weekend, it was late morning by the time three satisfied thrush customers eventually left the bird and continued on to Scarborough. First order of business was to procure lunch, and a superb fish and chips for a mere £4 reminded me quite how badly we get ripped off down here for something that normally isn't even approaching half as good. We strolled with it down to the harbour front, where we had a Shag whilst polishing it off. An excellent accompaniment to lunch, very satisfying, particularly for Bradders (less so for Shaun), and a year tick for all of us.

The post-Shag John Wayne walk

Next stop was Filey Brigg, where we had a mini tick-fest of Sea Duck, fly-by Gannet, Guillemot, and some very close waders. I had never been this way of the world before, and it was good to finally see what these places that frequently pop up on the pager were actually like. If I lived locally, I suspect I would be at Filey Brigg a lot - a rocky peninsula sticking out into the bay, an excellent beach, and some dense cover in a valley right next to the point. It lost points for being treacherously slippy almost everywhere, and for not having a "Danger! Do not descend via this path!" sign at the top of the cliff, whereas after our dicey descent we discovered one at the bottom saying "Danger! No safe access to cliff-top carpark!" Thanks a lot, very helpful. We survived it, and spent a happy two hours getting close views of Long-tailed Ducks, various Scoters, Eider, a Red-throated Diver, and some fairly obliging Knot and Purple Sandpiper.


Next stop Flamborough for a flock of 22 Pale-bellied Brents. In Essex these are few and far between, and whilst I thought I had one at Old Hall last year, having seen these ones I am not so sure - they are extremely striking, almost Barnacle-like. Some gen from other Brent twitchers led us to a flock of Greylag in the next field along which contained a Tundra Bean Goose. These soon all got up, and it proved pretty easy to pick it in flight most of the time.

We found what proved to be a stunning B&B in Bridlington, the Burlington Quays Hotel. Friendly owners Nigel and Carol sorted us out some tea and biscuits whilst the rooms were getting made up, and after a quick shower we hit Bridlington on a Saturday night. And in Bridlington, Saturday night is Party Night. Beer is ridiculously pricey in the Harbour Tavern, which encourages responsible drinking. Undeterred by the 6ft sign out the front saying "All Drinks £1.50", we rushed in. It was very unlike Essex, so we attempted to fit in by drinking copious amounts of expensive lager, but were probably seen for the frauds we were. Mere words cannot do justice to the fabulousness of the Harbour Tavern in Bridlington. The evening passed in a blur.

Bad news

You can take the boy out of Essex, but...

Crashed out back at the B&B, I was surprised at around midnight by my bedside lamp falling on my head. Odd, I thought. As I came to, I became aware of stumbling sounds, flailing hands, and a pathetic whining voice. For a moment I imagined I was back at home and one of the kids needed me. In my role as primary carer, they now bypass Mrs L, and walk around to my side of the bed, so I am constantly getting woken up by their nocturnal trivialities. I had hoped a night away might see me get an uninterrupted sleep, but no....

"Where am I? I need a wee, I really really need a wee."

Bump. Crash.

"Oh god, I'm bursting! Where am I? Jo, help! Jo!!"



I leapt into action and led the poor child to the bathroom using my mobile phone screen as emergency lighting.


The next morning I was uncharacteristically tired and grumpy, with a dull head-ache. Presumably this came from being clonked on the head with a lamp, rather than from several litres of beer. Whatever the reason, I didn't talk much for the rest of the day, and may have nodded off in the back of the car on occasion. I think we went birding, but I can't be sure. Somehow my year-list now has Willow Tit, Tree Sparrow, Brambling and Ring-necked Duck on it, so I'm guessing we did. It almost had Little Auk on it as well, but not even I stoop so low. This is only the second I have ever seen, and it had to go and be dead.

Little Auk getting slowly smaller, but showed well.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Twitch Mode re-engaged. Black-throated Thrush.

Well, it only took three weeks. The patch was abandoned, Rainham was abandoned, and once more I was galavanting around the country, diesel fumes in my wake. Not that I said I wasn't going to do it, but I was expecting it to be in the Spring.

But no, a funny thrush from Siberia had to go and stick a spanner in my local birding ambitions. I had um-med and ah-ed about whether to go or not as I have been enjoying it so much round here, but ultimately my memories of the Snowy Owl trip to Cornwall almost exactly twelve months ago convinced me it would be good fun. I've had an excellent start locally, and variety is the spice of life (more on which later), so why not. The twitch was on.

Bradders' new Subaru was outside at 5:30am on Saturday, Shaun arrived at the same time, and off we set. A few minutes later we arrived at Newholm, just on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors, where I immediately trod in a turd. I was amazed that this could happen, but a bit of research when I got back home reveals that the only Cornish record was of a one-dayer in 2002, so I guess many people from down that way need it, that some of them have dogs, and that some of them brought those dogs....

Luckily a puddle midway between the turd and the bird (could be a pub) sorted me out and within about a minute, a clean-shoed JL was looking at a brilliant first winter female Black-throated Thrush. I spent a pleasant five minutes checking it out, confirming the ID to my satisfaction and so on, and then went back up the road a bit to chat to the boys about it. I found them having a bit of a natter, binoculars hanging limply on their chests.

