Monday, 13 July 2020

Nocmig party

With renewed wader passage I decided I would put out the sound recorder last night for the first time since late May. Fellow nocmiggers are beginning to record goodies again, and locally there have been Oystercatcher, Curlew and Green Sandpiper. After nipping out early in order not to see any waders flying over the patch, I returned to review my backup plan and eagerly fired up the software. Oooooh! Lots of squiggles on the sonogram from the get go, this could be one of those great nights!

And as it turns out a great night is exactly what it sounded like. "Yay!" "Whoooo-ooo!" "Oi Oi Oi!!" "Yeeeeeah!". Welcome to Wanstead. There are seemingly no limits to the ways in which the population of London will seek to ruin my birding experiences. This time somebody was holding a loud party. Difficult to say where exactly as the microphone is not particularly directional, but whilst it was not close enough to prevent me sleeping like a baby, it was plenty close enough for the recorder to pick up each and every whoop and holler. For three hours, or the entirety of my first mp3 file and the start of the next. The revelers appeared to pack it in at around 1am, at which point the sirens and car horns were able to be clearly picked out. Amidst the general racket of city life a few Coots parped around, and the distant honks of Canada Geese filtered through. Excellent, just what I was hoping for...

The best part of the recording was once again the dawn chorus, by which time most people seem to have finally gone to bed. I have some crystal clear Blackbird songs that are simply beautiful, but sadly the two Common Terns that at 5.09am on Wanstead Flats attracted my attention by calling as they flew over me and towards my house had either shut up or deviated before they got there. 

I'll try again tonight. Hopefully Monday night is a long way from being "the new Friday", and last night was just the result of pent up social-distancing easing demand as it were. Or this may now be a nightly occurrence as many of the schools have now finished but nobody is going on holiday. Let's see.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Small fluff balls

Yesterday I had a work meeting which I conducted entirely from an armchair which faces out of the window. From it I can see my entire garden, as well as many neighbouring gardens. I've been rather busy of late and the early lockdown days of window gazing are largely a thing of the past, particularly as the list of possible sightings has shrunk dramatically. But there is still interest to be had as the season progresses, and yesterday was my first realisation that I should be more alert to what is happening. Like a proper birder.

The trees were alive with young birds foraging. Movement everywhere - I did not know where to look. Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackcaps, Goldfinches and most happily of all, House Sparrows. They seem to be making a real comeback in my area. When I lived in Becktonia we had ivy on the front of our house in which nested close to triple figures of House Sparrows. When we moved to Wanstead the silence was deafening, but gradually the chirp of the House Sparrow is becoming part of my personal background soundscape again. At one point two fluffy Blue Tits and a downy House Sparrow flew up to my window boxes. The Blue Tits hung acrobatically off the smallest stems picking seeds delicately from the flower heads, whereas the chunkier Sparrow simply landed on the balcony rail for a look before deciding it was all too much like hard work and returning to the tree. In short it was lovely - it has been a long time, too long, since I simply sat and watched a mixed flock doing what they do, and this unique vantage point I have looking down at the top of a tree means I get great views. I am hopeful that when autumn truly gets going I might get things like Willow Warbler through. Let's see.

Talking of autumn, for waders and sea birds it is already underway. Enviable tales of Shearwaters, rare Terns, Waders and even an Albatross have found their way into my conscious. Sitting here in Wanstead, a million miles from all of it, I find I am missing the sea. Our family holiday to Croatia in August has just this past week gone the way of all my other trips, and so now with no plans in August whatsoever I wonder whether a little sea-watching might be on the menu? Take a tent perhaps, or sleep in the car as in days of yore...

Bridges of Ross a long time ago.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

One good Tern

I wonder if that title had readers wondering if I had been on a jaunt? Fear not....I am talking about a local lockdown Common Tern. Common Tern is a tricky bird in Wanstead, timing is everything. They breed at Walthamstow and in the Lea Valley, making occasional forays over our way, but unless you camp out by one of the lakes in the Park the likelihood is that you will never see one. I have had many a blank year, including 2019, so this year I was determined to get one. But from the house. A common and garden Tern if you will.

I have one single record of a garden Common Tern from 2007. I remember the day well as it was so odd. A Common Tern flew down the length of the gardens, equidistant between my house and the houses that we back onto, and then flew back again about a minute later. It was looking down the whole way, in the manner that Terns often do. I wondered if it had dropped a fish on a patio? I've kept half an eye out ever since, but history has never repeated itself. The 2020 lockdown was surely the time.And thanks to a network of dedicated spotters on the ground, it has delivered.

