Sunday 21 April 2013

Wot I did at the weekend

Whilst Saturday was all about the patch - well the morning at least, today was all about twitching. Twitching is not something I do very often, but very occasionally I feel the need. Today I felt that need. Actually I felt it yesterday, but the bird in question, a Subalpine Warbler, was somewhere between five and six hours away. Bradders was in the area (i.e. the UK) and was kind enough to send me a photo of it, very smart, but this man's not for turning. Late yesterday news came out of another half the distance away, at Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire. This is still a royal pain in the ass to get to, but I had the day free and I had the car. Rarely do the stars align such, so when it was still there this morning - I only go for shoe-ins remember - it was go go go! The journey took just under three hours, including a lorry fire closing a road and necessitating a detour through some fields, as well as a further road closure somewhere else in the flatlands. Having now tourned Lincolnshire extensively, I can report that is very flat, very dull, and very covered in vegetables.

The bird showed immediately upon arrival, a cracker. I've only ever seen one before, in Spain about a fortnight ago, so long views were the order of the day. It spent the entire time I was there hopping around the same clump of bushes, singing, and occasionally flycatching. Frustratingly it was against the light, and way out range for SLRs. This didn't stop a few of the long lens brigade from mercilessly papping it, but it's their shutters. Apparently it had also been just in front of the hide, and with the light, so somebody will have got something good on it. Just not me. Still, on the list, which was the whole point, and takes me to the amazingly high total of 399 BOU. Which if you are any good at maths means I have one to go, which is kind of why I went. The sooner I break through the 400 barrier I can relax a bit, perhaps even stop altogether hem hem. I've never really had much of a chance at Subalp. The one bird I can recall that was within range was at Holland Haven and I was away. I'm sure there have been more, but I'm pretty sure I've never even dipped one, so my supposition is that they're actually quite a hard one to catch up with, despite being the "easiest" I had left. That honour now falls to Laughing Gull - another bird I've never even had a chance of dipping. An easy journey home, and then a fine innings in the garden, with a half century up in record time before being clean-bowled by Muffin (who also has Subalp on his list btw, I am such a great dad...)

Anyway, back to yesterday, which until lunch beckoned I spent on Wanstead Flats. Two Wheatear and three Redstart were the pick of the birds, but I spent most of my time photographing a single Skylark and a couple of Meadow Pipits. These can be seen here. It was a lovely morning, the nicest, weather-wise, that I can remember for ages and ages. Shirt sleeves stuff, and really enjoyable. The Redstarts were all new, new to me I mean. On the awesome fall day last Monday I'd caught up with one, but the others were all found after I'd carried on to work. There isn't really much to top an adult male Redstart on a spring morning, though unfortunately both males remained hard to get close to. Here are a couple of record shots, the first of a juvenile or female (heat-hazed up, but better than nothing!) , the second of the male in the SSSI (twigged up...)

Before I went home Nick alerted me to a friendly Wheatear. I've been waiting all spring for a bird that doesn't run away when it sees me, and this was the one. I think the trouble is that we've been having too many at a time - birds in a flock are always more difficult to approach as one gets jittery and then the whole lot follow it. This one was alone though, and proved very confiding. My kind of bird, I just wish I'd found it a few hours earlier. Out again tomorrow morning, but sans camera as I am off to the Counting Crows at Hammersmith in the evening. I'm so hip it's not true.

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