Sunday, 24 June 2012

Hollow victory

Northern Gannet at East Warwick Reservoir, Walthamstow - an extraordinary two-day London bird.
In 40 years of birding in London, I'd never before managed to catch up with a Northern Gannet - and nor did I think that when the time eventually came, it would be on a sunny Sunday afternoon in June away from the Thames. But that's exactly how I added this marine species to my London list - and what an utterly disappointing experience it was. A pathetic sight, the exhausted and possibly unwell bird appeared at Walthamstow Reservoirs the previous day (as has become fashionable, just after I'd left town with the family for Norfolk), but surprised everyone by lingering overnight and through until the following evening, by which time we were on our way home again. I don't ever recall there being a two-day bird in London previously. Dave Darrell-Lambert tipped me off as to which bit of the reservoir it was frequenting, and sure enough it was still there, resting on the embankment and providing an easy, walk-up-and-tick experience. Instead of being thrilled to finally nail this tough species in the capital, however, I was consumed by anti-climax - is this what birding has come to? It epitomised the hollow thrill of twitching at its worst, and instead of celebrating, I began contemplating the bird's fate - the sort of unhappy ending that faces many lost birds on their wayward journeys, while we effectively revel at their misfortune (if that doesn't sound overly dramatic, or morbid). As I left, the bird flew out onto the reservoir - possibly for the last time, as I don't think it was seen again by anyone else. Perhaps it flew off after all and eventually returned to the coast, in which case I shall somehow feel more positive about the experience. Will it put me off twitching? Of course not, but - despite being a beautiful bird to see at such close range - it underlined the huge gap between 'real' birding and doing something largely to increase a list total by one.

The bird appeared to be a third-calendar-year individual, being overall rather adult-like but for distinctive dark remnants of immature plumage on the upperparts and wings.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean, especially if they turn out to be obviously sick or injured. Still a Gannet is a Gannet.

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