Thursday 29 April 2021

More patch news

Bit of a running theme of late. So....

Reed Warbler

I breezed through the Park pretty early today, and was through Shoulder of Mutton and Heronry pretty quickly. Nothing to see. It was so poor I swerved Perch and Ornamentals and instead headed to the Flats, quipping to my birding colleagues that they should bring valium if they intended birding the Park.

The Flats was no better really. A big concentration of immature Herring Gulls was on Alex, at least 135 birds, but the main things of note were the immense piles of crap on the playing fields. It was generally quite neatly bagged up and at first I wondered if the Alex scrub had been cleared and was awaiting collection. However as I got closer I realised that this was  actually fly-tipping, with tyre tracks leading from the direction of Capel Road. But this was no ordinary fly-tipping, it was more fragrant than normal! This was the illicit disposal of a full-blown cannabis operation. Four huge piles contained pretty much everything you would need, although quite what the beds were for I am not sure. Perhaps the plants needed full-time husbandry, as a indoor gardener myself I can understand that. Anyway, I called the Corporation of London to report it and suggested that they also involve the police given my suspicions.

Telltale signs of bad behaviour

Heading west to the VizMig point via a Lesser Whitethroat I encountered Marco who had also seen almost nothing, not even drugs. He quickly resolved this by finding a couple of Swallow, and then a group of ten House Martin flew across. It was beginning to get interesting, but then came a message from the Park that there was a Reed Warbler singing on the Ornamentals. But of course there was, as that was one of the ponds I hadn't bothered with, but well done Simon for far better diligence. As this was at the outer fringes of the patch I returned home to fetch my bike, as did Bob, and pedalled up there. Bob just pressed "Go" as his bike is a snazzy electric one.

Anyhow, Simon's Reed Warbler is the bird that ends my quest. Or my third quest I should say, as 107 species before the end of April was the target that replaced the 104 species by the end of April, which in turn replaced 100. Quest numero uno was simply a nice round number. Numero dos was overachieving versus my historic June record of 103, and Third Dan was 106 by the end of July, now also overhauled in April. My August record total is 109, so only three birds would be needed to get there, however at this point I am done. I do actually have the day off tomorrow, and so I could trudge around the patch all day and maybe, just maybe, get those three species. Variety is the spice of life however, and instead I sense a little coastal birding in my future.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Blogging so that other people don't have to

There is news from the patch, as follows:


This means that I have now equalled my best ever "by end of July" total, and I have two days left in which to go one better. Let's see. I couldn't be bothered to go out this morning, too many early starts and, somehow, a painfully bruised heel have contrived to make a slow morning. But I have already vacuumed the loft, cleaned the shower, done a load of blue washing (I have been a vision in blue lately, all layers), and scrubbed the inside of the washing machine which is developing a nasty habit of depositing brown sludge on recently cleaned laundry, so it has not been a lazy morning.

I am hoping this may brush off once dry.... 

In related news from the patch, the Whinchat was Bob's 100th bird for the year, and shortly afterwards, James' 99th. He then went one better with a House Martin for his 100th, all in a very profitable smash and grab raid on the patch which also added Lesser Whitethroat and Swift and saw him accelerate past Nick, marooned on 99. Nick has not been birding so much as digging, and is now cruelly watching the water simply drain away from Cat & Dog in this extended drought. There is some rain on the horizon though, possibly not enough though. The nesting Mute Swans on Angel have the same problem - what looked like a pukka breeding spot a month ago has evaporated away and their mound will soon be high and dry. In the absence of interference they would probably be fine, however, dogs.

The combined patch year list stands on 113, slightly above average at this point. We have had better years, and of course some of what we have seen we might more normally get in the second winter season. So although a whopping four of the patch regulars are already on 100 species for the year we may yet collectively finish up below par. I know, I know, glass half empty.

Right, I'm off to pump a load of soda crystals through the washing machine.

Monday 26 April 2021

Competition update

The cold easterly wind continues to batter me senseless each morning, and I returned home from today's futile slog around the patch earlier than I had planned simply because I was freezing. Evidence of migration was restricted to a single Sand Martin - put simply it feels about a million miles from late April out there at the moment. Patches with significant water are doing really well - a feast of Terns, Gulls and Waders, but here in the arid smoke it isn't like that. Here you can walk around the patch for two hours in the morning and see nothing of interest whatsoever. Very frustrating when you need one bird to break your personal half year record. As a reminder my highest patch total by the end of June for as long as I have lived here is 103. That is what I am currently on. 

