Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rapturous Applause

“Where do I begin to tell the story

Of how great a patch can be?

The sweet love story that is older than the sea

The simple truth about the year ticks brought to me

Where do I start?”

I was moved this afternoon, moved to go and find a Marsh Harrier over the patch, I should probably have moved to a different patch as Andrew S, at Brent, had one and I didn’t. But what an afternoon, truly moving, dare I say Rapturous. As Andy Williams put it above, where do I begin?

I arrived at the car park at the same time as a couple of visiting birders, we checked out the log book and they decided to have a crack at the Scaup on the West Warwick, I was already inclined to go up to the Lockwood and decided this would be the best policy as I could, hopefully, grill them later about the Southern side of the complex.

I spotted the familiar figure of Lol B about 200 metres ahead of me (disturbingly the last couple of times we have bumped into each other he has been dressed the same as me, camo trousers and a blue fleece. In fact he’s now cut his hair, probably in an attempt to look as young as me. I wonder if he’s been watching ‘Single White Female?’) I phoned him and said “don’t flush anything till I catch up”. He accused me of stalking him. I suppose that makes us quits.

He didn’t flush anything although Andrew, another birder we bumped into, had just seen a Wheatear in the very spot we were all standing in but we couldn’t see it. They had both done the circuit of the reservoir for little reward so I decided just to sit on the blockhouse and see what drifted over, one day my ‘circus’ will roll into town.

Andrew had no sooner left us when Lol spotted a high circling Raptor that very quickly materialised into an Osprey, we ran after him but he had vanished. This bird was a day earlier than the one Lol found last year, and to think he always says that Mark P exudes Raptor pheromones! We called a few of the Ally Pally boys but really it would have been a long shot for them as it was well to the North.

Buoyed by our success we scanned the skies in earnest and came up with a Buzzard, Lol had seen one 30 minutes earlier, and, after another 20 minutes we got a third. Next up was a Peregrine with some huge item of prey at least the size of a Turkey, well nearly as big as itself; it was clearly struggling to stay airborne and was circling trying to gain height. As it did so it came under sustained attack by what was clearly a much smaller Falcon, let’s just say it didn’t look like a Kestrel or Hobby, enough said...we don’t claim just anything on mega-distant views you know. Anyway the Merlin, er, small Falcon, soon disappeared and the Peregrine went down somewhere in the Walthamstow area, I don’t suppose it’s breeding there, probably just couldn’t carry the weight any further.

It got a bit colder and Lol headed off for home and I headed for the Southern section. Within a minute he phoned to say the Wheatear was right in front of him but as I turned back I received a text from Mark ‘pheremones’ P to say they had a Short-eared Owl over Walthamstow, I got Lol to come back for a look whilst I phoned Mark for more gen. Apparently they had lost it five minutes earlier but we persisted in scanning in the appropriate direction and were rewarded with it low to the South-east five minutes later. Another splendid bird for the year.

Jono L at Wanstead had obviously got wind of the Owl and phoned to see if it was coming his way, it was sort of, but then turned back and seemed to drop down in the Walthamstow/Hackney marsh area. I suspect he returned to back-calculating the route of our earlier Osprey, in the scandalous hope of proving it had flown over Wanstead!

We added a, probably breeding, pair of Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk to the days tally and headed over to the East Warwick where there were two female Wheatears on the West bank, singing Sedge Warbler by the railway and distant scope views of the two female Scaup, on the West Warwick. I picked up another Raptor with my bins but just couldn’t get it in the scope, by this time I think we were straining our eyes to just beyond their technical limits. Then Lol got the next text from Stoke Newington “Goshawk with prey to the South-east,” sadly try as we might it eluded us but we did see yet another Peregrine.

The best of the rest were the increase in singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, surely this means the other Warblers are only days away now. Later we bumped into Val, who I see occasionally on a Sunday on the Res’s, it turns out that she works in the same office as me, I mean the actual office....10 metres away, and has done for a year! It’s a marvel I can identify any birds at all. Enough! Don’t start.


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