31 January 2011

January tucked away for another year

So January, how did we do? Out of the 76 species now recorded on the patch Jono has amassed 64, and myself 60/57 in favour of the park (68 in all). A bit of a disappointment when considering the two previous months I pinged-in 74 species, but definitely better than last year when my combined effort was 43, however I had reached 150 on my year list. Still missing from both our lists are the elusive Kingfisher, Woodcock(scarce since the new year), Firecrest, absent Little Egret, Blackcap (though someone has reported one in Wanstead somewhere), Buzzard, Stonechat (here last year until the second ice age probably saw him off), the Little Owl (hopefully just on vacation in the cemetery or somewhere close) and a host of potential fly-overs. So February, a bit of unknown territory for me as I was all over the place chasing ducks, thrush and stuff last year and I didn't manage one visit to the patch. And now some science....

30 January 2011

Red head amnaesia therapy

We left our hero stumbling around Wanstead, emotionally and physically stunned. What a difference two days of standing about in the cold make. First the pain at Rainham where a nice volunteer helper showed me a Caspian Gull through his scope. Yay! What an absolute disappointment, doubt I'll be able to spot another just yet. So I bought the "Gulls of Europe... ", which if all else fails will be a handy tool in case of insomnia. The afternoon picked up when a Lapland Bunting called from one of the field margins - couldn't find it though. Pushed up my patch list to remain stubbornly in a distant second place. Today thankfully it was not so cold and I got the sense early that something good was going to happen. It didn't for a long time, and then only after a visit to the little tea shop of happiness. Failing to find the Rail for the fifth consecutive visit in a row (it seams likely it has been Incorporated into a Heron!) I edged down the south side of Perch. Over the other side I could see a cigar shaped object swimming out from trees down the edge of the ice. Cue expletive(s). A beautiful red head, the first I've seen on the patch, ever. Woo-hoo! Phoned Jono to get him to come down, but he was in Essex. Texted Tim and Stuart. Stu was in Datchet, and I presume Tim still in bed. Luckily as I raced round to take the fine illustrations below I met up with Steve and Kathy who had been doing the RSPB garden thingy down by the Dell. Both were immensely chuffed to see the bird, as was their charge, and anyone else who happened along. Time for a pic and a new paragraph.

What a stunner, [waddya mean you can hardly see it!] thinking of sending that one in to Birdguides for their photo of the week competition, or perhaps this one....

... OK the last one looks like those faked shots of the Loch Ness monster. Maybe this one

... or perhaps I should just keep them to myself, but that would be selfish. Anyhoo after watching the aforementioned red head for about an hour, we lost it! So after another cuppa Steve joined me in a fruitless search of the old sewage works. That was until we flushed a Yellowhammer from behind us (no pictures I am afraid). A good day all in all and a pretty sunset. Ha! women, who needs em?

29 January 2011


Yup that was me after night on the town saying farewell to the beautiful Kerrie Walker, one of best people I've ever met, or am likely to meet. No Mills & Boon happy fairy tale endings here though, just a hangover... ... and what better way to blow the fug away than a brisk, bracing walk round the patch. Bracing it was, brisk it wasn't. I was having chronic trouble focusing with or without my bins, no matter, there was stuff-all to see and nothing to alleviate my gloom. 2 Snipe in the boggy bits, a smart male Reed Bunting, Treecreeper calling in the dell and a couple of Coal Tit in Bush Wood. Clearly what was needed was some kind of mega-amnesia inducing bird. Not this time, next time perhaps!

25 January 2011

Shock contraction in UK economy

Georgie blames it on the snow, but I say bring back the snow and ice (and the interesting birds!). Yup the patch was not a patch on what it was in December (it was the best of times and it was the worst of times... [my literary bit for today]). I stumbled around it again this morning more in hope than expectation, and for a change I thought I'd get down to the old sewage works before it got too light. That didn't work. First a scan through the thousands of gulls for an interesting one, that never materialised, then a brief look round the Alex for lost waders, who remained that way. On the plus side a flock of a 100+ Jackdaw noisily greeted the morning dispersing over the park, then on Alex the unmistakable shape of a Little Grebe, which appeared to be in breeding plumage, bobbed up and down in the lee of the island. And that was just about as good as it got.

[Apologies for the naff picture above, but its the only way I can fathom of making a paragraph break.]

