Monday 16 January 2017

Missing Mistle

It was getting embarrassing. Mid-January and no Mistle Thrush. I mean I know I’m not the greatest birder to have ever issued forth from the streets of London, but this is a Mistle Thrush. They’re everywhere, they’re loud, and they’re absolutely enormous. Most of my compatriots easily bumped into one on January the first, I never had a sniff. On Saturday I went for a leisurely stroll around the Park, and helpfully gave Tony the heads up that the Little Egret on Perch was relatively friendly whilst simultaneously moaning that I was still such an unbelievably poor birder that I couldn’t find a Mistle Thrush to save my life. He helpfully replied that two had flown over Shoulder of Mutton just a short while ago. The same Shoulder of Mutton I’d walked alongside an hour or so before. Crushing doesn’t even begin to describe it. I didn’t retrace my steps of course, I’m bigger than that. One does not twitch Mistle Thrushes unless one is an utter loser. 

As predicted Sunday morning dawned grey and shitty. The kind of day that immediately promotes thoughts of slippers, multiple classy small cups of coffee, and heated conservatory floors. And annual tax returns. The less said about this latter the better, given how much tax I have already paid it is astonishing that they want more, and that they want it within two weeks. If they were ever able to get this mysterious thing known as a tax code correct, a dark art if ever there was one, then it would be a lot easier to bear. As it is I start 2017 not from the position of comfort that I envisaged but as completely broke. But I digress.

My peaceful Sunday was shattered with news of a Wigeon on Shoulder of Mutton. I’d searched every pond on Saturday without success, yet here one was. It was probably there all along but my birding skills were just too feeble to hoik it out. So what to do, given the rain? I mean this is after all just a Wigeon. A duck. OK, maybe I do know what I am talking about. One of the harder ducks it has to be said and on most patch visits you won’t see one. So I decided to go, albeit that this decision took me about five hours to make, still reeling from the injustice of Self Assessment. I also happen to know that from my house to Shoulder of Mutton and back is about 3,500 steps, and with my daily total languishing on about 1,500, mostly pacing around the house muttering dark thoughts, I needed those steps to stand any chance of avoiding a pathetic start to the week. 

I set off into the gloom, the rain beating down on my new coat. I bought it on the cheap in Texas where it never rains, so this was also a test of sorts. Hood up, face down, I trotted through Reservoir Wood where the paths currently resemble Passchendaele. Some poor guy was attempting to jog through it and looked like something just dredged from a swamp. I was being more cautious, skipping and jumping in an effeminate manner from one side to the other like some kind of Captain Jack Sparrow wannabe. This also means more steps of course, huzzah!

It was still there, a drake, and looking very happy chasing a few Mallard around. The rain seemed to just slide elegantly off its upper feathers for some reason, which wasn’t happening to me. Somebody should make a coat out of duck backs. It was then that I had a genius idea. One of those almost once-in-a-lifetime plans that is so marvellously simple that you wonder why you didn’t think of it years ago, or in my case, yesterday. I checked the golf course. Grass innit? And no golfers as who in their right mind plays golf in the rain, I mean it’s dull enough in nice weather. Side-stepped a couple of Canada Geese and sidled up to the fence...a and would you bloody believe it, a pair of Mistle Thrush with a retinue of subservient Redwings feeding on one of the fairways. Serious score, and a huge boost for what had been a rapidly diminishing faith in my birding abilities. I can do this. I am not hopeless. Then I realised I was just getting wetter so I went home to my slippers.

From 2013 for illustrative purposes, and to show I know what a Mistle Thrush looks like.


  1. Ho, ho! Had one in the garden a week ago! Even took a bad pic to remind me what to look for.

  2. Every school cross country was around Wanstead park... it brought back some interesting wet and muddy memories...

    1. This morning when I took the kids to school we went through Red Wood, and the mud is now frozen and crispy.