Thursday, 13 October 2011

An Exaltation of Skylarks

The collective noun, apparently. It’s probably about right as far as Walthamstow goes. Today I had more Skylarks on the patch than in the last 5 years put together, parties of 2,5,1,1, all moving North.

An Exasperation of Larks doesn’t quite have the same ring.
I have been off the patch quite a bit lately; you can take that whatever way you want. To say my enthusiasm has waned is not far from the truth. I have put in a stack of effort this year and the results have been, well, unstartling. I know the whole of the South-east has not had an especially good year with the weather often being too fine or too poor for delivering migrants but Walthamstow seems to have underperformed by anyone’s standards, let alone mine.

I have just finished tallying up my spreadsheet to send off to the county recorder and realised how bad it has been, my best finds include Dunlin, Whimbrel, Red-crested Pochard and Black Tern, I say include but really that’s it. I’ve also seen Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl found by others but it’s just not enough, I need more.
I have never done patch yearlisting before and think I now know the reason! It has been educational however, over the last 2-3 years I now know that the patch gets about 130-150 species a year and if I work it hard I will get to see about 120-130 of them. More than 100 of them will be the same old same old that turn up every year, a handful will be species that you will only see on the patch every 5-10 years and a much smaller handful will be scarcities, note not rarities, they really are rare here.

Last week I decided I couldn’t do Cold Turkey any longer and went to Cornwall via Essex and also visited Suffolk. It was fantastic. I saw Birds, lots of Birds, very many of them were scarce, and quite a few were even RARE. In three days I saw more than the whole of the year at Walthamstow. I seawatched, twitched and found my own Birds too, it was pure joy.

Therefore my new year’s resolution (what do you mean it’s only October? I could be Jewish) is ditch the patch and go and see some proper Birds. It will of course mean ditching the blog too, which was only ever intended to be a bit of an experiment and was meant to enthuse the vast cadre of Walthamstow Birders(!) into a mass of blogging and birding team work but has ended up with mostly me whining on about the place. It has become the cruel task master I never wanted it to be, having to come in from a hard slog on the patch and then enthuse about Skylarks for 1000 words....

Anyhoo, what of today? It was actually not bad, after a few days away and not having Birded the patch for a couple of weeks I was sort of looking forward to it (hypocritical? Moi?). A spin around the Waterworks N.R. was productive with a clear arrival of Blackbirds, a few Song Thrushes and a couple of parties of Redwings. Just a single Chiffchaff on the small Passerine front. 3 Wigeon in the first bed were nice. I had only just been thinking how ‘Scilly-like’ the place looked with the small clumps of Sallows, little pools, Reeds etc when I saw a Snipe in one of the other beds, at least you don’t have to worry about Wilson’s Snipe here I thought, at which point the Bird came out from the Reeds and made me stop what I had been thinking, it did look just like a Wilson’s, just then it started preening and I was hoping it would spread its tail, flash it’s underwing, show it’s trailing edge and make me famous, I reached for my cameraphone and it walked into the Reeds. Just imagine if it turns out to be a Wilson’s....I might have to carry on watching the patch, hmm! (It’s an obviously Grey Bird and it’s in the third bed on the left as you enter the hide if you’re interested, I will certainly keep an eye open for it)
Later on the reservoirs I met up with Lol and we walked the Lockwood, 9 Skylark, maybe 20+ Meadow Pipits and 5 Lapwings went North. There were about 30 Teal on the banks and 9 Little Egrets feeding around the edge of the High Maynard along with a group of fishing Cormorants, both a little unusual and possibly due to the murky conditions earlier not being conducive to feeding further afield.

On the Southern section a Common Sandpiper on the East Warwick was the highlight.
On this date: 13 10 01 A 1st winter Grey Phalarope showed well on the Banbury this afternoon, occasionally down to 10m, also Common Sandpiper.

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