14 March 2011

Once upon a time from the West

A really good day on Wanstead Flats today. An early morning foray netted no fewer than five Great Spotted Woodpeckers, three Green Woodpeckers, and a showy male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. This latter bird was in the west copse (see map), and it was from there than I saw all three species in about five seconds flat without moving an inch. The Lesser and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were in the same tree, and whilst looking at them, a Green Woodpecker landed in a Hawthorn just beyond. As far as woodpeckers go, it doesn't come much better.

Back on the Flats after the school run, I plonked myself in the main Skylark area and started watching the sky. Mike, another local birder, joined me, and we nattered away, picking up a fair few Chaffinches moving east, and a couple of Sparrowhawks. Over at Stoke Newington, Mark "Raptor Pheremones" Pearson was doing much the same as us. At around eleven I had a text from him about a Red Kite heading low east. Stoke Newington is more or less directly west of Wanstead, but nonetheless I had little expectation of it coming over. It's about five miles away, and even a slight deviation could see it pass well north or south of us. But it didn't deviate!

About half an hour later, still scanning the appropriate bit of the horizon, I was utterly amazed to see a large raptor with a couple of corvids in tow flapping lazily east. The distance was pretty extreme, but the flight action screamed Kite, and more importantly didn't scream Buzzard, with which I am more familiar. Luckily Mike hails from Buckinghamshire, and has Red Kites coming out of his ears there, and confirmed what I thought once he got on it. A few more corvids started having a go, and the bird went high to shake them off before continuing east. Only the second I have ever seen here, and in both instances I have had alerts from birders to the west. The camaraderie in London is nothing short of superb. Cheers Mark!

We were unable to return the favour, a Peregrine heading NW towards Walthamstow was as close as we got, but there will be others I'm sure. Red Kite is a new bird for Wanstead this year, and takes the 2011 site list to 85. And still no Wheatear!

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