27 April 2012


Finally some life. I've been accused of being a manic depressive, following weeks of seeing nothing. Today was pretty good all things considered. Two Shelduck landed on my yearlist by circling just north of Manor Park before disappearing east, and a beefy gull on the playing fields revealed itself as a Yellow-legged (or at least, that's what I'm calling it). Lesser Whitethroat in Long Wood completed my personal trio, and others had a few Wheatear, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows. The Gull was new for the year, and with a full day on the patch tomorrow, perhaps we can add something else. Supposedly the rain is going to hold off until after lunch. I'm not holding my breath.

23 April 2012


It was all going down hill nicely, nothing to shout about, and with the rain becoming increasingly heavier I reconsidered my idea to visit the Hollow Ponds (Leyton) and decided to go home instead having already soaked up more water than a loofah.

Nothing on Jubilee, the strange Willow-chaff singing in the SSSI, and a proper singer, some Whitethroat not a heap else.  The Park was also quiet.  Lesser Black-backed Gulls queueing up for the first Coot chicks, and devouring one of them, the GC Grebes not doing much in the way of imminent parenthood their pathetic weed mound of the nest looking like it will submerge at any moment.

On one side of the ornamental waters I came across the female Mandarin, her partner on the other, so not much reproduction going on there either. The Lesser Whitethroat was back in the old sewage works, but so were the men from Redbridge Council working on the path, so I didn't linger.

I was just checking some gull or pigeon action over Capel Point when I saw a a small series of points in the sky over Forest Gate.  I thought at first it might be a strange cloud formation, but I checked anyway.  A skein of birds flying in a tight 'v'.  Interesting, but bound to be gulls.  They came closer and revealed themselves not be gulls, or geese for that matter. Time for 'big bins'.  I might look stupid wearing two sets of optics, so I now hide the bigger pair in my rucksack, just in case.  Today they would earn their keep.

The skein revealed itself to a formation of wader, more interesting, as they came closer I could see that they were clearly not godwit, narrowing it down to Curlew or Whimbrel and finally the latter as they reached their closest point to me before disappearing over Manor Park in the direction of Ilford.  My count circa 33 birds, I hadn't even seen flocks that large at Cliffe.  Blimey! I even thought about staying out just in case...  ... not for long though!

21 April 2012

Another 3 patch tick day

After sweating over the last blog till the early hours of this morning I was frankly knackered.  And being thus I inadvertently managed to miss the first of the Nightingale surveys, damn!  Apparently none were found, so perhaps not such a bad judgement call.

I was wandering aimlessly around in circles when Mr Fisher appeared, tanned from his visit to Turkey.  A good time was had it appears, with some cracking birds, which hopefully he will write up with some equally impressive image work on The Utter Twites. We were joined by Bob Vaughan out looking for ouzels.  We stood and chatted, which is beginning to get a bit of a habit on the flats, but likewise with the ouzel of Friday it paid dividends.  Stuart picked up a warbler flying down the path into the hawthorn. He's back all of twenty minutes and he's already picked up a bird I would have easily overlooked.

Lesser Whitethroat! Only 6 days later than last year.  It didn't call just flew around a bit and disappeared into Long Wood.

Nothing else was happening on the flats so I made my way over to the park, specifically for some late breakfast, while Stuart re-united himself with the Alex.

By the Heronry a bird sang, this happens a lot, but in this particular case it the song contained a whole heap of interesting warbler flourishes and melodies.  It was a Blackcap, but one that point blank refused to sing blackcap.  It did me last time I passed the same bush several days ago, there's one in the old sewage works which had me staring at the brambles for about ten minutes before its true identity was revealed. Of course we have to do this just in case its a Garden Warbler or something more interesting, and the songs themselves are really quite beautiful.  It seams this year all the songsters are into sampling in a big way.

After a coffee and a slab of fruit cake I staggered off round the plain, and over to the old sewage works. Here I was greeted by the dd-dd-d of another Lesser Whitethroat, and the scratchy song of a number of Commons - one even carrying nesting material, where there had been none the day before.

A couple of Large Whites flitted about, looking rather smart, giving a good comparison between the sexes, and an Orange Tip, which eluded my clumsy attempts to stalk it. I think we should add a butterfly page to the blog.

(pics 1-5 Large White, 6 Small White)

Mute Swans appear to be trying to nest below on of the golf tees, anymore rain and they may have to think again as the river level was quite high.

Quite frankly I had had enough and wanted my bed, continual early mornings and late nights are grinding me down, so I pushed on to the Alex on the way home. The crowds had stayed away and the chippy was open so I got myself some comfort food and sat down for lunch.

A couple of  Swallow swept west and with them a House Martin. Interesting! I had vowed to stay out today until I'd got a Sand Martin, so now I better stay put. Half an hour later I got a glimpse of a martin like bird as it disappeared over the trees.  On the other side another House Martin, but this time its companion was a Sandy. About friggin time!

Now all I need to come past are a Common Sandpiper, Swift, Hobby....

Having used up all my luck I wandered back to the broom fields, and since no one was about, wandered around in circles for a bit for old times sake.

The constant pictures of Meadow Pipit? just in case one isn't!

Another 3 tick day, not many more of those I fear.

