Stupid title really, as if a surprise were expected it wouldn't be a surprise, but I have some happy news. Now that is a surprise. Having some news I mean, not the happiness bit - I am always sweetness and light. What I mean is that usually I have nothing at all to say, and so write very little. Today however is different. Beavering away at home today I happened to glance out of the upstairs window. At this point I'd like to make it clear to any employers reading, current or future, that I very rarely look out of the window during the working day, but that I sometimes have a need to pace. I think better on my feet, and so on a call with colleagues in New York this afternoon, pontificating, I felt the need to walk around whilst delivering my thoughts on Life, the Universe and Securities Lending to an appreciative audience. Anyhow, on my second circuit round the bedroom I noticed two Crows hassling something as it flew low over the rooftops of the houses opposite. Short-eared Owl! Gah! I retained my composure completely, although I may have stopped droning momentarily, and watched it disappear out of sight down the road. Then my brain kicked in, and I ran to the study where I knew I had a camera. I didn't miss a beat, although the quantity of "Errrs" and "Ummms" may have briefly increased. Flipping the phone neatly to speaker, I retrieved the camera from the bag, and in one fluid motion pulled off the lens cap, switched it on and dialled in the exposure compensation I knew I would need - all the while still talking about IT Solutions and Critical Dependencies and running into the back bedroom. Who says men cannot multi-task? Scanning from the back window, the Owl had swooped over the street with it's attendant pursuers and was gaining height. At this point those listening in NY may have heard what sounded suspiciously like a camera shutter firing at high speed. Sorry about that, but this was a garden tick and thus is far more important than most other things in the entirety of creation. And anyway, we were about done, weren't we?
As it happens we were basically done at this point, and so once I'd hung up I quickly checked the back of the camera to make sure it wasn't a Long-eared Owl. It wasn't, but without bins I couldn't tell - the balance of probability was always the commoner bird. After running hell for leather out of the house and across the Flats last year to get on a bird that Nick had called me about, it was good to get a decent view, as well as getting the species on the all important house list. Then I called the Prof in Walthamstow as it could conceivably have been heading towards him - it didn't get there unfortunately (but it's OK as he already has it on his house list), but if anyone further up the valley gets a SEO with a really ragged tail, that's my bird. Unfortunately the only camera to hand was full frame and only had a 200mm lens on it, and coupled with shooting through a grimy window the shots fall very firmly into the record category bucket, but that's fine. You take what you can get when it comes to house ticks, and I am entirely delighted to have got anything that shows what it was. I've not had a house tick since April 2012, so it's been a long time coming.
The fact that this was the first time I had looked out of the window all day, indeed for several days, and that this should coincide with the exact moment that an extremely rare bird in Wanstead (only my second ever) should fly past has not escaped my attention. It is highly highly jammy. I can only assume that the recent new acolyte is a Birding God, and whilst reading over the last few days' posts decided that I was in need of perking up. All I can say is thanks, I have. It was bloody brilliant!