For some reason I was up at 5.30 this morning so I used it as an excuse to go birding on the way to work. A stiff and cold breeze greeted me outside the front door, but it was bright and sunny. I set off in high spirits for the Park. Going directly to work is almost always in low spirits, going birding before work is a great antidote even if you ultimately end up in the same place. Reservoir Wood was alive, and I had it all to myself. Within the wood itself were Dunnock, Blackcap, Blackbird, Robin, Wren and Great Tit, all singing their hearts out. To my left a Great Spotted Woodpecker “kek’d”, and as I reached the scrubbier margins the first Chiffchaffs made themselves known, not forgetting Song Thrush phrases from every point of the compass. Over at the Shoulder of Mutton Pond a pair of Mute Swan drifted on the far side, but only a handful of Mallard now remain. Half a dozen Coot and two Moorhen, but the real interest was the Reed Warbler chuntering away in one of the corners. These birds have been regular patch breeders now for about the last four years – amazing that they or their descendents return to this small unremarkable pond half a world away. I’d missed the bird yesterday on my return from twitching the (expected) Cetti’s Warbler on the Roding, but I hadn’t been worried, I knew they would still be there whereas the Cetti’s was a little less certain.
A Jay bounded ahead of me as I skirted the southern edge of Heronry. It is a depressing sight at the moment, I do hope something gets done about it. The water is disappearing by the day, and the recently-exposed mud that had attracted the LRPs was now somewhat baked. Areas where the water disappeared some time ago now have that cracked appearance that you associate with African drought. Assuming all the water drains away, which surely it must, the landowner needs to take the opportunity to start from scratch – get a JCB (or four) in there to clear away the years of detritus – branches, the leaves of twenty autumns, rubbish and who knows what else, and once clear work out where the leaks are and repair them. And then restore the flow of water between the ponds which has clearly stopped. Only then can the healing and regeneration begin, but I have no idea what the plans are. Simply filling it up from the river or groundwater supplies would be dodging the problem, even if might then look better.
Anyhow, no waders on what mud there was, perhaps the Plovers were an abberation? A few motley Canada Geese and Mallards, a lone Moorhen picking its way across. More interest in the trees, where I heard my first Willow Warbler and Chaffinch of the day, as well as coinciding with a feeding flock of Long-tailed Tits, seems they are still at least partly communal in spring. Blackcaps simply everywhere, very heartening indeed, and just before I left a single House Martin, my first, scythed northwards - I am assuming a migrant rather than one of the resident birds that has recently returned to Brading Crescent.
Cutting through some of the residential streets I was soon on Wanstead Flats. This was quieter than I had hoped, but there was another Willow Warbler in West Long Wood, and a Mistle Thrush feeding on the playing fields, the first I have seen for a while. Cormorants and Canada Geese overhead, and of course the screeching of parakeets from every copse with an occasional sortie. Skylark was notably absent, but a few Meadow Pipits were in the grass.
Over at Alex were the first Greylags and a collection of Gulls nearby. I ignored them, I was birding. Little Grebe trilled, and Mute Swans were regularly scattered by the dominant pair, flying haplessly over to Jubilee where presumably the same thing happened before realighting on Alex to start the cycle again. Linnet overhead, Bob, and the first Greenfinches. A Green Woodpecker yaffled from the scrub, I later saw it in flight close to the Golden Fleece Pub. I picked out a distant Swallow heading north over Centre Copse, and then it was time to head for work. A pair of Sparrowhawk wheeled overhead clearly showing their size differential, hard to catch up with at the beginning of the year, I now see them on every outing. 41 species was the total for the walk, nothing overly remarkable but it makes for a positive start to the day that is well worth getting up a little earlier for. I won’t do it every day as it would become draining given everything else I have to do, but now and again it is really pleasant.