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.

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