26 January 2013

What a racket!

Wandered around the park in the melting snow and mud on this bright day to a cacophony of noise: robins, strident great tits, thik-thiking long-tails, explosive wrens, drumming Gt spots and a deedly deedling goldcrest. Perch pond held a seething mass of about 40 Gadwall in a tight bunch, not sure why but they looked as though they were in a feeding frenzy. On to the “old sewage works” where a bush was making too much noise, peering in there lurked a male sparrowhawk, hopping around on the branches accompanied by alarmed finches and tits. Even the mud has shoots quietly poking through. Has Spring sprung?

24 January 2013

Health and safety

While the cold snap hasn't quite lived up to its promise, it's still exciting hitting the patch but with that comes frustration (I had hoped that someone might find the flock of Linnet from yesterday and the mystery yellow finch that might be with them).  Today was no exception.  Still waiting for that mega wader to speed over or get kicked up from a ditch, yes Jack Snipe I am talking about you.  Even the Lapwings have dried up for the moment, the 3 lost birds of the start of the week were down to one yesterday and none today.  But as I listened to Tim recount a few tit bits from his Cambodia trip (he's promised me a bit on vultures for the Twites), we had a flock of Waxwing narrowly missing the visimig hawthorns decked out in their strange fruit.  Then a Brambling fiddled passed called once and was lost over Centre Copse. A few Fieldfare braved our presence to tuck in to the fruit, little do they know the suffering my hands are going through providing them with this.  Cold and the barbed twigs adding a few drops of blood here and there.

Time came for Tim to go to work and I wandered off for a coffee and to visit the Alex. Half way across the fields I picked up some crow action directed at an unfortunate Buzzard that I tracked across into Forest Gate, presumably the same bird picked up over Tower Hamlets Cemetery a bit later.  It was just too far to make out any discernible markings (white rump), after Monday's bird got me a bit excited after inspection of the pics, but I began to imagine I could.

The Alex held no treats, though a Herring Gull got me going again, one day! Off to the Old Sewage Works where not a lot was happening, and what was happening was down the far end in the Aldersbrook, where a Woodcock gave up its hiding place to find a quieter one on the golf course.

Back into the Park and disappointment again over the rail, and still no Lesser Spots.  As I approached Shoulder of Mutton I could see a party of Corporation workers enjoying a brew.  That's not good, invariable Corporation workers means destruction of habitat in one way or another.

"What are you destroying this time?", I coyly ask. It all becomes too clear what they are destroying. The east side of the little lake is now denuded of the willow and other trees that found footing within its margins.

And for why? Health and fucking safety!  It appears what he had foolishly regarded as pond in a natural depression was actually held up by a dam. A dam that extends the 50 or so metres through the wood to the west end of Heronry.  New government legislation means that all dams of this sort must be devoid anything that will hold the soil together just in case the levee should break causing a tsunami that could just make it to Paris, or more exactly - nothing.  What the force of nature required to move some thousands of cubic metres of earth would be, I can't even speculate.  Suffice to say should some event that could manage it happen, the Corporation and Environment Agency or which other clowns are behind this policy would have more to worry about than a few inches of water. It is unbefuckingbelievable!

I was trying to think what we had lost here. I had my first Willow Warbler of last summer singing from the branches that were now piled up to the side of the path.  Blackcaps loved it, the Reed Warbler found food in the canopy - at least the reeds are safe and if anything good can come of this it may be the extension of the reeds where the leaves used to close in. Having said that the little path down the side of the pond will probably become more accessible as picknickers and others enjoy the open space, so the Reed Warbler's probably buggered.  How the Little Grebe will fare with no protection from stick throwing morons with no protection at their rear afforded them by the trees will have to wait.  All this because of the asinine policy of building on flood plains, and interfering with the natural drainage of an area. As if I hadn't been depressed enough about the thought of going to work, I was now.

21 January 2013

A(pple) plan bears fruit

Armed with more apples from the Co-Op, I found Mr Lethbridge staking out the brooms by the chosen trees. He'd already got some tasty pics, so before he left he helped me add to the growing orchard. The flocks of winter thrush appeared to have left anyway so I hoofed it over to Alex, not sure quite what the best option was.  We're talking fly over waders, like all and sundry got over the weekend, bar us.

Picked up Josh on his first foray of the New Year, he's my lucky talisman, things usually happen when he's with me.  Nothing unusual had happened by the time we got to the Old Sewage Works, so I was considering chucking him in the river to replace the dog.

