You will not be surprised to hear that flying holds no fear for me. It did, once upon a time, shortly after September 2001. I think I went to the US and the Caymans in 2002, but then I didn't get in another airplane for about five years. Oh how things have changed....this year any fear I may have had has gone out of the window, and I am on about a flight a week, having discovered that a) the world is a very small place, b) the birds are better almost everywhere else and c) and anyway, it isn't all about birds. The pace slows down for the rest of this year, a family holiday and a couple of bird trips, but it's just so easy if you can be bothered to get up off your arse, do some research and work out the logistics. And whilst it isn't free, it certainly isn't as expensive as you might think.
In fact I would say that I positively like flying, the opportunities it brings are superb. For instance listing. If, for example, I were a really geeky kind of guy, I could tell you that this year I've flown on one Boeing 737, one Boeing 757, one Airbus A321, two Embraer 145s, two Boeing 747s, two Airbus A380s, two Boeing 767s, four Embraer 190s, six Airbus A319s, and ten Airbus A320s. If I were exceptionally sad, I could tell you that the same planes that took me to Iceland and on one of my trips to Morocco also brought me back again, and that the same plane that returned me from Helsinki also took Bradders and I to Copenhagen 26 days later.Obviously there is no way that I would ever actually know that information though, and anyone that says that plane spotting and twitching are basically the same hobby is massively wide of the mark.
This weekend I have not taken to the skies, and instead looked up at them. Those that are thinking the perimeter fence at Heathrow should be ashamed of themselves, as I have been birding in Wanstead. As per the title of this blog. Despite my jests yesterday of not knowing how to find the Flats, I had no trouble at all in locating the migrant trap that is Long Wood. It also traps other things, of which there was a small amount this morning, but with Tony I felt completely safe and he only tried to hold my hand once. We were joined by Dan, Bob, Tim and gangsta Nick (his cap was on backwards, that qualifies surely?). It was slow to start, but kicked off once it warmed up, with my personal tally being a Redstart, a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, three Yellow Wagtails, three Spotted Flycatcher and four Whinchat, as well as innumerable Phylloscs and Blackcaps. Not a bad haul all things considered, and with the Med Gull the other day, and Dan's Red-Crested Pochard (a type of Wader) on Heronry, I am back on the tick trail. OK so I missed the action last weekend due to being in Brussels and on the Isle of Wight, but I have rebounded strongly from the dual disappointment of missing out on what sounded like a great session, and also from missing the 12 Bee-eaters by a few days. As my son now reminds me daily, he's seen seven in the UK (the kids spent a fortnight on the Island with relatives, I was doing the pickup), and I've only seen one. Ah, but have you seen Blue-cheeked?! Ha! No you haven't, but your sisters have! Now go and tidy your room.
More amazement was to come later in the day, when an excited Nick phoned me to say that he had 20+ Buzzards in the air together over the Park, and some of them looked different. I was poorly placed being in Ilford on a party run, and without binoculars, but I managed to get back to Wanstead in time to commando roll out of the car near the golf course and see an astonishing 23 Buzzards flying vaguely north and then kettling above Wanstead village. It was like Falsterbo all over again. Unfortunately I only saw them with the naked eye, but if somebody tells me that there was a Honey in there, it would of course be on my list quicker than immediately. When I got back to the house yet another one flew over. If I were a massive retard, I could tell you that in all the years I've lived in Wanstead I've seen 45 Buzzards, so a further 24 is an increase of over 50%. I also saw one of the Embraers heading off from City. It was a 190, which is slightly longer than a 170.