It doesn't happen every year - last year was blank - but every now and again I hit the "Nelson" in terms of patch-listing. As every cricket lover knows, the Nelson is 111, and in the lucky event that an innings spends some time on this score, or a multiple thereof, the commentators always call it out wait eagerly for a wicket to fall. It is rare that nothing happens on 111 or 222, indeed some people are very superstitious of it, and an umpire called David Shepherd used to hop on one leg nervously whilst on the field.
I am not superstitious of it, and certainly not on the patch where today this landmark was reached. I'd unsuccessfully attempted to find Bob's Caspian Gull on the Flats this morning, finding only Bob instead (not as good), and together we went in search of rare waterfowl in the Park. We found only ice for the most part for it has suddenly got very cold here in London, and yesterday's Goldeneye had departed. However Shoulder of Mutton did have some very curious noises coming from the reeds, which on closer inspection and encouragement became the familiar squealing of a Water Rail, which once it fully kicked off got another one going on the other side of the pond.
Now I was pretty slack in the first winter period on the patch, failing to go birding very much at all. So it was that Lapwing and Redpoll were year ticks the other day, and so it was that Water Rail was another this morning. The 111th in fact, which is quite remarkable. It elicited a friendly text from fellow patch-worker Nick, thus: "How the fuck are you on 111?" It's a fair question really. I have not been the most ardent of patch workers this year, with many other plates being spun, but as I said to Nick it is marathon and not a sprint, and slowly (ve-ry slowly) I have been plugging away in snatched moments. Red Kite fell whilst watching the kids play cricket, Short-eared Owl on a brief walk around before work. I've been there on all the critical days when the good stuff has turned up - a decent morning last month saw me stood beneath flyover Brambling, Woodlark and Lapwing, and Bob's flyover Goldeneye from a couple weeks ago was gripped back yesterday. Whilst I can't say I've put in massive amounts of time except during the spring and autumn, I've done enough to stay in the game. In fact a bit more effort and I could be in contention - Tawny Owl and Woodcock have yet to grace my list, and there is still plenty of time for a cold snap to bring in some goodies. I've obliterated last year's 102, and as it stands 111 is my fourth highest total since moving here over ten years ago and I've high hopes of passing 113 to make it my second best ever behind the 118 from 2013. Wasn't that a stat-filled sentence! Anyhow, here's a Reddish Egret recently spied during a rare moment away from the patch.