However, when we got to the south end, I notice a couple of crows giving it some to a Buzzard. It's always pleasing to see a large raptor over the patch, and it's been sometime since I saw one.  [Having looked at the pictures on screen: interesting looking black belly on it, wish I'd had better views now].

That done, we had a look at the ducks.  Same old, same old.  Dipped the rail.  And wandered back towards the flats.

Just wanted to check out my apples once more.

I could see Fieldfare flapping around, but not a lot else.  While I started to make a rolly, a flock of birds flew in, with my hands full, I guessed Redwing.  Guessed wrongly Redwing. As they flew in a small orbit round us I got them in the bins.  Waxwings, 17 counted Josh, as I was busy.  They finished their circle and landed back on the apple bearing Hawthorn.  OMG it had worked, unbe-fecking-lievable.  I hurried off a few shots and decided to get a bit closer.  Too late a dog walker flushed the whole lot.

"Didn't you see the Waxwing?"

"Heard them come over my head"

"I was hoping to get their pictures, that's what the set up is for"



20 January 2013

Apples (and Pears) Fieldfares

Having sloshed around for a little better than bugger all today I returned to the flats and wandered past my food laced trees. There were 2 Fieldfare giving the apples I had, painfully, impaled on to the hawthorns a right thrashing.  After the success of dog biscuits and porridge oats yesterday, I was happy to see something getting something out of the apples.  Not quite the Waxwing I was hoping for, but nonetheless a result.  Shame I was in the worst possible place to actually shoot from.

Earlier in the afternoon I'd seen another side to Mr Lethbridge and his relationship with doggies.  OK he did say he had kicked one earlier that morning and whether that inspired the change of heart I'll never know. The dead dog in the Roding has finally been reunited with its family.  Not sure it was the kind of joyful coming to gether they had anticipated when they posted the £100 reward for information on its whereabouts, however Jono seemed to think that the lost dog and the dead one could be one of the same.  I bow (wow) to his expert dead dog ID, as after phoning the hotline he met up and showed the owner his former mutt.  And yes sadly it was one of the same. Jono being and honourable man didn't ask for the reward, although you can buy a of of coffee and bacon baps from Costa with that kind of money.  Even when the guy phones up later and offered it, J steadfastly refused, so the guy will give it to the RSPB.

As I've always said, dog owners aren't all that bad own dogs.

Good photo by Ed Wilcox, grrrrrrrrrrrrr

19 January 2013

Gotta love Lapwings

As it turned a wee bit chilly this week the first signs of bird movement usually come in the shape of a Lapwing tumbling across the grey skies.  And so it was.  Tony got the first flocks while in the old sewage works, and another large flock when he met up with me on the side of Perch. Today we had a 124 going in all directions, that's over 300 already this year. And when you get Lapwing movement there sure to be other interesting birds looking for the proverbial service station of the air ways. It's not been as good as the Jack-Snipe-Goldie-Med-Gull-Lapwing bonanza of last year, or the Smew-Goosander-Grey Plover fest, but early days!.  Bob picked up a Golden Plover calling as it went over Jub, where he also found the year's first Linnet, unfortunately he had to let the potential Woodlark go as it probably was a Skylark.

Gulls love dog biscuits, who'd have guessed!

Another patch tick for the year was a Dan H, apparently he has been wandering around incognito, and has yet to learn to wear all his clothes on days like this.  He picked up the first Lapwing movement over Alex, which made Jono slightly jumpy as they were his main target.  Didn't have to wait too long before another bunch of black and white clowns twiddled their way over the Alex south, probably Dan's birds having realised they were going the wrong way.

Off to the Roding just in case the Smew, seen briefly by Bob just a couple of day's ago, was hanging out where it should be. It wasn't, but a Little Egret was a year tick for B and J.  Mine was a Fieldfare (the first in the Park).  No Bullfinch so we pushed on round to find any open bits of water on the Ornamentals. It didn't take long as there's only 2 patches, a male Teal on one, and a few Tufties and Shoveler on the other.  Back up the side of Perch and dip the Rail again.  I think it's either inside a Heron or gone somewhere better, Spain would be my choice.

