Thermal Underwear is a revelation. After very nearly freezing to death up in Norfolk waiting for the Northern Harrier, and knowing that Gull-watching season is starting, I finally succumbed and bought some the other day. It is amazing. Top tip, buy a size smaller than you actually are, it will be very skin-tight and thus keep you warmer. Just put on your other clothes as quickly as possible, as frankly it's not a good look. Or at least, not on me it isn't. Svelte is not a word that springs to mind...
Anyway, I've spent a lot of time in very cold birding locations in the last few days, and this stuff has paid for itself already in my opinion. Over the last few days I've probably spent about twelve hours at Rainham, and today it was about minus five with the wind-chill. I've been outside almost the whole time, and not only survived, but actually felt pretty warm.
So what I have seen then? Lots. Lots and lots. I wasn't able to get to Beddington for the Common Crane on Sunday, so instead went Monday morning. Another superb bird for Beddington, and a great find for T-Bros, and I understand that many London birders filled their boots. I was happy to fill mine, even though as usual it took HOURS to get there, but once I saw the bird the journey melted into insignificance. What a great bird, and after the disappointment of the "Tyttenhanger Three" a few years ago, a very pleasing London ever tick.
Yesterday, mission Merlin, after a number of recent sightings. It took approximately four minutes. Howard, Dom and I plonked ourselves on the Serin Mound and scanned Wennington. I quickly picked up a distant bird on a fencepost, and got the others on it. I wasn't sure what it was, my experience of distantly perched Merlins is minimal, but when it flew there was no doubt - a smart female. Wow! Another year tick for both Dom and I, putting me on 206, and him on 210.
Today, Rainham again, and mission Snow Bunting. I left yesterday about fifteen minutes after it was found, but was unable to return. This morning I had a nativity play to watch (Mary got stage fright and cried...), but once the performance was over I headed straight there. I missed it by about twenty minutes, but the good things come to those who wait. It was finally pinned down on the old sea wall at about three thirty, and the light was fabulous for photography. As is typical with the species, it was incredibly confiding and allowed those watching to do so from about ten feet away. Another London year tick, 207. I reckon I am almost done now, just a Mealy Redpoll to catch up with. Here, have some photos of it.
What a little beauty, and another quality London bird, only my second - the other one was at Rainham as well. Enjoy it while you can, as my next post will be about Gulls. You may have noticed that "JL vs The Gulls of the Thames Estuary" score has changed, with me the chief beneficiary, and that's what I want to tell you about. Bet you can't wait.