Friday 27 April 2012

Patch Quality

Once again a difficult choice this morning. Stay in my nice warm bed, or brave the wind and the rain. The title of this post is a dead giveaway - did I get up? Course I did! Warm beds and cups of tea do not a successful patch-worker make, and I have been hitting Wanstead Flats every morning now for weeks and weeks, for - as you know - little reward. So, once up and out, and with the first splashes of rain pinging in my bleary eyes, I hurried across the road to the Flats for a good soaking.

Mostly I avoided the soaking by sheltering in Long Wood. I figured that before 7am I was probably safe. A quick tour of the brooms produced nothing but Dan, and so increasingly despondent I headed for the Alex. Before I got there I noticed an Egyptian Goose circling over Manor Park. Hang on a minute..... YEEES! Shelduck, in fact two Shelduck! Patch goodness, and a welcome grip-back. A few weeks ago I had got up, looked out of the window at a large fog bank, and crawled back into bed. Within half and hour Nick had scored two Shelduck, disoriented by fog, mere yards from my house.... Boy did I feel stupid. And lazy! Not so today though. They're probably annual, but only as fly-overs, so it's entirely down to luck as to whether you get one or not. Fortune favours the early riser, as patch-workers say... I later learned that Paul H had had two Shelduck over Mayesbrook Park at around the same time, and had seen them fly North-west...towards Wanstead. A rare bird for him too, only his second sighting, and only my third. As soon as they'd flown off and out of sight I sent out a happy text to everyone that still needs Shelduck for the year - not really! No, really not really. I had thought I had sent a text, but when I later showed Nick (who, as I mentioned, doesn't need Shelduck), he said "you never mentioned them!" I did too, I said, and checked my phone. No message at all. Hmmm. Well, it had been my intent to let everyone know about two Shelduck they had no hope of seeing (they flew off east again), but I somehow I failed in this and so am now being labelled as a suppressor as opposed to a gripper.

Flush with success from a quality patch record, I turned for home and began to meander towards the copses. Between me and the copses were about twenty large gulls just sitting around doing nothing, as gulls do early morning. It can't hurt to have a quick scan through them can it? OK, so Lesser Black-back, Common and, oh, ooooh, hang on, what are you? Birders always talk to themselves like this when birding alone, particularly when picking through flocks of things. It was a large white-headed gull, and I had an inking already as to what it might be, but needed to get a lot closer to find out. I sidled up, the gulls did nothing, and to my great delight (far more delight than Gulls should create), I felt I was looking at a Yellow-legged Gull. Ageing large gulls is somewhat of a dark art - well, identifying them is as well now I come to think about it - but by my reckoning it was a third year bird, somewhere between a second winter and a second summer. Here are a few shoddy photos, so I look forward to all you Gull experts telling me I've made a massive screw-up. I managed a few on the deck before a dog entered stage right and they all flew off. Just after I'd sent a text would you believe. Excellent creatures dogs, I've always said so.

I continued my meandering homewards, noted a Swift barelling north, and close to Long Wood Nick texted with news of a probable Lesser Whitethroat in Long Wood. By the time I got there it was a definite one, and indeed I heard the familiar duh-duh-duh-duh-duh before I even got to him. Which made it a three tick day! In fact, it became a four tick day, as when I got home to work on the spreadsheet of bird-record happiness, I discovered that I was one out, and fifteen feverish minutes later worked out I had missed off Common Whitethroat from a couple of weeks ago. So, the scores on the doors, 94, a mere two behind this point last year. Much better.


  1. Looks good dude, well done.

  2. Any chance of a feather-by-feather photo analysis a la NQS? For those of us who remain gullularly challenged? I guess the real clinchers were visible on photo 2 which google chrome decided not to download for some reason? We may never know, and more importantly I may never learn what they really look like. I get quite a few manky herring gulls on patch so really should be able to string one of them into a YLG but yet still haven't managed - bugger!

  3. Feather by feather analysis? You're having a laugh! Photo 2 shows the angle of the gular pouch as 89.75 degrees, whereas had it been 90.25 degrees it would have been a clear Herring Gull. I always bird with a protractor for precisely this reason.