Saturday, 30 April 2016

Before the Lord Mayor's Show

Saturday's annual patch watch may have been just around the corner but there was a distinct lack of bunting and pagentary as I left the house at 4.30am on Friday.... Where were the pipes and timbrels? Where was the wild ecstasy? And, where, for crying out loud, was the golden coach?

Unfortunately, I had to make do with the 158 bus....

As I trudged off towards the Banbury in the dark, I began to question my sanity. What on earth was I doing? Why bird the patch from dawn to dusk, knowing full well that no-one else would be around to share any news of their finds. That I would have to cover the ground from Tottenham Marsh to Leyton on my own, then turn around and work it all again.

Then, as I turned into Sandpiper Lane, I heard a buzzing sound. Someone once said that 'Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / are sweeter.' Poor old Johnny Keats might have known a thing or two about birding but with a patch tick up for grabs, the Grasshopper Warbler calling over 1/4 mile away was sweet enough for me.

The bird rose up out of the brambles and performed really well (these photos were taken slightly later on in better light).... Ye trilly pipes, play on....

Just as the light began to rise, I decided to walk around Wild Marsh East in search of a Whinchat, when Lol B's Short Eared Owl from yesterday evening reappeared. It spent about 5 minutes hunting over the marsh between 5am-5.10am, then disappeared (presumably over the trees towards the Lockwood) as I was setting up my camera.

I met up with Jamie, Paul and David C. but aside from a few Common Sandpipers and a Yellow Wagtail on the Lockwood, there was very little else on the Northern side of the Reservoirs.

The Southern side was a bit better with yesterday's Garden Warbler lingering under the Pylons between Nos. 1 and 2. Even better, I found a mixed flock of about 20 Arctic and Common Terns on the West Warwick, with at least 14 Arctics in amongst them.

To be honest, the rest of the day was a real slog. There was a single Wheatear on the paddocks but it took me until 2pm to find a Goldfinch and 3pm to find a House Sparrow.

After giving up all hope of finding anything new, I went back to photograph the Gropper. On a brief, unsuccessful detour for a Collared Dove on the allotments, I found a female Redstart that took me to 70 species for the day. Not too bad, but probably par for the course.

The Gropper was now pretty elusive but miraculously the Short Eared Owl reappeared at 4.30pm, when it was mobbed by crows over the Lockwood. I managed to reel off a few flight shots.

It briefly settled on Tottenham Marsh but was soon flushed onto the Banbury by an unwitting dog walker. I think there's a good chance that it's the same bird that Paul and Jamie saw around two weeks ago, especially if it has been roosting on the Banbury.

Hopefully it sticks around for tomorrow.


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