Which has presented me with an ethical dilemma, because now I can make an old post look exactly like a new one. So, I just went through this little thought process:
- Announce the fact that it's old stuff in a little foreword?
- Pass it off as completely fresh material?
Anyway, my mind wandered down this lane for a bit, but then I thought 'Who cares what you do? It's your blog! Say in advance if you want...or don't...just stop agonising over it you idiot!'
In conclusion then, there may be future cheating. Or not. Or both...
There follows a post about my early days of London area birding, originally published 22 Dec 2009. Reading back my old posts now I realise that some of my writing was (is?) much too wordy, so there may be a teeny bit of editing. Here it is then...
Early Days - Birding Badlands
Although there were some earlier dabblings, for me proper birding began around 1981. I finally replaced my colossal ex-army 7x50's with bins that allowed me to stand upright, and bought a scope. One late December day in '81 found me traipsing round Queen Mother Res for Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes and a Velvet Scoter - most of that lot being lifers! Staines Res, Wraysbury GP, Queen Mary Res, Perry Oaks SF - all the W London birding hotspots saw my eager efforts. I also began to put faces to some of the names in my 1980 London Bird Report, and as 1982 and '83 came and went I slowly became part of the scene myself.
But the London Recording Area is much, much bigger than the Staines neighbourhood, and I was getting itchy feet. It was time to dip my toe in East London. I made my first visits to a few sites that I had so far only read about. I no longer have the relevant notebooks, so will have to rely on my memory, but the initial impressions are still extremely vivid.
A bitterly cold day, snow on the ground. Vast and bleak. Skylarks and Corn Buntings illuminated from below as they flew over the snowscape. Bearded Tits popping up and pinging as I waded into the huge beds of Sea Aster - a London tick, along with a couple of Hen Harriers. Yes, the birds were great. But the overriding impression was that this was a seedy and desolate place, and any moment I was going to stumble across a pair of gangland killers hauling a corpse from the boot of a car. I felt strangely vulnerable.
I first came here to look for a Long-eared Owl roost. I didn't find it. Again it was a freezing day, and the first thing I saw as I arrived in the early morning was a Lurcher trotting away across a piece of waste ground with a dead cat hanging from its jaws. Lovely.
There was a power station here, with a warm water outfall that attracted terns. Also ash lagoons with a wader roost. The first time I went there I noticed I was not alone. Most of my East London birding had so far been notable for the total absence of other people, but not today - there was another guy creeping about on the Stone Ness saltmarsh. He was dressed in camouflage, wearing a black balaclava with two eye holes, and carrying a rifle. I gave him a very wide berth...
Another vast and empty place. Once again my first visit was in winter. I remember seeing a Hen Harrier, and again failing to find a Long-eared Owl roost. Desolate and uninviting. It probably didn't help that my pioneering visits were midweek and therefore unaccompanied.
The Thames in E London was wide, industrialised, thick and smelly. The birding hotspots were bleak, with an air of dismal neglect and vague threat. But the birding was fantastic! Dartford Marsh has given me Sociable Plover and Purple Heron; Dagenham Chase a stunning male Pine Bunting, and Long-eared Owls many times; West Thurrock a Sabine's Gull, plus Roseate and White-winged Black Terns. And here's a notebook page from a visit to Rainham:
Almost exactly one year later I went to Rainham again, this time for a first-summer male Red-footed Falcon. Of course, Rainham Marsh is now a premier RSPB reserve, and I think it's fairly safe to say that it is (and probably always was) the best birding site in London.
In comparison to these dodgy venues, W London was positively genteel!