This morning I went out onto Wanstead Flats at 4.45am. The plan was to take some lovely photographs of the sunrise - the weather here has been terrific but I have mostly been cowering indoors as Londoners swarm to our outdoor spaces. Even my rare early morning visits have felt rather tense - I actually went out yesterday as well but soon came home again as even at 8am there were so many people. I know, I thought, I'll get out before everyone else and have the place to myself. I'll take a nice wide angle lens and try to do it properly - none of this phone nonsense. Talking of which, yesterday I took this photo of the local Little Owl with my phone through one barrel of my binoculars.
Like I said, complete nonsense..... I don't know about you but a few years ago I would have been pleased with this photo if I'd used an actual camera! It was probably a fluke, but it is by far and away the best bird photo I've ever taken with just a phone. Nonetheless I felt I could do better so I also took a birding lens with me this morning. Once I was done with the magnificence of the rising sun I would get a few photos of the Owl on the way back. I love it when a plan comes together.
So, 4.45 and I am out in the morning air. I am completely alone, I cannot see a single person anywhere. Perfect. Finally. The sky however is not quite the soft oranges and tender pinks I had been imagining. In fact one could almost describe it as grey, yes a bit dull. Hmmm. Sure enough, a low bank of cloud on the horizon is obscuring the rising sun. Buggeration. Oh well, some other time then. Thankfully I have a Plan B - Owls. They should be quite active at this time of the morning, excellent. I head to where they live and....
And there is a photographer there. At 5am. Big lens, tripod, no sign of binoculars. Curses. We have a local dog walker who knows a bit about birds. He also likes to chat, and will happily tell anyone and everyone about what he has seen. He has apparently been pointing out the Little Owl nest hole to all and sundry, and so this is the inevitable result. Even if social distancing were not a thing I would still have no real desire to photograph the bird with anyone else, and in any event it would be discourteous to set up alongside him. It is a public place and he was here first. Were I in his place, how annoyed would I be if I had got up super early to photograph a particular bird and then had another photographer turn up and get in the way? Exactly. I left him to it.
So, Plan C then. It is still really early, and it is still quite early in May. There must be a chance of a wader - no dog walkers yet, you never know. I'll go over to the local pond and see what's there. One end of Alexandra Lake has what you could say is a shoreline. The water is quite high at the moment, but the east end has a small amount of exposed ground,a beach if you will, and if there is a wader here that is where it will be. This is where I found the Black-tailed Godwit a couple of years ago, and also a Wood Sandpiper a few years before that. As I crested the rise that gives a view of this area the sense of anticipation was high.
And crushed immediately. A group of three people were taking selfies on the beach. At 5.15am. Wonderful. Love London, absolutely love it. I turned on my heel and invented Plan D. Take a photo of a bird, any bird. And quickly, before somebody else turns up. So I took this photo of a Canada Gosling. A minute later the first dog of the morning scared the whole family back into the water.