Sunday 11 September 2011

Vagrant juvenile Little Bittern marries adult Sabine's Gull on Wanstead Flats

Catchy huh? I've been trying to think of a blog-post title that expresses sufficiently the full-on hectic pace of the extremely varied weekend that I've just had. I probably failed. A decent fall of migrants on the Flats followed by a friend's wedding, a speedy twitch to Norfolk for the Little Bittern, and then a Sabine's Gull in London so tame you would be forgiven for thinking it was someone's pet. The above was the best I could come up with, and conjures up a rather different image.

A paragraph on each then, and more photos than strictly necessary.

Wanstead Flats, Saturday morning.
More migrants than you can shake a stick at. Ten Spotted Flycatchers, three Whinchats, a couple of Tree Pipits, heaps of Blackcaps, Chiffs and Dunnocks, coupled with a decent movement of Swallows and Meadow Pipits made for a pretty exciting morning in the company of Sally, Nick and Tim. Why the Flats should be so attractive to Spotted Flycatchers I have no idea, but these splendid little birds are an annual feature at around this time of year, usually in some numbers. Yesterday there were seven in Long Wood, five together, chasing each other round and calling their heads off. To have this treat year on year is a privilege. A decent supporting cast including yet more Whinchats and the morning sped by. I love living here.

Susannah and Don get married in Eltham, Saturday afternoon.
Hurrah, she finally did it! Weddings are great, even when they coincide with pet Sabine's Gulls on London Reservoirs, and we had a brilliant afternoon in the company of lots of old school friends. Susannah and I lived on the same road in Cambridge for many years, went to the same schools, and had many of the same friends. She's far too organised to let my uselessness overcome keeping in touch, so all these years later Mrs L and I got to go to her wedding (and Don's!) and have a wonderful time. Far too much to drink of course, and some dodgy dancing, but these things are par for the course. Guys, you make a fantastic couple, many congratulations!

Twitchwell RSPB, Norfolk, Sunday morning. Early Sunday morning. Too early...
Despite the certain likelihood of too little sleep and a very large headache, I had made plans to go to Norfolk with Nick C, Stuart F and Bradders. A post-wedding 4:50am start was most definitely one of the hardest things I've done this year, but Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Citrine WagtailCattle Egret and Little Bittern all on the same stretch of coast couldn't be ignored. In the event we only got the latter two, but enjoyed great close views of a juvenile Little Bittern as it clambered about in a reed bed right in front of us. Far too many people, far too much tutting and moaning, but you expect that at Titchwell and it didn't stop us eventually getting the views we wanted. Many Thanks to Big Jake for letting me look through his scope during the panic stages, thus allowing me the luxury of strolling off for a sausage bap. Refuelled and revitalised, I strolled back and got fairly prolonged views as it caught small fish along the margins of the reedbed. Rather pathetically we couldn't think of anything else to do up there, and with virtually no other migrants on the coast, and strong winds preventing us from finding any, it was an easy decision to head home early for browny point recuperation, or in my case, a Sabine's Gull which had done the decent thing by staying overnight.

Distant and elusive Sabine's Gull on KGV Reservoir, Sunday afternoon.
I really like seeing birds really well, and Sabine's Gull is typically not a bird I see well at all. For a start, most of them are Kittiwakes, and the ones that actually are Sabine's are usually miles out whilst seawatching in a raging northerly, whilst tipping sea-water out of my scope. So when I heard that the bird on KGV generally showed to about 40cm, I just had to go, the fact that it was a London tick was entirely irrelevant. A long walk, I can't think of anywhere in London where you might need to go as far in fact, but unequivocally worthwhile. Presumably it just doesn't know what people are, and it's probably best off not knowing, but I can tell you now that I will never see a Sabine's Gull better than today. Superb.

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