"It's showing pretty well isn't it?"
"WHAT!?! You've seen it? Where is it?!!!"
"Er, in that tree in about twenty yards away"

They ran down the road a few yards. Honestly, some people. The number of twitches I go to where people are just stood around gassing and making no effort to find the bird whatsoever. Tsk tsk. Standing in their recently vacated spot, I casually raised my bins and was not surprised to be able to see it from there as well. When they came back I was accused of supression. Oh the irony! Just kidding lads, good to see you working it!

We all got brilliant views as this rare vagrant strutted its stuff, chasing away any Blackbirds that were foolish enough to think that they lived there. The bird is just in someone's front garden, happy as Larry. The householders are putting out food, and the bird will no doubt be there for some time to come, though if it were to disappear temporarily tomorrow that would be quite amusing.

Anyway, here it is in all its glory, multiple and unnecessary times. be continued. It's late, and I am tired after Shaun woke me up last night when he needed the toilet...

Friday 22 January 2010

Feeling Sheepish at a Goose-fest

I spent a grand total of 50 minutes in two sessions at Rainham yesterday and gained two site year-ticks. This is not how it is supposed to work. The trouble is, I always need to be somewhere else. Yesterday was a case in point, I needed to be in Cambridge for 11am, but there were Brent Geese at Rainham. What to do? If I could get there, I'd have half an hour max, hardly satisfying birding. Do I bother? Well, it's a good site tick and a fairly decent London bird as well. And the team needs it. Go go go! Yep, I am doing it for the team.

Let me explain. What started off as an indivdual Rainham patch-list event has turned into a team challenge. Myself, Hawky, SHS and Dave Mo are up against Andy, Phil and Dave - which team can see the most species in a year? Barely over halfway through January and already it's getting serious. Crowing texts are being sent, and there is a SPREADSHEET. And there are now about 12 other teams of Rainham regulars competing. So when a good bird turns up at Rainham, my role is that of the ultra-flexible twitching machine. The other team had Brent, we didn't. If I got it, we were level. I had to go, so I did. Five minutes before I arrived, the five Brent flew away. Drat. Scanning the river for them with H, a group of around a dozen Greylag flew onto the Reserve from the Kent side. Still no Brent. A couple of minutes after that, I picked up another group of distant Geese flying east towards us. Looking at them through my bins, I wondered aloud if they were the Greylag we had just seen. Howard, without bins, called them as more Brents. Can you guess which of us was right?

The twelve Brents flew almost to the Visitor Centre, and then wheeled about and flew back west again, then east, then west, and finally east, gained height, and continued out to the estuary. All square! And just like that, I had to leave, as I had just over an hour to get to Cambridge. I made it with five minutes to spare.

Later that day, it went nuts. 73 Pink-footed Geese flew east over Crossness and went over Rainham. Back home from Cambridge with the girls, I knew there was nothing I could do. Then I learned than seven of them had landed on the reserve, and although time was tight with the school run looming, we were in the car and off. On the way, two of the seven morphed into Tundra Bean Geese, a truly excellent London bird. As I made my way down the ramp to where all three members of the opposing team were stood, scoping the geese, and having spent the entire day there birding properly, I couldn't help but feel rather sheepish. Nobody likes a free-loader, but I am in danger of being labelled as one if I keep turning up only for good birds.

So today I went birding there properly, or at least, birding to the extent that you can with two small children in tow, ie not really properly at all. But I didn't go on any hot news, I went to find something myself. Needless to say, I didn't. I had to be back at twelve thirty LATEST so Mrs L could take Pie into town with her. I made it with two minutes to spare. Shortly after that, Roy found an adult Iceland Gull on the river. Dilemma.

I went. Didn't get it, but I still feel guilty.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Woodland birding

If you go to Northaw Great Wood in Hertfordshire, and you look up at a tree, you will see a Nuthatch. Fact. 100% guaranteed. Today I probably saw about 15 different birds. Alternatively one followed me round the entire wood, hoping for a peanut treat or something. Foolish, I only ever carry Double-deckers.

I had dumped the kids at la Grandmere in Cambridge, and was taking full advantage of the afternoon off to walk around a cold, muddy wood which the girls would not have enjoyed. What I should have been doing was having a haircut - I am beginning to look like James May - but I can do that anytime. That is what have been saying since about October. I almost had one just before Christmas, but went birding instead. At work they had a hairdresser in the building, so every now and then I would pop down and read GQ for half an hour. Fascinating stuff. Do I now have a subscription? Er, no. Now that a haircut is on my own time, as it were, I just can't seem to get there. And it only costs £7, rather than £23. Theoretically I could have four times as many haircuts and look lovely all the time, rather than like a bum.

Anyway, I heard my first Nuthatch as I got out of the car, the second less than a minute later, two more five minutes down the trail, and it continued in this vein. Trying on the other hand to find a Treecreeper was very hard work, and took an hour and a half to find a single bird. But I wasn't there for either of those species, though they were both filthy year ticks, and in London too (113 btw Steve, if you're reading). I was there to plug the biggest gap in my London list, Marsh Tit. To be fair, I have never really looked for them, other than once late last year in Epping Forest, when I failed miserably. This time it was a doddle. I had a silent probable about three minutes in, but it vanished, and I had to wait another fifteen minutes before I located a calling bird that came (and stayed) within range. Miserable weather and a bird that refused to come down from the top branches resulted in record shots, ahem. In fact these are a step below record shots, and how several thousand pounds of camera gear managed to produce something quite so pathetic is hard to fathom. So bad I couldn't bear to post them up here, which is saying something. Instead I have mucked about with them and produced an artists impression. You get what you pay for on this blog. Exactly.

