It has been a busy few days - too busy, really. For production of the May issue of Birdwatch we switched from an ancient version of Quark Xpress to the modern, industry-leading software that is InDesign. Very soon it will be a bonus in many ways, but as a learning process the first issue was inevitably tough and, with Steve Young's 24-page bird photography supplement to contend with too, we finally passed for press mid-evening on Monday (with thanks to Beccie and David, and especially also to Lynn, who gave up three days to help us with the extra production work in the London office). In the meantime we also said goodbye to Louise, our editorial intern who for the past three months has been another welcome pair of hands around the office.
Time out for birding has thus been in short supply, and limited to occasional glances at Alexandra Park during family walks or when commuting between home and the office. I have largely ignored this truly local patch recently, in favour of slightly less local Rainham Marshes and elsewhere in London. Because of this, it was easy to amass four year ticks for the patch in just three days (all of which I would have notched up long ago with minimal effort had I been visiting more frequently):
63. Meadow Pipit.
64. Great Crested Grebe.
66. Greylag Goose.
Only today did I manage to reclaim a day off, most of which was due to be spent getting ready for an imminent trip to Colorado. But in the morning, having taken my daughter to her riding lesson, I spent a couple of hours in the Lea Valley nearby. With my London year list currently on 148 species, it seemed natural to aim for a target of 150 before heading to the US. It was rather quiet with scant evidence of migration in the Holyfield/Fishers Green area, other than a couple of Little Ringed Plovers briefly and a few singing warblers, the best of which was my second Common Whitethroat of the year.
The famous goose field duly delivered its motley collection of feral suspects, including Egyptian Goose (I couldn't avoid it forever), and there were braces of Common Buzzard and Common Snipe in the area, though no Little Owls in their usual trees at the farm because of work on the site. Finally, a few brief bursts of song from the first returning Nightingale closer to Fishers Green brought up the respectable milestone of 150 species before a third of the year was up:
149. Egyptian Goose.
On the way home I stopped at another couple of Little Owl sites that have delivered historically, including one near Sewardstone Marsh, but 10 Sand Martins and a Barn Swallow were the only rewards. Time to pack.