These were the words spoken to me by my good birding buddy Paul H at about 7:15am this morning, and they were well deserved. Out of context, a little strange, no? Or perhaps not, but in any case, to fully understand why, let me take you back about forty-five minutes to roughly 6:30am.
I had managed to drag myself out of bed before 6am, no mean feat for someone as lazy as I. So at 6:30 I found myself just west of Alexandra Lake, and what with all the gales recently, I was hoping for some Hot Wader Action. These thoughts were instantly scuppered when a jogger appeared from the sand hills, accompanied by a large black dog, that whilst leashed, would still have scared all the Grey-tailed Tattlers and Willets away. I spent some time muttering words beginning with F, and cursing my luck. I mean just how early do I have to get up? Predictably, there were no waders. There may never have been any waders, but that is pure speculation. The jogger in question is not a bad sort as it happens - somewhat bizarrely she follows my Twitter feed where I rant about dogs, is fairly keen on birds herself, and wondered if she had seen me this morning? I confirmed that she had, and we're now having a semi-conversation about the lack of waders in Wanstead. But I digress, at 6:30am I didn't know any of this.
I carried on to the scrub, and a small brown bird zipped from some brambles to a hawthorn. Thinking thoughts of the Gropper that Nick booted out in almost the same place a few days earlier, this got the pulse racing, and it took ten minutes to confirm it as.....a Whitethroat. Piss. 6:45am and it's time to turn for home. Mrs L, bless her cotton socks, needs to go to work to support the family. Yep, even in September and October. As I passed south of Alexandra Lake, I noticed an awful lot of Woodpigeons in the air. Do we really have that many, I thought, or is it Woodpigeon passage already? Then my mind turned to what kind of event may have caused two hundred Woodpigeons to simultaeneously take flight, and I looked at the sky.... Please forgive the large font.
I honestly could not believe my eyes. There must have been some kind of mistake, I could not possibly be looking at an Osprey flapping over my head. This is my dream bird for here, my want of wants (and I want a lot!), and here it was, majestically scaring the crap out of a monumental number of Woodpigeons, and flapping lazily south-east towards the Golden Fleece pub. I rang Nick. He of all people would be out and about. He was, but had only just arrived at the other end of the Flats, and looking east into the rising sun stood little chance. Gutted, so close, and yet so far. As a patch birder, getting a good patch bird is the ultimate reward, but coming a very close second is making sure your fellow patch-workers get to see it too, and in this instance it just didn't happen, and there was nothing either of us could have done.
I've been waiting, hoping, for a patch Osprey for about six years. I look at the sky an awful lot at the right time of year, and have had Ospreys pass both to the east and west of me. Some of my mates have seen several in London, but until today I'd never managed to connect. Ideally I would have seen it from the garden, but hey. Still an awesome event, and I have one of those silly smiles right now. So why am I a bell-end?