Saturday 3 December 2011

Long-tailed Duck in London

There is a Long-tailed Duck in Bromley, which is in Kent. Generally when it comes to Long-tailed Ducks in Kent, I could not care less. However Bromley, whilst in Kent, is also in London. Suddenly, I find that I do care. Not that much, as the bird has been there for over a week now, but every now and again I wonder if I should go see it. Then I think of the Blackwall Tunnel, and care less again. When it came up this morning, I decided it was now or never, and so piled the children into the car after lunch (Mrs L was out selfishly pursuing her own hobbies again rather than staying at home so that I can go look at birds, pah!)

I take my kids to all the nicest places....

London traffic being what it is, the 16 miles took just over an hour, and when we parked up we could see a muddy lane heading off into the trees. My research had been somewhat minimal, but seeing as it was the most likely option, and we had passed no ponds, we sauntered down there. Plenty of muddy puddles for one and all, including for a dumb son who had decided to wear trainers but did not want to be left out. They're drying on the radiator.

The path did indeed lead to a small pond, and on that pond, surrounded by Mallards, Coots, Little Grebes and a few Tufties was a very fine female Long-tailed Duck. Where it came from and what it is doing there, who can say? It passed the bread test, and in fact stayed right at the far end of the pond. This is of course the acid test with wildfowl. Nobody will actually ever know where it came from, so punters like me make up rules that can fairly easily be satisfied. We throw one tiny lump of bread in towards the nearest Mallard, which naturally snaffles it instantly, thus ensuring the target bird does not get a look in, and we make sure that we view from as far away as possible, and move if it swims towards us. Well, it behaved like a wild bird, we then say indignantly. Didn't show the slightest interest in bread..... And then we whack it on our lists. Triumphantly.

Which is what I have just done, and in doing so discovered that not only is it a London tick, but a Kent tick too! Double whammy. Actually, triple whammy, as unbelievably it gets better - a year tick! Good gracious, what a haul, what a tick-fest! Good thing I'm not year-listing!  Well worth the two hours in the car. That's the trouble with London birding, small distances take forever. I don't mind going out to Rainham, or popping up to the Lea Valley Reservoirs, but as soon as a bird turns up south of the river, or, heaven forbid, south-west London, an involuntary groan escapes me. Why do I do it, I ask myself. It's stupid, I tell myself. Never was that worse than last year, when I was trying a London year list, but even now when the pressure is off, it's still a pain. Should I, shouldn't I, and so on. Anyway, 'tis done, and it's another one I won't have to schlep round to Staines or Wraysbury for. Local listing, for people with no concept of perspective.

They will thank me in years to come

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