Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Patch of Yore

I've probably done more birding in the last week than the rest of the year put together. How come? Who knows. It is spring though, so perhaps my sap is rising? There is also the constant drip-drip of birdy gen trickling through Twitter and the like, keeping me abreast of migrant action all along the nearby coast. This is inspiration in itself. Anyway, whatever the cause, I have had the optics out.

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...



  1. Looks like a pair of Egyptians Gav, but alas, not Vultures.
    Last time I used that car-park, I noted about a billion tiny empty gas cylinders spread about the place. The type idea.
    Haven't been able to drag myself back since. I find the size of the place unmanageable.

  2. I guess Staines Res is an acquired taste, Ric. I think of the place as my first proper patch and I loved it at the time, but have since been exposed to infinitely more pleasant birding surroundings and am now totally spoiled.
    And yes, Egyptian Goose is a Staines tick for me! In the 80s I seem to recall that the only Egyptian Geese available to a London birder were one or two that frequented the Lea Valley. I honestly don't remember ever seeing one on my occasional jaunts in that direction, so it's probably also a London tick for me!

  3. Gav, if we'd gone through Moor Park golf course instead of down Batchworth Hill on our bike ride, Egyptian Goose would have been yours. They must like golf courses. I've seen and heard many down at the Buckinghamshire place. Even the Ruislip Lido gets them.

    1. Ah, another fine addition to the country's avifauna!

  4. I cannot believe you have entered the age of the selfie.

    1. I'm not just some old fuddy-duddy you know...