Well, was on. Yes that is right, the deed is done, the quest is at an end (although there is now the slight spectre of the highest ever July total of, I must stop it, it is becoming ridiculous) and I am over the line. I had to wait until lunchtime for there to be any birdy action on the patch, the morning cloud had been blown away and the sun was out. And so were two Hobby in the Old Sewage Works, hopefully the breeding pair from last year, it would seem so at any rate - thanks to Simon for the heads up. I had only just got home and put my bike away when I learned that the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year had finally turned up. Who twitches a Lesser Whitethroat though? Me, that's who, and with joy. And also Simon and Bob. For Simon it was his 100th bird for the year, and for Bob his 99th - both going great guns and surely Bob will also crack 100 for the year before the end of April. Only if he keeps #lookingup though. It is a bit difficult to keep track but at least two of the other regulars are still in the running, Nick on 98 and James on 96, and with four days still to go you would not bet against it despite the inclement conditions making morning bird finding very hard.

Lesser Whitethroat bush

As for me I am now on 105. Stop the competition now I say. Birds that have yet to stray onto my 2021 year list include Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Common Tern and Common Sandpiper, any and all of which could make an appearance before the end of the month. And that is without any left field birds of the sort that nobody can predict. I will definitely be out again tomorrow morning!

Sunday 25 April 2021

No second bite of the cherry

I went to bed last night full of optimism. And wine. Despite this I bounded out of bed this morning and was out on Wanstead Flats by 6am. I was too hasty though, and after half an hour out and about I had to return home for a few moments.... Refreshed I went out for round two, only to miss a Hobby by a couple of minutes. More haste less speed. A couple of hours on the ridge to the south of Alex was very poor, and very cold in a relentless easterly. Chastened, the assembled birders returned home.

I went out again this afternoon and it was a lot better, albeit still Hobby-less. Swifts, Swallows, a House Martin, a Yellow Wagtail, and best of all a remarkably friendly Wheatear. Unfortunately I only had my "toy" camera - the 80D with the old non-IS 400mm f5.6 lens - I bought this so that I would be more likely to actually take a camera out birding, and so I suppose in this respect it is doing its job as if I didn't have it then there would be no Wheatear photos at all. And when you get as close as I managed it perhaps does not matter as much, but about once every five seconds I wished for the 1DX and the 500mm as I would have absolutely smashed it. Given that it is the weight and bulk of the proper camera that I am beginning to actively dislike, perhaps I need to make the move to mirrorless. Still, the first photo is the best Wheatear photo I have taken anywhere for absolutely ages and certainly the best one I've taken on the patch. It is a shame the background is not more evenly toned, but overall I think I'll take it.

Saturday 24 April 2021

A morning to savour

I overindulged last night - a nice meal and a very nice bottle of red. Having been up with the Lark every day earlier in the week for scant reward I felt I deserved a little lie in. But I had not reckoned with the weekend crew. Lying in bed with a mild headache the first message came through at about 6am - Green Sandpiper flushed from Alex. This is the same Alex that I had been at at around 6am for four out of the last five mornings....

I dragged my sorry A out of bed and crawled into the shower. Just as I finished shampooing my hair my phone went off. I am not sure what possessed me to turn the water off and answer it, but I did. It was James. "I've just had two Green Sandpipers at Cat & Dog, they're flying north (i.e. possibly visible from your house)". Any neighbours unfortunate enough to be awake got a full frontal but no Green Sandpipers flew past the balcony. Fully awake now and 100% grumpy I finished my shower, had a quick espresso and headed out. Oh, I got dressed first. 

Given that there is some decent mud in the Park that's where I headed, with the patch seemingly saturated with Green Sandpipers maybe there would be one of the Shoulder of Mutton? There wasn't, but halfway there another message came through - Green Sandpiper east over Wanstead Flats. Gah! Then another - Green Sandpiper heard towards Alex! I steamed through the Park quicker than I have ever done so before. Nothing on SoM. Nothing on Heronry. I didn't care, I just needed to get to Alex as quickly as possible - this lies about five minutes south of the Park, down a long straight road. 

Less than a minute down the road an invisible Green Sandpiper called overhead somewhere. I could scarcely believe it, but I think my pace slowed a fraction. It got better though. As I crossed the main road and skirted around the east side of Alex a wader flew from the bank to the island. Green Sandpiper! I spied Bob on his bike on the south side, and as I tried to attract his attention the bird flew off the island and landed in front of him. I tried even harder to attract his attention, but I don't think he saw or heard me. However he did see the Sandpiper as it flew past him, and turned around to follow it.

