Tuesday 19 March 2013

Scary Sky

Do you know how many photos of birds I've taken since returning from Morocco? No? Can you guess? You can probably tell, but I'll tell you anyway. None. Zero. Nada. Oh, apart from the Heron and the Black Redstart. Oh, and the Egyptian Goose. Look, it's still not very many, OK? And it's upsetting me. This weekend was a case in point. I managed about an hour and a half on the patch on Saturday. I froze the proverbials off, got soaked and saw nothing. On Sunday I didn't even bother. The real issue is of course the lack of Wheatears. Gradually the various blogs I follow have all been getting Wheatears - lovely photos of spanking spring males are beginning to appear, and I am jealous. Spanking is a word that only really applies to Wheatears in the spring, you don't often see it used in any other context unless you're into specialist literature. Anyway, there have been none in Wanstead. I was out at first light yesterday, and again today, although I was in the wrong place to snaffle Tony's fly-over Woodlark. I managed to twitch his Stonechat though, so all was not lost. This puts me on 76 for the year - on a par with 2010 and 2011, but way off the pace versus last year, when Wheatear was #81 on March 16th, with Stonechat #83 on the 18th.

Noteable absences this year include Bullfinch, Tawny Owl, Grey Wagtail, Peregrine and most worryingly of all, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - nobody has seen one at all. More often than not I get one in January, and the latest in recent times has been the second week of February. It would be a tragedy if they have gone. That said, it doesn't really feel like the third week of March outside. It seems to be more akin to late January all over again, and the end isn't anytime soon if the forecast is to be believed. We shall see - I could have an absolute corker of a weekend and find myself over 80 in short order - Blackcap has been seen locally, and Walthamstow has had Sand Martin and Wheatear. An exciting time of year for sure, but until it actually starts for real, also a frustrating one! Tomorrow is the 20th - that's the third latest date in the last four years for Wheatear. Looking at the forecast, I'd put money on breezing through it....

Here's the sky from Monday. On hitting the Flats at dawn the light was beautiful. Had there been any birds to photograph it would have been fantastic. In the event it clouded over within about five minutes of me getting out, and then there was a nuked-out sky over towards Manor Park somewhere.


  1. I share your no wheatear yet angst - I've not found one yet either. However: "third latest date in last four years". Does that also make it the second earliest date in the last four years?

    By the way, as a regular lurker on your sites, I'd like to say how much I appreciate your photos (as well of course as your prose). They just get better and better, from a very good starting point. The Morocco ones are breathtaking - birds and landscapes - but even the detail and lighting on the Egyptian goose is superb.

    Matt Evans

  2. Thanks for the kind comments, I do feel I've recently gone up a gear so to speak, so it's nice to have others confirm what I was thinking. It's all about hard work - the goose required lying flat on my stomach in frosty mud at just above zero. And as for those pesky absent Wheatears.....

  3. There is good news. I've seen my first Wheatear of the year, a handsome male, at Canons Farm yesterday! Thought you'd be happy for me...

    The bad news is I'm now at Canary Wharf for a couple of days.

    Your photos are stunning, as always.