And not so dedicated spotters of course....last week I noticed that Nick had tweeted out a Common Tern from the closest pond to me not 30 seconds previously. Great! Not visible over the treeline, but when it flew off it would surely gain height and I could be vectored in. I quickly got in touch, asked about the nearby availability of bricks, and asked that he keep me posted when it flew. Sure sure, no problem. Scanning, scanning, scanning - nothing. Is it still there I asked? No it's gone. Gah!! Which way? Dunno, I got talking to someone and didn't see it go. Pfff. 

This weekend I got another chance. This time my dedicated spotter was Simon R, and although he did not know about Nick's faux pas as I had not yet written this blog post, he made no mistake. Eyes firmly on the prize. Flying towards the Basin!  Scanning, scanning, scann..... YES! Distant, but the rakish form of a Common Tern was just visible over the trees as it made its way north across the golf course to the next fishing opportunity. James H, aware of it's presence and rushing out of Bush Wood towards the Basin for a year tick also picked it up as it headed back west towards wherever home was. 

To say I was delighted was an understatement, and Simon R has earned himself a nice pint of beer as and when we all feel able to get together. Nick will be having a glass of water. Poured over him. I jest of course! I am immensely grateful that I get bird news so frequently from those able (and willing) to get out more, and that I have seen so many birds from home over these last few months is partly due to them. I'm on 99 for the year now, 69 of them from home. And now that autumn appears to be underway I would hope to get a few more.

This Common Tern was photographed in New York.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Happy shepherds

The sunset last night in London was epic. I wasn't anywhere with an eye-catching foreground or point of interest, Tower Bridge, The Shard, the London Eye etc, the view from the new turret at Chateau L is merely the rooftops of suburbia, so for the most part I just pointed the lens at the palette unfolding in front of me. Hues of red, orange, pink, yellow, grey and blue layered up to the west and it was quite lovely. A camera can never really do these scenes justice and so for the most part I just gazed. It didn't last long, but up on my balcony (longing for a drink but it was only Wednesday...) it was a fabulous sight and made me rather chuffed to be here on planet Earth. There are a lot of unhappy things occurring all over the place, which perhaps makes the majesty of a known constant like this even more important as something to cling to and soak up.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Well that was June

So that's June over for another year. How was it for you? I went birding, oh let's see now, just counting it up, two secs.....err zero times. Yes, exactly zero times. Per eBird I looked out of the window twice and saw a Red Kite twice, and that sums up my birding last month. To be fair I have an enviable track record in June, and once again I have found it effortlessly easy to maintain. Did I miss anything? Well, I still haven't managed to connect with a patch Common Tern, which is probably most likely in June, and my list also appears to be missing Desert Warbler and Cayenne Tern for some reason, not sure why as it appears both were eminently gettable if you were prepared to leave common sense and your morals behind. But enough has been said about long-distance twitching during this pandemic already, probably far more eloquently than I could do (or would consider doing), so I think I'll just stop there. I am sure you know what I think.

So yes, I missed a few birds. Did I miss birding though? Nope. I am feeble, I realise this. But it is also extremely helpful to be able to dip in and dip out of hobbies. Probably a poor choice of verb when that hobby is birding, but you know what I mean. When I do dip in, I do so wholeheartedly. And when I take a break, I really take a break! And I enjoyed my June break very much indeed. All my spare time has been concentrated in the garden. I have given some out of control shrubs including the enormous Laurel severe haircuts (no nests, worry ye not). I have planted a new shady bed up with hostas and ferns and declared a mostly non-fatal war on intransigent molluscs. I have installed automatic watering in the form of soaker hoses. I have cleared out all sorts of rubbish that was hiding unseen behind greenhouses and so on, and in a rare outing taken the whole lot to the tip. I have been tending assiduously to all my Palms, Cycads, Agaves, Aloes and the like, and many plants which have had years of neglect have been repotted or top-dressed. Plants that I had almost forgotten I had and that despite any attention whatsoever had somehow developed into quite impressive and in some cases statuesque specimens have been tidied up and now take pride of place - I could do a whole post on Trachycarpus..... The tomatoes are swelling by the day and the beans are flowering profusely. Less edible but my bamboos have also had daily watering and lots of fertiliser, and as as result have exploded into years of pent-up growth - a Phyllostachys that had produced one cane a year ever since I had it is growing no fewer than 20 and they are double the height of the previous ones. A nocmig panda feels pretty much nailed on at this point. In short everything is spic and span and looking fantastic and I am very pleased at how a locked-down June has panned out.

