Saturday 5 October 2019

8am is the new Raptor o'clock

I had always thought that around 2pm was the best time for raptors. That's traditionally when it would be eyes to the sky in anticipation of birds of prey drifting over. Not so in Wanstead. Last weekend the Osprey flew south at 8.04am. Today, six days, 23 hours and 54 minutes later, it was the turn of a Marsh Harrier. Next week, well who knows? Bataleur?

In 2012 I missed a flyover Marsh Harrier whilst looking at a Wryneck. Shaun H, a visiting birder, tried to get me onto it but unfamiliar with patch landmarks he just couldn't direct me. It has taken me this long to claw it back. James and Bob had met Charlotte and I in the SSSI, and had just crossed the road to Long Wood. Skirting around its southern fringe I spied a long-winged raptor coming east over the brooms. Bins up through the gap in the foliage but it didn't look right. Clearly not a Buzzard, and not a Red Kite either. Another Osprey? No, not that. It's looking quite like a Harrier, but that can't be right can it?

Cue bedlam. My daughter was able to see what makes grown men tick. And run. James made the first dash for open skies, I wasn't far behind. "Get a photo!" I yelled, and fumbled with my phone to call Tony who I knew must be somewhere south of us. He was already on it, already thinking what we were thinking. A Marsh Harrier, a patch tick for all of us. Yes, including Bob once again, I don't know how he does it! 160 for him, seriously impressive. 155 for me, which given I wasn't really expecting to get any ticks this year I am delighted with. Many years ago I remember being in awe of Vince at Dagenham Chase, his local patch, where he had seen 160 species. 160? Surely that isn't possible?  A normal thrash around Wanstead would produce perhaps 40-50 species, an average year perhaps a shade over 100. 160 was the realm of fantasy! Well guess what, it isn't. It's simply a product of the passing of time and of dedication. I've been birding Wanstead for around 14 years now, and slowly but surely this is just what happens. It gets harder every year of course, but there is always something.

What will be next I wonder? 

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