Wednesday 6 April 2011

Patch Tick, and a bloody good one!

I neglected to mention it yesterday as I was weeping too much, but a Stone Curlew flew over the Flats at about eight in the morning, and disappeared into the urban jungle of Forest Gate. At eight in the morning I am fully embroiled in the school run, therefore any Stone Curlews that fly over Wanstead Flats are going to completely pass me by.

There have been no records of Stone Curlew on Wanstead Flats since 1937. There may not have been any prior to 1937 either, but that's as far as the London Bird Reports go back so we will never know. The point is that even if you assume that there was one in 1936, a record every 75 years means I'll be 111 when the next one comes along, and likely not in very good shape. An urn or box shape perhaps.

So to miss one by a few hundred metres is rather gutting. This story ends happily though. I was out at dawn again, and enjoying Wheatears almost immediately. I met the ever-present Nick C in the Broom fields, and together we wandered over to Alex, seeing not a lot. At Alex I turned round and headed for home, as is normal. Towards the end of Long Wood my phone rang.

You are probably getting used to this now. Nick calls, I panic.

Nick: "Stone Curlew flying west past Alex!!!!!"

You are probably used to the next bit as well.

Me: "Gah!"

The next two minutes were awful. Basically me losing the plot, asking which way about ten times, Nick saying "west" about ten times, and me seeing nothing. Past the point at which a Stone Curlew by rights ought to have flown over me, I ran past Long Wood and over the small playing field to try and get a view of the big playing fields in case it had landed there. Movement to my right caught my attention and the Stone Curlew plonked down into the rough grass somewhere west of West Copse. Jesus H Christ.

And disappeared. I mean completely disappeared. Never seen again all day. Despite me roughly pinpointing the location and seeing nothing fly off, it never popped up. As it was in the Skylark area we couldn't really go looking for it, but quite a few small paths criss-cross the area, and we got within twenty metres of all points, and it never showed. Still, from my perspective, pretty damn awesome. Mega grip-back a mere twenty-four later. Quite incredible.

Needless to say, no photo, however the day got even better when a lady came past walking her pet duckling.  You couldn't make this stuff up could you?



  1. Far too stressful. Supposed to be an enjoyable and relaxing pastime. Our lives consist of many emotional moments - joy, despair, elation, anger, frustration, self-pity, relief, etc - but they are supposed to happen over a lifetime, not a couple of minutes!

  2. Well, congratulations! (I think?)

    Found myself wondering whether you would approve or disapprove of a duckling being taken for a walk in the Flats, as it is sort of doglike ... But it is on a leash. (What if it bit you, would that tip the balance away from "bird = good" to "bad dog!") It is extremely cute, regardless.