From top: Tree Pipit in Epping Forest; Great Crested Grebe with its catch of the day; a Hobby shows well at Rainham; and a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull at the same site.
… I thee condemn: “You can’t miss it.” How many times have you heard that, and then failed to see the target bird? It’s like wishing an actor good luck for their big stage performance; the opposite result is immediately bestowed upon them. I should have remembered this when Jono gave me directions to an “unmissable” Little Owl at a site on the Essex fringe of London. As grateful as I was for the directions, I duly failed to nail the owl in its “favoured” tree. After a 4.30 am start in temperatures of just 1.5 degrees C (and ice on the windscreen - in May!), my fourth London Little Owl dip of the year was confirmed.
So I headed off to the Lea Valley, pausing en route in Epping Forest on a whim to check a site where, on our record-breaking London big day in 2006, my team had notched up Tree Pipit. With the sun now well up the car park was a safe prospect, so I ventured out through a patch of oak and beech woodland to some rough birch scrub where, after a short wait, a singing male Tree Pipit duly put on a fine performance.
With my luck picking up, I arrived at Holyfield to check the farms for Turtle Doves. A quick scan produced a dumpy shape in a leafless tree which resolved into … a Little Owl! So there is a god after all. Now firmly on a roll, I found a drake Garganey on Langridge Scrape, a singing Nightingale nearby and nine warbler species, while a quick stop to check King George V Reservoir produced a cracking full summer Turnstone – just as Lol Bodini and I were having a text exchange about the one he found yesterday at Walthamstow. Serendipity, or what? Who knows – it may even have been the same bird.
Rainham felt more predictable by comparison, but it still produced an adult female Marsh Harrier, three Hobbies, four Whimbrel, a Curlew, a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull and four Northern Wheatears, including a nice male Greenland.
Today’s net gain was three London year-ticks (though no patch ticks):
172. Tree Pipit.
173. Little Owl.