Average Birding

Easter Bird Hunt

April arrives and with it, hopefully, a flurry of new ticks from spring migration.

Pronoun guidance: AB1 is the first person. This post covers the events of April 1st-6th, 2018.

Easter Sunday: Cassiobury Park

After a successful Jack Snipe at Barnes the day before, it's time for another trip to Cassiobury Park, to try for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. An enthusiastic photographer claims to have found one earlier in the day but, on inspection, what they have recorded is a female Great Spotted Woodpecker. I let them down gently, and they get on to talking about the Kingfishers they've been photographing upriver. This is interesting news, as I haven't seen one yet this year. Having stared at trees and seen nothing for far too long, I decide to change tack. Let's try and find a Kingfisher instead.

I head off up the river and a Kingfisher rockets past me in the opposite direction. That'll do. It'll probably also be the best I manage; Kingfishers are notoriously shy, and there's nowhere for me to take cover along here. A Grey Wagtail cheerfully bobs about on some branches in the centre of the river (they're a terribly named bird; yellow-bellied-ridiculously-long-tailed-but-really-pretty-smart wagtail would be more accurate). A quartet of Mandarin Ducks floats by on the far side. That, I suspect, is going to have to do...

Easter Monday: Up Dollis Brook

April 2nd is Easter Monday. Samuel Levy has heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker while walking up Dollis Brook towards Totteridge. That's a walk we can do from our flat without too much difficulty. The weather, though ominous, looks as if it may hold off until 1 or 2pm; if all else fails, we're rarely more than a ten-minute dash away from the bus home.

This is not the most productive birding trip we manage. The path to the brook is partially closed, so we end up taking a salubrious tour of the North Circular's pavements. Delightful. When we manage to intersect with the brook, it has big warning signs near it to stay out of the water, for it is likely to be toxic. Nice.

The appearance of a Great Spotted Woodpecker just South of the Windsor Open Space heralds a major improvement; the amount of refuse strewn around is greatly reduced, there's something approaching a view, the smell is less bad; and, in places, completely absent.

We pass under the attractive Dollis viaduct. There's a hint of rain in the air. By the time we've walked alongside the golf club, it's more than a hint, and by the time we start to get in range of the open farmland part of this walk, it's chucking it down. Arse. We walk up into West Finchley to intersect with a bus home. Not a walk we'd recommend.

Easter Week: A dash under the North Circular

Overexcitement/overoptimism leads me to take a pair of binoculars to work, in case something interesting turns up in Regent's Park (on the way home) or Barnes (a manic lunchtime rush). Nothing turns up until Friday, when someone sticks a report of Hoopoe at Brent Reservoir on BirdGuides.

This is, possibly, the least accessible site in London. I have cycled to it once before and ended up briefly on the North Circular; frightening. For the possibility of a Hoopoe though, it is worth the risk.

Twenty minutes after leaving work, I am weaving my way under the North Circular on some godawful three lane road. I mark the occasion by spending most of it yelling "aaaaaaarrrrggghhh" which seems to keep the other vehicles at bay.

There is, of course, no bloody sign of any Hoopoe. Unlike my previous visit though, I do manage to work out where there hides are. Fortunately one of them has some folks in it (otherwise, it'd be locked). They've heard about the Hoopoe, but it's gone to ground some hours ago. There are a couple of Common Snipe poking around and, today's consolation prize, three Little Ringed Plover.

This area of the reservoir probably has as many species of rubbish as it does birds. There are several pieces of car, miscellaneous unidentifiable plastic and wire, bits of boat. Thankfully, the birds don't seem to mind, and the brighter and larger pieces of rubbish act as excellent landmarks when directing folks to a nearby bird.

The hint of a Common Sandpiper (just a hint though!) as I entered the hide and the excellent company (for the other inhabitants are very friendly) keep me in the hide until the light fails. I manage to trace a route home that's considerably less dangerous than the North Circular, even if some of the people using it seem a bit threatening.