Thursday, 15 October 2015

Sweet Sixteen

He's arrived. That well travelled local celebrity is here again. Back for his sixteenth (yes, sixteenth) winter, Valentino! Yes, please do go ahead, applause there is justifiable. London's most famous gull has returned.
 It's always a worry in early October that maybe this year Valentino won't return. At around eighteen now he's getting on.  How long is it before he retires and spends his winters on a Mediterranean beach rather than a eutrophicated lake with rats in London? Or worse, abandons us for Wanstead.  After making a few excursions to the flats last year that's a growing possibility.
 But let's not think about that, for now, let us just rejoice. What a bird!

Monday, 12 October 2015


I can at times be a bit of a sceptic.  After twitching a Red-footed Falcon which never even existed, I now like to have a little more than a single tweet to go on - Pictures help too.
 So when, on Friday a Yellow-browed Warbler was reported from Regent's Park, although I didn't completely doubt it, I thought it a little odd.  Last year I had my first Yellow-browed Warbler, an individual which took two attempts to see. It was also one of, if not London's only Yellow-brow that year.  That was at Regent's Park too, coincidence? Sure, why not?
There was only one reporting, but I was heading that way on Saturday anyway, so it was worth a look.  Checking where in the park it had been seen threw up another little oddity: It was seen at the north-east end of the lake before flying to the island. Huh, that's where it was last year. The coincidence grows, as does the scepticism.
 Having spent an hour or so searching the area without even hearing a call, we decided to give up with no warbler and go and photograph the Herons.  Funnily enough that's also what happened last year.

So no, this - unfortunately - doesn't have the kind of ending where the coincidences were just coincidences and the bird was there showing nice as you like.  If only.  However, I don't believe it to be a tale of falsehoods and stringing.  It was reported by people who I believe are good birders, so I'm sure it was there.  At first at least, to save face I'll say it wasn't there when I went.
 As such, it is at risk of contradicting myself that I say, in this case perhaps being sceptical was wrong and it was just a pure fluke of coincidence.  Or, just a returning bird with a routine it likes to stick to, even if it was eight days earlier this year.
 But what am I thinking, last year it took two attempts, so let's see what happens this week.  Just ignore the hindering factor it hasn't been reported again and is probably a hundred or so miles away by now.  Or maybe a little closer to home perhaps?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A Birding Moral

Phalaropes are great. I've seen two of the three species, Grey, and as of last week Wilson's.
 Filled with an enviable (for us oldies, I'm nearly sixteen) and seemingly endless energy, they never appear to stop moving.  You'd think they'd be a nemesis to photographers. Not so. With Grey at least they're practically a photographers best friend, particularly if they're in Sussex. They seem to know no boundaries, being more than 24 inches away is out of the norm. A photographer would generally suffer from having 'too much lens'. And as we all know, photographers - generally - love complaining about not having enough lens. So too much? Basically unheard of. This was how both last year's Hove 'play-ground-paddling-pool' bird, and the recent bird on the Cuckmere  performed.  I went for the Hove bird, it was amazing. The Cuckmere bird was showing just as well, and in more natural habitat, you could bet your hat I was going to go! What's more you could be sure I was going to get the first train of the day there. It's practically guaranteed I'd walk the three or so miles from the station to get there before sunrise.  And you know what? It was down right certain the Phalarope would show amazingly.
 This was to be my third Grey Phal. The Hove bird, a hardly tick-able fly-by from a pelagic, and then this. Ignore the fly-by, this was going to rival the Hove bird, this one was going to be great. Wasn't it?
Nope. Nee.  Nein.
 The bird had moved from a small pool to what would probably be classed as a lagoon. In which it stuck to a single current and never came closer that 15-20 foot, more often 50. Terrible.  At the time I'll admit, to my shame, I was a little disappointed. A scarce migrant down to 20 foot, that should be amazing, shouldn't it?  In the moment, it didn't really seem so. There's a simple answer here - the Hove bird ruined it for me. Well, that and the pictures from the day before.

                                                             I mean it's not that bad

 Does this mean then, that unless my next Grey Phalarope is less than two foot away I'll be disappointed? Honestly, I hope not. How often do they show quite that well anyway?  I'm sure two in the last two years is just a coincidence.  At least with Wilson's it just needs to be within 500 foot, and Red-necked just needs to be there...
 The moral of this story? Never (ever), have expectations with birding.  Or, just make sure you go the day before.

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