Sunday 4 September 2016

Playing the long game

Marathon, yes. Sprint, no. Said it before, saying it again now, and will doubtless say again. There is no holding me back, and against the odds the ton is up once more. For the eighth year running I am on three figures. I have to look back as far as 2008 to find a patch year where this was not the case, that's when I had just started to figure out what it was all about here in Wanstead. Now I know what it's all about, and that's pacing myself. I know what will turn up when, and I mostly know where it will turn up. Then it's simply a matter of waiting for somebody to confirm my suspicions and popping along to verify it.

That's what happened this morning with a Common Sandpiper - although even I will admit I left this species a little late. I was actually up and about pursuing one of my other hobbies when a message came through that there was a Sandpiper sp on Jubilee. Not ideally placed on Canvey Island, but I finished up my errands and set off home. I drove right past my house and straight there, only to find the car park was locked! Drat! I parked opposite the gate instead, in the road, a horrendous distance from the pond but still managed to stumble over there (I hurt my knee in Hawaii). As expected it was the standard kind of Sandpiper, but that's fine as I needed it for the year, after missing a glut of the things last month. I wasn't quite sure where this left me for the year, but I guess for Tony's benefit at 99. Hmmm, 99 is pretty damn close to three figures..... 

I drove home for coffee and a bite to eat, unloaded the car and set off into the wilds again. Long Wood was heaving with LTTs and Chiffs, with a Spotted Flycatcher and a Redstart in the mix - no doubt lingering from last week. John W was on fine form, lapping it all up, and had had a Pied Flycatcher this side of Centre Road. I caught up with him and Nick again over in the SSSI a short while later, sitting on the latest fly-tipping addition to the patch, an enormous tractor tyre. They were watching another Pied Flycatcher, and having had good views of it I rather fancy it wasn't the one I saw yesterday, albeit in the same place. Much more streaking on the chin of this bird, the other one had been a lot cleaner. So another good bird, but not helping the march to victory.

Consulting my mental list of what is normally where, I remembered that I had yet to eek out the Bush Wood Treecreepers, either only recently arrived on the patch, or extremely stealthy all year. I favour the former hypothesis, as it only took me about 20 minutes to pin one down pretty much exactly where they always are. If you need it for the patch simply walk a loop between the pond, the corner of the Quaker lot, and the main ride, and sooner or later you will strike gold. Or brown. Subtle little calls led me to it, could have been Goldcrest but I didn't think so and they're not that prevalent yet. Sure enough, there one was spiralling up a tree trunk in the normal manner. Camera-less today due to the aforementioned leg injuries I zoomed in as much as my phone would allow and thus am delighted to bring you this fine image of the bird doing what it does. 

So there we are, 100 up again, and with no small amount of satisfaction I might add, though you can probably guess that. I am in the zone, and my fellow patch-workers are running scared. Bob, mindful of what happened last year, has given up work in order to ensure he stays ahead. Literally jacked it all in to concentrate on the patch. This in turn has driven Nick to resign as well, lest Bob catch him up. Or that's his story at any rate. I think we all know however that it's me looming large in the rear view mirror that has forced his hand. Extreme measures, but when you look at the stats I am one behind where I was in 2015 at this point in the year, and as keen followers of patch stats they know this, and know the likely jam that could occur. Who can forget that morning when Brambling and Woodlark fell in the space of five minutes, followed by an unexpected flight of Lapwing? Could it happen again? Who knows, but nobody is taking any chances....

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