Saturday 31 March 2018

What do you know?

Despite reports from early-rising birders that Wanstead Flats was utterly dead I ventured out anyway - I still believe that first thing on the patch is not the best time, and that a couple of hours are needed before any real action starts. Once again it was overcast and cold, however it was at least dry, and I was heartened by seeing a dog on a lead in the Skylark area, and even more astounded to then see its owner pick up a poo it deposited. The main and unspoken reason that dog-walkers prefer the long grass is that their pets can relieve themselves invisibly, and if you are conveniently looking the other way when that happens, well.... I am sure none of them have ever wondered why it is that in all their years of dog ownership their pet has never knowingly defecated. Convenient. Hats off to that lady, whoever you are - you are welcome on the patch.

More Parakeets are on the way...

I met Tony on Alex ridge sifting through gulls and we started moaning about how dreadful it was. He hadn't been out yesterday so at least he wasn't disappointed all over again like I was. Chewing the fat, talking about what might be my 150th bird on the patch, our conversation turned to Corvids, in particular Rooks and how it was that Nick saw so many and we did not. Rob turned up briefly, and upon discovering that we had seen no Rooks, went home again. Fair play, it had been a really shit morning. Then a funny thing happened - a corvid flew in from the west that appeared Rooky. I have no sixth sense or anything like that, but I'd been critically examining all the Crows all morning with no joy whatsoever and somehow was gamely still raising my bins for each one. I thought I observed a paler beak but it was probably the light, and then I decided that the forehead appeared to have a distinct peak. The bird disappeared behind the island, appearing to land in the trees  Enthusiastically talking it up, trying to convince myself in the manner that birders frequently do, I turned to Tony for his thoughts. Now imagine that I am having a parade, it does not matter what for. Well Tony was a large, black and extremely water-laden cloud!

I stopped talking it up as I did not want to appear stringy, but could not get the thought out of my head that the bird had frugilegus credentials. With nothing else happening I suggested that we walk around the lake and take a look in the trees. Roughly the third bird we looked at seemed to have a peaked forehead and a sharp pointed bill. We approached closer and began to do our utmost to unconvince ourselves. Surely this was just a Crow and we are idiots? No, it has to be a Rook. Doesn't it? To cut a long story short it was a Rook, a juvenile, but we made it a lot harder than it probably was. It as times like this you realise how infrequently you look properly at common birds like Crows. They are one of the species that I routinely ignore, I don't give them a second glance. And then, under pressure, when you really need to know what a juvenile Crow looks like versus a juvenile Rook you realise you don't actually know, or rather that you can't be confident in what you actually do know. I mean you do know, of course you know, and although it is subtle Tony and I knew, but were still doing our best to deny it - it was a patch tick for TB and you have to be sure about these things! Luckily technology has the answer, and a quick check of the Collins application settled our shattered nerves. Of course it's a Rook! Duh! Tony has a series of dreadfully over-exposed photos, ahem, which I am sure will feature on his blog at some point later on.

With the cold wind blowing we decided that was it and parted ways. Almost as soon as I was in the door Tony messaged to say he hadn't gone home after all and had jammed a Wheatear in the Old Sewage Works. Gah! Naturally I twitched it immediately. And dipped. The new horse paddocks down there are a decent place for ground-feeding birds, and in the recent cold spell Tim had lots of Thrushes in there. It is electrified and thus undisturbed. Hopefully we will get more birds there, perhaps lingering Yellow Wagtails if we ever get any migration. Disappointed I trudged home again.

Incredibly welcome

There is a happy ending though, as in a brief spell of late afternoon sunshine (almost unheard of this month) I went out for a third time and this time struck gold. Well, peach. A male Wheatear, actively feeding amongst the anthills near the VizMig Point. It looked decidely chipper and pleased to be here, and I was extremely pleased to see it. It is a day later than my latest ever Spring Wheatear, which was in 2011. It has begun, finally.

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