It looks like July and August will see more of the same. Things are opening up of course, but only if you want to partake and I'm still quite happy at the moment not to. Our family holiday to Croatia just got cancelled, not a great surprise but actually we were not that keen on going as we felt it likely to have been more stress than it was worth and some way from the relaxing break had booked. We'll take the refund and just chill out at home. Or rather, chill out at home some more. But by the time September comes around I think I will be done with sitting around, comfortable though it undoubtedly is. The growing season will be slowing down, there will be less to do and my thoughts will be turning to somehow getting ready for the return of colder nights. Right now I am just fine but it is brewing, I can feel it. There is restlessness just around the corner, and this will need to be dealt with. I will need to go out. Possibly even out birding.

Spring was largely a write off. None of my original plans nor indeed their replacement plans amounted to anything. My dreams of weekend days out on the coast in May shriveled to the odd foray onto Wanstead Flats before the hordes descended. My foreign birding ambitions in Japan (then Argentina), Bulgaria and America progressively vanished as the world shut down. Family trips to Italy, Scotland and Finland were all similarly cancelled. Being at home in my greenhouse is all well and good, great succour in fact, but there will come a time when I get itchy feet and no amount of potted Aloes will sort me out. My worry of course is that it is too early to plan, too soon to know what will happen in the autumn. But I can't help myself, I am a planner and I have to have plans. In the back of my mind I am prepared for COVID-related disappointment, but putting that to one side there has to be something to look forward to, something good that gets ever nearer. The question is what will it be?

I don't know. But I intend to invest some time finding out..

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Still here....just

Yes I am still here, although barely. I've seen zero Blyth's Reed Warblers, zero Asian Desert Warblers, in fact since I last posted probably zero Warblers full stop. But of course many congratulations to those who have managed to successfully drive 500 miles and walk to a set of coordinates. I knew June would be like this and I don't care. In fact I am embracing it, and with new-found enthusiasm I am getting all sorts of important jobs done in the garden and the greenhouse which I will not bore you with. Things I have been putting off in some cases for years. Very satisfying. Possibly even more satisfying than the A1. 

I have still not managed to take a day off and I confess it is rather getting to me. Perhaps you can tell? In fact yesterday marked 150 days since I last took a holiday. Anyone who knows me will be aware that this will have shattered any previous record that may have existed. I lived for holidays. Oh, and my wife and children. But anyway, yes, holidays. Travel. Places that are not London. Places with cool birds, great plants, and no people. On the plus side, and this is assuming I don't get made redundant again (that thing known as the world economy does have rather a large bearing on my employment prospects and last I read it was heading south rather quickly), come 2021 I will have a monumental number of days off to take. And of course if I do lose my job I will have even more days than that, so win win really. It does rather depend on not going mad between now and then mind you. Fingers crossed.

Random photo from NY, the last place I visited that was not my house.

Sunday, 7 June 2020


For many years I have maintained as an online source for my photos - a vanity project par excellence. I have not touched it for upwards of a year, and only an email warning of its imminent expiry prompted me to go and look at it. The last entry was late May or early June 2019, that's how much I care about it. Once again it is all about blowing hot and cold. Mostly cold of late.

As I had almost entirely forgotten about the website's existence I googled it as I couldn't remember how to get to it, and whilst the first hits did bring up my photos they were all on other people's websites or their social media streams like pinterest! I suppose this is rife, but if this were my living I would pretty upset about it. I haven't the energy to go and chase all these people down - so for now nice that they like my pictures enough to nab them - think positive!

This of course prompted a rush of blood to the head. I renewed my credit card and busily set about processing and uploading all my recent pictures, or rather those that I thought made the grade. That included some of my recent Skylarks and so on, as well as my November trip to Florida. I am about to go through Taiwan and California and see if any images can be salvaged from either of those two trips, although as the primary focus was birding it would seem unlikely - I might carry a camera everywhere but it really is quite black and white when it comes to quality.

I must have spent hours on it in the past - the photos are arranged by region and then taxonomic grouping - the UK and Europe, and then the Americas etc. The link is and the most recent additions are here. And most importantly Wheatears are HERE!

