Yesterday my body decided that it was about time I started brewing up a sore throat and stinky cold and by this morning I will admit to feeling less than tip top but drugged and caffeined up I made it in. I took myself for a walk along the river wall before opening up to try to clear my head a little and hope for a flyover Tree Sparrow or Woodlark or anything that may add some points to my faltering Patch Work Challenge attempt this year. Goldcrests were calling from the burning red Dogwoods with a couple of Chiffchaffs and ‘tsipp’ing Song Thrushes while there seemed to be more Robins around.
A pair of Stonechat posed nicely on brambles and Cetti’s belted out their stake on a winter territory but although a few Skylarks and Mipits were on the move there was nothing of note and I reflected that, as discussed with Andy Tweed yesterday, it would be nice if the Walthamstow Reservoir Glossy Ibis of yesterday relocated to our salubrious reserve at Rainham Marshes...
|Phone binned Kestrel in a sea of Hawthorn berries|
Drawbridge down and first punter through the door; ticket given and a glance over my shoulder and there was a Glossy Ibis flying right past the window. I had not even got my bins back out but it was so close I did not need them. I shouted and then remembered that I needed to do that into the radio and within seconds the office had emptied and all were watching this all dark flying Gonzo head off down the river wall and appear to be dropping down onto the MDZ Pool. I willed it to do so but as with so many birds here it circled back towards the centre and then made a determined b-line across the Thames and into Kent (yes Kentish lads it did go east of the Darenth Barrier) where we followed it to a distant dot on its way to the North Downs and beyond.
|The Ibis! - Jerry Hoare|
You may laugh but I am very grateful to Jerry Hoare for this shot of the Ibis - especially as he was on the Northern Trail at the time....
I know that Ibis are not super rare any more but they are a cool bird and it is only the second record for the site AND I just checked and the four points for it on the PWC goes up to a whopping 12 points for finding it myself!! Whooo hooo! Now that may help me in my Estuarine League battle against the mighty Lincs Washes RSPB Reserves!
I gleefully put the news out but as the adrenaline wore off it was obvious that more drugs were required and although I refrained from sampling the bottle of Sloe Gin that I was in the process of making on reception. I was just saying goodbye to my Dad who had popped in to make the view better across the Purfleet Scrape from the centre for all you comfy chair people when in walks Martin Harper our RSPB Conservation Director and Graham Madge our Senior Media Officer on their way back after a nearby meeting and me with a snotty nose and huge bottle of homebrew spirit on the shelf behind my head!
What then ensued for the rest of the afternoon was a game of musical rooms with radio messages from Gerry and Jamie about Short-eared Owls extricating people including our VIPs to look for them followed by me shouting down the radio that another Shortie was just gliding past the window.
This second bird gave the most wondrous of views as it bobbed and weaved around the attendant Magpies with its glaring yellow eyes before ditching on the saltmarsh to huge smiles from everyone present – there were even some visitors by this point!
|Short-eared Owl - Shaun Harvey|
|Short-eared Owl - Paul Hutchison|
More drugs and a nice adult female Marsh Harrier and some swirling Golden Plovers and Lapwing and then a faint message from an excited Alan Tanner of ‘I am sure I have an Ibis flying behind the Butts Hide’. I hastily responded and got directions and there it was albeit a long way off but that shape is unmistakeable. There was more fervent office evacuating and everyone had their second look at a Glossy Ibis as it traversed Wennington and dropped down somewhere near the Serin Mound. Unbelievable and I am sure that Martin and Graham thought I had staged the whole thing!
The interesting fact here is that we had been staring out of the windows all day and the Ibis in the morning, five hours earlier, had flown to a microdot in the distance and we had not seen it come back. Alan’s bird came up from the quiet corner of Aveley Pool near the Butts Hide so could there have been two birds? It is quite conceivable but two sightings or two birds – either way I am very happy.
To round things up nicely a couple of late Swallows flicked around the centre and our two Ravens kronked noisily low over the car park on their way back to their Kentish home.
To the best of my knowledge the Ibis was not seen again on Wennington this evening but four Short-eared Owls took the day tally to at least five so let’s hope some linger (along with the Ibis) to give everyone the opportunity to be balefully glared at by an Asio owl...
|Short-eared Owl - Paul Hutchison|
My birding mojo and I got to know each other again on Monday and today we have been on a successful second date.