Tuesday 17 August 2010

Patch Tick Day

Broken toe and all, vaguely recovered after the strain of the Point, I went out on the Flats this morning. It was raining when I left at 5:30, that's how committed I am. It soon cleared up, but too late for the dog-walkers. My theory is that the really early morning ones are the ones whose owners then have to go off to work, so they exercise the dog (and its bowels) first thing. This would also explain why there are far fewer dogs at the weekends. So when it rains at dog-walking hour, well bad luck pooch.

Not that it made a massive amount of difference to the birding, but I was rewarded with a smattering of new-in Phylloscs, and no fewer than five Lesser Whitethroats. Bird of the morning went to a patch tick though, as you might expect. Both Stuart and Nick had recently been lucky enough to see a Yellow-legged Gull hanging about with the Herrings and Lessers. I grasped the dog-free morning with both hands, and went to see if I could repeat the feat. I could! T'was tough though, the gulls are very wary, and a close approach is hard. It would have been a piece of cake with the scope, but I never carry that so I had to rely on stealth. Leg colour in bad light is incredibly difficult to discern, but I managed to pick it based on comparison with Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls that it was feeding with. The mantle on my chosen bird was also slightly darker grey but I wanted to be absolutely sure on the leg colour so started hiding behind trees and that sort of thing, hoping to get a bit closer, or that the bird would approach me. By about 6:15 I was satisfied beyond doubt, so I went off to bash some bushes with the results already described. My 116th bird in Wanstead, and 99th for the year. I'm in touching distance of the target.

I was bouncing around at home, full of the joys of spring autumn, thinking my day couldn't possibly get any better, when I got a call from Andy T, one of the Rainham regulars, to say that he was watching a White-winged Black Tern hawking over Aveley Pools. Still smarting from missing the Little Tern at the weekend, the kids and I were out of the house within four minutes, and the bird had the good grace to stay put. This is only the third I have seen, all in London funnily enough. I think it is also a first for the reserve, and long overdue. And incidentally it was another London year tick, #190. Getting to 200 is proving hard work, but I've still got a few easy ones like Common Redstart left.

I didn't take a camera on either trip. I figured this wouldn't be a problem as I still have a whole pile of wader pics from the weekend to use up.

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