Saturday, 5 May 2012
I had one of the worst commutes home yesterday that I can ever remember. Mid-afternoon I decided I'd had enough, and departed the salt mines with the firm intention of heading for Wanstead. Somehow I got a little confused and got on the Jubilee line the wrong way, and eventually ended up at Banstead. How that happened I have no idea, but there were some funny birds in a field so all was not lost. Dotterel somebody said. Like Wanstead, Banstead is in the London recording area, and so although my roundabout journey home took four hours, I gained a somewhat valuable London tick - the first for almost twenty years. So whilst very very old people may have seen Dotterel in London before, for young whippersnappers like me this was a real blocker. I got home somewhat later than intended, but the Dotterel - a bird I rarely see anywhere - were well worth it. Note "were", rather than "was" - not just one Dotterel. Fifteen Dotterel. More, in fact, than I have seen in my short birding career to date. First time I've been to Banstead, though the place is popping up more and more of late - some fine patch-working taking place. Admittedly it didn't feel much like London - it's basically the Surrey countryside - but they all count. I am climbing up the London listers leaderboard, and am finally overtaking various people who moved out of London about thirty years ago, so well done me.
Today I hit the patch again. Not too early, but hopefully I didn't miss much. Although it was so cold that icicles were forming on my earlobes, the birdlife was very much springlike. Lesser and Common Whitethroats singing, Willow Warblers too. Swifts overhead, and up to a dozen Wheatear around the Skylark area with a couple of Whinchat. Best of all though were three Yellow Wagtails that remained faithful to the Alex for most of the morning. This is the standout news really - Yellow Wags usually go straight over the top, and half the time you don't even see them. To have them on the deck is more or less unprecendented, and for them to stay...well. I took almost full advantage - despite a camo sheet they wouldn't come quite close enough, but I'm more than happy. In addition to the three at Alex, another three flew over me at various points, so I've had 11 in the last three days.
Although the quality of the patch was undeniable this morning, I've been working it very hard recently, and needed a change. The initial plan had been to be at Flamborough this morning, but that didn't work out so I was stuck in Wanstead. Happily salvation came in the form of Prof W needing Long-billed Dowitcher for his Suffolk list, so after lunch he, I and Muffin headed off to Great Livermere Lake near Bury-St-Edmonds. The bird, in summer-plumage (a personal first) showed beautifully, and was Muffin's 178th UK tick. Not quite in the Mya-Rose league, but he's happy enough, and there is plenty of time.
Tomorrow I'm going to go and twitch something. I don't know what yet, but Black-winged Stilt is looking like a possibility, they are all over the place at the moment. Muffin is coming too, although he doesn't need BWS, having seen five in Norfolk with me in 2010. Poor kid.