Then another message came through from James - three large waders flying east from Angel. Moments later another message - Whimbrel! If you look at the map I linked to above you will note that Alexandra Lake lies due east of Angel Pond. And sure enough, as I scanned south three Whimbrel hove into view. Immense. I screamed to Bob. Literally screamed. He needs Whimbrel as a patch tick. He may have vaguely looked at me, but the nicest way to put it is that I was underwhelmed by his reaction. I cannot begin to describe the frustration - whilst he was aware of me shouting and waving like a madman he was still looking for the Green Sandpiper on the bank, unaware that a far far better bird was flying past him and away. Eventually - hard to measure the passage of time but it was about three years - he clocked the urgency of the situation and cycled over to me but try as I might I could not get him onto the birds and gradually they became dots and disappeared.

He was relatively sanguine about it actually, of the two of us I think I was the most upset. Thankfully though there is happy ending, for once at the VizMig point another Whimbrel flew east and this time there was no mistake. James and I heard it call, I shouted immediately, and with no distractions Bob was on it! Patch tick #164 - truly impressive. The only bum note was that Tony had missed the first three Whimbrel and was also unsighted for this fourth bird. It is a big area and if you are in the wrong place then you will miss birds, that is all there is to it. Meanwhile, my morning was getting better and better - what had started off very badly had somehow transformed into a blinder. 

But it was to get better. Tony, Whimbrel miss firmly in his rear view mirror, crossed the road heading towards Long Wood and heard a snatch of a possible Nightingale. Moments later he was treated to the full song. And shortly afterwards so were the rest of us. 

Words cannot really describe the sublime purity of the song of the Nightingale, and to hear it belting it out on the patch, almost within sight of home... a special moment. Only my third ever here, and the bird that equals my half year record - #103. I had been expecting Lesser Whitethroat, or possibly a Hobby, but instead I have somehow snaffled three less than annual birds. Other birds seen over the course of the morning included Swifts, Swallows, Sand Martins, Buzzards and a Red Kite. What will tomorrow bring?

Friday 23 April 2021

Details, details

The wind continues to blow from the east. The skies are clear, the mornings are cold, and the birds are thin on the ground. I mean there are birds, but the number of migrants is well below par. The odd bird is creeping through regardless of the conditions, but this is mid to late April don't forget. It should be amazing, prime time. Instead it is a struggle, slow, unrewarding. Yes I know, moan moan moan. It is just such a strange year. On the one hand I've seen more locally than I've ever seen before, yet the overwhelming feeling each and every day is of underachievement. If I had to choose a birdy word to describe what it feels like on the patch it would be something along the lines of "dead". Perhaps that is harsh? Perhaps "quiet" would be better, after all there are now lots of Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing, but it is somehow unsatisfying, as if the big pulse of northbound migrants has yet to happen and may simply pass us by. Every day that passes I go home thinking "maybe tomorrow?", every day I think that surely the "big day" must be getting closer, but tomorrow has yet to come. Who knows, no two years are ever the same.

The highlights of a three hour four mile trudge today were four Yellow Wagtails. No Waders. No Wheatears. No hirundines. Nothing new at all. The 5.30am alarm calls are getting harder by the day. Still, there is always tomorrow.

With little to hold the interest I ended up looking at our common residents a little more closely today. I cannot say that I have ever noticed this before but the very top of Moorhen's legs are red. Did you know that? I don't think I did, but look at this:

I much prefer
Moorhens to Coots. I think it something to do with aggression, which I don't like. Coots are always trying to kill each other. Moorhens seem somehow gentler, more refined. Or maybe it is just that I have half a bottle of Pernand-Vergelesses in me? Anyway, must go to sleep, another early start tomorrow. No doubt it will be monumental once again...

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Competing against myself

Unsurprisingly I have spent a huge amount of my spare time on the patch this year, during lockdown it was a vital refuge, somewhere to unwind, to temporarily forget about the big bad world. And this means I've seen some birds. Quite a lot in fact. It started well on New Year's Day, with the Goosander, White-fronted Goose and Med Gull from 2020 all still present, but it was the cold spell in February that really propelled the year list along. Bear in mind that Febuary normally delivers nothing as you see everything there is to see during January. Then you have to wait until the first migrants arrive in March so February is easily the most boring month of the year other than June. But not in 2021, the freezing conditions brought Lapwing, Shelduck, Wigeon, Kittiwake, Snipe, Golden Plover and Woodcock in a six day period. So by the end of the month I found myself on 85 - my best ever total in February. All of a sudden I was competing with myself. 

