It has been a funny old weekend. Yesterday I basically spent working, five days simply isn't enough at the moment! A quick look at the Birdguides map had confirmed that the east coast from Aberdeen to the Wash was essentially a monoculture of Yellow-browed Warblers with a dab of Brown Shrike every now and then to spice things up. So I took a quick spin around Wanstead Park just in case one of the aforementioned had deigned to leave the coast and head inland. None of them had. Anyhow, pretty poor really that during a top weekend for rare birds I had strayed no further than about a mile from the house. The alternative would have been to jump in car, where a quick 720 mile round trip would have netted me a bumper two tick day - 12 hours behind the wheel - for Sardinian Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler. Could have been immense, but I was a little busy, and in any event that's not the sort of trip you contemplate with a child, especially one as talkative as my son.....
So, today, after a quick breakfast with my folks who had come down to see us before commencing yet another month-long holiday (in case you wondered where I got it from), I decided that some minor twitching was in order. Although the Sardinian remained, I'm not going that far for one of those, so Kent was the destination of choice. Not ten seconds in the car though and a text from Nick and Bob told of a probably Jack Snipe near the Alex. Two minute later and I was watching it bomb across the playing fields into the big ditch. Nice. Always flying away, but behaviourally it was spot on. Noting where it had pitched in, we waited patiently for Dan to arrive as he needed this for the patch. I didn't drive to get him at all. We had stepped of the ditch "bridge" about three metres before the bird got up again, circling around giving great and confirming views before once again plopping down over by the Alex somewhere. Couple of pics here (Nick took them, ahem...) Fortune favours the brave. And those passing in cars.
Flush with success Bob pootled off to read three tons of Sunday newspapers, and we left Dan to see if he could entice the Jack Snipe back into his bag, and Nick and I (and two of my kids) continued with plan A, which was to see the Lesser Yellowlegs at Cliffe. This we failed miserably to do, although I understand the little git reappeared later. Hey ho. Instead we picked more than a few blackberries, raided a few apple trees, and found a crumble nest. This is all true, apart from the last part. So, failure. I mostly fail at Cliffe now I come to think about it, it's a difficult reserve. The Izzy Shrike at the other end was superb a few years ago, but I don't tend to get very far with the waders - a Pec Sand is all I've ever seen there.
Nevermind. Just as we got back to the car, Hawky called up and said it was all kicking off on the Thames - Razorbill past Beckton, and a probable Fulmar lingering on the river. Double Mega! Thoughts of the Spotted Crake at Oare and RB Fly at Reculver were quickly put to one side, and the car pointed back towards London. Figuring Rainham would be the best place from which to watch, we had almost arrived when yet another call from Hawky alerted us to the Fulmar now being definite, and still off Gallion's Reach. A seamless U-turn and we were back on the A13, and sure enough Gary and Paul D were still there scanning the river - what an afternoon they had had! An anxious wait before I picked it up about halfway to Barking, and managed to get the kids to see it as well. I don't rate it's chances unfortunately, it may be on the way to becoming rather moribund. It never managed to fly very far, and the local Gulls, of which there are many, harassed it almost constantly - a far cry from the magnificent spectacle in County Clare a few weeks ago. Dom arrived a bit later and managed to get on it - he needed it for London too which shows quite what an mega bird it is for here. I can't remember ever having had a chance at this species. Would that the Razorbill had flown back out, but from the sound of it from Gary and Paul it was probably in deepest Berkshire by now - really motoring. Still, a high quality London tick from absolutely nowhere, and a great end to an otherwise almost underwhelming weekend, fabulous on the east coast that I couldn't really get to, but rescued by London.