Sunday 1 January 2012

A good list and a good soaking

I didn't even make it to midnight last night. At about 10pm, yawning my head off, I looked at Mrs L and asked why exactly we were planning on staying up for another pointless two hours? Let's face it, we're not young any more, so we went to bed. I vaguely recall some fireworks (not those kind of fireworks....) that probably indicated midnight, but I didn't even open my eyes to check.

This nice long sleep meant I actually managed to get out of bed at 7am, some three hours earlier than I seem to have managed for about a week. By 7.30 I was on the patch, and I birded it 'til dusk, which I have not done for a very very long time. And you know what? It was great, absolutely brilliant - until it started to rain, which it did, very heavily, until dusk. I actually deserve some kind of patch-birding medal, as at the point it started raining I was about five minutes from home, and I could very easily have gone back, especially as I had just scored Firecrest and had equalled my January 1st daylist from last year. In the event, I pulled on my waterproofs and went round the patch again.

So how did I do? Well, I wanted 60, which I thought was more than doable, and I ended up blowing it out of the water by a huge margin. My sixty-second and final species was a Collared Dove in a housing estate on the edge of the park, which had somehow eluded me all day. But back to the beginning, might as well draw it out....

I met Nick near Jubilee just after first light, and Tim joined us quite soon afterwards. By then we were on about 20 species. Jubilee added around eight or nine entirely expected birds, and then came something rather special. Tim and I picked up a raptor overheard going west, the shape seemed familiar....Peregrine! Presumably one of the Stratford birds, but even though that's only just around the corner, for some reason we hardly ever see them - this sighting was only my ninth in six years - well, seven now. A great start, and then almost the very next bird was a good one too, a Great Black-backed Gull heading in the same direction.

"homage a Dave Mo"

We continued over the road, adding Kestrel, Skylark and a few others, and then whilst Nick went off for coffee (and excelled himself by also sourcing bacon butties), Tim and I grilled the enormous number of Gulls sitting on the playing fields. First up was either the same Common Gull with very dark streaking on the head that I saw about a month ago, or if not, a very similar one. I'll look at the photos side by side another time, right now I'm a bit gulled-out. We counted at least 30 Lesser Black-backed, about 15 Herring Gulls, and had been looking through them for at least five minutes when I suddenly noticed that slap bang in the middle of them was this:

How on earth you miss a Great Black-backed I have no idea, they're not exactly inconspicuous, but somehow we had looked through it. We eagerly scanned through them again, in case we had also missed Med, Yellow-legged, Ring-billed, Franklin's or Pallas's... but we hadn't, and so continued, refuelled, to the Alex, there to add Greylag, Tuftie and a bonus Teal. A quick search of scrub netting a Greenfinch, and then we headed off to the Park. Reed Bunting, a miss on the Flats, was notched up in the Old Sewage Works, as was Sparrowhawk, but our hopes of a clean sweep were dashed when we couldn't find Snipe, Bullfinch or Little Egret - the OSW is about the only place for them.

Tim (l), Nick (r)

By now about lunchtime, it was off to the Tea Hut for refreshments. As expected, Crufts was in full swing, and there were so many people I had to queue to get the teas in, which allowed Nick to scoop a Kingfisher behind my back, a feat he later repeated on the Roding. Firecrest in Bush Wood was next on the list, via a flock of Redpolls (24 Mealy, 1 Arctic), and on the way we bumped into Paul D, who had just dipped them. He came back with us, and whilst we all saw one, he dipped them again. At this point it began to rain, perhaps to coincide with Paul's mood. Tim, who lives near me, cut his losses and went home for some lunch, and Paul wandered back to the park. A crossroads loomed. Back home for lunch, like Tim, or waterproofs on, and over the Ornamental Waters via the Basin. Thoroughly soaked, and having just missed Kingfisher #2, I wondered if I had made the wrong decision. Arriving at the OSW again, I turned for home. Nick decided he would take one more quick spin around the area. Knowing what would happen, I turned back and came with him. And what a decision that turned out to be! We had gone less than two-hundred yards when five Bullfinches flew out of a Hawthorn, and the Little Egret was hunched up on the Roding! Leaving the site, a Chiffie called a couple of times, and the walk back home produced the Collared Doves. 62 species! Stonking. Of course that's me done until the first Wheatear turns up, but nonetheless an intensely satisfying day, and well worth a good soaking.


  1. What a keen start. I was intrigued at the photo of your Wanstead colleagues - I have never before seen anyone wearing 2 pairs of bins...

    Mind you, the first photo I opened was predictably the gull one - to double-check that you hadn't overlooked anything of course.

  2. Pallas's? Surely the gulls would have eaten a Pallas's before you saw it! I dont think open playing fields are good habitat for eastern warblers anyway...

  3. Happy New Year Jonnyboy. I am absolutely gutted. We (Nixon, Vman, me) were planning on calling you every five minutes throughout yesterday so your phone continually rung and scared off all the birds. But I slept all day with a hangover instead.

    Te quiero