Sunday, 26 August 2012

Wryneck and hungover!

I had to turn down an opportunity to go seawatching in Cornwall with Jono and Nick this weekend and with the weather conditions looking good in the South West, I was starting to hope it wasn't a decision I would come to regret. However, I stuck to my original plan of hitting Wanstead Flats early and dragged myself out of bed on Saturday morning (which was more difficult than usual due to a sore head from the prior evenings alcohol consumption!) to see what might turn up in the wet and miserable weather. 

I like to think of myself as one of the Wanstead birding regulars, but unlike some of the guys who religiously watch the area throughout the year I'm a bit like the Wheatears, I generally only show up in the spring and autumn.

Arriving at the Flats my first stop was Alexandra Lake and the adjacent scrub, trying to avoid the rain by sheltering under the tree canopy, things were looking quiet and the only birds of note were a single Lesser Whitethroat and a calling Common Sandpiper. I quickly walked across the football pitches and towards Long Wood - the location of the previous weeks Pied Flycatcher - nothing! Had I made the wrong decision? I passed another birder who also commented on the lack of birds and was already making tracks and moving on, when I spotted Stuart Fisher who said he had earlier seen a Common Redstart in the area known as the SSSI - a glimmer of hope I thought, so together we decided to go and have a look. 

The SSSI is an area I don't typically cover on my walks around the Flats, mainly due to time constraints but how glad I am that I made that extra bit of effort! Stuart and I were standing in the area where he had seen the Common Redstart - not having much luck, when I noticed a bird in one of the more prominent Hawthorn trees, it was slightly obscured by the branches with only its head showing but that was enough to clinch the bird - WRYNECK!! I quickly tried to direct Stuart on to the bird and after some rather frantic efforts Stuart confirmed I wasn't still drunk from the previous night and we were both looking at a Wryneck. Still partially obscured the bird looked to the skies, turning its head from one side to the other before our all too brief a view was over and it dropped from its branch and out of sight. A quick phone message or two later and the next hours birding with two more Wanstead regulars - Tim and Steve was right out of any coastal autumn hot spots text book; Pied Flycatcher, 2 Common Redstarts, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and several Blackcaps and Whitethroats all seen in the same small group of Hawthorn trees as the Wryneck - was this Blakeney Point and not Wanstead!?

Blakeney Point??

Although elusive but still remaining faithful to the original two or three Hawthorn trees the bird continued to give itself up to the small trickle of patient birders who arrived throughout the morning and early afternoon, by this point and after personally failing to see the bird again I was feeling increasingly dehydrated and in need of some sustenance and what better hangover cure than an East End pie, mash and liquor to help soak up the alcohol and commemorate finding a London Wryneck!

Hangover heaven!

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