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Green and breezy

A stiff breeze this morning did not feel very June-like and I wished for more clothes. So did the kids. Remarkably I managed to get them all out of bed at 4.30am, roughly seven hours earlier than normal, and together we hit Wanstead Flats. Disaster struck early, with a critical piece of kite lost on the way, so that was mostly a flop, so to speak. Eldest engaged in a spot of photography whilst kite flying was attempted, but they soon realised what I think they knew already - that their father is a nutcase - and went home where I found them all fast asleep again a couple of hours later.

Look how teenager-y they are!

I stuck it out in the hope of a repeat of the other day. It was too cold and windy for Owls, but the Green Woodpecker put on a brief show - I was nearly ready, oh to have been three feet to my left. Marginal gains. As it is the cropping required is too severe, but it is better than nothing, and given that in fifteen years of trying I have never managed to get anything decent on this species I think I am OK with it. It is an excellent spot though, and I think it will come good in time. For now though here is one taken with the 800mm and a 1.4x converter - the lens hood acted rather like a sail this morning but the key to using to the monopod is to have soft hands and not to fight it.

The Skylark spent a bit of time on the nearby post and so I tried out the extreme focal length on that too. It selfishly had a feather out of place this morning and due to a [hated] Windows 10 incident I don't have Photoshop at the moment and so cannot easily sort it out. Or cheat, as it is known. 

In other news I have spent the last three days shredding and filing. This is what lockdown does to you. I tidied my desk and a bedroom cupboard, during which I found every bank statement and utility bill I'd received since April 2014. After sorting them out I started to file them only to discover that files were stuffed full of things going back in some cases to 1999. There are limits to how retentive (ha ha) I am prepared to be, so barring some key documents I got rid of the lot and replaced it with the more recent stuff I had just found. This left me with a pile of paper roughly a foot and half high, and you cannot be too careful these days. I managed to find the shredder in the cupboard under the stairs and despite not having seen the light of day for at least six years it still worked. Barely. It simply refused to do anything more than two sheets at a time, frequently clogged up, and repeatedly overheated and stopped about every fifteen minutes, at which point it required a lengthy break.  As did I. This is the last filing I am going to do. I mostly went paperless in about 2018 from what I can gather (alternatively there is another stash of post still hiding somewhere...), and so I have one further bout of shredding to do in about five years and then that will be that and I can chuck everything to do with paper away and never have to think about it ever again.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

The architecture of succulents

It's June so I can now legitimately talk about plants. Birds? Eh? No, sorry, no idea. Are they like Pigeons and Crows and stuff? I'm not interested in those really. No,I like plants. Generally all plants, but there are some groups that for whatever reason really capture my imagination. Cycads, Araucaria, Aloe, Agave, Yuccas, Haworthia, Echeveria, Aeonium, Aroids, Ferns....many more probably but those are just the groups that pop into my head immediately. Thinking about it a little more most of them have a very beautiful symmetry, a very structured way of growing - predictable and perfect. Here are a few casual snaps from my phone as I pottered around the succulent bed - I am wondering if my macro lens on my real camera might be usefully employed to do something rather better. Another project for the list - there is an almost endless variety of interesting forms, shapes and colours - I have a lot of plants. Some people in my house think I have too many, and every autumn and spring there is a huge amount of work to do to get everything in position for just a few short months.

Agave parryi 'truncata'

Aeonium schwarzkopf

Echeveria lola

Aloe plicatilis

Echeveria pulidonis

Agave 'Blue Glow'

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Up with the lark

I've been going out a little more, reacquainting myself with my camera. Taking photographs is one of those skills that never really leaves you, yet it all seems so hard and unfamiliar if you let it slip. You suddenly remember all sorts of little things just a little too late. Yesterday I went out again, but this time with the benefit of a couple of failed sessions behind me. And this time things clicked. As in things came together, rather than just the noise a camera shutter makes. I remembered isolation again, I changed my posture to get different backgrounds, I automatically dialled down the aperture when I was very close, I had the right sun angle rather than being too eager to compromise. In short I am beginning to remember again.

I found a Skylark singing from a post and it was mostly unafraid. Just after sunrise and by altering my position I could get a rich orange background that totally belies the geography and geology of Wanstead Flats. I managed to sneak up on a Green Woodpecker, which hardly ever happens, and I sufficiently anticipated the next moves of a Little Owl to be quite close when it swooped down on some hapless insect. There are surely blank days ahead of me, but I on this particular morning I felt creative and I felt happy. The hulking lens that was taunting me to the point that I very nearly sold it for a song at the start of the year was once again a joy to have at my disposal, and the next day that has some spectacular light forecast will see me and it out there again. I was out for four hours all told, nearly half a day, but yet once home had a full day in front of me. I just wish I had rekindled this particular flame about a month ago!

