I was itching to get on the patch after a weekend away, hoping for a Bar-tailed Godwit, the bird-du-jour. There is a, probably unprecedented, passage of these taking place up channel at the moment and many are cutting the corner and coming through London.
However I was also offered a space on a trip to Dungeness this morning which was almost as tempting (Mmm....Spring Pom) the starting time was 04:00; so Walthamstow it was then!
First up was the Lockwood, sans Godwits, I’m afraid. Best were 2 Common Sandpipers and a fly through Little Ringed Plover, battling in todays, very annoying, wind. Swifts had increased tremendously and there was well into three figures floating around. On the Low Maynard a hybrid Tufted x Pochard (probably visiting from Stoke Newington or Alexandra Palace) was chasing a female Pochard with about six other male Pochard. Such uncouth behaviour!
I bumped into Mike M later and he greeted me with those dreaded words.....’I know what I wanted to tell you!’ Actually he is a mine of information and always has something new to reveal of what has been seen on the lower patch. My ears were well and truly pricked.
‘That Mandarin has been seen quite a few times from the Golf Course (Grr.) The Little Owl has been seen a few times by the Lea too (Grrr.) Oh, and I had a male Whinchat on the marsh last week (Grrrr.) And (there was an and!) I had a Grassshopper Warbler on the marsh since I last saw you’.
Oh! When was that? ‘Tuesday 26th’ Hmm, interesting, Dave M had one on the 22nd. It can’t be the same bird can it? Perhaps we can check it out later. We popped over to the Southern reservoirs first and tried for Pete L’s Garden Warbler, he’s been seeing/hearing one for about 10 days now just North of the East Warwick in a Willow, I’m glad to say it’s still there (he had it later this afternoon too). There was not too much to report from the rest of the site so, after a Coffee stop we headed for the marsh. Zip on the riding stables Little Owl but 2 Yellow Wagtails flew over the back paddock, one landing and showing well. A Wheatear was still present, could it really be the same one or do we have a constant turnover of Wheatears in the paddock? There were quite a few singing Lesser Whitethroats too, one of which gave me a chance for photography.
Then onto the boardwalk, Eastern end if you are interested, nothing much stirred so I suggested we walk about twenty metres towards the railway line where Mike had seen the Gropper last week. I played my iphone briefly and a Grasshopper Warbler flew up and dropped into the Reedy edge, not prolonged views but enough to see it’s yellowy underside, darkish Olive back and rounded tail as it landed. A few moments later it appeared at the edge of the Reeds and sang for a few seconds, remaining on view just long enough to tempt me to try for a photograph, needless to say not long enough for me to succeed. This was definitely bird of the day, my only patch records were of singing birds in June/July 1982 and on a couple of dates in August 1991, so at this rate the next is due about 2026......unless this is an extremely cryptic visitor, after all they really prefer to sing at dusk, which is not my favourite time for visiting the marsh.
The Mandarin had chosen to swim back down to Hackney, the Little Owl by the Lea was a no show, though at least I now know the Tree and the Waterworks gave us precious few additions to the day list, though Green Sandpiper and Snipe are still persisting. All in I had 69 species for the day, which is fairly respectable but I could have done with a few more Waders and Terns. The guys got the spring Poms by the way, am I bovvered though?