Met Jono by Perch, where we lamented the lack of screaming rarities and looked forward to the arrival of Wheatear, some 40 odd days away. And lest we forget what they look like here's an equally poor shot of one from last Autumn.

23 January 2011

Hard work

Out on the patch for about 10 hours and what have I to show for it? Diddly. The day being saved only by the magic of Apple technology and a very obliging and inquisitive Tawny Owl. There might have been a Firecrest in Bush Wood too, but it was far too dark to get more than brief views. Whilst trundling round I met up with an dog walking regular, one of the more reasonable canine contingent, who claimed to have seen an Otter on the Shoulder of Mutton a few weeks back. From his description it sounded good for Tarka. I texted the news to the regulars. Tim said: "fantastic", Jono: "Jameson's".

22 January 2011


With the best intentions of a dedicated patch-worker I went round the park this morning. Should have stayed in bed. Nothing. No thing at all. Well, one Chiffchaff by the Riding School, but no Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, no Treecreepers, not even a single Siskin. I know, I'm rubbish.

Met a visiting birder and led him to the Dell, a light spiel along the way about how good it has been of late. And of course.....

Still, a nice walk if you like walking and seeing no birds. Once again the number of dog-walkers and out-of-control dogs was stupendously high. You could run the Belvoir Hunt through the park and create less disturbance to wildlife. When I form the next Government, I'm going to implement a Chinese-style one family one dog policy, or perhaps more of a Korean policy. Mind you, there are days when after the first thirty minutes you know deep down that it's going to be an unrewarding slog no matter what else is going on, and so it proved today. I spent that first half hour in Reservoir Wood imagining I'd heard a Firecrest, and that pretty much set the tone. Part of the problem is the unbelievable cacophony created by as many as half a billion Great and Blue Tits. You struggle to hear anything above the din - having some kind of "Mute all Tits" device would make for much easier birding.

The two Egyptian Geese were on the Golf Course before relocating back to Henonry Pond, and Wanstead's answer to Scaup was on the Ornamentals today - here is one I took on Heronry yesterday. So not a lot to report, will try again tomorrow.

21 January 2011

Friday 21 January

Up with the larks this morning, if there had been any, but there weren't. Or if there were they were keeping a very low profile. The Flats were pretty quiet, unsurprisingly, no Snipe in the muddy margins round the Angel pond, just some Mallards moving in and out of the weeds. No owls in the woods south of Faiground flats, and still too dark to see anything much on Jubilee, bar the regular Heron and a few light and dark forms in the shape of Tufties and Pochard. The Snipe was back under its favourite birch then off somewhere in a hurry. Hundreds of Wood Pigeon commuting to the City. Not much going on either in the Wanstead Gap either(like the famous Holkham Gap in Norfolk, but with less birds and no pines, and no sand dunes. So not really like it at all. Though it does tend to act like a funnel between the flats and the park, or so I think). A pair of Collared Doves chasing each other, some more Great Tit, a calling Goldcrest or two, and no Waxwing. Through Reservoir Wood, behind Shoulder of Mutton and along Heronry to the little tea hut of happiness. Unfortunately closed. Still nothing new and still very cold. No Water Rail at the top end of Perch (but here's one I prepared earlier).

A couple of Linnets in the OSW, and another Song Thrush singing. Down towards the allotments along the Aldersbrook a party of Redwing flew north, and a Chiffchaff called further on (yay year patch tick!). Not much on the River flowing fast and brown, even the TV and gone. A qick jaunt round the Ornamentals to count the ducks, working my way anti-clockwise (the preferred route) back to the Dell. Here's the best place for Lesser Spots and while I scanned the tree tops I heard one drumming furiously back the way I'd come (year tick #2). While watching a Goldcrest fluttering up the side of a tree I saw movement on a trunk. The Treecreeper was back, the Goldcrest forgotten. After a while it flew of deeper into the wood, but I coud still hear it calling and as I got to the bridge over the Dell I caught sight of the same or another bird in a tree closer to the path. Happiness!

That kind Mr Lethbridge supplied me with this photo just in case you were wondering what a tree looked like

18 January 2011


I've been itching to get round the Park for quite a while. It wasn't possible at the weekend, and yesterday was rained off, so today was my chance. I started at ten, and did a solid five hours. No spectacular counts, unless you call 192 Coots spectacular, but a decent number of species seen.