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Nudge nudge, wink wink

The Flats were all mine this morning. Well, apart from the first dog walker at 4.55am, the insomniac one with the very yappy Yorkshire Terrier that gives the impression of being desperate to sink its tiny yet razor-sharp teeth into my ankle were it not on a retractable lead. Naturally it/they flushed the Little Owl off the ground instantly. The first jogger came through at 5am on the dot, and the second dog-walker arrived at 5.15am. Needless to say they both made a beeline for where I was taking photos, but after them there was a period of peace and quiet during which I was able to get on with it uninterrupted. Lots of pretty photos later I returned home and still had over an hour before work started which allowed for the below silliness (nb you really need to be viewing on a real computer I'm afraid)...

Monday, 1 June 2020

Hello June!

Little Owl. Unimpressed by June.

Sunday, 31 May 2020



Early start today, the weather seemed extremely promising, so I was out at a time beginning with a four! Ouch, but it was very pleasant indeed. Almost unbelievably where I had been planning to take sunrise, fox and owl photos from was occupied by three young hooded gentlemen. At 4.30am! Oh to live somewhere remote with NO PEOPLE. I went somewhere else and took some photos of grass - my current nasal nemesis.

Were it not for my nose and eyes, I could get to quite like grass I think. So many forms, so many angles, shades, textures. Quite beautiful really. 

Eventually the hoodies moved off, presumably to bed, but by then the sun was quite high in the sky. Instead I amused myself with the large congregations of juvenile Starlings feeding in the long grass and making a huge racket. There must have been several hundred of them in a tight flock, and it was the sound of their calls that was most striking - the plaintive whirring of so many juveniles. It seems that they have had a good year, and I look forward to the flocks of pale brown and spangly purple ones being joined by a nice pink one in due course.

Another day now beckons in the lockdown garden, you will not catch me heading off to some beauty spot. I quite like my garden, and certainly my plants have never had it so good - a regime of constant and tender care. Lots of trimming, feeding, repotting and so. My current conundrum is that all my labels have faded due to exposure, and so a number of potted palm trees that all look quite similar are now unidentified. Anyone know how to separate Trachycarpus takil from Trachycarpus nainital? No, didn't think so. I don't either.

Friday, 29 May 2020

London Bird Report 2018

Look at this Cetti's Warbler! They just don't do this for normal people, but for Russ.... A photo like this on the front promises riches within.

Earlier this morning there was a satisfying plop on my front door mat. The 2018 LBR had metaphorically and physically landed. 250 pages of high quality bird-related goodness - lists,  write-ups, papers, photographs..... The effort that goes into this publication is immense, and all provided pro bono by a small band of dedicated London birders with relevant skillsets, in particular our Commander in Chief Pete L who puts in hours and hours not only to marshal the rest of us into action but to ensure consistency and accuracy across the whole publication. The 2018 report will be Pete's last LBR; we are in desperate need of a replacement Editor but finding one is proving extremely difficult and if we do not its future is in serious doubt. There is no doubt the level of commitment is very off-putting, especially as those qualified for the job would prefer to be out birding, but there it is - the report does not write itself. Ask yourself if you would miss it, and then ask yourself if you could give any time, in any capacity, to see it continue. Details on how to get involved are here

If you are a member of the London Natural History Society you may have heard a similar plop this morning as paid-up members get a copy by default. You can buy back issues but the best way to get one is to join up. I got a sneak preview online a few weeks ago, mainly to try and check for colour issues as the circumstances this year don't allow us to meet to look over a proof. I look forward to some quality time this weekend having a proper look at the real thing. 

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Losing my marbles

Actually marbles is about the only thing I have not lost. Does anyone else go through periods like this, where you temporarily misplace items and despite looking everywhere simply cannot find them again? One minute there, the next minute gone. What makes this doubly frustrating of course is that I have not gone anywhere. The item in question is currently my sunglasses, and they must be in the house somewhere. But where?! I used to have two pairs, the first pair -  the nice ones - I lost in a bar in Tallinn last year. No bother, I've simply been wearing the old ones, but now they're gone too. I had been using them more with the advent of nice weather, in particular for skywatching. I had even put the eyecups of my bins down so I could more effectively use them with glasses on. Glad I bothered.