Tardiness pays a dividend

Late out to the flats today (I wont go into details) Tim texted me about a Wheatear in the brooms.  As I passed the increasingly large puddle that is the Bandstand (AKA Angel Pond) I saw Tim retreating down one path and Jono approaching up another. We finally met up in the middle of the broom field and started discussing the Nightingale survey that Tim had signed us up for.  Not that we will get a Nightingale (last reported singer was 2 year's ago, an all too brief moment in park), but we discussed the logistics anyway.  A large thrush flew out of the hawthorn down the path from us.  I am sure it was a Mistle Thrush, but wasn't really certain.  We chatted on.  A thrush flies around us and lands in the brooms not 20 yards to the south. As one we raise our bins and as one exclaim "Ring Ouzel!"

After failing to find Jono's previous birds, one comes to find us.  I had thought the moment for these majestic birds had passed and I would have to wait for the autumn.  We stood transfixed while the bird clutched the side of a broom then dropped down and disappeared into the undergrowth. Amazingly slender, like the super model of the thrush world and quite a different shape to the regular Blackbird.

I had considered it just too far for a good snap, but when has that ever stopped me, thinking that I would get a better shot when it poked its head out again.  We waited.

News sent out to local birders, we waited some more.  It was beginning to remind me of a certain April day last year spent staring at a log. We waited some more.  Harry Lacey and Barry Bishop turned up and joined in the fun. We now had all the angles covered, so as long as we concentrated nothing would get passed us. 

When it did shoot out it still took us by surprise.  A quick arc and it landed in the little oak favoured by the mipits beyond the broom, then it was spooked by a Sparrowhawk and flew high to south copse where we followed.   From there it was flushed by dog walkers and zipped up into the top of a tree in west copse.  Finally we all got a good scoped view before it flew down and disappeared as is the remarkable ability of these birds.

Smiles all round though!

18 April 2012

Drip, drip, drip, little April showers...

As the drought restrictions start to bite we have, of course, rain.  Enough of it, but not enough of it.  At least its slightly warmer, or is it that I've just come out prepared for the worse.

Friday was so gloomy it was like walking through a blanket.  Surprisingly good for all that.  A couple of Shelduck over the Jubilee pond, which until the corporation turned the taps on was looking good for waders - a Yellow Wag somewhere in the gloom circling over said pond, and the first of the returning Common Whitethroat (then two).  A three patch tick day, can't be bad, and there was the air of expectation.  I should know better.

Sunday was dire, so we hoofed it off patch.  Monday, lovely but a tad bitter, the only highlight a Swallow hawking down the side of Heronry and a Wheatear somewhere I think.  Tuesday and the rain, having not come out prepared I gave up all too willingly and went back to bed.  Today, prepared, I squelched round for very little, oh that it was Tuesday!

The Corporation have finally answered our pleas for signage to warn of ground nesting birds, and they have surpassed themselves.  So far I've seen one sign, in an out of the way place.  I watched a lady dog walker walk passed it, eyes fixed firmly on the path.  After all if you don't see something it doesn't count, does it?

This is what it's like taking to dalk walkers about their responsibilities

14 April 2012

More Spring

Some more great birding this morning on the Flats, with House Martin and Reed Warbler (Alex) both new for the year, though sadly I saw neither. Another male Common Redstart (Long Wood) was the standout bird, and there were at least three singing Willow Warblers, though I doubt they'll stay. Plenty of Swallows moving through, and a couple of Wheatears near the model aircraft field. Apologies for the brevity, lots to do!

12 April 2012

... how true!

For those who know the area. It was Wednesday so no surprise really when Birdguides reported this....

Little do they know how true this is

Smartest bird on the patch

After failing to catch up with either of the Ring Ouzels that Jonno had found over the weekend, finally it appears that spring is here.  A sprinkling of Wheatear and the faint songs of Willow Warbler, Tim strikes gold with the first of this year's Common Redstart, and what a cracking bird.  I didn't manage to get a striking male last spring, so when he texted me of a male in Long Wood I hot footed it from the wader scrape that is replacing the receding waters of the Jubilee pond.

Rather than at the favoured scrubby bit, I found Tim earnestly gazing at something in the middle of the long copse.  I withdrew and rounded the brooms so as not to flush anything and joined him on the other side.  What a beauty!

Tim had to go to work, but Jono soon joined me for a quick look before he too was back to his office.  Marco pitched up next, soon to be followed by Keith running as fast as I've ever seen him move. We bathed in the glory of this small bird flycatching from the bushes and for a while the sun felt all together warmer.

I took my leave to try for Sand Martin, reported yesterday over the Heronry by Amina Banajeh and her mother by the Little Tea Shop of Happiness.  There were none.  A Wheatear flew south over the lake, so I decided to go seek more on the plain behind the tea hut.  A Buzzard soared westward unbothered by crows. The potential for anything was palpable.

I found another Wheatear atop the anthills, a slightly more amenable one than those of the flats.  Pipits were calling as they flew north, it was just a great day.  Then it sleeted as I went to the Old Sewage Works.  Here Redbridge Council are doing their utmost to ruin one of the beset places to avoid people in Wanstead by metalling the path between Manor Park and Wanstead - to help the cyclists just in case it gets muddy - they've obviously got money to waste.  Unsurprisingly nothing was on the river, though a Little Egret to did land at one of its favourite fishing spots before flapping north again. 

I walked back towards the stables.  I then caught sight of a large, dark raptor making good progress against the wind going west. Looked good for either Black Kite or Marsh Harrier from that distance, I called Jono to see if he could get better views from his garden, but it had either passed too far to the north or changed direction.  We put the news out to a few people in the hope of getting a positive ID.  Nothing, but it appears a female type Marsh Harrier was later seen on the Thames between Crossness and Bow Creek, could it have been the same bird?  Another could have been, should have been, wasn't!