Woke up this morning to a fresh covering of snow, and the news that the school was closed due to icy conditions. So much for my plan of checking the reservoirs. Still, I resolved to do as much as I could, and so packed all three children into the car for a quick tour of Wanstead. I had checked two of the three accessible ponds for nil return when a fortuitous call from Howard came through. I knew it would be good.
It was - Andy, Phil and Dave were somehow at Rainham, and were looking at an Eider - another top notch London bird. I could not pass it up. A quick call to Andy to establish how bad the road was, and we were off. "This isn't Wanstead!" the kids piped-up as we headed towards Ilford. Indeed not. The roads were perfectly clear, and driving along Coldharbour Lane I could see the guys' cars up at Aveley Bay. No sign of them though. Odd?
Ah, hang on, there's a fishing umbrella. Is that a scope I can see? With snow coming over the top of my wellies, a fantastic scene greeted me, far more memorable than a mucky drake Eider distantly on the river. Sat on camp-stools, dressed in arctic survival gear, and in the lee of an enormous umbrella, Andy, Phil and Dave huddled around a driftwood fire, scopes trained on the river. They were more preoccupied with keeping the fire going than looking for birds, but what a sight! What dedication! I know of no other patch-workers with quite this drive. And their determination had paid off. Eider is a spectacular bird in London, and on top of the three Pomarine Skuas yesterday, the guys are on fire. In fact, they might, by now, literally be on fire, as when I left the big log they had found was just getting going.
They had a bag of kindling, a frying pan, a load of bacon and eggs for later, and were clearly having a whale of a time. I wished I could stay there with them and scan for more goodies, but the kids were in the car and deeply unimpressed with this detour. We nearly didn't make it out of the carpark, the wheels span on pure ice, but a few bits of wood underneath and we were off. I checked the third and final pond on the way back - nothing. I still have a good feeling about Wanstead though, we're going to get something. It might not be as stellar as an Eider (ho ho ho), but it will still be very pleasing. I'm wondering about Brent Goose. Whilst at Rainham today, I had another group of six, which takes me into the thirties for this year. Smart birds, always good to see in London, what chance close to home?