I started in Reservoir Wood, home to about a trillion Great Tits, and then continued on to Shoulder of Mutton Pond which had small numbers of almost all  the Ducks, and four Mute Swans. Nothing too unusual, so after a bit of Swan photography, I headed on towards Heronry. Three pairs of Little Grebe, of which one was on the bank, flapping some feeble little wings- not sure I have ever seen one not swimming before.

There were four Cormorants on Perch, but no sign of the Kingfisher I was hoping for. Next stop the Dell for zero Siskins, so onwards to the Old Sewage Works, which was also pretty blank until I picked up a Kestrel, which then landed on the large pylon.

Big pylon, small bird.

Seeing as the sun was out and the sky was blue, I decided I would do a complete anti-clockwise circuit of the Ornamental Waters, and glad I did as almost the first bird I found was a Chiffchaff, giving itself away by soo-weeing a few times. My first for the year anywhere, and although by no means rare as a wintering bird these days, it's always nice to find one on the patch in January. I continued on until my attention was drawn to three Jays squawking at something. They were in the group of ivy-covered trunks on the south side of the OW, and in that ivy somewhere was almost certainly a Tawny Owl - I've seen one during the day here before. Try as I might this time though, I couldn't see it, so no sight and no sound goes down as no record!

Approaching the top of the Canal I was stunned to have 40+ Siskin fly in a tight flock over my head northbound. They appeared to drop into trees just the other side, so I hurried round the Canal but could not relocate them. The rest of the OW was pretty quiet, though did bring eight Shoveler, my first of the day. I headed up the Glade and through Chalet Wood, but all the birds had disappeared due to a rabid pack of five Shih-tzus, out for their daily waddle. I left the area and went back for a second crack at the Dell. Very glad I did as when I approached, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flew out, over my head and landed in a large oak about a third of the way back towards the Grotto. It was a smart male, but too distant to get a photo. Good to know that they remain in the area though. The Dell and surrounds is the best place in the Park to see them, and anytime from now until mid-March you're in with a decent chance. I checked the Dell itself for Siskins one last time, and was surprised to find at least twenty zipping about in the canopy. As I watched them, they all took off, including a group I hadn't spotted - I'd estimate about 40 birds, so likely the same flock that I had seen around the OW.

If you look at the map page here, you'll be able to see the rough route that I took round the Park, starting in Reservoir Wood which is on the western edge. My circuit took about five hours all told, but at least an hour of that was probably mucking about with the camera, and I was extra-diligent counting stuff like Woodpigeons. You could probably go round in half the time and miss very little.

Nick went round a couple of hours before me, and whilst he missed a few I saw, he did pick up a Bullfinch and a Grey Wag, neither of which I could find.

Full list:

6 Little Grebe, 6 Cormorant, 4 Grey Heron, 12 Mute Swan, 6 Canada Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese, 46 Gadwall, 3 Teal, 58 Mallard, 9 Shoveler, 23 Pochard, 63 Tutfed Duck, Kestrel, 11 Moorhen, 192 Coot, 118 Black-headed Gull, 10 Stock Dove, 2 Collared Dove, 10,234,219 Wood Pigeon, 10 Ring-necked Parakeet, 1 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (male), 5 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Green Woodpecker, 9 Wren, 2 Dunnock, 11 Robin, 5 Blackbird, 6 Song Thrush, 12 Redwing, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 34 Long-tailed Tit, 50+ Great and Blue Tit, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 40+ Siskin, Bullfinch, 7 Goldfinch, 2 House Sparrow, 20+ Starling, 10 Jay, 15 Magpie, 8 Jackdaw, 40+ Crow.

Non starter

Having worked well beyond my bed time last night my plans for an early skipround the patch were thwarted by my ability to turn the alarm clock off in the dark. I had hoped to check out whether the Tawny Owl was in residence just south of the fairground, as heard by Steve Thorpe, or catch Snipe on the expanding Angel Pond near Capel Point, maybe I just dreamt about them. JL woke me much later to ask if I was wet, and that made not getting up all the more acceptable. Tomorrow the weather looks fair so its on with the boots...

