The suspense has, I suspect, been killing you. What new year bird could I possibly have gained, if you were paying attention, somewhere between 7 and 8pm on Monday evening? When it is dark. Need a clue? Only a [resident, year-round] Tawny Owl!
When I first started birding in Wanstead I was super-keen. I used to make a conscious effort to seek out Tawny Owl. Late night trips out to likely spots, listening and looking. Many wasted hours in the cold. Then one night when I was a bit older I was sitting on the toilet and heard one calling from one of the nearby gardens, possibly even my own garden. Since then I’ve not really bothered seeking out Tawny Owl with any great regularity as the bird always falls at some point during the year – usually either on the way back from a trip to a local watering hole, or on the way home from work.
So it was on Monday, when about three seconds into Bush Wood I heard the eerily unmistakable sound of a Tawny Owl off to my left. I am ashamed to say I didn’t even stop walking. I’ve never really liked Bush Wood in the dark since that unfortunate incident several years ago, and I tend to scurry through as quickly as possible if I go through at all. This helps to explain why returning from the pub is a favourite time to seek out Tawny Owls – dutch courage. Anyway it called several times despite the lightly falling rain, enough for me to text James and suggest he nip out and give it a go. Needless to say he dipped; the rain started falling more heavily and then a police helicopter came and hovered over Bush Wood, no doubt looking for strange men after that anonymous phone call they received. Apparently they didn’t catch him.
That brings me right up to date in terms of local birding this year, 69 species, and missing Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Woodcock, Snipe, Grey Wagtail and Little Owl. You have heard it all, and I sense it is becoming dull – understandable, as that is exactly the word I would use to describe the birding. Worry ye not however, as the next couple of weeks are going to be a lot more exciting.