Friday 27 April 2018

Old Photos

The weather forecasters got it dead right today. Wet. Knowing about the impending rain inspired me to get a bit ahead with work so that I could relax today. What did I do with the time? Frittered it shamelessly. More specifically, I got out some boxes of old photos and had a good wallow. This is one of the best ways to fritter that I know.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few snaps that I found. Birds first...

Least Sandpiper, Porthscatho, March 1986
This obliging little beauty was poking around a damp gully on a Cornish clifftop. My old mate Ric reminded me of it a couple of posts back, so I was pleased to find this photo. Note the mirror lens 'donuts' in the out-of-focus background. Still the primitive Russian Zenit B and Helios combo, but I was experimenting with slide film and had a few prints made from the best shots. The Least Sand was a supplementary twitch following the mega Gyr Falcon at Berry Head that same morning.

Female Little Crake, Cuckmere Haven, 1985
A ridiculously tame bird, this. I recall it was a midweek twitch and that I went alone because my usual twitch companions were all at work. I also remember driving back through central London straight afterwards as I had to be at work myself that afternoon. And I made a couple of gloaty phonecalls too. Yes, I did that. Bad. Several years ago I posted a very poor colour photo of this bird on BirdForum and quipped about how this Water Rail just would not pose properly. Bit naughty really. It nearly got out of hand...

And back to 1984 now...

The friendly Pectoral Sandpiper, Staines Res, September 1984
Rear view of the cracking Pec that featured a couple of posts back.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Beddington, September 1984
I haven't been to Beddington for 25 years, but I don't miss it one bit. For one thing, Beddington was a nightmare to get to from where I lived in the NW segment of the London area. Yet I have seen some very good birds there. This Lesser Yellowlegs for example, a London tick at the time. Also Tawny Pipit and flight views of Quail. But it's the birds I didn't see that leave the most indelible memories. And not good ones...

It's February 1984 and I'm on night shifts. Just before leaving for work I get a call from John Herbert: Garry Messenbird had found a Killdeer at Beddington that afternoon. A Killdeer!! If I remember right, it had flown around a bit and he'd eventually lost it, but of course there would be plenty of hopefuls there at first light to look for it. I was now in a dilemma. After a night's work I didn't relish the ghastly drive to Beddington on the off-chance. But suppose it was still there and I didn't go? In the end I asked John to call me if it was relocated. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I got home, went to bed, and was woken a short while later by the inevitable phonecall. Half-comatose I crawled through the hideous traffic to Beddington. I was about 30 minutes too late. A flock of White-fronts later that morning were scant compensation.

Fast-forward almost a decade and Beddington is now a very different place. In the early '80s you could stroll down Mile Road, over the railway bridge and walk straight in. By the early '90s it was Fort Knox. Key-holders only. Which was no big deal until a Rustic Bunting turned up and decided to stay for the winter. This was a London tick for everybody, but now available to only a privileged few. I wasn't too bothered really, being on a bit of a birding hiatus at the time. However, one of the key-holders assured me that if I turned up on such-and-such a day, at such-and-such a time, someone would be there to escort me in and help me look for the bird. I duly turned up and was met as agreed. However, I was then informed that due to my 'known' friendship with certain West London birders (with whom some of the Beddington crew were evidently at odds) I was deemed persona non grata, and could therefore go whistle. The key-holder then stepped through the gate, locked it behind him and walked off. I couldn't believe it. Some stupid, petty, immature little feud that I knew nothing about had led to a grown man behaving like this towards a bloke he'd never met. Pathetic. Ironically, arrangements were made shortly afterwards to provide open access to non key-holders for a weekend in order to twitch the Rustic Bunting. I think there was even a Little Bunting present as well! But I didn't go. In fact, I doubt I'll ever go there again.


  1. Beddington SF - you've seen it at its best - and worst - Gav. At least I wasn't a key-holder when you were refused entry. Sorry about that episode, on behalf of the true spirit of the site, now lost underneath several million tons of refuse. As for me, I choose to remember my youthful relationship with the place, when it was a magical kingdom (and ironically was in a period of few notable birds).

    1. A youthful 'magical kingdom' is a wonderful place for a memory to hold, Steve, and I can easily see how Beddington could have been such a place.

  2. Ouch. You have to love birding. And birders!

    1. Ha ha! Yes, the Killdeer dip was a massive lowlight of my London birding career. My own fault though. The Rustic episode really was something else of course...

  3. Yes there was a Little Bunting too! I was working 10 mins. away in Wallington at the time so had both on my lunchbreak - jammy,eh? But they were a funny lot down there. Hope things have improved nowadays...