Tuesday, 12 January 2010

They're coming thick and fast!

Everything is relative obviously, my patch is never going to set world records, but it's been a nice few days... I was on 43 at the time of my last post, I am now on 48, including 2 patch ticks!
As planned, I went to the Thames early on Friday, to discover that it was high tide (my fault, I should have checked) and that part of the path has been closed off while the Environment Agency does some remedial work apparently. I can still see the whole foreshore but it forces me to go via the back street and walk by the ginkgo trees, 2 of which are female and had tons of fruit this year. One advantage at least of the cold is that the smell is reduced... Whatever you do never stand downwind of a fruiting gingko (unless you have no sense of smell)!
I could hear the House Sparrows from way back, always a reassuring sound. I think they may be roosting in the ivy growing on the wall of Rainville Court, or it's a staging post, but, in any case, I saw 4 of them go from one to the other as I was approaching.
Few birds around on the river, a Shelduck a few Gadwalls, Teals and Tufted Ducks, 2 Pied & 1 Grey Wagtails milling around on or near Crabtree beach. For an exotic touch, 4 Egyptian Geese turned up, 1 of the pale head variety. Different year, different times... Last year it took forever before I saw one of those of the river, this year I see them pretty much every time. Same thing with Kestrels. Funny. Actually, I could see a Kestrel perched in a tree on the other side of the river.
A Great Crested Grebe turned up, making it #44 for the year.
I was thinking it was time to go, nothing else was really going to turn up, when I saw lots of birds lift up by the Wetland Centre. Initially thought it was the crows but as soon as I had them in my bins it was obvious it was Lapwings! Possibly about 50 of them. I'd been waiting for something like this forever... Some people go on about flocks of Starlings, Knots, Geese, you name it, for me lapwings do it. I don't know if it's because it was a common sight where I grew up (Normandy countryside) but that's how it is. They followed the river south until slightly before the bend where they flew back inland & I lost them behind the trees. At no point were they on my patch. There has been a fair amount of discussion this month on the londonbirders mailing list regarding which birds to count or not. The rule chosen in the end was "either you or the bird has to be on the patch" but I am in favour of "the bird has to be on or over the patch', which is what how I have counted birds sofar, and had decided to stick to my rule. So I was in a bit of a quandary: "do I count them or not?" Plus it would be a patch tick, but a patch tick not on patch proper somehow didn't sound right. I decided to mull it over and decide later.
I made a quick visit in the afternoon at low tide, as I'd forgotten my rule of not going by the river on sunny winter days, all I get is a headache. I did indeed get one of those, got totally blinded by the sun reflecting on the water, but I also got #45 in the shape of 4 Coots. Coots are actually less common on this stretch of the river than Moorhens, so it was nice and provided some light relief.

I decided to give the Thames a miss on Saturday morning, in part as I needed to help TOH, but I did a quick visit mid-afternoon. I had just arrived and was doing a first scan of the foreshore, when I heard a tweet. Lifted my bins. YES! There on the foreshore, on patch, proper!

A Lapwing doing patch proper (Counting Coots ™)
(I was probably just as excited as he was a few days beforehand)

Quandary over for now. #46.
It flew off, but then it, or another one, landed on the mud even closer, giving me a chance for more photos, and then it flew off (again).

To be continued...

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