Sunday 24 March 2013

Above Average

If somebody were to ask me how the weekend had gone, I would definitely say that it had been above average. Whether it could have got better following yesterday's Wheatear is an unfair question; of course it couldn't. However today was nonetheless pretty fabulous, and all the more so for being one of those incredibly bitter days where only rock hard birders like me are out in the field. Ahem. It was decidely un-late-March-like out there this morning, and after about an hour or so I was close to coming home. Bird of the day at that point had been a Lesser Scaup lookalike that failed to fool me - interesting, and nice to see, but not what I had in mind.

Another bird that didn't have in mind was Stone Curlew, so it was pretty sensational when tramping across the Broom Fields that one caught my eye as it flew ahead of me a short way. I wasn't sure what I was looking at for a moment, but it banked slightly showing a fair amount of black and white in the wing, and thus causing me to have a minor heart attack. It couldn't be, could it? After the bird Nick had found in April 2011, most people, myself included, had given up on ever seeing one again. If you recall, I jammed that one on the second day of it's stay, but it was never seen again. So another one, less than two years later? Surely not. But it was. Even without bins it looked pretty mega, and I already felt bold enough to phone both Nick and Dan with news of a probable heading towards the SSSI. And dropping in! I don't often run, but I did this time. As I crossed the road I became aware of it flying, and managed a series of record shots that confirmed what I had suspected. It banked around the back of Motorcycle Wood and didn't come out the other side. Game on!

It took a long time, but eventually the bird popped up again some distance from where I had seen it disappear, and perhaps ten people saw it, including Muffin who I had gone home to fetch. It appeared to go down into the Broom Fields, so we headed that way, only to discover that it had looped around and flown off high NW. OVER MY HOUSE. Still, can't really complain can I?

Back home a short while later, tucking into a nice healthy brunch, I noted that the Red-throated Diver was still on Staines Reservoirs. I've seen a couple Black-throated, and more than a few Great Northerns, but this one has always eluded me - I've usually been away, or working. So with most of the day still ahead of me, I cajoled Muffin into getting into the car, and off we went. I cannot begin to describe how unpleasant the causeway between the two basins was. If I had thought Wanstead was cold, this raised the bar (perhaps lowered it....) substantially. And it wasn't a simple bowl up find a birder with the Diver in their scope either - there was nobody there. Eventually I found it on the north basin, but not before I had lost the feeling in my left hand - one of the problems with my scope setup is that the tripod head is pure metal, there is no nice rubberised handle. A quick record shot and were out of there!

Feeling pretty chuffed, we were nearly at the M11 when my phone went off - it was Dan Dan the Wader Man, with two Golden Plover ON THE DECK on Wanstead Flats. Wow, though these days Dan is of course followed around the patch by rare waders. I'd missed Goldie by about a minute a few weeks ago, a chance to get it back was very welcome but I wasn't ideally placed. Could the weekend get any better? I aimed the car at the nearest spot to the relevant playing field, and just as I was pulling up I glanced out across the Flats and was somewhat stunned to see the Plovers in the air. Tick and drive! They circled around and appeared to drop back. Abandoning the car we headed off towards to Long Wood, finding Bob also heading that way, who having scored the Stone Curlew was no doubt also wondering if he wasn't dreaming all of this. Dan was still there, and so were the birds, and so I was able to have a bit of a creep.....

So, the first Wheatear of the year on my birthday. A Stone Curlew on the patch, a London tick, and Goldies on the deck. Do weekends get any better?

1 comment:

  1. Belated birthday greetings, old bean. Full of admiration you braved the elements to visit possibly the most inhospitable place on earth today for the Diver. Birthday one day then near death through hypothermia the next. What a 24 hours though!