Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Happiness is the first trans-Saharan migrant of the spring....

An early start filming with auntie beeb at Walthamstow this morning gave me a good reason to slink a few kilometres away from Stoke Newington (thus easing my guilt of patch unfaithfulness), and as I was there, it seemed a good idea to cover it properly.

Starting at 0730 and staying on the south side, a female Goosander, a Green Sandpiper, three Chiffys and a male Blackcap were all recorded alongside the multitudes of common waterbirds, including Great Crested Grebes (one of the intended Natural World star turns and today's centre of attention), which performed impeccably.

Within a couple of metres of the camera a Cetti's Warbler started up, and continued throughout, apparently the first here this year; ditto at least two Water Rails nearby (all of which are worth listening out for in the background of the film...).

Lunch at the nearby Ferry Boat Inn seemed like a good idea at the time and a bad idea just minutes later, when eight quid's worth of microwaved crap (a.k.a 'Jamaican stew' and the only vegetarian option in an encyclopaedic menu of rot) arrived with a fanfare; for 'great home-cooked food every day', read 'putting the enteritis into Gastro pubs'.

Moving swiftly along, it was time to cover the northern reservoirs in the hope of interesting wildfowl or a stray wader or two. The Maynards held little, and so around the Lockwood, heading anti-clockwise towards the edge of Tottenham Marsh, with a blustery south-westerly and sunny intervals still reguarly breaking through. Nine Goldeneye and another two redhead Goosanders were out on the waves, but no waders lurked along the favoured habitat in the north-east corner.

Continuing round and down along the western bank, walking along the edge itself is often productive, with small, hidden pockets of mud and shingle attracting otherwise unnoticed shorebirds. A group of waders flushed from one such pocket (no more than a couple of metres long and hidden from the main bank), which consisted of six Green Sandpipers, a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.

Content with a good selection of birds and with thoughts directed at kicking back with something edible to hand, a glorious, pin-sharp male Northern Wheatear whipped across the water in front of me and landed on the bank nearby.

The first true southern visitor of the year, the first Oenanthe to make landfall in London in 2011, and an unadulterated joy.

(Courtsey of Mark Pearson)

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