|Song Thrush on the pavement near my house.|
This weekend was completely mega, all you could hope from a patch-working weekend. It started with the most mega thing I think I've ever seen on Wanstead Flats - a dog walker told another dog walker to put their dog on a lead BECAUSE OF NESTING BIRDS. Nick and I looked at each other in utter disbelief. Did that really just happen? We tweeted the news out straight away, with the information services understandably treating this as an unconfirmed report, stringing of the highest order. I let them know that there had been multiple observers, but I think they were still pretty sceptical. Had I not seen it with my own eyes I would have been too, but then this is April, and pretty much anything can occur at this time of year. This is the story of how it happened.
Walking briskly along close to Long Wood comes a young lady with some kind of dog ON A LEAD. The first miracle. Talking earnestly on the phone, she spots a man with an enormous Rottweiler not on a lead. Barely pausing for breath, she shouts over to him that his dog is not on a lead and that it needs to be on a lead, and that there are ground nesting birds and to put it on a lead NOW. No niceties, no skirting round the issue, no worries at all that this dog is gigantic and hers is a mere pup in comparison, no. Put it on a lead, and DO IT NOW. And then the phone conversation continues and she strode off. I'd like to say into the sunset but this was mid-morning. Needless to say I fell instantly in love with this young lady - an incredible force of nature - but I could not keep up with the power walk. Nick and I agreed we had never seen anything like it. Pinch me he said, but I was too stunned to move. I'm pretty sure the Rottweiler owner was knocked for six too, but I think he complied and left the area, probably never to return. I wish we knew who our new superhero is. I reckon if she were to walk/patrol the Flats for a few days all our dog issues would be over. A couple of months and we'd probably be overrun with Skylarks and have to start culling them.
We both agreed that this was easily the most mega thing either of us had seen on the Flats in all the years we had been working the area. Stone Curlews, Wrynecks, Blyth's Reed Warblers, all mere dross compared to the immensity of the 9th of April 2016, a day that shall live long in the memory. Bob and the others missed out, but Nick and I will forever share that moment.
In other news that it barely seems worthwhile to recount, I picked up my first Redstart of the year on the same day, and ended up with four in just a small area. Nick found another four in the Park, and Tim had one in his garden. I have no idea what the generally accepted ratio of birds moving through versus birds seen is, but I think it's safe to say that there were A LOT of Redstarts in Wanstead this weekend.
And then I saw a Razorbill in London. This would have been truly mega had mega not been redefined earlier that day, but this Auk is still very much a local rarity nonetheless. Clearly nowhere remotely as rare as a dog walker telling another dog walker to instantly moderate their behaviour, but still, worth an honourable mention perhaps. A certain Mr Jonathan N of Walthamstow had strayed to Rainham for some reason, and rather calmly put the news out. Very factual, there is a Razorbill on the path. I guess he'd seen our news earlier and realised he couldn't compete. Anyhow, this had a number of London-based birders moving rather quickly, myself included, and once finally through the gridlock I found myself looking at this rather unlikely addition to my London list. The theory is that it had collided with the power lines overhead, but being a small bird this hadn't fried it but simply knocked it down onto the ground. Whilst nobody knows the extent of its injuries, once it had made it through the
And then today, finally, I found a Wheatear. A perfect spring male flitted across centre path in front of a jogger and promptly hoofed it all the way to Alex, where I caught up with it sat near the ditch of despair a short time later. It had absolutely no interest in having its picture taken but that isn't important. What's important is that it was there and looking lovely. We have not done well this year, I think this is the second bird and the first male, which for nearly mid-April is a scandal. Hopefully the start of things to come. Although it is now bagged, my appetite for more is undimmed.
* No I did not snigger. Not at all.
** see above