For birders, work is a curse. Of course, work is a curse for non-birders too. But nothing quite gets the expletives rolling like working on your day off, only to return home and find out that a Marsh Harrier has flown over the patch. Throw in a Bullfinch as well, and the air is likely to turn an even deeper shade of blue. Work, to paraphrase Lenny Bruce, is a four letter word.
Determined to make up for lost time, I spent four hours ambling around the Marshes and Southern Reservoirs on Saturday morning. Things started nicely, with the usual five species of gull and a Grey Wagtail on Coppermill Lane. There was neither sight nor sound of yesterday's Bullfinch, but I'm sure it will appear again. Probably on Monday morning...
Ignoring the paddocks, I moved swiftly to the Bomb Crater Field, hoping to add Snipe to my patch year list. After missing them on the Waterworks and the West Warwick in January, I managed to turn up 5 Snipe in total. I decided to skip the North London Derby, which turned out for the best in the end, but the less said of this the better. The Horseshoe Thicket held a Greater Spotted Woodpecker and a female Sparrowhawk flew low over the Marshes. I spent another hour looking for the Bullfinch to no avail, but managed some compensation with a couple of Chiffchaffs, which were also new for the year. Needless to say, the Marsh Harrier didn't feel like re-appearing either.
Once I got to the Reservoirs, I set my mind to sewing up some of the gaping holes in my patchy patch year list. With only a couple of hours spare, I stuck to both the Warwicks. The two immature Scaup were still mixed in with the Tufteds on the East Warwick; looking great in almost full drake plumage. I later bumped into DB, who told me that the other drake Scaup was still on the Lockwood, with a couple of Goldeneye.
Wandering up the bank, my eyes were fixed on the reeds for a skulking Water Rail, when I heard a Lapwing flying overhead. It took me a few seconds to pick the bird out in the sky, as it was flying higher than the pylons. Still, a cracking addition to my year list and only my second on the patch in the last year, which was also on the East Warwick.
On my way to the West Warwick, a female Stonechat flew along the margins, but the reed-beds on eastern edge of the West Warwick held a bigger surprise, as I accidentally flushed 9 Snipe. None all year, then fourteen in two hours. Like London buses... Apart from that, the West Warwick still held 4 Goldeneye and the imm. Wigeon, which was also new for the year.
So, 56 species in four hours, which took my patch year list to 67. All in all, that's not a bad day's work.