I quickly knocked up a spreadsheet to see what my targets were. It was also in fact better, by one, than any total I'd previously achieved by the end of March which was quite interesting. More interesting was that I'd never got to 100 by the end of April, and seeing as I love a round number...

It was definitely on - the glut of spring migrants in April would easily see me over the line. What I hadn't counted on was the return of winter. Wheatear arrived more or less right on time in March, but other than that our migrants were very thin on the ground. It was so cold that we started to get Gulls again, and these helped to make up the numbers where migrants were lacking. The weather can only hold things back for so long though, and some intrepid birds will make it through no matter what and you only need one. So despite the cold starts I've continued  to pick up a trickle - an early lone House Martin, a handful of Swallows and Sand Martins, a couple of Yellow Wagtails, a Redstart and a Ring Ouzel. On Sunday I found my first Whitethroat scratching away, and then this morning after a fruitless three hours on the patch a Swift carved over my house as I was on a work phone call and gazing skywards. Ton up! (full list here)

My previous highest total by the end of April was 97, way back in 2013. With over a week to go, my May/June highest total of 103 would seem to be at risk - there are plenty of what I would term regular birds remaining; Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Common Tern, Hobby, Common Sandpiper..... throw in NocMig (disappointing so far but surely must change soon) and simply an interesting time of year when anything could happen, and surely this is going to be possible. There is just one tiny problem.  

If all of this comes to pass a potentially very slow autumn beckons!

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Roll up, roll up!

I resisted for years and years, but with holiday coming out of my ears and nothing to do with it I cracked. Destination Thursley Common, target bird Cuckoo. Colin the Cuckoo. If you have not heard of Colin the
Cuckoo then you really need to take a long hard look at your use of social media. For about six years now Colin has been returning to a particular clearing at Thursley Common in Surrey, and every day ten thousand photos of him are uploaded to Facebook and Instagram. The reason he comes back year after year is that he is hopelessly addicted to mealworms. These have been scattered - wantonly some might say - all over one end of a grassy meadow, and in particular on and surrounding some lovely mossy sticks. On an average day during Cuckoo season you will find a semicircle of middle to advanced aged men pointing a variety of cameras directly at these mossy sticks. Yesterday I was one of them.

I stood out. For starters I didn't know anybody there, whereas everyone else seemed to know everyone. This is because they have nothing else to do and come here day after day, yesterday was their 892nd session. I also did not bring a chair with me, I was not wearing camo, and I had some funny things hanging around my neck that can be used to look at birds.

I set my alarm for 5am, departed Wanstead at 5.30am, and arrived on site at 7.30am. Colin duly arrived at 8.01am, glanced scornfully at the mealworms on offer, and departed at 8.02am. As far as I know he was not seen again for the rest of the day. This is what celebrity does to a Cuckoo. I waited around for a while, papped a couple of mealworm-scoffing Woodlark and a Redstart, and then got bored and left. The best bit of the morning was when a bloke fell backwards off his stool and took his neighbour with him.

To be fair if you were prepared to put the time in there would be numerous opportunities for fabulous shots, and I am 100% not averse to it. I love setting up things like this, and if I am on a photography trip somewhere you will likely find me messing about with rocks and sticks and so on as when it works you can get some real belters. What I am averse to is crowds and inane chit chat about about camera gear. 

Right behind the Cuckoo field is a vast expanse of heathland, gorse and heather criss-crossed with sandy tracks and fire-breaks, with small copses here and there, birch, alder and pine. Here, just a hundred metres or so from the circus, I found far more enjoyable options. Singing Linnets, song-flighting Stonechats and buzzing Dartford Warblers were everywhere. I wondered if the large fire last year has caused thems to concentrate in the remaining areas, as in a single scan of just one parcel of heather and gorse I counted a dozen. On the more open areas Woodlarks pottered and tootled about and Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing from seemingly every tree. Redstarts and Tits flitted around the deciduous margins, and a Red Kite drifted over. There were a few dog-walkers, a jogger or two and some mountain bikers, but most of the human activity on Thursley Common is seemingly centered around two mossy sticks.

