The forecast was nearly right I suppose, it has mostly been a miserable day. However the rain did hold off until about lunch time, after which it came down in rods and sent everyone scurrying for home, me included. But this meant that I did get most of the morning out on Wanstead Flats, and whilst it was very quiet it also wasn't indoors at a desk, so in that sense it was truly excellent. In the first few hours I think I saw more birders than birds, each of us out and hoping for a sign of spring. A sign with a white backside....
There were none. In fact barring a few Chiffchaff there were precisely zero signs of spring, and my red hat stayed firmly on my head as it felt more like winter for most of the time. Early morning sunshine on the Flats was gradually replaced by a build up of cloud and a biting wind, and at this point I bade farewell to Nick, and previously also Bob, Marco and Rob, and Tim and I carried on to the Park in the vain hope that the weather front might drop a few hirundines in. I didn't. However we did meet up with Rob again in the Old Sewage Works, and were pleased to find the Hawfinch in roughly the same spot as he had seen it half an hour previously. This was a sub-patch tick for me, and a bird (I assume the same individual) that I had dipped a couple of times already this year. I split my Wanstead patch into four areas - Wanstead Flats, Wanstead Park, Bush Wood and my back garden. Whilst Wanstead Flats clearly leads the pack on 139 (out of 149) simply by virtue of birding it more often than any of the other areas, the Park continues to improve and the Hawfinch was my 109th bird there, following hot on the heels of the Dunlin delivered by the Beast from the East, and the Great White Egret delivered by, errr, Uber. My garden lags behind on 82, and Bush Wood is simply pathetic at 43.
I didn't carry a camera today due to the impending downpour, but tomorrow I may do so as tomorrow marks the start of the official breeding season, where we vainly try and keep the long grass clear of incursions. The way today went does not bode well. One lady had seven dogs. Seven! A man had five. A jogger went right through the middle with her bouncy dog pretty much doing loop the loops in the breeding area. The birds have little chance. But wait, there are signs!
Well yes there are, but they do not apply to dog walkers. In fact no rules apply to dog walkers, they can do whatever they like. Including ripping the signs down and stamping on them as they are so offensive. By offensive I mean suggesting that they keep their pets on a lead from 31st March to 31st August. I mean that is just bound to tip a dog walker over the edge isn't it? Anyway, here is one of the signs that is still up - they were made by a local school and were placed earlier this year. I don't expect this one will last, Nick discovered two of them smashed to bits on the ground yesterday. Just how small-minded you have to be to do something like that is really hard to fathom.
So from tomorrow I will start talking to dog owners who are ignoring the signs, and other local birders will be doing so as well. I don't know how long I will last - I mentioned in an earlier post I am not really up for conflict, and in my many years of trying to make dog walkers take notice I can tell you that it does not really matter how you approach the subject. Softly softly or straight to the point, perhaps even rudely straight to the point, it makes no difference. Not a single person has ever said they are sorry and they did not know. To a man/woman, they are doing nothing wrong and they can go where they like. Their dog does not chase birds, their dog is a nice dog. Or they just tell me where to go. Or threaten me. I've enjoyed that edgy feeling a few times in the past with particularly aggressive owners. I suppose I could do the whole name and shame thing, take pictures, post them up etc etc. I've think I've done that once or twice in the past, but the more I see of social media the less I think that it is a good contribution. And it's not as if the land-owner will act on any photos anyway. No, I do not want to stoop to the base baying for blood level that is frequently present, we all need to move away from that. I will probably just try and have a quiet word and be told to get stuffed (or worse) for my troubles. Welcome to modern Britain. It's every man for himself.