Today around the London area, sketchy reports were filtering through purporting to a flying fish carrying prey alleged to be a Red Kite. A tip-off from an anonymous source suggested two male Mallards were inexplicably involved in lascivious activity in close proximity to a major throughfare. All I do know is that we were on a mission to surpass last years final species count of the Annual Walthamstow Patchwatch.
The 'we' in all this were the devoted patch-watchers, these individuals that tirelessly commit their time with little reward to the arduous process of monitoring and recording species of birdlife within a strategically defined area. The area known as 'The Patch'.
This is not competition, but altruistic dedication.
Eighty-one was the target to beat. My companions in our pursuits today were The Prof, a somewhat circumspect individual with a questionable british bird list, and an inclination to talk freely with other birders. Very strange! Then there's Oddbirdman who strangely isn't odd at all, he just likes birds.
It was a stunning morning, cold and crisp with a fine layer of frost by the paddocks.
Plenty of Common Whitethroat were in song around Walthamstow Marsh with the remaining Lesser Whitethroat rattling by the railway bridge. Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler were present by the small reedback adjacent to the boardwalk, and Sand Martin were active against the bank by the bridge opposite Leyton Marsh.
Onto Lockwood in the hope for some early quality, A swarm of Common Swift were pushing through, observed initially to the south but drifting through in a large group. There were also a few Swallow dashing over the reservoir. The walk round was relatively uneventful with a couple of Common Sandpiper and a Yellow Wagtail over High Maynard added to the day list. A Woodcock had earlier been flushed from Banbury Reservoir but a call came in of a Little Gull on No.4 that showed well among the Common Tern. This first summer bird was seen well, and was still present the next day.
Heading round through the southern complex, the day was warming up. A real treat was observing a pair of Kingfisher at a breeding site, taking fish into the nest-hole with both adults actively providing food.
The warm sun was now opening the window for the possibility of raptors. A single Red Kite was the first to be seen, thermaling high to the south-east but drifting out of sight. A total of at least five individual Common Buzzard were seen within this period taking advantage of the warm conditions. Another Common Sandpiper was present on West Warwick with two more Yellow Wagtail flying over.
Onto the Waterworks, another pair of Kingfisher were around a nest-site, and the Cetti's Warbler eventually sang again from the NR.
The plan was to then head back to Lockwood. Good job too picking up a female 'Greenland' Wheatear that was seen earlier on in the day. A high-flying Hobby was a good find as it shot over, a mere speck against the warm skies.
Strung-out and leggy, the neck had been rung out of the day, back-broken. The Prof wittering away in comotose, barely audible, but something about connecting with a distant Black Stork back in 1806.
The oddbirdman, presenting a solitary figure as he stood along the waters edge staring intently at the reservoir, throwing stones at his own reflection.
I vowed never to birdwatch again.
A combined total of 75 species, of which we picked up 72. It was hard work - patch birding is hard work.