We parted company by the Shoulder of Mutton: Jono to take tea with an aunty, Bob to go and get his lunch and warm, and I had aspirations of going to Hyde Park for some reedlings that are brightening up the proceedings there.  That didn't happen.  As I passed Long Wood, I caught sight of two ducks arses flying away from me.  Through the bins I was willing them to veer just so I could get a profile.  It was only when they were over Motorcycle Wood that they did so.  Surprisingly they were Goosander, my jinx broken, we can talk about them once more.

That decided it.  A chance to grip off Jono while he supped tea and made polite conversation.  It sort of petered out though.  Three more Lapwing, 50 odd Fieldfare, a couple of Snipe and the loss of feeling in my very wet boots.

12 January 2013

Wigeon on the Henronry Pond

Breezed round the Park and Old Sewage Works for a few hours today and didn't see nearly everything I set out to see, namely Kingfisher, Little Egret, Bullfinch and Water Rail. The Wigeon on Heronry did at least have the decency to still be there though - always a tricky one for a patch yearlist, though in various spells of cold weather last year I did notch up 11, more often than not on the Basin. Only my third visit to the patch this year sadly, and one of those was a quick half hour in Bush Wood. Oh well, it can only get better. Whilst in the OSW I thought I heard Chiffchaff, and was about to devote some time looking for it when I realised than in a few months we would beseiged by them, and my time would be far better spend not seeing a Water Rail again instead. So I went and stood by the end of Perch for a while 'til I got cold, refound the Wigeon again on Heronry, and patch year-ticked Tony "Wigeon-twitcher" B.

December's belated round up

Another year done and the annual appraisal shows that we did worse than last year and therefore much worse than the year before, but for all that it was a brilliant year.  OK December, June, July and November were a tad shit, but you can't have everything.

Highlights of the month

  • Brent Goose leaves it late
  • Waxwings at last, as predicted, phew!
  • Firecrest, two but could be more
  • Tawny Owls start calling from the golf course if you can brave Reservoir Wood at night
  • Woodcock on occasion
  • Brambling just the 4
  • Another heard only Ringed Plover
  • Tim scores with Med Gull over the Roding
  • Little Owl retrospectively added to list from reports of it calling from around Christmas day onwards
And absolutely no pictures of any of the above bar the Firecrest!

Having said December was a tad shit, I must apologise to December, it wasn't that bad. With a couple of hundred Lapwing thrown in, I reckon that makes them one of Wanstead's commonest birds since we've had about 1,000 birds flop over this year.

Interestingly, to me if no-one else, the Brent took just about the same line as the last one as it hurried across the flats. Gadwall numbers were on the up with over 200 birds counted, when the basin was included.  The juv. Wigeon lingered till the end of the month, but had an amazing knack of not being seen.  Teal numbers remained low, likewise Pochard never reached the numbers of the Autumn.

The wet conditions were loved by the gulls, with hundreds on each of the playing field areas, the police scrape and the newly floody bits of the golf course, the mild weather associated with the wet weather even brought out a few bats. The water levels though have driven off the Egret and the murky waters the Kingfisher.

No Chiffies this year have braved our winter (last one seen around the 4th), though one Blackcap was seen in a private garden - they are about it's just finding them.

Gary, a local to the flats picked up the calling Little Owl before the new year when it eventually showed itself, I am still having it as a self-found (not that I need it). Good to finally catch up with the Tawnys again though.

Fewer Siskin and Lesser Redpoll this year, which could be down to the weather or to the lack of seeds on the birches.  One day of Brambling, a 4 bird flyover.  Goldfinches in large parties are becoming a regular sight, while going in the opposite direction are sightings of Greenfinch.  The Bullfinch are back in the Old Sewage Works, but not a sign of any Linnet.

Finally the Waxwing came and went straight through. We still have hopes that one day they will find the remaining trees and bushes with berries and give a photo op, or its down to Tescos.

Snipe are back in the SSSI with 2 birds at most, though I did catch 5 in flight as I hung around Westmoreland Drive on the lookout for Waxies. Another Ring Plover, heard only and again just about where the other one I heard was - Capel Point. With Woodcock back on the patch, I suspect they are using the little woodland at the bottom of the City of London Cemetery as it's the quietest place.

Firecrests, harder to find this year and spread across the patch.  Was the Alex bird the one Jono found a few months back, and how many there are still to be found is a question hopefully January will have the answers to.

The mild weather also started a spate and a state of lurv, with birds singing and displaying all over the shop.  The colder weather will soon put a stop to that nonsense.

And finally the other stuff...

