Monday 6 May 2013

Is Wanstead actually the Brecks, and what happened to the big one?

Think about it for a minute. We get oodles of Redstart, regular Tree Pipits, bi-annual Stone-Curlew, and millions of Goshawks - Wanstead must be part of the Brecks. Bradders Birding Tours was running it's annual Breckland tour in search of year ticks, er sorry, I mean birds that the tour leader doesn't see very many of. That's because he doesn't live in Wanstead, where such birds are nothing out of the ordinary. Tree Pipit? Had a couple already. Stone-curlew? Whatever. Redstarts? Only about six. So far. I got a couple of year ticks admittedly, as did Nick, for instance a smart Red-footed Falcon and Very Short-billed Duck, but essentially it was same old same old, but in a different context. Such is the life of a dedicated patchworker in urban London; there are no surprises anymore. It's one of the reasons I love Scotland, as I rarely see Pine Grosbeaks and Harlequins in Wanstead.

After stitching Nick up with a heard-only Golden Pheasant lifer, we stopped off at Thetford for the Otters, one of which showed amazingly, but not quite in the desired location. Instead I spent some time with a new species of Duck I'd not come across before, namely the aforementioned Very Short-billed Duck. If you're eating, or have small children on your lap, I suggest you look away now, as despite being a mega rarity it's not what you might call a looker. Otters are pretty cute and cuddly though aren't they?

Dabbling is going to be problematic. The sooner the Otter finishes the job the better.

A quick diversion to Lakenheath for a Red-footed Falcon was very pleasant in a shirt sleeves kind of way, and before long we were into proper Wanstead, sorry, Breckland birding. A singing Tree Pipit, a few Stone-curlews, a handful of Redstarts and the odd Woodlark. If you don't have time to put in the hours in Wanstead, it has to be said that a quick spin round the Brecks can be nearly as good at the right time of year, and we were able to show Bradders all of our specialities in pretty short order whilst wandering around in the sunshine in a calm and relaxed manner.

On the whole though, it was far quieter than I was hoping it was going to be. The "big one" was notable for it's absence. A scattering of Purple Herons, a few Red-foots, a Black-winged Stilt. Nice spring overshoots for sure, but not the monster that a Bank Holiday weekend could have been capable of. Should have been capable of. So I've done what all dedicated listers do, and sat around in the sunshine either in the garden at home. This gained me, in total, six Buzzards, two Kestrels, three Sparrowhawks, upwards of twenty Swifts, and my first two Wanstead Hobbies.

Basically the weekend has been all about Wanstead, in many ways just as it should be. I finished the weekend at Wanstead Cricket Club, having a beer in the sunshine. My eldest has been keen on cricket for some time now, but for the first time my daughters went along as well. It's early days, but they play so much in the garden (forced into it I suspect) that they seemed quite keen to go and do it for real. I'm well aware that it has been some time since I mentioned the kids on this blog, and that it's all become worrying one dimensional, i.e. moaning about stuff plus the odd photo, so it's good to get back to basics. Almost unbelievably they're now nine, seven and five. Where did it go? Anyway, I am still a doting (if strict, grumpy and shouty) father, and today I spent a happy few hours in the sunshine watching the kids run about and have fun. I could have pissed off to Maldon to get Black-winged Stilt on my Essex list, but sometimes, just sometimes, other things take precedence. The fact that I was well over the limit is neither here nor there. Anyhow, here's a few fresh off the memory card to show that I still have them.

Pudding, five

Pie, seven

Muffin, nine

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