I eventually located four birds, so clearly they're surviving pretty well in there. Just better hope that the Nuthatches don't become predatory.

Time running out due to the Treecreeper hunt, I hurried the few miles to the Lea Valley, looking for Ashley Pit as I had heard it was good for Goosander. I never found it, turns out I was too far south, but the Birding Gods smiled on me with a pair on the North Met Pit, which I was walking past on my way up there (or so I thought at the time). I do have a photo, but it makes the Marsh Tit above look like a masterpiece.

So a rather good day, and RLP ticked from the A505 as well. New total 129, of which 123 are in Essex, and 113 in London. Though I am going to spoil these frankly excellent statistics by twitching the Black-throated Thush in North Yorkshire at the weekend.

PS I'm not really going for the London Big Year all time record, far too stressful. And anyway, I've not even been to Norfolk yet.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Upon the Sacrificial Altar of Gull

First decent mis-ID of 2010, and nicely public as well. Gulls are bad news, and of all the bird groups I find them the most difficult. Never one to shy away from something difficult and boring (viz, dusting), I am actively seeking out large groups of loafing gulls and painstakingly picking through them in the hope of learning something. Fat chance.

Yesterday I was scanning the Target Pools at Rainham, filled with self-loathing of course, and I picked out a juvenile gull I thought was interesting. This is where it gets dangerous. It wasn't a Herring, and it wasn't a GBB, so what was it? Naturally I settled on the least likely species, Caspian, and started talking myself into it. Look at those long legs! And the eye is dark too. Oooh, and look, the head is nice and white and there is a lot of streaking on the neck. The bill seems slender as well. Could it be? I wasn't sure. And I think that is the key with these things, it should just jump out at you as being "right", rather than needing to be talked-up a lot. You will have guessed by now it wasn't a Caspian, and in fact I didn't even get the age right, but the real one I found last year, on reflection, had me much more excited and I knew it was right. But I'm not showing the photos to anyone!

Yep, I took a few phone-scoped shots of immense quality, and because I wasn't sure, mailed them to a few people to ask for thoughts. Then a few more people got interested and so I thought, what the hell, post them up on the London site, who cares. And so there I was, late yesterday evening, pegged out upon the Sacrificial Altar of Gull. At least I never claimed it definitely was a Caspian I suppose, but I should imagine quite a few people are sniggering simply because I thought it might be....

Here it is. Share my shame.

People were quite nice about it on the web (and you had better be in the comments box, too!) Opinion is actually divided as to whether it is a Yellow-legged Gull or, worse still for my reputation, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but whichever it was, Caspian it wasn't. Of course the photos don't do it justice, it was much more Caspian-like in the field, blah blah blah. Who am I kidding? I don't actually know whether to score this one up as negative "cock-up" points for my goal of "become a better birder", or to call it a result. After all, becoming a better birder isn't necessarily about getting IDs right, it can also be about looking at birds more carefully, asking the right questions, recognising your limitations and seeking second opinions. And fifty other opinions. Mrs L helpfully commented that I got the ID half-right. The "Gull" bit..... Oh well, it has at least provided something to write about, as I struggle sometimes....

I studiously avoided all the gulls on Wanstead Flats this morning. But I will go back to them, and soon. There is a perverse pleasure to be had in standing around getting cold, the smell of an active rubbish tip wafting up your nostrils, and looking through vast numbers of very very similar birds that you can't ID properly.

Instead I picked up a year-tick in Chiffchaff on the island on Alexandra Lake, presumably the same one I saw before Christmas and had been hoping was still there. Don't worry, I will be trying to turn it into a Siberian one. Then in Wanstead Park I got the Coal Tit and male Firecrest in Reservoir Wood, which take me up to 60 for the year, which I believe is a goal met.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Lots of patch ticks, not beating dog-walkers, and another tool for my arsenal

Four more patch year-ticks you need to know about. Yesterday, Teal hunkering down on the frozen edges of Heronry. Today, seven Greylag feeding on one of the playing fields, three Eygptian Geese twitched (filthily - thanks Tim!) on Heronry, and finally a Sparrowhawk over the garden.

I'll start with yesterday, which was rubbish. I got the single Teal after three hours in the cold, and no other year ticks. I was in the Park at 6:30am, staking out the Dell for Woodcock. The dog-walkers arrived only a few minutes later, you just can't beat them. I had hairy mutts with flashing LED collars jumping up at me IN THE DARK. I mean, why? Why take your dog for a walk when it is still dark. It can't see much, the owner can presumably see even less. What is the point? I suppose they might have been there to flush Woodcock for me, in which case this paragraph might not be so anti-dog, but in the event about six large dogs crashing all over the Plain and around the Dell produced diddly squat, so I hate them all. Perhaps by taking them for a walk in the dark the owners can absolve themselves of any turd-cleaning responsibilities on the grounds they can't see the dog doing it? Mind you I bet they don't go to the vets worried that darling Fluffy hasn't done a number two for several years do they? Bastards. No matter how early I go out, they are either there already, or arrive shortly after. You just can't avoid them, no area is safe. And if I hear "Oh don't worry, he's just being friendly" one more time whilst I have two muddy paws planted on my chest and a wet nose near my chin, I may not be responsible for my actions.

