Well, after all the nonsense on the net about the goings on at American Bittern twitches, and then the expected response to the fabulously even-handed twitching documentary, I think it's high time to get back to basics. And it doesn't get much more basic than me birding in my garden.
The ritual is as follows. Get up, dress, stumble downstairs, make tea, source bins, hit terrace. Once there, I'm in a different place. I can hear the dull rumble of the A12, all those poor sods heading into the City. I can hear the odd clacking of a Central Line tube train going over points. Every now and again I can hear a plane taking off from City Airport. But I can also hear birds, and that's what I'm here for. The bins are in fact largely redundant, it's my ears that are all important.
After the ridiculousness of the weekend, twitching Cornwall (I mean, where will it end? Is nowhere too far?), this was where I wanted to be. One minute I'm seeing the first American Bittern since the early 1990s, the next, my heart's desire is one of our commonest finches. Siskin was the target, a long overdue garden tick. It's good to have a multi-faceted approach to birding. Patch-working exclusively could grind me down. I love it, but I need some variety. So I go off-patch too, be it a day on the coast, or a week on some islands. How else can I gain any familiarity with birds I just won't see in Wanstead? When a Yellow-browed Warbler eventually deigns to grace us with it's presence, I'll recognise it immediately. If I never left Wanstead, I wouldn't have a hope.
The morning was slow to get going. For the first twenty minutes very little happened. Perhaps I was too early? At seven-ish, somebody flicked a switch, and the sky came alive. Birds, heading north-west.
Groups of Fieldfares and Redwings, not earth-shattering numbers, but enough to later be able to say it was a good morning. Bouncing flocks of finches, some resolutely silent, others revealing their identity with chips and chimes. Surely there must be a Siskin about the place somewhere? First bird to get me excited was a Brambling, the wheezy call registering quickly, though just as the other day, I never saw it. A hundred and fifty Starlings went over in one group. No trillers. And then, there it was, that giveaway flutey squeak, and a small fork-tailed bird bombed over, never pausing, but enough to say that my garden, my tiny garden, has had a Siskin in it. Over it. On its list. A common bird, but a most welcome one. Cheered, I continued my vigil. Birding at its best. Basic, but satisfying.