Sunday 14 January 2024

Playing it cool for the Waterthrush

I made the trip to Heybridge this morning to see the Northern Waterthrush. I had wondered when the first over-wintering Yank would be found after the mega-fall in the autumn, but a bird an hour away in Essex had not been on my radar at all. It was found late last week I think, just as I was leaving the country. There was no need to panic as I'd seen the bird on Scilly many years ago, but part of me felt that fear of missing out. A Waterthrush! In Essex! Happily it was still on offer when I got back yesterday. Otherwise engaged, I had to wait until today, but the bird played ball.

Mick picked me up around 8am, and by 9.20am we were on site. Twenty minutes of that was the walk from the designated car park near Heybridge Basin, so it was of course rather disappointing (but not in the least surprising) to discover that many there had decided that parking opposite the bird and in front of people's houses at 7am on a Sunday morning was absolutely A-OK. Clearly more convenient but imagine if that were your house. I'd be properly pissed off.

We had missed the early morning showings, but the bird returned a few hours later as has consistently been the case the last few days. A good thing it did as by this point, sitting on the cold ground, my backside was numb. Shutters went nuts as you can imagine, including my own, although somehow I had managed to dial in the ISO to 8000 when I had meant to stop at 3200. Oh well, at least it meant a reasonably decent shutter speed - it is quite dark in the bird's favoured ditch. It landed in small oak first, giving the game away with its sharp metallic call as it dropped in. Pausing momentarily it then skipped into the ditch and started to feed along the edges, coming ever closer. Oh boy. 

It may have jumped up onto the nice mossy culvert wall, but we will never know as when the bird was reasonably close and getting closer a long blast of a car horn sent it skittering back down the channel and soon after that it was off. Presumably this was a local venting his or her frustration at having to slalom down their own street. People were sarcastically irritated - "Thanks mate!", "Bet that was on purpose", but you reap what you sow frankly. 

In other news I had a quick mooch around the western side of Wanstead Flats later in the afternoon, hoping to pick up Tony's Med Gull that Richard had refound when I was in Essex. I wasn't holding out a great deal of hope that it was there still, but soon after meeting Nick and agreeing that it had likely done one I picked it out in the melee. A bird I didn't get on the patch last year - alongside Snipe and Lapwing, both of which have already fallen (to others!) this year. Funny how these things pan out. It was to get better though, as standing chewing the fat with Nick back towards my house he picked out a Great White Egret flying over us. Remarkably it landed in what we call the 'Boggy Bit' and as the inevitable flushing by our four-legged friends occured I was able to video it flying off. This was my 7th GWE for the patch, all of which have been since 2018 - clearly increasing. So all in all a fine day with a few decent birds to kick off the year with.

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