I couldn't find the famous boardwalk in my slow meander back to the car, and I now realise that most of it got burned and has yet to be rebuilt - a real shame. I'm not into dragonflies and so on, but in the height of spring and early summer it must be an incredible place, teeming with life. And it was refreshing to be using my camera again - rarely do I take it out these days as the pendulum has swung back to birding. Colin didn't really give me much of a chance in his brief visit, but I may yet try him again and if he doesn't play ball there are plenty of other birds present. It is just a teensy bit too far away though - as the days get longer the time I would need to get up at to get the best of the light will start to get rather hard. What I need is something similar closer - I wonder if a quiet corner of Wanstead Flats could be employed in a similar fashion, or whether if I set anything up it would just get trashed immediately. Mind you, it's just a stick in the ground isn't it?

Thursday 15 April 2021

What do you expect for £1?

I went birding at the weekend in the Brecks. Any subsequent blog post would have had quite a strong "went here saw that" kind of feel, and as I hadn't bothered with a camera either there really was a dearth of material with which to work. Part of the day was spent at Lakenheath, which is also where a White Stork spent part of the day. We did not coincide.

Last night a White Stork was found in the Lee Valley. An unringed White Stork, these days quite a rare commodity. It was still there this morning. Seeing as the patch was quite dead and it was still early enough to get there and back, I twitched it before work. I have not been up to the Lee Valley for a while, and ended up spending a bit of time driving around a housing estate which was tantalisingly close to the scrape the bird was on. As all twitchers will know, anxiety levels tend to increase in inverse proportion to how far away you are from the target. I had that feeling very strongly this morning. When I had finally extracted myself from legoland hell and found my way to a car park, before I could strike out I had to deal with paying for parking. This did nothing to ease my mood.

Firstly I loathe paying for parking as a matter of principle - it is not a transaction in which I feel I come away with value. Secondly, the concept of ticket machines which accept actual money is quickly vanishing. In these super-efficient days these ancient relics have been replaced by an app. Whereas before you could spent 30 seconds putting a pound coin in a machine and putting a small piece of paper on your dashboard, now you can spend ten minutes downloading an app, registering to use it, linking a credit card to it, telling it where you are parking and finally typing in your number plate and hoping it all goes through. Inevitably it does not and you have to start over, all the while thinking about White Storks spreading their wings in the morning sun whilst deciding which county is next on their hit list. Innovation and progress they call it.

However, and as the above obviously shows, despite the faff the bird was still there, indifferent to blue skies ripe for soaring and a small gaggle of fervent admirers. And as you can tell from the first photo, no rings, crucial in today's muddy Stork waters. Not bad for a pound eh?


The bird at Lakenheath on Sunday was initially thought to be a good one, people actually travelled some distance for it. It was not ringed as many of the Knepp birds are, which these days is about the best you can hope for. Subsequently however there was noted to be a problem with the wings. As in they were not all there, and as the old saying goes the first rule of birds that people like to keep as pets is "All the wings, no rings". Or maybe I made that up. Turns out that actually a pound does not get you very much after all, as it appears that this morning's bird in London is the same individual as seen at Lakenheath - flight footage obtained from a passing birder's car in Cheshunt shows that it too has been clipped at some point. Ineffectively clipped you would have to say.

Anyway, in for a penny in for a pound....

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Ten species of Gull on the patch

Seagull (part of)

This is a post about Gulls. Not in praise of Gulls, just about Gulls. I don't often spend time thinking about Gulls but it has just occured to me that we have had ten species on the patch this year. Ten!  Isn't that amazing? Having just checked the historical records over on the other blog that we collectively contribute to I can see that in fact ten species of Gull is all we have ever had. Incredible therefore to get them all within a few weeks. To save you clicking through (and to flesh out this post - there is only so much I can say about Gulls), here is the relevant extract from our site list. 

Black-headed Gull: Resident, with significant increase in winter.

Counts of 400+ not unusual on the Flats in winter. During flooding caused by heavy rains on Wanstead Flats on 28th February 2010, an estimated 2000+ birds were present.

Common Gull: Winter visitor.
The commonest Gull on the Flats in winter, with counts of 500+ not unusual.
1000+ present on 28th February 2010

Kittiwake: Very rare
A bird flying over the Shoulder of Mutton Pond on 19th August 2011
Wanstead Flats 25th March 2012 (NC)
Wanstead Flats 13th April 2013 (JL)
An exhausted bird on Wanstead flats on the 7th January 2014 (NC)
A 1W on Wanstead Flats 9th February 2021 (RR)

Mediterranean Gull: Scarce annual visitor
A regular returning bird was thought to account for annual winter records
2014 had reports of at least 6 birds, so probably increasing
More recently a long-staying bird over the winter 2020/21 (RR), joined briefly by a second bird on 19th December 2021 (JL/TB).

