Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Oh, happy day

Can you tell what it is yet?

Yesterday here in east London was like a bad day in Svalbard, failing to rise above zero, with increasingly dark and gloomy skies and bone-chilling north-easterlies. And yet, it could hardly have felt more like spring.

After arriving on Saturday and with pretty much all my time taken up with work and music this week, the last hour of daylight yesterday was a rare opportunity to escape into a little birding. Being the venue of said work (and en route to evening rehearsals in E17), where else but Walthamstow Reservoirs for a vaguely masochistic pre-dusk ramble.

That's right, it's spring.

No room for the DSLR (or indeed a proper scope) on this trip, but the pocket-sized mighty midget mini-scope, a flimsy borrowed tripod and a crappy little digital camera were the weapons of choice (well, convenience) as I walked into the wind and around the northern group of reservoirs. With not another soul around, I was already happy enough with close-up Kingfishers (including a pair getting very friendly), Little Egrets, a Pheasant (I know - but they're really quite rare in urban London....), an Oystercatcher, and the reliable variety of wildfowl always offered by the site.

Rarity alert

But despite the unfavourable conditions and failing light, I was still hoping for something with real harbinger of spring credentials. With the first light dusting of trans-Saharan migrants - including Sand Martins and Little Ringed Plovers - having arrived in the UK during previous days, there was an outside possibility of either, but what I really wanted (as regular viewers of these pages might guess) was a Wheatear.

Goldeneyes and Goosanders at the top of Lockwood

And so what a joy to see an initially distant flash of white darting along the bank of Lockwood Res up ahead of me morph into the desired bandit-masked beauty, allowing closer approach with patience, but understandably flighty in the testing conditions. Obviously not quite the photo opp presented by the bird I used in the last post - coincidentally, at exactly the same place on exactly the same reservoir almost exactly two years earlier (see full post here) - but it mattered none. A privilege to witness and an instant, very welcome panacea for all present ills. Sometimes life really is that simple.