Where was I? Oh yes, Teal - a good bird for Wanstead, but it felt decidedly low-key. Today by contrast was glorious, although short-lived as I am now back on kiddy-duty. I had been out early on yet another abortive hunt for Woodcock, and as I was heading out of a thicket, I heard a call I couldn't place. This eventually led me to two Lesser Redpoll sitting up in a tree very nicely, but before I could get there three Snipe got up from my right - that's five so far this year. Any more and they will be reduced to dross status, it's getting ridiculous. The Redpoll were very nice, if not large and white enough for my liking. One had a lovely pink flush to the breast. What were probably the same two birds later visited my nyger feeder as we were having lunch, a welcome bonus. I shall have to work out how much my garden 2010 list lags behind my Wanstead 2010 list. Probably not too far. If I'm within ten, I'm not leaving the house again...

I couldn't turn the Redpoll into Mealy, so I crossed over the road to check out the Gulls. Not too many large ones, some excitingly white-headed Herrings being the best on offer, and then I spotted seven Greylag feeding in a tight group right in the middle. Get in, # 55! I phoned the news out in case anyone was about, and later heard that Paul was looking at a further four birds at Alex - I reckon double figures is pretty good for round here. Back over the road again I located a pair of Stonechat - that's three that we have here this winter then - but the Redpoll had disappeared to be replaced by a Mistle Thrush.

I had to be back by 9am, but there was still time for a quick sortie in Reservoir Wood. No joy with the Firecrest but I could have sworn I could hear Teal from the Shoulder of Mutton Pond. I went to have a look but saw only ice and Mallards. Back in the wood still not hearing any Firecrest piping away, there is was again, I was definitely not imagining things. I approached from the other side and discovered a hidden corner, ice-free, and sure enough, two drake Teal hiding away. Another species I may have to reclassify...

I'm now back home, rather tragically, as the day looks fantastic. Mrs L is out. All day, playing in an orchestra. How selfish! Unbelievable as it may sound, she is out pursuing her hobby whilst muggins here sits around and looks after the kids. This is frankly outrageous - and it's a two day event - she was out yesterday as well. On the plus side the BP counter is racking them up this weekend, boy oh boy! And she's got a choir trip lasting an entire WEEK coming up in the summer, and we've just heard that she may be going to the USA with work for ANOTHER WEEK some time after that. I'll be spending the whole of October on the Shetlands I think...

And finally my thanks to Howard for spotting this and thinking of me and my 2010 goals. It might not have quite the quality of the Pink Brush of Happiness, but it meets all the colour requirements.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Patch dedication

I would like to dedicate my patch to my wonderful Oh sorry, what I meant was that I have been very dedicated. I have started 2010 off on the right note, or rather, how I wanted to start it (there is no right and wrong in birding, you can do whatever you want). So far no extreme twitches to far-flung destinations, not that there has been anything to see, but that's not the point. I have remained firm. I have stuck loyally to the patch, and to Rainham. And to Greater London. And Essex. But no further!

And no immediate plans to either. So far this year I have been out in Wanstead 14 times. Not bad for the 13th of January! Actually it is only really eight times, as I record the Flats and the Park on different sheets, but have of late been combining both in one sortie. It has been very enjoyable, if hard work and mostly bitterly cold. Goodies include two Snipe, and yesterday a showy female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the Dell. By the end of January last year I had recorded 54 species, and today, roughly half-way through the month, I find myself on 53 species with stacks of relatively easy ones to go if the weather would just sort itself out. I've decided to set myself a target of 60 for January.

[NB If this is all too interesting for you, you should probably skip straight to the end of the post for two gratuitous and unnecessary photos. Page Down is over towards the right →]

I have graced Rainham no fewer than seven times, and my patch-list for the year stands at 86, a total I didn't reach until mid-April last year. And this includes some serious goodies like the Great Skua, one of the Serins, Red-breasted Mergansers and Glaucous Gull. And best of all it now includes TWO site ticks, as yesterday I jammed in on a Woodcock. Having spent two abortive and very cold hours there this past weekend, yesterday one flew over the car as I was leaving, slap-bang in the middle of the day - how cool is that?

[I warned you to skip down...]

My list for the year is 122, compared to 127 at this point last year. Of those, 120 are in Essex. 102 are in London. As I wrote yesterday, that is a cracking start for London. It might even be a good start for Essex, where last year I got something like 185. I have no idea, but parts of Essex are quite a long way away, so that seems like too much driving. And I'd end up chasing bloody Wrynecks all over the place again, so I shall probably stick close to home, but the start I have had shows just how much good birding is available locally. Obviously London patches are never going to match the quality of a coastal patch somewhere, and I'd miss those awesome autumn days in Norfolk or wherever, so I'm not going to be religious about it. But so far so good, and it is far less stressful. And much cheaper, always a consideration for the terminally lazy unemployed.

Photo for birders

Photo for non-birders

Tuesday 12 January 2010

London Listing

There was an interesting post a while back on one of the websites I peruse about Norf London year-listing. Apparently the record is only 214 species, set in 2003. I say 'only', that is 5 more birds than I have seen in London full stop over the last four years, so I guess it is a very respectable total. Especially seeing as most of the good birds are going to be at the far extremities like Staines and Rainham and at the busy times of year you would have to constantly zoom like a nutter between the two. Anyway, list-freak that I am, I started wondering how many I had seen in London in the last few years. I know you want to know.

