Seeing as I was in the car anyway, I decided I would go. What the hell, push the boat out. Tell you what, Mark has a tough life. He is forced to work in frankly intolerable conditions, with a horrible, horrible wildlife garden mere feet away, and a really dreadful sky-watching platform only a little further. I wouldn't stand for it, but somehow he sticks at it, day after interminable day.
Realising the hopelessness of his situation, he was in deep in the doldrums when I met up with him in the garden. I could tell he was extremely depressed. Yup, he hadn't seen a Redstart for at least ten minutes, a Pied Flycatcher for over an hour, and there had been no Honey Buzzards for a whole week! I really felt for him, and in an attempt to cheer him up started trying to get some easy IDs wrong.
I am of course jesting. The place is wonderful, a haven. Tea, coffee, birdsong, a raptor-filled sky, and a duck-filled reservoir. The fact that he achieves anything is remarkable. I wouldn't have the discipline, I know I wouldn't. It's a Community Garden run by the London Wildlife Trust, and as such has loads of interesting stuff, ponds, bits of wood, a den under the platform and so on. I let the kids loose, and started concentrating on the trees that border the channel.
It was harder work than I anticipated. The garden is relatively small, but it borders a tree-lined reservoir, the new river path, and no doubt numerous gardens. It is, as they say, habitat-rich, and for the first hour or so, all I had were Chiffchaffs, a Garden Warbler, and a single Spotted Flycatcher. I thought I saw something flit through a larger tree that looked promising, but could not find it again. The Spotted Flycatcher eventually came and sat out, so I called Mark who came out for a break with his camera. Instantaeneously, the bird activity increased ten-fold. He must emit pheremones or something. I was amazed an Osprey didn't come and perch on the fence, but all of a sudden the trees near the river were alive. One Spotted Flycatcher became two, a tit flock moved through with several Phylloscs, and Mark saw the Common Redstart briefly. Then he had to resume work, so went back inside, and everything melted away. I've never seen anything like it. I decided to stick it out just in case, and after about ten minutes was rewarded by a decent view of the male Redstart in the large tree. There was something else at the back too, two birds chasing each other, but I could never get on them before they moved. Five minutes passed, with occasional glimpes of Redstart, and then there it was, a Pied Flycatcher. It may have been the bird I couldn't quite see, or it may not have been, but it certainly took its time giving itself up. It flitted over the river, over my head and into a large willow behind me, where I failed to refind it a mere twenty seconds later, so it must have gone straight through. So two hours for a five second view, hardly satisfactory on that front, but a great site tick, a real gem of patch, and I'll definitely be back.
If anyone's counting, my London 2010 yearlist now stands at 195, and I'm fed up with it. Five to go, and no real clue as to what they're going to be.
No camera today, so have a Whinchat and two Spotted Flycatchers from Wanstead Flats last weekend.