1st December

Wanstead Flats: Woodcock, 14 Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, 6 Meadow Pipit, 10 Goldcrest, 10 Song Thrush, 1 Fieldfare, 3 Reed Bunting, Kestrel, 3 Shoveler south (Tim Harris/Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe).

Wanstead Park: Firecrest Bush Wood (TH), 20 + Goldcrest, Coal Tit, 75 Tufted Duck, 56 Gadwall, 31 Common Pochard, 4 Teal, 27 Shoveler, Little Grebe, 10+ Siskin, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 300+ Carrion Crow in roost on golf course north of Heronry, 40+ Magpies (Tim Harris/Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge).

2nd December

Wanstead Flats: Ringed Plover heard flying south over Capel Point c7:30, 21 Lapwing north, 17 Redwing, 24 Fieldfare, 14 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark, 2 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Reed Bunting, 5 Goldcrest, 2 Stock Dove, Great Black-backed Gull, Sparrowhawk, 5 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest (Bush Wood), 10 + Goldcrest, m Blackcap, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Little Egret, 5 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 160 Gadwall (100 + on the Basin), Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, 2 Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe)

3rd December

Wanstead Flats: Woodcock NE from SSSI, Brambling, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting, 18 Redwing, 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 1-2 Chiffchaff, 10+ Goldcrest, 9 Gadwall, 11 Shoveler (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 107 Gadwall (the Basin), 20 Pochard, 10+ Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe (Tim Harris).

4th December

Wanstead Flats: 10 Shoveler, 11 Gadwall, 7 Mistle Thrush, 20 Fieldfare, 31 Redwing, 7 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 4 Stock Dove, 62 Jackdaw in one flock, 40+ Goldfinch, Siskin, 5 Reed Bunting, 2-3 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, Chiffchaff, 5+ Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Nuthatch Bush Wood (Tim Harris), f/juv Wigeon, 10+ Lesser Redpoll and Siskin (Tony Brown), 37 Common Pochard, 40+ Gadwall, 50+ Tufted Duck, 10+ Shoveler, Water Rail, 5 Goldcrest, 3 Redwing (Nick Croft).

5th December

Wanstead Flats: Firecrest (Alex scrub), 3 Goldcrest, 9 Redwing south, 2 Fieldfare south, Skylark, 8 Meadow Pipit, 5 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, Reed Bunting (Nick Croft)

6th December

Wanstead Flats: Firecrest (Alex), 4 Goldcrest, 6 Fieldfare, 9 Redwing, 2 Skylark, 7 Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, 7 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler (Nick Croft/Josh)

Wanstead Park: 23 Pochard, 30 Tufted Duck, 41 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, 3 Little Grebe, 30 + Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher, Water Rail, Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Josh)

7th December

Wanstead Flats: 3 Fieldfare, Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Meadow Pipit, 4 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Kestrel, 33 Goldfinch, 3 Goldcrest (Jubilee-SSSI-Long Wood) (Nick Croft)

8th December

Wanstead Park: Bush Wood - Woodcock (Steve Thorpe)

9th December

Wanstead Park and Flats: Woodcock SSSI, f Teal (Jub), Coal Tit (Bush Wood), 110 Gadwall (The Basin) (Steve Thorpe)

10th December

Wanstead Flats: 31 Lapwing west, 3 Reed Bunting, Siskin, 13 Fieldfare, Redwing, 7 Goldcrest, 7 Shoveler, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 155 Gadwall (125 on Basin - SF), 46 Tufted Duck, 12 Shoveler, 22 + Mute Swan, 20 Pochard, Teal, Siskin, 4 Fieldfare, 7 Goldcrest, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Stuart Fisher)

11th December

Wanstead Flats: 54 Lapwing NW, 46 Fieldfare, 16 Redwing, 12 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, 4 Brambling north, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 20 + Goldfinch, 7 Goldcrest, 5 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 52 Gadwall, 60 Tufted Duck, Wigeon, 3 Teal, 30 Pochard, 13 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Water Rail, Grey Wagtail, 10 + Siskin, singing Coal Tit, 3 Mistle Thrush, 2 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

12th December

Wanstead Flats: Firecrest (in woodland to north of Alex), 3 Goldcrest, 41 Lapwings west (19 on deck north of Long Wood), 7 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pochard, 6 Gadwall, Reed Bunting, Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 47 Gadwall, 37 Tufted Duck, 24 Pochard, 10 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Siskin, 3 Redwing, Fieldfare (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Village: Waxwing (Jono Lethbridge).