... and this is the forecast for tomorrow! [you might have realised by now I do a lot of landscape shots; they don't move or fly away!] Just imagine the lamppost's not there. While not getting thoroughly wet through I did manage to buy a couple of acres of Scotland on behalf of the RSPB, good aint I? Ironic really: I pay for trees to be planted and now I am paying for trees to be cut down. Go figure! http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/flowcountry/index.aspx

16 January 2011

Teal on Shoulder of Mutton Pond

Having just returned from the depths of winter in northern Ohio, Wanstead feels spring-like in comparison. I went for a quick walk with the kids to the Tea Hut of Happiness, and along the way at least three Song Thrush and a Robin were singing. When I left a week ago, all the ponds were still mostly frozen, and nothing was doing anything. A week later and it's all change.

Not a great deal to report other than the change in weather, but three female Teal and two drakes were feeding under the overhanging trees at the west end of Shoulder of Mutton Pond. Tim reported three drakes and two females only a short time earlier, so there are at least six birds there, a pretty good count. They were also my first in Wanstead this year, so nice to get my list rolling again.

We carried on along the Heronry Pond, not much to report, though two Egyptian Geese were present once again. I've not seen any sign of prospecting, so who knows what will happen later in the year? Egyptian Geese may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I quite like them. Three bits of cake cost £1.30, what a magnificent institution the Tea Hut is. Tim had reported Siskin around the place, but I had no time to check the Dell, and there were none present near the Heronry when I was there.

Got back just before it started to rain, and in an hour had logged 29 species. Probably could have got more if I had paid less attention to the kids but I'd rather the stats read 29/3 rather than 50/2. Hopefully I'll get out there in earnest next week.

10 January 2011

The happy monday

It's not every Monday that you can say is good. Today ticked enough of the right boxes to be considered better than par and at one point I even had a smile on my face. I knew I wasn't going to get round the park, I am not as speedy as Stuart,or as accomplished in spotting an interesting passerine miles off - I need to get close and wait for things to happen. Invariably this means I don't get round the park much except at weekends, even with longer days I seldom get further than the boundaries of the flats. So my double patch idea is biased from the start. I don't open my door and fall into the brooms like Tim and Jonathan, I have a 20 minute walk in my squeaky boots before I can get excited. How the residents of Forest Gate love me as I squeak up their streets first thing of a morning. I digress. Today the flats were beautiful, with a slight frosting and magical sunrise.

No sign of the Little Owl in any of its usual haunts, but I did finally catch up with Goldcrests west of Centre Road, calling from the depth of a clump of broom. A Song Thrush sang from Long Wood, while a Mistle Thrush replied from the wood behind the Esso garage. Steve had joined me at this point and we wandered slowly through the SSSI watching a man seemingly collecting grass in two big plastic bags. His endeavours flushed the Snipe for us so we didn't have to. Job done. On the Fairground we met up with Tim on his rounds looking for Skylark. The Fairground/proposed police muster site could be scuppered (here's hoping) by the feeding habits of the flats' iconic bird during breeding - so we will paying much more attention to this apparently unattractive patch of ground during the spring and early summer. No larks today (I got 7 later on the footie pitches where they appear to favour the centre circle).

Next we sauntered over to the Alex where the Greylag numbers had now risen to 9. Shovelers turned circles, Gadwall dabbled around the margins, a drake Teal up ended itself under the over hanging willows on the island, while Tufties dived along the edges of the thin ice with a trio of Pochard. Leaving the lake behind we wandered round the scrub and grass to the east of Alex where the Wryneck had held court those nine glorious days in the Autumn. And finally, at last, about bloody time! a female Kestrel sat obligingly in a small tree ignoring the protestations of a Magpie. Here's a picture of what it might have looked like if it had been snapped on a grey day on a bush in Long Wood.

9 January 2011

First visit this year

After moving from Leyton to erm Leyton... (Lea Valley side) I decided to visit the Park and Flats for the first time this year and count everything I saw, but of course mostly heard as it ended up!. When I got to the shop opposite Jubilee Pond to get my peanuts and junk food I take on these excursions I realised just how much I had missed this area, there is a certain feel of "anything could happen here" and that is what matters. I spent a very pleasant 3 hours wandering around as much of Wanstead Park and Flats that I could get in at my usual breakneck speed, missing a lot I expect but I just can't keep still for long. My first port of call was the Broom fields with some expectations of finding a Stonechat, but not a lot there. I then rushed up to The Basin which was rather empty of anything of interest, apart from a pair of Shoveler. I then backtracked and walked the path via Reservoir Wood along the ponds, several Goldcrests were heard calling along the way (in contrast to last year), up to 7 birds and also Coal tit singing briefly. A good amount of Tufted Ducks on the ponds. The whole total of the Flats and Park was 93, nothing like I've counted before in previous winters, I was probably walking too fast. Also 36 Pochard. I spent a bit of time at the Dell watching Siskins feeding in the Alders and heard Great spotted Woodpecker drumming and a very short abrupt burst of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Also 7+ Stock Doves displaying in the trees near the Dell and the Ornamental Water (which was a particularly nice place to be today, somehow the traffic noise was muted). I then thought right, I'll peg it down to the Flats and have a look there. On leaving the Alex I heard the distinctive call of a Rock Pipit flying over, I'm not sure if the bird was just moving over or had been visiting the Alex and then flown off but this was very unexpected and made the day.


