Why is it I never see a green sandpiper on the concrete in Pymmes Brook? Yesterday at about 2 o’clock, Max and I spent whole minutes gazing N and S but no sandpiper of any coloration (a bit of lingo americano always adds to the length of words) piped up or bobbed up or (for Philip’s belief system) materialised. And there was no kestrel on the gasometer being pestered by any of the resident crows. A goldcrest heard calling in the bridge-end shrubbery, in counterpoint to a song thrush and robin singing nearby, was my meagre reward, along with a couple of moorhens and handful of mallards below.
Am I just blind and deaf and unfortunate? No, I was perambulating at the wrong time of day, Pete, and I know it. So it was no surprise that I came across no goosanders and no gadwall by the weir or above Sandpiper Bridge. The water level was still too high for most tastes but a hunched heron, looking as miserable and grey as the day, hugged the patch of reeds at the confluence of the channel and Lee Diversion. Like you I had tufted duck and teal, startled into fleeting low-level flight, as we walked beside the river. No egret, no kingfisher, and naturally no water rail…
But upstream of the Green Bridge, in and around the reedbed, two little grebe were popping up and down like tennis balls among skirmishing coots, moorhens, mallard and four discreetly concealed teal – two of those surprised earlier? – quite unconcerned at being chased or bombarded by bigger birds. Then suddenly, behind us, the bellish ping of a kingfisher turned my attention. Sadly no sighting but, above, a flock of 12/13 redwings flighted into the copse west of the bridge. The ones you’d seen earlier, I daresay.
Two more little grebes on the Navigation, a third and fourth song thrush in song, and from Chalk Bridge a count of 43 coots occupying the water between Ikea and the old Leaside bus depot. A wish fulfilment observation of m and f stonechat on WMW in thin drizzle sent Max and me back apace to the gasometer where the smell of acrid deep-thoat spot welding, courtesy of the Environment Agency, must have been responsible for the absence of kestrels. Or so I told myself. A pretty feeble and far-fetched excuse, I grant you, but what can you expect of a septuagenarian late riser?
Oldie (aka Michael R)