21 February 2011


With patch being slightly in the doldrums, I decided a change of scene would be in order. Steve was not working so I offered him the choice of Rainham - lucking out on Penduline Tits, an ugly gull or two - or the chance to see Smew, Bittern, Black-necked Grebe etc. up the Lea Valley. There was only going to be one winner. As if to put sugar on the enticement I said we'd cycle, my fingers firmly crossed in the vain hope of rain. It didn't rain. So early doors we're off, first to the flats in a half-hearted check on the gulls. There were some. That obligation fulfilled we headed off to the nearest access point to the Lea valley which wasn't being built on. Already I was beginning to regret my cycling offer, but no-one could doubt our green credentials. Hackney Marshes held a surprising amount of Teal on the river and not a lot else. We passed the water works NR expecting Cetti's, but not expecting it to be open. A quick detour and a head-on collision with a bollard, brought us to this interesting little site. Not much on the pools: Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufties (of course), and a couple of Little Grebe and definitely no repeat of my Harlequin moment of a couple of years back (OK it was an escapee, but still a beautiful bird). On the marshy, reedy bits more Teal, some Snipe and a Green Sandpiper (my first of the year, and a probable first for Steve who couldn't actually remember seeing one). I thought I was being helpful by getting him on to the bird when he said: "Oh, I thought you had another one, I've seen that already". [Below Snipe, taken at Rainham - not a million miles away from Walthamstow]

With much to be done and so little time, we were off again. Through the stables - plenty of Redwing and Fieldfare in the paddocks - and up to the reservoirs where my first goal a London Eider was calling me. It was supposed to be on No. 5, and rather than pay a pound to get in we peered over the fence. Nothing. Meaning there was nothing for it but to cough up the money. Luckily we me a nice birder called Harry, new to the area, who told us that there was zip on the southern waters barring a few Goldeneye. So that meant we went Northside. Lockwood I fancied as the best place. Apparently an eider-down. As we made to leave, Harry called us back, the eider had just swam out from the shore where it had been hiding behind a pair of Shelduck. Even Steve, who up to this point had been complaining about seeing an Eider again, took some interest. Bingo London tick no. 186 (give or take some dodgy plastics).

Next the William Girling. Not much on the way bar a fly over female Goosander, while the WG was possibly the quietest I've ever seen it. A few Tufties, GC Grebe and gulls. I finally scoped the BnGs close in on the eastern shore. Another new tick for Mr Thorpe. It was getting decidedly miserable now and I was hoping someone would steal my bike rather than have to cycle it further. We made our way up the side of the King George through some particularly muddy patches - the joy of walking - where somehow I managed to acquire a puncture - rapture - which I was accused of deliberately achieving by ploughing through brambles. By that stage I would have taken a knife to the tires rather than subject my arse to the saddle any longer. So walking it was then. I sensed Steve was not amused, it got a bit quiet. A Grey Wagtail lifted the gloom a bit.

OK so I lied about how far it was to the next point of call, I knew he would thank me later. Maybe not today, or next week, but sometime! Hall Marshes held some Lapwing, Wigeon and a surprising amount of Pheasant. Goldeneye (another Steve first) on Friday Lake and the reason for this madness a male Smew on 70 Acres (year tick 106 - yeah pitiful!). By now Steve had had enough, and although I wanted to search for Pink Feet and Goosanders and other stuff, I had to agree. All the same a Water Rail squealing like a pig on the way to the station and a singing Goldcrest meant a rather good day. Except for the cycling.

Today on the patch: 7 Teal on Shoulder of Mutton, Grey Wagtail on Heronry (see pic above), and a singing Redwing, so not a lot really - I am tempted to go and see that ugly battery-raised gull at Rainham.

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