Saturday 4 August 2018

Black(wit) Gold

Last night I made a plan. I would get up early and go birding. Then I would go to the sorting office to pick up a parcel. Then I would go to the dump. And then I would go shopping so that I wouldn't have to eat any more tomatoes. You could make a movie about my life... Normally when I make plans that involve waking up early to go birding what happens is that I do indeed wake up early, but then I flop around in bed for an hour and the opportunity passes. Not so this morning, and so just before 6am I was walking around Alex checking for waders. It appeared I had beaten the dog walkers for once, and although I could see a couple out for a walk ahead of me they were thankfully not tracking right on the edge. The place was mine.

At the eastern corner I scanned back along the south side, nothing. Then I scanned the east side up towards the road. Gah!! There was a Black-tailed Godwit stood on the edge preening. I could honestly not believe it, I mean, really? This is the stuff dreams are made of! The enormity of what I was looking at began to sink in. I grabbed a record shot in case it flew (which I fully expected it to do any moment), cruel luck that I didn't have the big lens with me, and then started to try and tell people. I was shaking like a leaf by this point, this is what local patch birding does to you. You simply don't get this kind of emotion twitching things, I can't really begin to describe it.

I alerted the local WhatsApp group, just about managing to type out the magic words on the keyboard as my fingers fluttered. After getting the all-important record shot, the first thing that I had to do was let fellow patch-workers know. I honestly could not imagine who wouldn't do this, these moments simply need to be shared. It would be a fabulous blocker and who doesn't like a good blocker, but that just isn't the way it works. We are a group and whilst there is friendly competition we're all in it together. I've been birding here for 14 years and this is my first as most waders are totally mega here.....then I realised it was my 150th bird for the patch, and was stunned all over again. Meanwhile the bird had resumed feeding so I went around the eastern edge to get the light behind me and some better photos. The bird was remarkably tame all things considered - had I had a longer lens I could have murdered it. 

Lying on the ground I spotted Tony wandering around the south edge of the lake. He didn't seem to be hurrying.... I waved, he waved back. I pointed at the bank, but I think he thought I was photographing a Gull or something! With all other options exhausted I shouted and pointed! This got his attention, as did the bird flying a short distance along the edge of the water! Now he started running! When he arrived he too was in disbelief, a patch Black-tailed Godwit and on the deck too. It was a beautiful bird, loads of summer colour still and it seemed to be fairly settled. I thought about heading home for the big lens but I was enjoying the moment too much, it isn't necessarily always about the image. Bob turned up having hurried across the Flats after getting my news, it was a tick for him too - in fact the only people who had Blackwit on their lists are Nick with a flyover a few years back and then (naturally) Dan Dan the Wader Man with six in the Park (although we suspect he brought them with him and then released them...). So whilst it has now reduced somewhat in patch blocker value it remains a great patch bird and I am beyond delighted. 

150 species, a personal milestone - 14 years diligently (and not so diligently!) birding the patch proves beyond any doubt that inland urban birding is hard work. Waders are the big target here, we know they fly between the reservoirs and the river, it's just a question of being there either when they go over or being jammy enough to encounter one on the deck. The Godwit happens to be my 14th species of Wader, so a rather neat one per year since I moved here. Bob, Tony and I checked out the Ornamentals in case species #15 had decided to drop in. It hadn't and so I was able to continue with my plan. You had forgotten about my plan? I hadn't. You will be pleased to hear the remaining elements all went perfectly, but probably don't require description. Things are not yet that dire.

Odd duck

Note the can of Fosters floating in the background. I hate people.


  1. Don't have it on my list, I was the other side of Long Wood when Dan had his flyovers, so gripped off a buggering-gain!

    1. Oh I did not realise it was double-Dan. Blocker value just increased a little bit...

  2. Absolutely adore the penultimate photo - inner London birding encapsulated!

  3. Jeeez - look at all those Canada Geese! *drool* Swap one for another godwit or two?