As is well known, I love lists. One can never have enough, and whilst I might not equal Professor Whiteman in the list of lists stakes, I've just realised that I have a key list missing. It has quite a catchy title: "List of birds that other people have seen on my patch that I will probably never see but that I will hear about for the next 27 years". Why I didn't think of this one before is a mystery, but recent events - particularly this morning - have brought it to the fore.
I worked out at some point this morning that I have been birding for about two hours since I returned from Shetland. It might stretch to two and a half hours, but no more. That I managed to snatch that Short-eared Owl is nothing short of miraculous, and aside from that, I've seen nothing. This morning was no exception. I managed approximately 20 minutes of birding as I walked across the Flats to the bus stop, during which I saw a Pied Wagtail. Safely parked at my desk in Canary Wharf, the remaining Wanstead Birders could now open their eyes and start seeing rare birds. First up a Hawfinch (last record 1985), possibly two, circling Esso Copse. A nice addition to my new list, and with the added bonus of also being seen by a bloke on his second visit or something - extra points. Then three Woodlark west over Long Wood. Excellent, ink that one in. Oh, a Brambling in with Chaffinches - that one at least only goes onto the "missing from my patch year-list list", and finally two Golden Plover. Not too fussed about those, but you can probably sense my building frustration. And this is just today, the actual list is much much longer, and there are some real gems on there.
Happily it does not stop there, no no! There is apparently an Olive-backed Pipit near Southend. Fantastic! What better way to heap more misery on me. It shows all afternoon, right up until dusk. Comments from various people that I am missing a lot of good birds are not well received. Tony suggests I ought to take the afternoon off and twitch it, a nice thought, but with meetings from 1pm through to 6.30pm, somewhat of an impossibility, and anyhow, if I don't work, I don't earn - this is of course entirely fair, but it also means that twitching is not the frivolous affair it once was. I returned home this evening in a foul mood. Magnanimity? Not in this house.
The one tiny tiny speck of good birding news is that I managed 15 minutes birding in Canary Wharf this lunchtime. In addition to most people in Wanstead gripping me off, Parus over at Tower Bridge has also been getting in on the action. Goldcrest yesterday and Chaffinch today, to take the lead in the peanut challenge. I couldn't let this stand. The words "good birding" and "Canary Wharf" rarely go hand in hand, but bugger me if I didn't find a Goldcrest in the first place I looked, which was the nearest bit of green to my office, and was thus able to get back to my desk extra-quickly. Happy days.