13th December

Wanstead Flats: 20 Lapwing (17 west, 3 north), 4 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 4 Mitle Thrush, 2 Reed Bunting, 4 Goldcrest, 10 Tufted Duck, 2 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 6 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 5 Snipe north, Water Rail, 52 Gadwall, 30 + Tufted Duck, 33 Pochard, 11 Shoveler, 23 Mute Swan, Little Grebe, 4 Redwing, 4 Goldcrest, Lesser Redpoll (Nick Croft)

15th December

Wanstead (private garden): 1f Blackcap, 2f Siskin (Chris Legge).

Wanstead Park: Wigeon (ornamental waters), 2 Teal, 91 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 60+ Tufted Duck, 13 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, c10 Goldcrest, 2 Nuthatch, Siskin, Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft).

16th December

Wanstead Flats: 12 Waxwing south down Centre Road (NC/JL), Siskin, Reed Bunting, 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Goldcrest, Stock Dove, 16 Shoveler, 11 Gadwall, 5 Tufted Duck, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge)

17th December

Wanstead Flats: 6 Mistle Thrush, 5 Redwing, 6 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll, 13 Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, 8 Shoveler, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail (W end of Perch), Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Little Grebe, 2 Teal, 44 + Tufted Duck, 64 + Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 18 Pochard (Nick Croft)

18th December

Wanstead Flats: 6 Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, 10 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 40 + Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, 13 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 14 Gadwall, 8 Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

21st December

Wanstead Flats: 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Egyptian Goose, 7 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard, Goldcrest, 4 Stock Dove (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 50 Gadwall, 14 Pochard, 43 Tufted Duck, 7 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, 4 Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, 2 Pied Wagtail, Goldcrest, Redwing (Nick Croft).

22nd December

Wanstead Flats: Snipe, 2 Sparrowhawk, 4 Shoveler, 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Heron, 2 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 43 Gadwall, 81 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, m Teal, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Little Grebe, 4 Goldcrest, Siskin, 2 Bullfinch, Water Rail, Sparrowhawk having a pop at a bat-shaped bird, or a bird-shaped bat in the gloaming (Nick Croft)

23rd December

Wanstead Flats: c. 1-2,000 gulls on playing fields and police scrape: predominantly Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls, with a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls in the mix, 4 Common Pochard, 2 Shoveler, Tufted Duck (Jub), 2 Reed Bunting, Goldcrest, Kestrel, 3 Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 1,300 Black-headed Gull north towards dark, with a few larger gulls (mainly Herring Gull), Ilford Golf Course as viewed from the Old Sewage Works, 2 Pipistrelle bats, c. 200 Gadwall (150 + on basin), c. 100 Tufted Duck, 15 Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 5 Little Grebe, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Bullfinch, 4 Goldcrest, Nutchatch, Tawny Owl calling in Reservoir Wood at 17:30 (Nick Croft)

25th December

Wanstead Park: Adult Med Gull over Roding (Tim Harris)

Wanstead (private garden): Grey Wagtail (enjoying the scrape which has formed on the lawn), 5 Siskins (Chris Legge)

27th December

Wanstead Flats: c 15 Waxwing near SSSI (Bob Vaughan), 1600 assorted gulls near Alex (Tim Harris)

28th December

Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe, 19 Gadwall, m Teal, 10 Tufted Duck, 7 Common Pochard, 4 Shoveler, 23 Greylag Goose,  19 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, Redwing, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Stock Dove, c. 1,500 + gulls on the flooded parts, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, 45 Gadwall, 10 Pochard, 124 Tufted Duck, 5 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Stock Dove, 2 Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

29th December

Wanstead Flats: 35 Gadwall (Alex), 2000+ Gulls on Flats (Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Little Egret (Roding), Gadwall displaying on Heronry (Tim Harris)

31st December

Wanstead Flats: Brent Goose east over police scrape, 45 Gadwall (15 north), 16 Tufted Duck, 6 Shoveler, and Firecrest (north of Alex in woodland singing subsong) possibly 2 birds, 6 Goldcrest, 1000 + gulls including 35 + Lesser Black-backed Gull, 20 + Herring Gull, Reed Bunting, Common Snipe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: probable Firecrest (Reservoir Wood), 6 Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Siskin, 2 Great-crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, c. 218 Gadwall, 70 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard, 14 Shoveler, 4 Teal, 10 + Stock Dove (Nick Croft).