Unfortunately we were unable to get our target of 100 birds this time around but Hara has agreed to make it double or quits giving us one more crack at this next year! This will make the stakes £200 if we win and we will be selecting a time earlier in the year which we believe was the reason for our failure. I think that perhaps this time round it was just a bit too late for many of the key migrants we needed and few birds were calling making it hard for us to locate them.
Anyway enough excuses! Despite not reaching our goal we did raise over £300 for the RSPB! We also saw some great birds that up until recently I had no idea existed in London. Birding highlights were Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Yellow Legged Gull, Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Black Tailed Godwit and Spotted Flycatcher. There were also many birds spotted while prepping for the race that unfortunately didn't show on the day or had passed on to their breeding areas outside of london.
Overall we spent 36 of the 48 hours we had birding and it started really well as we achieved 81 birds in the first day! We started off at Cannons Farm and Banstead Woods where we picked up many of the farm and woodland birds we needed including Lesser Pecker, Yellow Hammer, Bulfinch and Treecreeper. We then moved on to Mogador Woods in hope of Marsh Tit which we only heard but could not see. The plan was to split up to try and cover more ground listening out for these elusive birds. I went left and within 5 minutes I received a call from Joe saying, 'Ive just seen Tawny Owl and heard Marsh Tit!'. This was great in theory but in reality despite our best efforts to find Joe, Luke and I could not locate his spot. By the time we got there, the Owl had been chased off by Jays. After this we tried so hard to find the Marsh Tits but time was running out and we had a very tight schedule.
We then left for Beddington where we had been kindly allowed to enter for the day only. Here we picked up a late Wheatear, Tree Sparrow, and Little Ringed Plover. We spent only a short time here as we were very short on time but we were already on over 40 birds!
Next we headed for Barnes to the WWT wetland centre where we saw more Ringed Plover, Shoverler, Egyptian Goose but despite hearing loads of Cettis we could not locate them. normally have a good track record with spotting these birds despite the fact they are easier to hear than see but on this occasion we were not so lucky. Despite hearing the bird and seeing it fly from the same bush a few minutes later, we could not be 100% on the ID of this bird so it did not make it on the list.
We then went on to Staines Res. Not the prettiest of birding sites but it has proved to be a very good spot hosting Slavonian Grebe, Great Northern Diver and Little Gull in recent months. Unfortunately, all had passed on but we were able to get great views of Arctic Tern. I also had a probable Sanderlng but as I did not have anyone to varify it it could not go on the list.
While we were at Staines the Bird reports had started to come through and there had been 3 of our wanted Waders seen at Crossness. It was quite far but if we could get these difficult birds today then this would leave an easier task tomorrow. So off we went and when we got there the tide was out as we had planned. This should improve our chances of seeing the Waders so we birded hard and fast trying to pick them out but there was no sign. Rooks had also been reported but we still had no sign. We birded the full area spending over 2 hours at this destination but we were unable to pick up these Waders. We did pick up Yellow Legged Gull and Grey Wagtail but missed out on Greenshank, Sanderling, Rook and Med Gull.
After this we went back to Cannons farm where we had missed the Little Owl but this time we were succesful. It perched nicely for us in its favourite tree. We also saw some good mammals in Fox, Badger and Roe Deer but unfortunately we tried to justify it. Hmmm perhaps the humour was a bit strange as we were all so tired from our 3am start. We got home at about 10:30pm and were very tired. We had 81 birds. This was a great start and we were still missing easy birds such as Manderin Duck, Meadow Pipit and Lesser Whitethroat. We were going to do this!
When we got home we debated where to start the following day. We wanted to be somewhere good so we decided to try Crayford Marsh. We started off looking for the reports of Corn Bunting which I had not seen there before but there was no sign or sound of them. We then walked along to the Thames in hope of the Waders we had missed at Crossness. The tide was low so we thought that we were in with a good chance of some good Waders. Sanderling were being reported everywhere so we though we were in with a good chance. However, no sign. We had to push on so we decided we would try another shot at Crossness as if the Waders were not here they perhaps would be there??? On the way back we did however get our Corn Bunting and had a flyover Meadow Pipit but we had missed out on crucial Waders!
Crossness second time round was our first blank of the trip. We didn't see any new birds for the weekend and we were still missing crucial waders. The plan was that we would get to Rainham Marsh by opening time but we had spent to long scanning Crayford and Crossness and didnt get there till high tide. This should be good, we thought, as it will push all the Waders on to the marsh. We arrived and looked at the sightings list and smiled. There were no less than 7 birds we needed on the list! Great, lets get going. So we birded and birded starting off in the woodland area in hope of Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Cettis Warbler. We spent ages trawling through this area wth no sign of these birds. we dd see an even more unlikely sighting of Spotted Flycatcher. (My God birding is so unpredictable) We were fired up by this and decided to leave for the marshland area and search for the waders. Within minutes we had the Black Tailed Godwit. It was likely that this was the only one in London at the moment so was a key bird! We searched so hard for the rest of the Waders that had been sighted a few hours before our arrival but they just were not showing. We spent 2 hours birding til mid-day and decided to have a break at the cafe. (our first actual break of the trip) We then planned to wait for the tide to go out and go round again and also try again for the Warblers. By this point we had been birding for about 30 hours and we were tired and achy. We were disheartened by the lack of birds and all adrenaline had left us. We were quiet and starting to lose it. By this point we had realised that perhaps we simply were not going to get the 100 birds despite only needing another 12. After the rest we had one last try for the Waders but still no sign. We tried for the Warblers but still no sign. We were really starting to lose it. We had only got 7 new birds and the prime time had gone. This was the first time I'd ever been to Rainham and not seen Peregrine too. It was so frustrating! We had one more Wader site left so we went to Coldharbour Lane, north of Rainham. No sign of any new birds hear either. We looked up at the reports and everything we needed was being seen at Crayford, our frst stop this morning. We could have chased these but the tides were lkely to change by the time we would get there and we expected this would mean they would move. We moved on to a second Marsh Tit site but had no joy and then moved on to a Manderin and Kingfsher site where I had seen bot last weekend. But no sign.
This day had been a disaster and at 5pm we gave up. We had birded for 36 hours and had nothing left. Luke's ankle was starting to swell up as he had twisted it earlier at Crayford. We were broken men. We needed sleep and food so decided to drop of the car and head to the pub. The first day had gone so well but today had not been great at all.
Today (Bank Holiday Monday, the day after our Brd Race) we have already decided to try again next year in the last week of April as I think the time of year might have been the main reason for the loss. We realised that this could definitely be done and had proved what I aimed to prove, that there is wildlife in London if you looked out for it. I know I will achieve this goal but unfortunately I will need a second chance. So here is still next time!
We had a great few days birding and despite what may sound like quite a negative report, we really enjoyed it and saw some great birds.
Hara has agreed to let me try again but if I lose will have to pay out double meaning I will fork out £200. She has also said that even if she wins the money will still go to the RSPB who are the real winners of this task.
The 88 bird birds were...
Black T godwit
Yellow legged gull
Long tailed tit
Joe also had a Tawny Owl and we heard Cettis Warbler, Garden Warbler and Marsh Tit