Despite the snow, the patch is on fire. On the way back from celebratory beers on Sunday, Nick bumped into a Woodcock. Unfortunately he had just parted company with Tim and I - we retraced our steps, but presumably the bird had buried itself deep in cover, of which there is a lot. Still, I said to Tim, at least they're here. Somewhere.
With that thought in mind, I headed off eagerly to the bus stop this morning. When I am working at Canary Wharf, to avoid total depression I like to give a small portion of the Flats a bit of a go in the morning. This means that rather than jump on the bus quite near my house, I cut across the Flats to two stops further on. This takes me more or less diagonally through the SSSI, and includes what we all call the boggy bit - though do note that it is not remotely boggy at the moment. Still, earlier in the year it had a Snipe in it, so I still had some hope.
That hope was well and truly fulfilled when a Woodcock exploded from beneath a small tree and zoomed off west somewhere. I mean, what were the chances of that? I hadn't even set foot in the boggy bit, I was still on the path, and off it went. It wasn't even particularly early, but perhaps the cold weather meant I was the first person through there? The views weren't great, ie the rear end of a Woodcock disappearing very quickly, but that was good enough for me. My two previous sightings have been birds in broad daylight flying past my head in the broom fields, so this is probably a more typical view.
Whilst this was a most welcome addition to my patch year list, the real action was in the sky. I hadn't been on the Flats for more than about two minutes when an immense flock of about 300 Redwings went over. I say three hundred, really you have no hope whatsoever of actually counting them. One, two, three, four, oh, about three hundred I reckon. Very unscientific, but this is only the patch, it's hardly critical. Shortly after, exactly 250 more Redwing went over, again south-west. By the time I flushed the Woodcock, I'd reached around 700, and by the time I got on the bus a conservative estimate would have been 1,300 birds. And let's not forget the Fieldfare - never as numerous, but a flock of 60+ was exceptional, and I reckon my total in those 45 minutes was around 180. Needless to say I went to work with a spring in my step. Mind you, I always do....