It's all been a bit lightweight though. I mostly can't be bothered to drag a scope around. Or a camera. It's been more 'walking, with bins' really...
On Tuesday afternoon I had to drive to Heathrow Terminal 5. I didn't need to rush home so, tempted by the evening sunshine, I dropped in at an old haunt...
|This is at the E end of the causeway. Back in the day my visits always began at the other end. And I never, ever remember being welcomed!|
|The view W along the causeway. A much younger bloke spent most of the 1980s gazing hopefully from this vantage point. He probably looked just as earnest as this.|
I don't recall noticing in years past but the place is far from salubrious. That's probably because I was distracted by the consistently amazing birding. Well, that's how I remember it anyway! My tenure coincided with a couple of lengthy drainings. Here's a sample of the quality that I enjoyed back then: Collared Pratincole, several Pec Sands, Lesser Yellowlegs, Baird's Sand, all the phalaropes (including a female Red-necked in full nuptial attire), 2 Kentish Plovers, 3 Temminck's Stints, Long-tailed and Pom Skuas, Ring-billed Gull, 2 Ferruginous Ducks, and even one or two decent passerines like Ring Ouzel, a few Snow Buntings, and (though technically it was on King George VI Res) Tawny Pipit. I've even watched a Guillemot fly over that causeway!
It wasn't bad on Tuesday either. Upon arrival I was blasted by a cold NE wind, which in former times at this juncture would have raised the possibility of Arctic Terns. Sure enough, there were at least a dozen or so doing feeding runs on the S basin, which was quite frankly crawling with birds. Loads of BHGs, and a smattering of Common Terns too. A Great Northern Diver on the N basin was a speck, as in fact were a myriad other floating things. I only had bins. Thirty-something years ago I used to think that birders who turned up at Staines sans scope were manifestly complete noddies, which is probably why I received a fairly terse response from the proper serious-looking birder hunched over his enormous scope at the W end of the causeway...
"Hello. You haven't counted the Arctics have you, by any chance?"
"No, I haven't." [Barely a glance in my direction, though no doubt he'd noticed me approaching, conspicuously scopeless]
"Any Black Terns at all?"
"Not that I've seen." [subtext: "Please just move along now..."]
He was probably a regular. [Eye to scope, eye to scope...he'll soon get the hint]
I remembered I too was a regular once. Also with a lamentably low noddy threshold.
I looked quite hard for Black Terns. And Little Gulls. No joy with either, but I did flush a Little Ringed Plover from the water's edge of the N basin as I sauntered by. It did the decent thing and landed further along, allowing me nice views. Nice bins views.
And then, blow me down if there wasn't a stonking Staines tick waiting by the S basin water tower...