Monday 30 January 2012

Cold wind a comin'

The moment many local patch workers have been waiting for is nearly upon us. The big freeze. Ok, so it isn't big, and it isn't going to be particularly freezing - at least not in Wanstead - but it's the first properly cold snap of this year, and, crucially, the continent is going to be properly cold. I'm told that's the key really, and that the weather in Wanstead is irrelevant. Wanstead has no interesting birds, thus places that do have interesting birds need to become inhospitable in order for any of them to travel here. Suits me.

I've devoted quite some time these last few days to thinking about what I'd lke to find, and where I'd like to find it. This has been slightly problematic, as because I'm working from home quite a lot, I'd really like to find things in my garden. Trouble is, the birds I'd like to find are things like Smew, and unless the weather does something truly remarkable, I have a nagging feeling my garden is going to miss out. I'd rather it does actually, as any feelings of extreme meganess are likely to be tempered by feelings of extreme worry that my house is now in the middle of a lake, with the Thames flood plain a, well, flood plain. Hawk Owl in the big tree at the end? Yeah, that'll do.

It's basically all about movement of wildfowl and waders. Lapwing area good shout, and if I'm spectacularly lucky, a Golden PloverWild Geese and Swans usually put a good showing in in the London area, but again, you have to be lucky, and realistically, on the river. Ducks are by far my best chance. Wigeon may move, we could get a Goosander or two, but the real prize would be a Merg, or the aforementioned Smew.  

This weekend I was mostly going round in circles 

As I may have mentioned already, I didn't see many birds this weekend. Mainly I was busy enjoying real life, but when I did get out to Wanstead Flats briefly on Sunday afternoon, there wasn't a whole lot to see. This is the trouble with the end of January - well, most of January really. By the end of the first week you've seen pretty much every bird you're going to see until the end of March - that's why this upcoming continental cold snap is so exciting, it could bring variety, something DIFFERENT. On my brief foray out into the broom fields I noted two singing Song Thrushes, a Fieldfare sat in the top of a tree, and three Meadow Pipits. The excitement stakes were briefly raised when several straggly lines of birds appeared from the south, but rather than the Bean Geese I was hoping for they materialised into Cormorants. 31 Cormorants is pretty impressive for here, especially in one flock, but there's something undeniably crappy about them. Like they're just shit basically. Further excitement came with an uberflock of Ring-necked Parakeets heading in the opposite direction - I had just had a couple singles heading towards Forest Gate, and then a group of six, when a cacophony came down the breeze. The biggest flock of Parakeets I've seen this side of Sidcup cruised over the Coronation Plantation and onwards to who knows where to wreak destruction and chaos. I managed to whip out the trusty smartphone for a snap, and later counted 67 dots. That's loads, but again, not really something I can greet with any particular enthusiasm. A fly-over Bewick's Swan? Now that would be greeted with considerable enthusiam!

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