Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Patch birding normality

Another day, another walk round the patch. Guess what I saw! Go on, guess! Need a clue?! Well, the clue is in the title, patch normality. Patch normality means I saw very little. Well, very little to get the blood racing that is. In fact, nothing to get the blood racing now I think about it, and that is the reality of birding a patch. Days upon days of mostly nothing, and then the occasional goody that makes it all worth while.

"What are these funny letters?"

Not every patch is like this of course. Some patches have sea to look at, or a river for added interest. Some patches are migrant traps, and some have thousands upon thousands of wintering Geese. Wanstead has none of these things. It's pretty good, as far as urban sites go, and we get plenty of stuff to cheer about during migration season, but right now a walk round will get you the standard suite of British waterfowl and woodland birds, and nothing else.

It can be a little disheartening, until you realise that the first Wheatear is potentially only 49 days away. Yes, I meant to post this yesterday, and forgot. 49 days! Boy oh boy I'm looking forward to that flash of white bum! Wheatears, in the birding calendar, are a sure sign that the happy days have started again, but I think I've detected a few spring-like things this week. Today, I noticed that Coots were playing with sticks, and a few pairs of Mallard were doing their head-bobbing display at each other. There were also some flowers in Reservoir Wood by the Wayleave. Spring is on the way.

My photosensory instrustments are picking up on it too. On the school run the other day I noticed that it was still really light. Where did that come from? I checked the sun-calculator link I have saved, and it's true, we're on the way out. At the start of January the sun rose at 8:06am, and set at 4:02pm. Not a very long day. Today though, it rose at 7:49am, and set at 4:37pm. I have no idea why you only get 17 minutes at the start of the day yet 35 at the end, but I am not complaining. The difference is noticable. By the time the Wheatears arrive on March 15th (they're booked), that 52 minute increase will have risen to 3 hours and 52 minutes, and that will truly be noticeable. We're gaining almost exactly three minutes a day at the moment, and by Wheatear time, it will be maxed out almost exactly four minutes. Four minutes a day! Why, in a week that's half an hour! I have little clue about why this should be. Something to do with the tilt of the earth and the sun-pixies I think, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that it's brilliant, and that a whole pile of Wheatears in Africa are currently thinking about Wanstead.

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