I have no idea (obviously) where they could be, and I have checked EVERYWHERE. Well, everywhere except where they are. It has almost got to the point where I am going to order some new ones, but we all know what will happen then don't we? On the plus side, I would be back to having two pairs again....

I have also lost my moth book. Like the glasses I saw it just the other day as I was tidying up a bookshelf. I had not looked at it for ages, but now that I have started mothing again I of course need it, and despite an extensive search it has not reappeared. You would think that there is an even smaller list of places where it could be hiding than my sunglasses, I mean I could have put those anywhere, but a book? Instead I am using various websites to identify things, but nothing beats being able to thumb through colour plates

An evening mothing. A mercury vapour bulb suspended over a white sheet, and then an actinic Robinson Trap. 

There is no substitute for sunglasses though. Every now and again I jump up with a shout and run off to where they must surely be, only to slink back to the dining table empty-handed. The family have been very supportive, all four of them constantly donning their shades in the garden, around the table when I come back from my latest abortive search...

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Food, glorious food

I think I mentioned towards the beginning of lockdown that food and mealtimes seemed to have taken on a new importance. Many people we talked to felt the same way, and also confessed that their alcohol intake appeared to have increased.... But what about two months down the line, surely things will have calmed down a bit? Not in Chateau L! At lunchtime we continue to query the chef as to what will be served for dinner. It has become something of a running joke. Similarly there are animated discussions on the weekly menu, and a continued keen interest in online shopping from all five of us.

Yes, we are greedy so-and-sos.

Happily online grocery shopping seems to have sorted itself now, and whilst certain things continue to be very hard to get (we find flour and mozarella to be the least likely things to actually arrive in the weekly delivery) for the most part things are going well. Our vegetarian diet lapsed a bit during the early period as we were grateful to get any food at all, but as things have got back to more or less normal and more vegetables start coming into season the variety of dishes that we can make is going up and up. This is great news.

Recipe books are pored over, ingredients checked and debated. Usually there is at least one objection to something, but democracy always prevails and whatever child it is generally manages to eat it despite their initial reservation. Whilst complaining loudly of course, it would not be a family mealtime without someone moaning. Our new obsession with food also means that I end up photographing some of it, not necessarily with blogging in mind, but of course there is an ever-increasing need for 'fillers'. And that is exactly what these are.

This is Pistachio Pasta from "Simple" by Yotam Ottolenghi, and is mange-touts, pistachios, anchovies (source of most objections), trofie pasta and parmesan

This is Green Bean and Courgette Salad with Tahini Dressing from the "River Cottage Veg Everyday" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Tahini seems to be the most hated part of this, but courgette runs it a close second.

This is Pasta with greens, garlic and chilli from the same River Cottage book. The principal objection is the amount of chilli, One child would prefer none at all, another lots. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Early mornings

I am still finding for the most part that early mornings are best for visits to Wanstead Flats - for many different reasons, although the birdy reasons are diminishing rapidly. A few Whitethroats and Chiffs are still gamely singing, but it is mostly the feeding season now and whilst I am sure there are lots of birds around, hearing them and finding them is another matter entirely. It feels quiet, and I expect that my visits there will peter out very shortly. 

As well as the lack of birdy activity and passage being more or less over, there is another obvious reason for abandoning early morning visits. Sleep. First light these days is at a pretty horrendous time of day. I need to get up before 4.30am in order to be sure of seeing the sunrise, and that is not easy. In fact it is very hard, and comes with the significant risk of waking up other residents of Chateau L. And when one of those residents breathes fire....

Another reason is that I've started putting the moth trap out again, and that needs to be looked at first thing before it warms up. Not at the crack of dawn, but the sun is quite high in the sky even by 7am so I mustn't leave it too long. By the time I have done that I find that I'm a bit peckish and require coffee and so on, and once I've dealt with those basic needs the best period has passed and I might as well get on with my day at home. Plants are best watered in the cool of the morning, vents and windows can be opened to let some fresh air in, and I find I can easily dispense with a couple of hours simply pottering around doing various jobs. So long Wanstead Flats...

But on the off chance that I do manage it, the following sort of scene may await me, and it can be absolutely breathtaking if the conditions are right. And looking at the forecast there are quite a few days coming up which could be like this. It would be a shame to pass these up don't you think?