10 September 2011

August review

Just when you think the summer will never end along comes August. Hoorah for August. The weather's been crap: brilliant.

We said goodbye to the Swifts, the last being seen over the flats on the 23rd, and hello to whole heap of southerly moving migrants.

Highlights being:

Bullfinch in the old sewage works
Wheatear: a highlight anytime
Kittiwake over shoulder of mutton
Pied Flycatcher: not once but twice for one lucky chappie
Sedge & Grasshopper Warbler

The month started quietly enough and on the 2nd (why there was no 1st of August I cannot remember) with JL booting the first returning Snipe off the Alex early doors. A serious lack of interest followed over the next few days until the report of the first returning Wheatear on the 5th cheered everybody up and encouraged them out of their homes.

The 9th brought the first probable sighting of a Spotted Flycatcher, a whole two weeks earlier than last year, from the allotments backing on to the old sewage works. It was in the old sewage works that the first of the month's Bullfinch sightings was recorded, with 2 juvenile birds that flew around a bit, hid most of the time, and called constantly. They were back again the next day, buy savvy enough not to get seen or heard by anyone else. By this time the Park was getting seriously little attention as the flats took centre stage.

The first returning Yellow Wagtail sailed high over head on the 12th becoming an almost daily occurrence with up to 20 birds moving south during the month making it the most common wagtail on the patch. Pied and Grey Wagtail also put in an appearance during the month, but in nowhere near the same numbers. Meadow Pipit meanwhile had, it appeared, disappeared with only 4 birds seen on the 9th and 2 on the 13th; where the breeding birds vanish to is a mystery, and why, though it maybe they are all hiding like the Skylark during their moult. Their absence meant that when an unidentified pipit was seen over the east end of Long Wood, it was odds on it was a Tree Pipit. Then it called. It was the first of 3 birds seen that day (24th), and of 7 for the month, all of which had the decency to call, so no tiresome id-ing skills required there then. One even posed for the camera.

The 15th brought the first returning Whinchat (2) to the broom fields and with them 2 Wheatear (later upped to 6 birds by Stuart Fisher and the Lycra Lout (Steve Thorpe), and first decent sightings of Spotted Flycatcher in Long Wood (3). A good day also for Lesser Whitethroat (5), Garden Warbler (3) and a singing Willow Warbler (one of 3).

The first Common Redstart put in appearance on the 19th, a smart male in the scrub at the east end of Long Wood (Mike Messenger also picked one up on the plain in the park the same day), by the end of the month the total was up to 12 sightings, way better than spring. Another good day, partly because I didn't go to work, mainly though for the 5 or more Lesser Whitethroat (all smart birds), a Reed Warbler that took up residence in the blackberry bushes in Long Wood for at least 4 days, which at first look more exciting than it perhaps turned out (next time it will be an Icky or some such!), my first (on the flats) Common Tern flopped over the Alex, did a few cartwheels over Manor Park then disappeared south. In the park while chin wagging with aforementioned Mr Messenger, he espied a Buzzard as we watched Sand Martin wheeling over Heronry: his first for the year in the park, coincidentally last time we spoke he picked up his first Hobby of the year (for Wanstead), so I am lucky to talk to! The day had an even better denouement in the form of an adult Kittiwake that flew over me as I sat by the side of Shoulder of Mutton catching up on the cricket scores. A first for Wanstead, and a London tick for me too, yay!

Better (better?), was to come on the 21st when idling at the end of Long Wood with Cpt. Harris we picked up a Pied Flycatcher, my first for thousands of years and another patch and London tick for me. That a host of other people got to see the bird made it much more enjoyable than the poor old seabird that had lost its way, and it means I didn't have to go to West Ham park when the regular passage bird turned up there a week later. I have my suspicions that it was actually our bird, as Jono got the same or another flying through the brooms on the 24th, the day I was showing a couple of ladies from Brent our Spotties. The only Common Sandpiper made a brief appearance on Alex that day, and the only other wader, a Green Sandpiper, was heard calling shortly after on the 29th.

The 23rd brought our second larid of interest in the form of a Yellow-legged Gull, and a second sub-adult bird on the 26th, which Jono ummed and aaahed over for far too long in my opinion. It's got Yellow legs, and dark mantle and seriously mean looking disposition, I mean job done. 3 calling Arctic Tern put in a first appearance on the Wanstead list that day too, part it appears of a larger movement throughout the capital.

Also on the 23rd, Mr Fisher, pulling the afternoon shift on the flat, hear what he considered was a calling Grasshopper Warbler in the scrub to the east of the Alex, subsequent searches failed to find the elusive bird the next day, but victory was ours when it was booted from its hiding place behind a blade of grass on the 28th, another first for Wanstead and long overdue and sought after. No problems with the first Sedge Warbler of the year that Mr F found flitting through the bushes on the side of the basin later that day. A second sighting of this unusually rare bird was delivered on the 29th in the reeds on the Roding where it should be all the summer, with another Reed Warbler in attendance (where it should be too!).

In other news: Hobby sightings picked up with the main centre of action being the ornamental waters where it was assumed the birds had chosen to nest this year, though Mike Gotts (soon to be retiring Park Warden) suggested otherwise by his remarks that he had been hearing calling birds daily in Bush Wood by his house. It seemed unlikely that there were 2 pairs nesting in the area, else would have more sightings, wouldn't we?

Ring-necked Parakeets have taking a liking to the copses on the flats, and instead of passing harmlessly, if not noiselessly, over they now have brought their cacophony of screeches to each and every wood. A new record of 80 + birds were seen on the 15th, then I gave up counting.

Swallows are passing through in increasing numbers, sometimes going in the right direction, while the House Martin based round the church on Aldersbrook Road, appear to have had a good year and up to 14 birds have been seen having a great time. I'll miss them when they leave.

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