"What are you doing?" she said. "I'm photographing Swallows," I replied. "That's private property over there," she warned. "I know it is. That's why I'm standing on a public footpath," I retorted. Why buy a house on a public footpath, and then ask passers-by what they think they're doing? If the idea is to put them off, it doesn't work. I continued my walk around the hamlet of Greensted in an ultimately vain search for Turtle Dove.
I did, however, see the oldest wooden church in the world (or, more accurately, the oldest church made partly from wood, as the spire is clapboard and brick additions mean that the wood is now a minority material). It's very picturesque, and no doubt Turtle Doves and far more exotic fare would have been found in the vicinity when it was built 1,200 years ago. Today, a calling Little Owl, four singing Yellowhammers, at least two Cuckoos and a nice clutch of warblers were the best this site on the very edge of the London Area could offer.
I repaired to nearby Stanford Rivers, also previously a Turtle Dove site. Again no joy, but I picked up a distant soaring Common Buzzard and then a real piece of luck: a female Bullfinch in an overgrown hedgerow. Persistence had paid off, albeit not in the way intended. Sensing I was on a roll I continued south to Orsett Fen (with a Hobby en route) to try and pin down a Common Quail found two days ago; at least four more Common Buzzards here showed how well established this species now is around the edge of London, though there was no trace of the quail.
A raptor-watching session in the afternoon back at Alexandra Park brought the second question-and-answer session of the day. "Afternoon," said the security patrolman. "Hi," said I, looking through my scope. "You're not taking photos, are you?" he said. "Er, no, it's a telescope," I replied. "Good," he said. "But I will take photos if I want to," I added, refusing to be brow-beaten by a jobs-worth who knows that film crews need to get permission to film here. No such approval is needed for scanning for raptors, or photographing them; the latter wasn't possible with the distant fly-by Peregrine yesterday, nor today's Common and Honey Buzzards which sparred briefly before sharing a thermal as they drifted east past Bob Watts, Andrew Gardener and I.
So instead, here's what Greensted church looks like.
And here is my London year-list, duly updated:
181. Honey Buzzard.
And finally, last weekend's ringed albino Herring Gull at Rainham has been traced - to Rainham! Thanks to Paul Roper for this nonetheless interesting history of the bird.