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.

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