Saturday 17 March 2012

It's in front of the smaller of the three shopping trolleys

Other than the birds themselves, one of the best things about birding is that you get to see some beautiful parts of the country, that otherwise may have not reached my radar. Ah, the memories of spending a sunny day sitting at the head at Porthgwarra (Cornwall) seawatching, or standing at the end of Channonry Point (Black isle, Scotland) watching dolphins down to 20 to 30 feet from the shore or just about anywhere on the glorious Scillies.

This morning's short trip to banks of the River Thames at Rainham Marshes to see my 1st ever Kumlien's Gull, didn't exactly fall into the "stunning scenery" category. It was cold and drizzling with the rain which didn't help the ambiance, but it was the directions I provided to a late arriving birder that summed up the surroundings. It went a little like this:

Birder: "Hi, is the Kulmien's showing?"

Me: "Well there a white winged bird on the foreshore on the other side of the Thames that is probably it, but it's got its back to us and hasn't moved for a while, so it could be an Iceland. It needs to fly really to get confirmation"

Birder: Oh, ok, where is it?"

Me: " If you look at the jetty and then move left, you'll come to a dumped shopping trolley in the mud. Go past that one and then there's another three shopping trolleys together, it's in the water, just in from of the smaller trolley, the one with the red bit on it"

Scenic it aint!

Eventually it did fly around showing a darker band on the tail, and it had a pale grey shawl marking on the back. But the rain became a bit harder and a bit colder, and with the bird looking settled some distance away it was time to retreat back to the car and get on with my Saturday duties, which does include going to see AFC Hornchurch again, so I can't complain too much.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Football 1 Birding 0

Anyone who knows me well, know's I am a huge West Ham Utd fan. I started going to watch the Hammers regularly from the age of 14, and until 2 years ago when I made the touch decision to ditch my season ticket, I had been to around 500 games, including visiting over 50 stadiums, some many times and going to 3 cup finals. As I said it really was a hard decision to ditch my seeson ticket, but to be fair to my wife and kids, something had to give, either football or birding. Birding won! Last season I still went to around a third of home games, but this season I have been to just one West Ham match, and that was an away game at Brighton. If by the end of the season I don't go to a home match, it'll be the first time in 30 years I would have not seen a home game all season. I still love West Ham and watch every game that's on TV, but just lately I have found myself watching my local team, AFC Hornchurch. Football at this level is very far removed from the heights of the Premiership or league football, but the standard is suprisingly pretty good.

Jamie ( my 12 year old) and I went to our first game about a month ago, and we haven't missed a home game since. That's 3 in a row now and we are really enjoying it. The ground is a short 10 minute drive from home, it's cheap to get in, and Jamie has a free season ticket. Yesterday's game v Concorde Rangers, saw the biggest crowd of our 3 matches to date, 328. The next game is on Tuesday night and we are already looking forward to it. Hornchurch are in 2nd place in their league, 3 points off top, with 2 games in hand. If they go up, they will be in the league below the Conference. It's exciting stuff. To date we have seen 3 games resulting in 3 wins, 4 goals scored and none conceded. Perhaps we are lucky mascots.

Today I had planned to pop down to not so sunny Kent to look at an escaped Hooded Merganser just in case one day it turned out to be unexpectedly accepted as a wild bird. I know unlikely, but with no birding the previous weekend (West Ham were live on TV and other family commitments) I just fancied getting out. However, football again put pay to that again. West Ham were live on TV against promotion rivals Cardiff City and if West Ham are to be promoted back to the Premiership, they needed a win. Much nail bitting took place until the final whistle went and West Ham came away from south Wales with all 3 points. I like south Wales, that's 3 good points for West Ham and a Common Yellowthroat in the last 2 weeks!

I doubt I'll end up going every Hornchurch FC game and it it's choice between a day out birding and a footy match, the birding will win every time (I think), but for now it's 1-0 to the football.