16 July 2018

The Patch Fire...

Just been out for a quick look around the still smouldering patch. Many firemen are still there and miles of hose pipes have been linked together and are snaking all over. The firemen have done a great job throughout the night and are patrolling because the grassy areas can burn below ground and suddnely flare up. Bad but not as bad as it could have been thanks to prompt action. 
All the grassland and small bushes on the SSSI are gone, but larger bushes and trees remain intact. Motorcycle Wood didn't go up and the fire only spread halfway across the fairground. All this will regenerate. So look away now, first up the northern part of the SSSI from Lakehouse Road

 Mid-SSSI from Lakehouse Road

 Mid-SSSI from Centre Road
 South SSSI from Lakehouse

 Fairground from Lakehouse

The area we were most worried about was the Skylark and Meadow Pipit breeding area and the news here is encouraging. A large area south of Long Wood went up but was contained, most of the enclosure is still standing, but our visimig point is ash. Fortunately south of there wasn't affected and the extensive grasslands were preserved.

 East Long Wood
North East Long Wood
The brickpit has minor damage and quite how the fire spread is unclear.
Apparently there was a large log aflame this morning in Centre Copse! 
A big thanks to the firemen and the police, we are still here, and I had the first Yellow Wagtail of autumn fly over the Fairground. All is not lost.

8 July 2018

Juvenile gulls back on the Patch

I have prattled on in a little more detail in my own personal blog, but wanted to share some pics of some of the gulls out on the Flats that are back from breeding grounds.

I always love looking at juvenile Black-headed Gulls when they are fresh on the Patch:

I almost managed to miss this juvenile Mediterranean Gull in with about a hundred Black-headed Gull:

There is also something smart about juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls - perhaps it is the fine pale band around the tertials:

22 April 2018

Check your phone and you go 'cuckoo'

I had just been watching a pair of female Wheatear on the model aircraft field when a hawk-like shape caught my attention from the left of my field of vision and coming in low from SSSI. That hawk-like shape was a patch tick for me: Cuckoo!

I was lucky I already had my camera to hand for the Wheatear and so I got a couple of shots as it glided in to the brooms.

To my amazement it popped up almost immediately in one of our largest broom thickets. I could see Bob and Jono just about 50-70 metres away further East so beckoned frantically before getting a shot or ten of it perched up.

Self found patch tick! Excellent! About to share with my Patch colleagues! Excellent! But then things went a little wrong. I turned my attention to my phone and shared the news via text and WhatsApp with the rest of my patch and East London birding community. By the time my sweaty digits had finished tapping, Jono and Bob were nearly with me. I looked back at the branch where the Cuckoo was... and it had gone. To cut a long story, short, in the time it took me to send three quick messages, I lost the Cuckoo and despite 9 (yes, 9!) birders looking for it thoroughly within a short space of time, it had somehow disappeared; probably flew off North or West.

Cuckoo by numbers
Assuming Twitter is correct, this was the 17th Cuckoo in 7 years on the Patch and - given last year there was only a single, and rather vague, report from someone unknown to the crew - the first sighting for almost two years. Interestingly, it is also the earliest by ten days. But then it has felt very much more like June or July, than April.

18 April 2018


Sorry Tim got to be done: 

Rook: 40 records since 1976!

2018: 15+ records (so far), with a juvenile seemingly taking up residence with the crows around Alex, presumably because they’re having the same amount of trouble identifying it as we are.  Easily the best year for records we’ve had, the latest being an adult seen today (18th April).

Prior to 2013: Rare, with just four known records. The first was of a bird Flying over Wanstead Park on November 3rd 1976, another of a bird flying over a garden near the Flats on June 14th 2009, one over Alexandra Lake on March 25th 2012, and another at Alexandra Lake on March 9th 2013               

2014: two over Wanstead Flats, 10/3

2015 10 birds were noted from the 14th March to the final bird on the 27th over the flats

2016: 4 records for this year.  Either these birds are becoming more regular between the end of March and April or we are getting better at recognising them.  First on the 24th March, with 2 the next day which actually landed in a gathering of crows on the football pitches west of Alex.  Needless to say it wasn’t long before the crows chased them off.  One on the 10th April and the final bird of the year over Wanstead Park on the 15th April.

2017: 5 Records