You have to have a plan. Mine was the marsh for Passerines this morning and then the reservoirs. Somehow I found myself at the reservoirs first. You have to be flexible.
The good news was that the Mandarin found by Pete L on Monday had been written in the Bird log for yesterday and in the same place, so I walked between No. 1 and No. 2, which I seldom do, to get a look at the West side of the island on No.2 where the Mandarin was supposed to be, it was not there. I walked around to view the South side of the island, it was not there either. Just as I was considering my next move it flew in (117 for the year) from behind me and scooted under the branches of the island, judging by the bright bill and greeny-blue trailing edge of the wing I think it is most likely an eclipse male and therefore possibly the same as the Bird that has been giving me the run around on the Lea for nearly a year. (This was only my second ever, the first a male on 15th November 1989) The trouble with having a Chinese Duck for a patch year tick is you want another one half an hour later.
Further down the track between No. 1 and No. 2 I came across a large Warbler and Tit flock which included singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. At the bottom of No.3 I came across Kevin M who had just seen the Whinchat which Pete L had found on Monday. He walked back round with me to the West side of the East Warwick where the Whinchat was feeding from low vegetation and on the deck at close range. 118 (who you gonna call?) for the year. A Yellow Wagtail was calling from the West Warwick but didn’t fly. A Greenshank was calling from the North somewhere but also could not be seen.
My plan of the doing the marsh was scrapped as the weather was now warming up, slightly, and with very light winds the prospect of a Raptor or two made the bottom of the Lockwood seem a good bet. A couple of Jackdaws feeding on the East bank was unusual for this time of the year, 6-7 Common Sandpipers was most definitely not unusual, I think they are just going to stay until Winter now, albeit in diminishing numbers.
My reckoning was that the Raptors, if they were to appear, would come from the South-east so I walked half way up the East bank so as to have a good view to the South, Kevin stayed put at the South end reckoning they would come from the North. After nearly an hour I was about ready to give up and go so walked back down to the South, we chatted for a bit when suddenly Kevin shouted “what’s that? It’s a Raptor; it’s a Harrier, Marsh Harrier!” It had come from behind us, the South-east and was going away, I got onto it shortly after and could see a large Raptor flapping with heavy strokes on wings held flat, I could see it was not a Buzzard of any flavour and wasn’t a Kite, but as we were only getting one angle on it I was reluctant to call it a Marsh Harrier especially as I need it for my patch list and also as the wings were quite broad and I had ruled out everything else I felt it was going to be an Osprey. It carried on without turning and I was now beginning to fear that it would remain, for me, unidentified, I was willing it to do something, anything, and then it did, it turned sideways, started to circle and showed itself to be a female Marsh Harrier (slight inner primary moult on the Left wing suggested an adult rather than juvenile). Good old Kevin, he was right all along and he had found me a patch tick, 119 for the year but better still, 188 for the patch. Just then another Birder, Terry from Tottenham, who we had spotted coming along the bank earlier, had got within calling range and got to see it too.
I had swapped from scope to bins at this point and in trying to relocate the Bird clapped eyes on what to me looked like a Sparrowhawk, mainly because it was, and was confused when Kevin said he had got two Harriers, ‘no’ I said, the other one is a Sparrowhawk, he said they are both together, I looked again and there were three Birds in a spiral, my Sparrowhawk but above them the first Marsh Harrier with, yes, another Harrier! They all circled round lazily over Tottenham marsh for a while before heading off North-west. Terry cursing he was not on his patch, Tottenham marsh, me, slightly cursing that I was not at home, they would have come right over my house and Kevin muttering something about how glad he was to have found Marsh Harrier on his new patch which was probably the best attitude. As if this was not excitement enough less than five minutes later Kevin picked up another adult female Marsh Harrier coming in from the same direction, this one was lower and closer than the first two, it was also in wing moult on the Left wing but more so. It too got over Tottenham marsh gained height and went off North-west. A Hobby going South hardly got a look in.
It’s not every day you get a new patch Bird, especially the one at the top of your wanted list, having looked for one so long it made me think, what now was at the top of the wanted list? Red-backed Shrike I decided. Friday on the marsh would be ideal! Now there's a plan.