OK then. Well, in 2008 I saw 172 species, not too shabby I suppose. In 2009 I saw 182 without even thinking about it. And because I wasn't thinking about it, I didn't bother looking for Nightingale singing in the Lea Valley. I didn't chase down any Turnstone, Knot or Little Stints on the Thames. I didn't go up onto the tip at Aveley for Corn Bunting, or look for Marsh Tit in Northaw Wood. I didn't try and find Grey Partridge, and I was half-hearted in my pursuit of Osprey. I just added up what I could have gone for, and, assuming I scored every time or pretended I did, I'd have been on 201 for the year. Not bad eh - I'd wager that total would be in the top ten ever. Add some non-existent sea-birds and some waders I'd seen somewhere else and the title could be mine! Oh the glory! I imagine I'd have to go birding somewhere else in order to avoid the hordes of hero-worshippers constantly throwing themselves at my feet in adulation.

I've already stated I'm not doing a national yearlist this year, but what about a London list? The possibility hadn't even crossed my mind until the back end of last year, but 200 seems on the face of it relatively straight-forward if you assume an average number of vagrants and scarcities. In 2009 I saw Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Honey Buzzard, Montagu's Harrier, Spotted Crake, Grey Phalarope, Ring-billed Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Alpine Swift, Great Grey Shrike, Brown Shrike, Savi's Warbler, Penduline Tit & Serin. They would be good birds anywhere. I also saw Red-necked & Black-necked Grebe, Great Northern Diver (3!), Whooper Swan, Velvet and Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Iceland Gull, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Snow Bunting & Twite. All of those are good birds in London. And as I say, I had not even been thinking about it. Imagine if I did think about it?! Hope Mrs L doesn't read this. Having said that, she might be happy about it as I'd at least be relatively local. Or maybe I could stay properly local, doss about here in Wanstead all year, and make it all up? These days all you really need is photos, and god knows I've got a lot of those. I probably wouldn't even need to nick any off the web. I'm also aware of exif data so I wouldn't get caught out there. What could be easier?

As some readers may know, I originally wrote most of this post on November 27th last year. I've just edited it to make sense for reading today, changed tenses, updated numbers etc. Back in November I took it down shortly after writing it because I had learned that there was in fact somebody going for the London record, and not only that, but there was some controversy surrounding some of the birds seen. I know, what an amazing coincidence, I could scarcely believe it myself!! In the circumstances I decided that my totally unrelated post might come across as prejudicial, so with great sadness I took it down. I've never met the guy in question, though apparently I nearly bumped into him in Lancashire at William Girling Reservoir the same day I wrote the post. Astonishing! I was there to twitch a Leach's Petrel that I couldn't find. Possibly because it wasn't there, though this is obviously nothing more than wild speculation on my part. I rather suspect the record won't be claimed for last year, for various reasons, but the thought of it is intriguing me. Yesterday I hit 100 for London for 2010, including quite a few good ones already, and started to wonder again.... Then I remembered this old post, had a quick look, and seeing as the fuss has all died down, decided it was probably safe to finally hit 'publish' with a few minor edits. Frankly it was better first time around, topical and so on, but what the hell, here it is, resurrected.

Monday 11 January 2010

Potty Training

12:20pm - Pudding on the potty
12:30pm - Pudding still on the potty

"Are you finished?"
"No, my not finished yet!"
"OK, just let me know. Good Girl!"

12:35pm - Still there...
12:40pm - Hurrah!:

"Daddy, my done a wee!"

Approx 2ml, but an achievement nonetheless. Excellent, we are on our way. Nappy back on, tights back up, trousers back on, additional socks on, slippers on, wash her hands, wash my hands. It is now approximately 12:45pm.


"Daddy, my done a poo!"

Sunday 10 January 2010

Rainham Score

Scored big-time at Rainham today with three Red-breasted Mergansers. Only my second for London, and a site tick. Found by Hawkeye as you would expect (but please lambast him for the very poor play on words), they showed fairly well on the river for around fifteen minutes before heading off high and westwards. Shaun and Redsy got them too, as did Sir L H of the G who was out for a walk, but it was so brief that unless you were on site as they were, you could not have got them. Couldn't be bothered with the camera today based on the horrible forecast, so once again I have resorted to the high-quality medium that is phonescoping. Does the job though, should anyone want to query the record in these sad, suspicious times we live in. It was a cold day, with a nasty wind, but unless you were standing out on the sea wall, it was perfectly bearable. On balance though the interior of the Visitor Centre had the nicest weather. And coffee.

Also had two Grey Seals, one hauled-up, an adult Med Gull, a first winter Caspian Gull, and a Water Pipit by the Stone Barges. Wanstead you say? No idea, where's that?

Saturday 9 January 2010

In which I don't find a Himalayan Snowcock on the patch, and am genuinely surprised about it

Jesus it's cold. I can't remember it ever being this cold. Post-birding, I've been warming my hands up by holding them in the fridge. Today Muffin had a friend's birthday party at the hell-hole called Kids Corner in Epping. "You can stay if you like?!" said the mum brightly. I excused myself, said I'd rather chew my own arm off or something, and headed off to scope the northern Lea Valley Reservoirs. On an exposed hillside, holding an all-metal tripod head, two-pairs of gloves might as well have been a sheet of tissue paper. Four or five Black-necked Grebes and four Goldeneye were scant reward for losing all feeling in my fingers. Chastened I went off to Connaught Water in Epping Forest, home over the years to many unringed and wary wildfowl exotica, and a healthy population of Mandarin Ducks.