While Jono is the US, I've been with the folks in Shelford (just south of Cambridge), luckily Stuart Fisher was on hand to give the patch the once over today. Birds of note were Rock Pipit (65) heard over the broom fields and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the Dell (66). I am back out tomorrow, hopefully early, and hopefully lucky...

5 January 2011

Siskin salvation

A quick scurry round the patche(s) before work. Snipe back in the SSSI, a couple of Reedy Bs,and a lot of Redwing in a hurry to be somewhere else. Those that decided to pitch down in the scrub to the north of Long Wood were soon given the hurry up by a male Sparrowhawk, the first of the year on the flats. A picture of menace he sat up on a hawthorn while I struggled to find my camera for another hopeless record shot, luckily he was evicted by some garrulous Magpies so no-one needs suffer. In the park another larger looking bird posed all too briefly before Mpees got wind of him too.

Finally caught up with the elusive Siskin back in the Dell, couldn't see how many there were, but one's enough for now. With the ice retreating the Shoulder of Mutton was a pond again, and once more the favourite haunt of Teal.

A Coal Tit heard singing somewhere south of Heronry and that's three new to the patch for 2011. And if you think your getting off without a duff picture here's a Heron.

4 January 2011

Listing splits?

This year I decided to split my park list from my flats. Why? Because I think it would be interesting to see how the two distinct areas shape up against each other. I toyed with the idea of hiving off the old sewage works too, in its heyday as an actual sewage works some remarkable sightings and breeding records showed only to well what's been lost to the area over time. However, since it actually joins the park too many birds could be counted for both at the same time. Problem. It is though unique in the park, being less visited and with an environment more akin to that of the flats, bar no standing water but on the plus side a river. It has its moments in spring and autumn mostly. I reckon the flats will win hands down, because of its great attraction to passage birds, which due to relative lack of cover means things are easier to pin down. Meanwhile Jono has gone for the all encompassing route. Of course, with reference to the London Site List on the LB site, we will be keeping a record of all species reported by us and other birders visiting the area (if we can get hold of them). Last year was pretty brilliant and the patch punched well above its weight, illustrating what a hugely important area this is in relation to its proximity to the centre of the capital.

You might have noticed Siskin and Firecrest have now been added to the current list, sadly neither JL or myself have yet to catch up with them. And yes I am still having problems creating new paragraphs....

3 January 2011

Still no sign of the birds we haven't seen yet

No-shows include Siskin, Kestrel and Kingfisher, all of which I looked for in traditional spots today without success. It was only a whistle-stop tour mind, as after my absenteeism of the last few days, a full day birding was out of the question.

On the Flats, our four Greylag at Alexandra Lake (henceforth Alex) have turned into six Greylag, and I added a pair of Goldcrest and a Dunnock, both of which had eluded me on the first. Eight Mistle Thrush were together on one of the smaller playing fields, a high count for this year!

In the park, the birds seemed to think it was spring. I counted no fewer than four drumming Great Spots, plus five others, and Great Tits were in full teacher mode. In fact Great Tits were in many modes, including one in the Old Sewage Works (henceforth OSW) doing a very passable Chiffchaff soo-weet impression that had me searching for a while. Once again, the Roding was a bird free zone, but the Perch and Heronry Ponds were very busy. The ice has retreated a great deal since the first, and there were good numbers of Pochard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Anyone who requires a decent photo of a Pochard could do worse than try Heronry, the birds come very close.

Anyhow, I returned home without adding a single new bird for the year, but I suppose we need to save something for later on.

Whilst out on the Flats this afternoon playing football with kiddo, a Great Black-backed Gull flew over Capel point headed east-ish. Score! Whilst I was distracted by this he actually scored.

2 January 2011

Where's Jono?

