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?


  1. To answer your last question, sadly not very much!

  2. Brilliant work! Bet the neighbours enjoyed their free eyeful this am!

  3. Sounds very similar to a blackcap?