On arrival, I stepped on a Robin. Then on another. And then another. I've never seen anything like it, they were everywhere. If you stopped, suddenly there would be about 15 on the path all around you, with more in the bushes, and yet more hopping about on the iced-up lake. Some kind-hearted souls are seeding the area, and every Robin in the south-east of England has got to hear of it.

Back in Wanstead, I headed out into the gathering storm. Target - Sparrow. The wind cut through me as I crossed the Flats to the likely spot. Hurrah! Funnily enough House Sparrow was #50 in 2009 as well - shows just how badly they are doing.
Next stop Reservoir Wood for a crack at the Tit flock and the Firecrests, but it was virtually silent. I read today that this freeze is supposed to continue until the first week in February. By then, Wanstead may be a bird-free zone. I hope not, as I rather like it with birds in it. Anyway, I continued on to the Dell, where I hoped to find Woodcock and Water Rail. None of the former, though I bet they're in there, but I was rewarded with an extremely showy Water Rail down near the little bridge. I can claim no credit for finding it though, another local birder, Nick, put me on to it. Still, it's nice to know that we have one again. The Dell is looking really good at the moment, as it is one of the only places in the Park which has flowing water, and this was being enjoyed by not only the Water Rail, but also by a pair of Moorhen, a funny Wren with a seemingly black belly, and a Weasel - a site mammal tick. Would that it would also be enjoyed by a Woodcock, a Jack Snipe, or some Teal. I'll keep checking it, sooner or later it will come good.

By now the snow had really kicked in, and much as I was enjoying the Rail, it was time to head back to the family. I set a brisk pace and by the time I got back was actually fairly warm. Nonetheless, it is bleak out there, and set to continue. Although I am joking about the Himalayan Snowcock, literally anything could turn up.

Friday 8 January 2010

The smaller the patch, the bigger the tick

Just an observation, but it seems that the smaller the patch, the more satisfaction there is to be gained from a tick. Obviously it is much harder to get new birds in a smaller area, and when you're talking about a garden, then anything above about 40 or so needs to be a flyover, and the chances of that happening, and you being there to see it, are drastically reduced as you can only see such a tiny area of sky. I have a friend who lives two and a half miles away to the west, roughly. He too is very keen on his house list, and the possibilities for growing it. He has worked out the precise direction I live in - I know, what an obsessive weirdo! - so that if something flies that way, he can give me a heads-up. Similarly, if something flies in a straight line from the centre of my terrace over the extreme left-hand corner of my neighbour two doors down's greenhouse, I'll give him a shout. To date, neither of us has succeeded in actually seeing the other's birds. They only have to deviate a fraction of a degree and they'll pass out of sight. But we'll keep trying!

Of the few lists I keep, I think the garden one is probably the one I like best. There are many reasons for this, not least the fact that it is quite handy for where I live. Thus tea is readily available, deckchairs are conveniently placed, and all you need is a spare five minutes and you're birding. Staring at a vacant sky. Part of the reason it fascinates me so is quite how hard it is, how tiny my chances are. It makes getting a new bird very special, despite its mediocrity in the grand scheme of things. Snipe, whatever.

Patch ticks are a close second. The best type, for me, is one I've thought about, planned. Immense enjoyment is gained from predicting what could turn up where, going out looking for it, and then (sometimes) actually finding it. Last year I found my intended target more than a few times, proving that although a healthy slice of luck is always needed, there is more to it than that. And when it does all work out, it results in a
warm glow of self-satisfaction that, despite my attempts, cannot be shared in a meaningful way with anyone else.

- "I did it! I found a Ring Ouzel!!! First place I looked, I can't believe it!"

- "That's nice dear, now where did I leave my pen?"

But as all birders know, all ticks are good, anywhere (apart from year ticks of course, which are rubbish). County ticks, London ticks, UK life ticks, WPal ticks, it doesn't matter, we thrive on all of them. There is always a thrill to seeing a new bird somewhere, even if it is boring, brown, and three hundred miles away. Usually you're with other people, so the euphoria can be shared. And these common experiences are the ones you can look back at in the years to come, reminisce about over beer. You can't really do that with garden ticks.

- "Remember that Snipe I had over the garden at the beginning of January 2010?! Wasn't it amazing?!"
- "Er no, you were the only one there, it's a really common bird, and what you've seen in your garden is of no interest to anyone but you."
- "Ah yes."

Oriental Practincoles and Snowy Owls are the ones that are going to get talked about down the line, re-lived communally. But neither of them can quite beat thirty seconds of utter improbability over the garden.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Garden MEGA!

School was off today, and outdoors was sheet ice, so we stayed put. Boredom potential high, but we kept ourselves occupied with an art session, with a Star Wars DVD, with pasta, bacon and baked beans (demolished with gusto, lesson learned...), with vacuuming the whole of the downstairs, oh joy, and with a mammoth garden watch. Of these activities, it will not surprise you to learn that the last one was, on a personal note, the most satisfying. Much as I enjoyed the vacuuming - and at this time of year there are many sneaky pine needles to be hunted down - the garden watch was awesome.

