I started birding at 13 in 1978. Then I lived in Berkshire, so much of my early London birding memories involve Staines Reservoir and Wraysbury Gravel Pits (the winter of '78-'79 was exceptionally cold and a bumper year for Red-necked Grebes). Unfortunately much of my 20s and 30s were spent doing other things, but my favourite London birding memory was a September morning (1989?). There was a high pressure system over the country, so the sky was unbroken blue. At Walthamstow Marshes however there was a thick, thick fog which clung to the ground but petered out at about 6 foot. This gave one the unnerving sensation that you weren't on the ground at all, but walking through the clouds! To the north, my attention was drawn to what I at first assumed was a Gull being mobbed (until I realised it was Gulls doing the mobbing), flying slowly towards me and then about 20 feet above my head was my first Osprey. It continued slowly on until disappearing to the south (I found out later that it had been in the Lea Valley for at least a week). Something about the cloudless sky, the thick, ground-hugging fog and the bird itself (not just a London tick, but a 'lifer') all added up to an almost mystical experience. Partly because of this experience, I no longer do anything near the amount of twitching that I used to. I believe that if you look for your own birds, your identification skills improve and when you do find something exceptional, it has much more of an emotional charge. Thats not to say I won't twitch something nearby, it's just that I've met birders at twitches recently that if they weren't in a group, would find it hard to identify anything 'tricky'. My favourite memory ever was October '85 on the Scillies (Yellow and Black-billed Cuckoo on the same day, 5 Red-eyed Vireos, Bobolink, Myrtle Warbler, Northern Parula, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Booted warbler etc). Now I spend a lot of time 'grilling' Gulls. I figure that it's just a matter of time before I find something from 'across the pond'
In the 2006 patchlist competition, my current totals are- Hampstead Heath-62: (Black-headed Gull /Canada Goose /Tufted Duck /Shoveller /Ring-necked Parakeet /Robin /Mallard /Woodpigeon /Jay /Great Tit /Carrion Crow /Wren /Mistle Thrush /Coal Tit /Starling /Feral Pigeon /Coot /Moorhen /Herring Gull /Great-crested Grebe /Mute Swan /Gadwall /Magpie /Great-spotted Woodpecker /Chaffinch /Blue Tit /Blackbird /Green Woodpecker /Long-tailed Tit /Siskin, Jackdaw, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Kestrel, Cormerant, Grey heron, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Treecreeper,Greenfinch, Brambling, Mandarin Duck, Stock Dove, Pochard, Greylag, Song Thrush, Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Alpine Swift, Sedge Warbler, Wheatear, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Reed Warbler, Swift, Garden Warbler) Walthamstow Reservoirs-60: (Canada Goose /Cormerant /Black-headed Gull /Tufted Duck /Coot /Robin /Starling /Blue Tit /Grey Heron /Ruddy Duck /Great-crested Grebe /Herring Gull /Moorhen /Carrion Crow /Gadwall /Lesser Black-backed Gull /Common Gull /Blackbird /Redwing /House Sparrow /Woodpigeon /Greenfinch /Great Tit /Feral Pigeon /Pochard /Great Black-backed Gull /Lapwing /Greylag Goose /Pied Wagtail /Magpie /Mute Swan /Wren /Dunnock /Goldfinch /Mistle Thrush /Snipe /Long-tailed Tit /Mallard /Chaffinch /Grey Wagtail/ Goldeneye/ Little Grebe/ Song Thrush/ Shoveller/ Sparrowhawk/ Shelduck/ Goosander/ Common Sandpiper/ Mediterranean Gull(20/01/06)/ Kestrel, Whitethroat, Collared Dove, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swift, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Spoonbill[18/06/06])