Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Back to business

This is of course a birding blog. Without beating around the bush, it's about birds, pure and simple. Not moths. Not pretty hockey players. Not jogging, not cycling. And not Gulls. Birds. Sometimes I have been known to stray, but this is very rare. No, if birds is what you want, this is the ideal blog to visit.

Today I went round the patch, just as I normally do. It's been hard work recently, June has been unusually long this year, lasting approximately 70 days, but I can safely say that we have turned a corner now. Look what I found on the playing field nearest my house!

 Yes, it is a Wheatear, and yes, it is monumental. Autumn has started. In the same way that the northbound birds herald the arrival of spring and local patch birding that might rise above terminally dull, so the returning southbound birds signal the arrival of autumn, and the end of the long drought. I feel reinvigorated. Apologies for the crappy photo, I went out with a short lens rather than the standard bazooka. It was feeding on the playing fields in the company of no fewer than 12 Mistle Thrushes, and when I saw it I smiled. I'm still smiling.

I was of course looking for waders, right now is prime time. Yesterday I got a Common Sandpiper on Alexandra Lake. I didn't have a camera, but luck was on my side. Common Sandpipers come in two varieties, the ridiculously tame kind, and the fly-a-mile-when-they-see-you kind. This, happily, was one of the latter, and even had I had a camera I wouldn't have stood a chance - shoulder saved. After Lapwings, which generally come in flocks, or at least in small multiples, and Snipe, that are a regular winter resident, Common Sandpiper is the commonest wader in Wanstead, and this is my 12th, with the Flats leading the Park 7-5. In eight years that's not a great return, but even common waders are mega here.

The Wanstead Wader Scale (WWS) is used to plot the occurence of waders on the patch, and is fairly easy to get to grips with. It runs from nought to one, with anything else literally being 'off the scale'. Despite hitting the Flats at ten to six, the WWS remained resolutely on zero, as it does most days. I live in hope though, as Dan scored two Blackwits the other day. The only trouble is that he scored them in horrible weather of the sort that is likely to confine me to bed.

Any other news? Not really, Autumn only started about an hour ago don't forget. I was out at the weekend as well. It was as quiet as June normally is, but I did spend some quality time by the side of Alex. Sitting still and waiting for birds to come to you is easily the best method of getting a chance at decent shots. It's pity that passers-by don't leave you well alone - "Oi, wot you takin' pictures of?!"  "That's a big camera, does it zoom?!"  "Have you seen any of those Green Parrots?" Despite the regular interruptions, it worked out OK. But please, if you were one of the curious people who wandered over to have a chat, causing all the birds near me to sod off to the other side of the lake, cease and desist. I am normally a mild-mannered person, but there is only so much I can take, and the Arca clamp atop my monopod would really really hurt.

After I had finished digging the last shallow grave (kidding, before those with no sense of humour get involved) I headed homewards. Approaching Esso Copse, I could hear a familiar chuckling - the Turaco is still here. It's been around for so long now that I can't remember how many years it is - I definitely have photos from early 2010, so that's at least two and a half years, and it's probably longer than that. What a legend. Some muted whooping and out it popped, what a stunner.


  1. Are you au fait with the WP cycle consultation? It is hidden away on the Corps website.

  2. Yes, runs from Northumberland Av entrance, ie between Heronry and Perch (where there is already a path), and then branches left at the Tea Hut and will go along North side of Heronry (where there also already a path) before joining up with the existing cycle path that runs down the east side of the Golf Course and then heads west alongside the Heronry. Provided they construct it sensitively, I see no difficulties other than kids and dogs getting run over by the Tea Hut.

  3. The exact site of the Roman remains I gather. No wonder WP is on English Heritage's At Risk register. I feel about cyclists as you feel about dogs. Oh and HORSES. Mud churning machines.

    Did I see the back of you with a massivo kit at Heronry earlier this week? Very push-inable but I resisted. You may note I didn't disturb you either. How is running?

  4. That was almost certainly me, so thanks for not pushing me in. Running, not enjoying it. Fitness is improved already, but Mo Farah I am not.