To start with it resulted in the best ever species count, peaking at 27, with a late Wren, an even later Grey Heron, and at least fifty Fieldfare, but best of all a garden tick - the first significant tick of 2010 as far as I am concerned. Some unknowing dog-walker out on the Flats flushed a Snipe, it towered up and over Lakehouse Road, and for all of about thirty seconds was visible from my terrace, and in an amazingly fortunate coincidence, I was on my terrace and looking in the right direction, which as it happens was left. I know you are stunned and envious. I have this unfortunate habit of becoming really really excited at insignificant local birding events, and so all the usual took place - arms to the sky in salute, inability to use camera, "SNIPE!!!" proclaimed very loudly etc. Anyone walking down the street, or indeed the next few streets, would be forgiven for wondering what was going on, speculating on what had driven a nearby householder to such depths of patheticness. I make no apologies, this was a tick of immense proportions. Just think about the combination of circumstances needed. Exactly - MEGA.

My hoped-for Lapwings never appeared. Perhaps they only move towards the beginning of a cold snap, and until it warms up we won't see any new movement back again? And I didn't see a Sparrow all day, in fact the feeders attracted the grand total of a Woodpigeon, a Great Tit, and a naughty Squirrel.

It's dark now, and I have ended the first week one shy of fifty for Wanstead. A Herring Gull this morning was #49, and I really would have liked just one more, but nevermind. I got Snipe on the garden list, and all is well with the world. The house is warm and cosy, the floor is still fairly clean, we drew the Test Match, and a Lancashire Hotpot is simmering gently in the oven - another new recipe to test out on my eager and appreciative brood.

Wednesday 6 January 2010


Real snow. Proper snow. None of this crappy dusting, thick frost stuff that gets labelled as snow. This was real snow. Readers in Moscow are probably scoffing, but I even put the Landrover in low ratio this afternoon on the school run. I didn't need to, strictly, I just wanted to. And great fun it was too, 18mph in fifth gear, immense traction, and no pirouettes like I saw another car do.

Heronry Pond. Just look at all the birds!

I had a brief meander around Wanstead Flats while the girls were sleeping - didn't score too many brownie points with Mrs L when they woke up and I was half an hour away in thick snow. I managed seven ticks before the weather closed in completely, including bright green parakeets which was incongruous to say the least. Finally got a Tufted Duck and a Shoveler, but best bird award goes to the Snipe down near Jubilee Pond. The flock of 22 Skylark feeding in the snow was very nice too, and easy to count for a change.

Cold Pipit, Anthus frigidii

There were people everywhere, out enjoying it. And why not. We did too, but in the garden, where a snowman was the first order of the day after the school run. I don't recall too many snowmen when I was growing up, but so far my kids seem to have had the chance more or less annually. And they'll get the chance again tomorrow as school has been cancelled.

Snowman and two Executive Directors. Slave visible in background.

My 2010 professional goals are not going so well. It is only the 6th of January and already Mrs L has complained that she hasn't seen me do any cleaning. I retorted with news of a freshly cleaned sink, but after inspection limescale was still deemed to be present. Pah. She also warned me not to cook omlette for dinner, but this went unheeded - if they can eat boiled eggs, they can eat an omlette, or at least that was my thinking. Think again.

"So you reckon I'm going to eat omlette do you?"

On the birding front, Wanstead is well underway at 48, and this is without Sparrow or Sparrowhawk. Hopefully I'll break 50 in the first week, which ends tomorrow. I reckon I stand a decent chance of a Lapwing tomorrow as well, as the weather is very similar to that which saw the last ones go over a couple of weeks ago. My Rainham list stands at 80, with such gems as Bearded Tit, Great Skua, Serin and Glaucous Gull, and loads of easy stuff left like Grey Plover and Water Pipit. No ticks of any description for Essex or London, but I'm fairly laid back about it for now, plenty of time, and I'm enjoying the patching. You can chart my progress on the right.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Dawn in Wanstead

Hard work today with the continued freeze - waterfowl limited to two Mute Swans and a fly-over Mallard. I'm not counting the Canada Geese - they occupy the ecological niche where sheep would otherwise be. I only really ever see them on the grass, grazing away. Bleating. They fly about more than sheep do of course, but otherwise I struggle to see any significant difference. No, I had to be content with a single Mallard, and my pitiful patchlist is still lacking even a Tufted Duck and Shoveler. Dave Mo has them all at Barking Outfall, and is gleefully experiencing record counts of just about everything at the moment.

I was out by about 7:30am, just as it was getting light, and the ground was frozen solid. I was hoping for a Snipe in the long grass, or Lapwings on the playing field, but the whole place was largely deserted. I encountered the usual group of Skylarks feeding on Fairground Flats, and on the way added Dunnock and Reed Bunting, but none of the usual Sparrows were about, and the early morning Kestrel I usually see wasn't there either.

Things picked up a bit as I crossed over Centre Road, with three or four more Reed Buntings, and about half a dozen Meadow Pipits. A Jay skrawked from west of Long Wood, four Goldfinches flew over, and a Cormorant cut north-west across the morning sky. And all the while a constant stream of gulls came the other way, heading for the river.

And what a sky! Only had my phone with me, but I don't think any camera would have done it justice really - you just had to be there. I watched it develop for a good fifteen minutes, the warmth in my feet gradually retreating. Then it was time to go - an hour had passed in an instant, and I had to hurry back for the school run.