No way would JL want to miss the second day of the new birding year in Wanstead, its just not conceivable! He must have been kidnapped, and I reckon I know who by. Dog walkers!

Luckily he did not miss much. Steve Thorpe, my lucky mascot, failed me today. We got zip just about everywhere. But there's always the Little Tea Shop of Happiness and its cake!

On the plus side my flats list stands at 47 thanks to a pair of Pied Wags and the park jumped a massive two with a Reed Bunting in the old sewage works, the first I've seen on the deck in years, and a pair of Collared Dove.

Tomorrow a flying visit to the flats then off to Rainham. Things are going to get better.

1 January 2011

Two thrash Wanstead

Early start he said. So here I am, having avoided late party goers wending their way home after last night's festivities, in the dark, in the middle of the broom fields. Dark shapes float and fly above my head. Redwing, a couple of Fieldfare clacking off into the gloom and gulls, hundreds of them. As the light improves four grey geese fly north. Bugger! White Fronts would have been a good start, but all I could make out were grey geese. Texted Jono; he, it appeared, had probably opted for an extra cuppa before venturing out.

The team finally assembled we set about our plan. At this time of year you basically know where you've got a good chance of finding something, so first off it's west of Centre Road, for Reed Bunting, Snipe and the chance of something more interesting in the flushed form of a Woodcock. Got zip on the way to the Jubilee Pond bar a few flyover Skylark, a Meadow Pipit and more Redwing. The "new" Jono (who doesn't year list, who wont be tempted to year list, and will certainly not be twitching, not under any circumstances), counting everything in his new note book (a delightful present from Howard V). Jubilee was still very much ice-bound and a bit dull, Cat and Dog (a small marshy hollow west of Lake House Road) likewise but more so.

We headed back to the SSSI. A Snipe. The plan was coming together. The Buntings took a bit longer, they weren't where they should have been. Meanwhile an interesting duck got my attention as it circled Jub looking as if it wanted to land. When it finally plucked up the courage to ground on the proposed police muster site it became a male Wigeon, a first on the flats for Jono, who then proceeded to scare it off while taking its picture.

Buntings bagged we headed for Alex and on the way crossed paths with 9 Skylark coming to feed on the footie pitches. After a barren few weeks its good to have these iconic birds back, they make it feel like spring. Alex covered we moved on to the park and the promise of a cup of tea, and cake and stuff. What we got were the rejects from Crufts or the first appalling rounds of a doggie X Factor. Ah well, tea is tea and cake is cake and both are good. The Egyptian Geese were still on Heronry, giving us hope that they might decide to breed in the park. They are apparently welcome, at the moment, but if they so much as interfere with our Heinz variety Mallards the men from Defra will be down on them like a ton of bricks.

Next on the plan: Water Rail (tick), but no Siskin; the alders round here are usually alive with them - today none. Linnet in the Old Sewage Works (tick), but no Teal in the Dell or on the river. The Roding was birdless save for a white-water rafting Dabchick getting carried along on the increased flow of the river. No Kingfisher either, the waters being too murky to see anything. We did find a television and considered how it might have got there.

The Roding. There wasn't much on.

A quick round of the ornamental waters, still very much frozen over and devoid of saw bills, was followed by a minor detour to stare at a line of yew for Firecrest. Fifteen Firecrestless minutes later, we're staring at other varieties of trees which should bear Treecreeper or at least Lesser Spots. Fruitless.

Back at the Dell Tim H finally catches up with us after opting for a few more hours in bed rather than the excitement of the first morning of the new year birding. The Plan now calls for improvisation. We go for another brew and cake - the light now poor - it appears the best option. With the coming night comes the rain, and Jono's target of 60+ birds is fading faster than an ex-twitcher's resolve. A little stream in Reservoir Wood is our last chance for Teal and with the rain increasing no one is suggesting staying out too long on the off chance of an early rising, rain loving Tawny Owl. There is off course nothing. A solitary Redpoll puts us on 55 and encourages us to stand in the middle of the broom fields again. 'Until it gets dark', we say, on the off-chance of a fly over Lapwing, or GBB Gull, or anything. It does get darker, and wetter, and all sensible birds have gone to roost.

Still, 364 days to go and we already a third of the way to the Wanstead target of 150. Doddle! It gets better: I am second in the London Lister's table if only for, oh hang about I am already on the way down... Always tomorrow.