28 September 2020

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a patch-worker with a good list, must be in want of a bird

Leaving aside the heteronormative aspect of the excellent original, shamelessly modified here, the hunting instinct is alive and well in the emancipated peoples of our brave new world. That the viral dominance of our lives is influential on the behavior of individuals on the patch is not to be questioned, nature is we are told, restorative to the psyche. 2020 has become a momentous year.   

It's the end of September and there is everything to play for in the “annual Patchlist challenge” (technical aside - this exists only in the mind of our protagonists).  For the first time in ten years someone who actually lives on the patch may see more birds here in 2020 than someone who migrates here from Newham! The current situation is that both top contenders have 114 different bird sp for the patch this year. There is plenty more to come with the most exciting month of the birding year, yes October,coming up. Plenty of fellow local birders are urging them on, by standing (a socially distanced) right next to them to pick up on their phenomenal identification skills.

Who are these worthy protagonists, men (yes, I know) who venture as far as the Old Sewage Works in nearly all weathers without a third or fourth thought?

The originator of the Wanstead Birder blog lives on the patch most of the time. He was prone to weekend breaks in Hawaii, but these have now been drastically curtailed by the recent Covid-19 contamination of the globe. Lockdown has focused birding efforts on his juliet, which projects in a southerly direction from the new loft conversion. Early morning news of parakeet counts brighten up the birders local WhatsApp group, sometimes improved by the occasional mega. The Raven ‘scoped over the Olympic Park a few miles away was a stunning addition to the sitelist, this being the closest a Raven has been to the patch for 150 years!  Not content with visual thrills, this birder has embraced Dictaphones to record the nighttime urban caterwauling of boy racers, sirens and helicopters. The genius of starting this during the relative quiet of lockdown can be appreciated by his sonograms of Common Scoter migrating over the Flats. That this birder stayed ear-phoned to his recorder until 02-00 to hear them pass over his house live gives you some idea of his determination to compete in this year’s “patchlist challenge”.

By contrast the usual winner of the “patchlist challenge” lives in a flat just a mile or so down the road from the patch. Normally to be found on the patch during all daylight hours, except to add Tawny Owl and Woodcock of course, he has been accused of living on the patch by those that do but are slightly less dedicated to the birding imperative. He walks everywhere carrying a knapsack full of cans of K cider and has an enviable reputation for finding rare Buntings (Lapland, Ortolan, Rustic and an unsubmitted Snow). The only compromise to his low-carbon vegetarian life-style that I can find is his use of a graphite pencil to take notes, now that he has left all forms of social media.

Update 115-116 ….probably.

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