1. Have a lie-in
2. Eat a bagel for breakfast
3. Hit Flats
4. Receive text message about patch tick in Park
5. Power march to Park
6. Patch tick Mandarin Duck
7. Celebrate with cup of tea and slice of cake at Tea Shop of Happiness
8. Celebrate some more with cheap haircut
9. Celebrate even more by lying in grass looking at sky for a bit
10. Celebrate yet more in Pub
Now days don't come much better than that do they? After the dippiness of yesterday and utter lack of migrants, what a way to bounce back! Steve is once again the king of the Park - we didn't think he could top the two Smew on the Roding, but he has pulled yet another one out of the bag. Two actually, a pair of Mandarin Duck. I hope he didn't actually pull them out of a bag. I've long said that the Ornamental Waters are crying out for Mandarin, the trouble is I never go there to see if any have turned up. Steve does though, luckily for me. There is a small population of Mandarin in Epping Forest, but they tend not to wander very much, so the bird today were a welcome addition to my patch list.
I was just staking out a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming tree when my phone went off with the happy news. Gah! I radioed Nick - yes, very tragically I have invested in a couple of two-way radios in order to make migrant hunting more efficient and generally enhance the magic - to tell him we needed to leg it over to the Park, but he couldn't answer as he had a coffee in one hand and a bacon buttie in the other. He eventually turned up (at least 45 seconds, and a patch tick, unbelievable!) and off we went. The Mandarin had vanished into the Fortifications, a tangled area of small islets on the Ornamental Water, some kind of Victorian folly. There are a couple of viewing angles into a couple of bits, but largely it's a dead zone. Had Steve walked by five minutes earlier or later they likely wouldn't have been in view, but that's patch birding for you. He hadn't realised the significance of the birds - only the second record ever a far as we know - had sent a quick low-key text, and carried on. Meanwhile Nick was inhaling bits of bacon and spilling coffee all over himself, and I was regretting my choice of camera equipment for the day as we both tried to get over to the Park as quickly as possible. "Stay on them!" was my rather desperate-sounding text, but by then it was too late - he retraced his steps but they were gone.
So we staked it out, radios in hand, at different points around the Fortifications. "Can you see a Mute Swan coming towards to you?" "No, but there are two Gadwall with a Coot to their left coming your way". "Can't see anything. Can you see a log?" Nothing beats a bit of walkie-talkie chit-chat...... We soon established that there was a good area we couldn't see at all, and surmised that the Mandarin were likely in there somewhere. Meanwhile Steve did two entire circuits of the OW in a bid to discover if they had snuck out. Really we needed a boat, a punt would have been ideal. I did consider wading over, but thought the better of it - I still have some pride. Two hours in though, and things were looking bad. A noise behind me and Nick appeared, bored with his stakeout. I pointed out that my stakeout was equally as interesting. He then pointed out two Mandarin trying to sneak off down the channel I had been watching whilst I was busy looking the other way. Get in!!!
Steve returned and we told him the good news, which was that he didn't have to go in after them to ensure we saw them. Next stop the Tea Hut, where we scored a Buzzard, a couple of Sprawks, and some cake. An emergency haircut then proceeded a short skywatch, followed by watching the rugby in the pub, which we decorated with various optics. I'm not a huge fan of rugby, but the right team won, and it was good seeing quite how miserable Sarkozy looked in the stands. Suspect he has a lot on his mind....
So, a quality day. Still no migrants, or not that we saw, but any day now surely?