Saturday 28 July 2018

The Rainham tick trail redux

There was news yesterday evening of a Marsh Sandpiper at Rainham. I sat and thought about it for a while. Marsh Sandpiper? Don't think I have seen many of those, did I see one in London? Not sure, let me check. As it happens if I had seen one in London I would have had to have been nine years old, as the last record was in 1984! This then was my Saturday morning - a twitch. Rainham is OK, a bit far I suppose but I have not twitched anything since the Little Bunting at Walthamstow in January so I didn't mind doing a few miles. This would be a triple - Rainham, London and Essex, so surely worth it.

With the weather having turned, I was confident the bird would be there this morning and whilst I got up relatively early I did not try that hard - unlike Rob "insomniac" Sheldon who commonly hits the patch at 5am. That was my plan too - there is currently a glut of Little Egret on the Ornamental Waters/Heronry, counts approaching 40 have been recorded and I was keen to get in on the action. However when the news came through at 6am that the Marsh Sandpiper was still there I regretfully abandoned thoughts of Egrets and drove straight to RM. Howard, his usual altruistic self, was there opening up and Ruth B was just setting out to the northern boardwalk where Andy was currently watching the bird on Aveley Pools. We didn't hurry, had a little natter, and were soon approaching the first viewing platform where we could see Andy, Hawky and TB. 

"Quick it's flying!" exclaimed Tony.

Of course it is, great gag TB. Funny man! OK, so where is it?

"I'm still on it, just to the left of the radar tower, high!" said Hawky. "I've lost it", said Tony.

"I though you were joking, you know, larking about!!?

"Nah, it flew with a Redshank just as you arrived, wondered why you weren't hurrying!"

Well crap. 34 years and I'm 15 seconds too late. High south. Not coming back. Next stop Sussex. Poo. So, pleasantries were exchanged, never let a big dip get in the way of being polite etc, and then with a nasty black cloud looming Gripper Tweed and Gripper Hawkins left, high-fiving every three paces. Ruth and I looked at each other and then at the cloud. It was easy decision, and so with Gripper Brown in tow we returned to the visitor centre passing Dippers Bacon and Mo on the way. So, not the ideal way to resume my twitching career after a six month break, but one should not dwell on these things or they will consume you. I've seen many birds come and go this year and not felt the slightest twitchy inclination, so not seeing another one didn't sting in the same way it might for others.

I hung around the visitor centre for a while chatting to a few London birders I'd not seen for a while having been "out of it", and then made my way home. There were after all several tonnes of Little Egret to go and count on the patch. Just as I turned off at Ilford the Marsh Sandpiper landed back on Aveley. The North Circular junction at Ilford is under a flyover and you can therefore get straight back on should you so choose. If for example you had just dipped a rare wader out on the A13 and were headed north on the A406, you could swing around and head south again if the bird was relocated. Very convenient. I arrived back at RM shortly thereafter and repeated my journey out to the northern boardwalk, this time without the rain. And this time at the end of my trot there was a Marsh Sandpiper, so all was well that ended well.

The bird was right on the other side, so I had excellent scope views but did not bother with the camera. Here instead is a twitch photo. Note a much happier Steve B on the right. This is my 195th Rainham species, and my 258th for London. I've some way to go to join the top listers of course, but lists are not everything I find. A fair number of the Wanstead guys had made the journey as well, and the viewing platform was all smiles and happiness, including Ruth who had staked serious money on the bird coming back. I should have listened to her! I saw the Prof as I left, on his way to erasing 34 years of pain and anguish. Apparently not living in London is no barrier to maintaining a London list. I have trouble maintaining a Wanstead list, not sure how he does it! Anyway, the rest of the day has been spent in the normal fashion piddling around in the greenhouse and earning brownie points. Ah yes, good old BPs, they still feature very heavily.....

What do you mean you can't see it?

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