|One of two first-summer Little Gulls at Staines Reservoirs yesterday.|
But great, great, great. Or at least that’s the theory. The weather forecast for this weekend in the South-East was the kind that separates birders from ordinary mortals, putting smiles on our faces and strange pumping motions into our firsts while others cancel long-standing arrangements and prepare for a lockdown. Driving rain and north-easterlies potentially up to gale force were indeed the predictable the outcome of a recently introduced government hosepipe ban.
|Little cracker: Staines is the prime location for Little Gulls in the London area.|
|This second-summer Little Gull is very adult-like but for the dark markings in the primaries.|
|Brent Reservoirs produced Black Terns, the birds sometimes showing well perched ...|
|... and in flight while attempting to feed in steady rain.|
|Hirundines were a feature of both reservoirs visited on Saturday, with House Martins arriving in good numbers.|
Sunday’s forecast looked better still, and a Thames river watch was certainly on the cards. But what of my two charges? There was only one thing for it – lead by example and teach them survival skills. Providing little more than 15-tog duvets, central heating, a larder full of food, a host of electronic entertainment options and most other modern creature comforts, I left them to it and set off early in hellishly wet weather to meet up with Jono Lethbridge and David Bradnum at Grays, on the very edge of the London recording area.
We watched the river as hard as anyone can look at an empty grey area of water for a couple of hours, but with just two Grey Plover flying downstream, a brace of Common Sandpipers and seven or so Common Terns, we fairly quickly reached the limits of our collective patience. A pit-stop for breakfast en route to Rainham proved ill timed, as Andy Tweed rang from the visitor centre there to report an Arctic Skua. Long gone by the time we arrived, the day was saved by a Great Skua flying upstream about half an hour later. This was the third Bonxie I’ve had in 40 years of birding in London – all of them since January 2010.
Shaun Harvey and Rich Bonser further upriver. We kept up the vigil, noting six Bar-tailed Godwits, two Sanderling and a Grey Plover on the foreshore, but the only passage of note in the next three hours involved two Arctic Terns. I called time on proceedings before lunch, returning home to find two happy offspring who’d enjoyed the run of the house in my absence – and even started their homework. I will have to go birding more often.