Herring Gull: Regular winter visitor
Regular in small numbers on the Flats in winter, with larger numbers flying over to and from the Chingford Reservoirs.
The largest count was of 82 on February 28th 2010

Yellow-legged Gull: Scarce visitor
May be found on the Flats, usually in late summer.
2017 was a good year with a number of sightings reported including 2 birds that became resident from September onwards by Alexandra Lake (2w and 3w).
More recently several 2CY birds in early 2021.

Caspian Gull: Rare winter visitor
A bird seen briefly on February 26th 2011 (JL) 
A 1st winter bird from November 2015 on and off to February 2016 (BV)
A 1st winter bird on Alex 4th-5th November 2018 (NC,JH)
Becoming more regular in recent years, latest record of either a single or two 1W birds on 5th April 2021.
Iceland Gull: Extremely rare
A first winter bird toured the Flats 23rd March 2021 and was seen on and off for three days (MH)

Great Black-backed Gull: Scarce winter visitor
Usually as a flyover, most probably to and from the roosts on the Chingford Reservoirs. 
An adult has been regular on the Brick pit in the past few winters
A record of 41 on the Flats on 7th October 2001 is exceptional

Lesser Black-backed Gull: Resident breeder
A few remain over summer in the Park and Flats, with more coming in during the winter. Peak count of 50 on 1st October 2010

Small adult winter Seagull

Most of these gulls are regular. I could go out on pretty much any winter day and come home, figuratively speaking, with four species, and quite possibly five or six. Common Gulls are probably the, err, commonest in winter, with many hundreds loafing around on the football pitches, but the Black-headed Gulls give them a run for their money. There are generally always a handful of Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls around, and in extremely wet weather these numbers can swell dramatically as they paddle-feed on the saturated short grass. Great Black-backed Gull is most often a flyover although they occasionally come down for a bit, and if we have a Yellow-legged Gull they can quite often be faithful to a particular pond or puddle for a few days. The others are little less predictable. Caspian Gull is probably more regular than Med Gull at the moment, but previously it has been the other way around, and Kittiwake remains a very hard bird to get on the list. And as for Iceland Gull.....

1W large but slim Seagull

There are of course notable gaps on the list. Little Gull would seem to be the most obvious one. They're regularly seen on passage on both the river and the Chingford reservoirs and we sit exactly between them yet have never seen one. I once had a small first winter Gull distantly flying away from me over the Flats with that classic W on the back but I could not safely rule out Kittiwake on the views I got. I suppose that one day someone will simply find one bobbing about next to a Mallard, but for now the wait goes on. 

Small adult Seagull (black-legged morph)

Back in the day I would have said that we stood a decent chance of one of the returning wintering Ring-billed Gulls turning up, especially give the number of Common Gulls we get, but that never happened and now of course all those the regular birds have departed (this life probably) and the species has become rare again. 

I've seen Sabine's Gull on the reservoirs and Bonaparte's Gull on the river, both about five miles away. Is there a slim chance of one of those two? And if we can get an Iceland Gull could we also get a Glaucous Gull? I think we can. We just need to have our eyes open and our wits about us, and one day it will surely happen. 

1W large pale Seagull

Monday 5 April 2021

3D people

My world has become a little bit bigger, a blessed relief. I've left Wanstead a couple of times and visited two different sets of people in their gardens. Not on zoom calls, not via face time, but socialising with actual people. Real live people, what a luxury! When you factor in the nicer weather and longer evenings, and that so many people (including some we visited) have had the first vaccination, it does begin to feel as if a corner has been turned. There is a long way to go before any kind of normality resumes - foreign travel for instance seems a million miles away still, but to be able to leave London legitimately felt important.

Overwhelmingly though most of my time is still spent here in Wanstead, and that will continue for the forseeable future so I had best get used to it. The birding has been just about OK. I've still seen just that one Wanstead Wheatear back in March, but on my daily walks it is clear that Chiffchaff and Blackcap are both in - there is a singing specimen of the latter in my garden. Willow Warbler are being heard most days, and we bagged an early and very very beautiful male Common Redstart at the end of March. The same day I scooped a jammy flyover Yellowhammer, not a bird I see here every year by any means.

Today I added my first hirundines with both Swallow and House Martin, and one last gasp of winter in the form of a Caspian Gull. This is #94 for the year and is easily my best start. I've never managed 100 before the end of April before and so this is now my target. With a lot of birds still to come in I'm mildly hopeful I can get there.