"....on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east."

I wasn't able to get back to the Flats, it was too cold really to venture out with whiny kids. I had a quick look at the Basin - still frozen, nothing on it - and popped into Reservoir Wood to see if I could jam the Firecrests. I couldn't, but added Long-tailed Tit, Great Spot, and Song Thrush.

The year-list I'm not doing continues to go badly, with another five species added since the Essex trip. Most notable was only my fourth Glaucous Gull, which happily turned up at Rainham for a morning. I only just got there, having left my phone at home, thus missing all Howard's phone calls, and of course I had yet again not looked at my pager. I dashed over there with all three kids and got it from the ramp just before it flew off. Perhaps a rocking-horse had been taken for a walk at Southend?

Sunday 3 January 2010

Essex Winter Birding. Dreadful.

A terrible day out today spent largely on the Essex Coast. Not year-listing, no no no. I was accompanying some rabid year-listers, but personally I was just hoping for a Robin or two, a couple of Blackbirds, and possibly a Fieldfare or Skylark. Took Bradders' new Subaru as my car is hors service.... Very comfy, very warm, good fuel economy, but oddly has a boot where the sub-woofer should be. Still, despite the lack of bass, it seems to go OK.

Gutted of Wanstead, Show-home Shaun, Hawkeye Hawkins, The Blowmonkey, Dave "McRae" Bradders, Martin Redsy

Met Hawky, SHS, Monkey and Redsy at dawn at Abberton for the long-staying Spotted Sandpiper. Not a filthy year-tick, we were there as Redsy needed it. Altruist that I am, I needed to help show him where to go, which fence to hop and so on. Yes, I was just helping. I didn't even scope it. In fact I had my eyes shut, er yes that's right, yes, my eyes were shut. But as I was walking back it flew past me. Sorry. It was no good pretending I hadn't seen it, or trying to string it into a Common Sandpiper, it was too late. So a bad start to the day. I also very unfortunately saw a Spoonbill, a Whooper Swan, 2 Jays, many Goosander, an Eygptian Goose, and four Smew, all of which were year ticks. I would have stayed in the car, but I was getting too hot. All I wanted to see were Wigeon actually.

After this disaster we carried on to the causeway at Mersea Island, as I like the landscape there very much. Whilst admiring the various views through my scope and binoculars I sadly noticed some Brent Geese, Oystercatchers, Knot, Turnstone, and a Grey Plover. And then before I could stop myself, I identified a Spotted Redshank. I just blurted it out. Hoping against hope I had got it wrong and it was in fact just a Redshank, I hurried to get a better view, and was aghast to see not only a spanking winter-plumaged Spotted Redshank, but also a Greenshank right next to it. Aaaargh, 100 for the year!


Could it get any worse? Well, yes. Next stop the point at East Mersea where I hoped to get some nice shots of the shingle. Luckily it was devoid of Snow Buntings, but whilst looking at a Harbour Porpoise - quite safe, I don't keep a mammal year-list - some Avocets flew past. Damn it. And then whilst panning to see which yacht was the biggest I noted a couple of Eider and distant Red-breasted Merganser.

Slavonian Grebe

It occured to us that Roll's Farm near Tollesbury might be good for some Skylark and Fieldfare flocks, both of which I had already seen this year. Whilst scanning the Blackwater Estuary for these, we saw a Red-throated Diver, at least three Great Northern Divers, and up to six Slavonian Grebes. These things can't be helped I suppose, but to say I was disappointed is an understatement. To make matters worse, Hawky found a Barn Owl that I instinctively looked at before I realised what I was doing, and a bloody Kingfisher called right in front of me as we were walking back. Bradders dropping his pasty and then treading on it briefly lightened my mood, but then I added up what I seen and realised I was on 108 for the year, and immediately sank into a deep depression.

Unbelievably unlucky to run into this

The boys decided that they would cheer me up with an ice-cream. There didn't seem to be any place to get one nearby, so we drove to Southend as Rossi's ice cream parlour is usually pretty good. As we parked the car I looked up and saw a Ring-billed Gull on a lamp-post. You could not have written it. I mean what were the chances of that? Gutted, absolutely gutted. Inconsolable, I stared at the sea, trying to ignore the Med Gulls. To take my mind off these, I took some pictures of the Turnstones. Kneeling down to get a more pleasing angle, my day got worse as I squidged straight into a turd. I would have thought that Essex was quite a long way to take your dog for a walk if you live in Cornwall, but it seems that distance is no object when it comes to pissing me off. This was the absolute low point of my day, but the highlight of four other people's. Would have been five, but Redsy had left us by then. Quasi-amusing pictures coming to a blog near here soon I suspect. I wiped most off with a broad-leaved plant, and then went to a cafe where a waitress kindly squirted table-cleaning stuff on my leg and gave me some napkins.

Finished the day off with about 20 Bar-tailed Godwits as I was admiring the setting sun on Two Tree Island. What difference does it make frankly? I was barely registering any pain at this point, it was all over. 25 year-ticks in a day where I hadn't thought I'd get any, and a new total of 111 which matches exactly what I was on by the 3rd January last year. This isn't looking good. Wanstead tomorrow. I shall steadfastly ignore any Goldcrests, and I hope those two Firecrests have left Reservoir Wood, as my treble figure of eight loop through there might otherwise see me bump into them.