Saturday, 11 February 2012

Wanstead and elsewhere

This post can be summed up as follows: Another weekend, hooray! Yet more cold weather, hooray! More birds, hooray!

But you're not getting away that lightly. I was looking at my stats the other day, and they dared to suggest that the average length of time people spend on this site is about five seconds. Wow, fast readers, I thought. Or maybe people just look at the pictures? I'm not sure, but there haven't really been many good ones recently - pictures that is. Indeed, some posts have had none at all, not even something totally spurious. Time is a big factor, it takes effort to select a photo that has nothing whatsoever to do the text, and I don't want to get it wrong and somehow give the impression that this is all well thought out and carefully considered. I've also not been out with the camera much, other than to bounce it off Southend Pier about a month ago. With no family duties today, it was a good opportunity to get a little amortisation in.

First stop, naturally, was the Basin. I know a few of you are rooting for Goldeneye, and I had high hopes, but after what must have been an extremely cold night, the open water had shrunk so much that any passing Goldeneye that had tried to land would have embedded itself in a Coot, of which there were at least a quarter of a million, all crowded into about a tennis courts worth. I moved on to the Heronry, where some kind soul at the Corporation has turned on the inflow - as such there was a lot more clear water than otherwise would have been the case, and though there were no Goldeneye, a pile of Pochard (is that the correct collective noun?) were enjoying an early morning preeing session. I busied myself getting ready for post-preening flaps, which were numerous and excellent, and while I was doing that noticed a very small Woodpecker fly to the trees at the end of the Perch pond. Yay! I wandered over but it had vanished - I thought I had heard one a few days ago, but it only called once, and good conscience prevented me from counting it in case it had been a Starling or something, which have been known to make a similar sound and bamboozle me before.

Once Crufts was fully underway, complete with entrants joyfully causing some duck angst, I mosied over to the Old Sewage Works, where literally the first birds I saw were two Linnet, another patch yeartick. For those of you keeping track, that's 78, which is loads and loads. Pleased with this minor success - in fact the first Linnets I've seen anywhere this year - I headed to the Roding for an extended Smew photography session. This went very badly, mainly caused by the total absence of Smew. I walked down into Mordor, ie off the patch, but there was no sign to the Aldersbrook, though 15 Teal, all on-patch, were quite nice. I went a similar distance upstream to about level with the Canal, but there were no birds at all that end, mainly due to dog. So I gave up and went for another cup of tea, and two bits of cake - one a late breakfast (the banana one), the second a mid-morning snack (the carrot one). Both were excellent, and fully justified by the cold weather that I'm sure I read is much more calorie-intensive.

South of the bridge

North of the bridge

Although it was great on the patch, lovely light and so on, the call of an Essex Woodlark, currently living it up in the picturesque Roding Valley Park (in a dog-shit strewn stretch of mud underneath the M11 flyover) proved too strong. I picked up Bradders kind of en route, and found the spot without any trouble at all. Mainly by smell. I can categorically say that I have never been anywhere, and this includes Cornwall and Grays, where I have seen quite so much dog muck concentrated in one spot. Whether this is the work of a single dog over a long period, or multiple dogs over a shorter period I cannot speculate. However, protected from the weather by the motorway above, it endures beyond its normal lifespan, and was EVERYWHERE and totally disgusting. And hopping around amonst the innumerable little curls of turd was a fantastic and congenitally anosmiac Woodlark.

Much as I enjoyed the bucolic appeal of the area, it was the only bird there, and once it been flushed by a horse, a bike, several dog-walkers, several dogs and a nameless photographer, we felt it was time to leave. With high tide approaching, we made for the river. Rainham, to be precise, which had the draw of warm food as well as birds. In the visitor centre I looked longingly at the homemade Bakewell slices, but then saw the price - £2.10. Seriously. Rainham food prices seemingly suffer from hyper-inflation. Every time I go there the price has risen again, the place makes Canary Wharf look cheap. I've not been keeping notes, that would be very petty, but last time I came the Bakewells were £1.80 or £1.90, and before that they were £1.40, and the sausage rolls were £2.00 - now they're £2.50. It is getting beyond unreasonable, and I don't mind saying so. I know they need to pay for the mega-hides somehow, but it's out of control. None of this matters as Bradders bought lunch, though in deference to his recently deceased boiler I skipped the cake. Just so you know RSPB, a piece of cake at the Tea Hut of Happiness costs 60p, and a cup of tea is 70p.

Perfect, no post would be complete without a good whinge.


  1. Dogs aka 'Shit machines'

  2. Couldn't quite believe the amount of dog muck under the M11 either. The local vets must be hot on prescribing laxatives.

  3. Your talk of cakes and prices has given me an idea for a post. We have a cake shop here in Seaton which may even give the Tea Hut of Happiness a run for its money. But of course I will need evidence to prove it, and you've just provided me with the perfect excuse to go down there and empty its shelves in the name of 'research'. Thank you.

    PW and I didn't stop for food in the Rainham visitor centre when I was up there recently. I'm glad. It's really galling to see nice cakes and have to not buy them on principle.