29 September 2013

Jack Snipe heaps better than jack shi...

The winds were right and it rained over night. There must be something out there? We needed a bit of a pick-me-up from a good bird.  A Wheatear yesterday was good, but then you realise how few there have been this autumn.  That's bad.  Two or three today.  That's good.

Dan got a small flock of Redwing.  Again good, but obviously not as good as a Wheatear in the patch top trump game. Yellow Wagtail too, but their worth is greatly diminished by the fact their hard to find in the sky and so as a result not so good. So Bob and I with the last throw of this weekend's dice trooped off to the Alex.  We didn't expect much and got less.  A Reed Bunting called once, three Skylark over, so then it was up to the ducks to make or break the day. I had all but given up as we did the return loop round the north side of the lake.

I was happy to see that Sticky (the Canada Goose with angel wing, our favourite goose) was not the victim of the goose butchery, the feathery remnants that were scattered around the football pitches. So I told Bob. He replied he had just had the Wigeon pop out from under the willows and then sail back again.  This was the luck catalyst.  As we scanned the overhanging trees at water level I soon got bored and re-checked the gulls.  I picked up a crow chasing round the corner and what it was chasing was a small wader.

A snipe. Then it did something very peculiar. It landed in the ditch by the car park just a few yards from where a game of football was going on. Now that was interesting.

Certainly small enough, not calling and all things considered a short bill and behaving the way no self-respecting Common Snipe would.  Jack Snipe we concluded, now the problem was how to work this.  Obviously there would be one or two patch twitchers eager to get this on to their year list.  So I sent a group text out and waited for the response. Almost immediately one J Lethbridge texted "on way".  Dan unfortunately had just reached home and now had to leave promptly, leaving a baffled  wife now probably concerned over the sate of his mental health, if she wasn't already.

While we waited a corner was awarded in the football game right next to the snipe ditch. We could see this going badly if the ball was headed out our way.  Luckily it was hoofed up pitch, but as Jono arrived the keep fit crowd walked en-masse along the touchline again yards from where we thought our bird was. Nothing.  I was getting a bit worried now, perhaps we too had taken our eye of the ball and the bird had done a bunk.  We were set to look pretty stupid. All set we walked along the ditch and found nothing and now began to look pretty stupid.  I went back and started down the ditch again and promptly nearly trod on the bird.  Off it went, not high and out of sight, but straight to the ditch on the south side of the Alex.

This time we waited for Dan. I suggested walking wide of the ditch just in case we could get shots of it on the ground.  And then  promptly flushed it again. This time we got some record shots as it plunged back under the trees on the eastern island on Alex - probably where it had been all morning.

Jack Snipe pics J Lethbridge somebody else

Not the bird we had expected to be the addition to the year list, but our second in two year's (though I have my suspicions that we probably have had more - I nearly trod on a small snipe a couple of year's back in the boggy bit of the SSSI which looked good for one).

So the weekend saved by a Snipe!

And Wheatear

27 September 2013

Stuttering to a stop

Hard work again down on the patch with very little to show for it.  It's been the old curate's egg again this year: many of the warblers may have gone, but they have now been replaced by returning Reed Bunting, Linnet and increased sightings of Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail and the movement of Meadow Pipit. I have a sense that something is going to give: perhaps a Richard's Pipit, Wood Lark, Ring Ouzel looks good for this weekend.  While we wait there are still interesting birds about, but as per I've fluffed the IDs. 

Last week it was two interesting warbler, one a Chiffchaff that was enormous compared with its fellows and the other a brown job that I saw fleetingly in the Alex scrub. Yesterday a bunting, or maybe even two, first flushed from the pub scrub when it flew over the copse there and on to the south side. By the time I got there it had obviously been re-booted by a jogger and a dog walker. The same or another bird was working its way around the birch on the south side of Alex later.  I should have nailed it there, but time was against a long vigil.  I got a strong sense of a greenish rump from one flit between the trees, a darker scapular area and lighter tertials to primaries.  There had been a Reed Bunting I'd heard knocking around the area, but this was no reedy b! Needless to say, I couldn't refind it today.

The prospects for the next few days/weeks are still exciting even if the results have been a bit lacking. Sunday or Monday looks good for a Yellow-brow, or, heaven-forbid, a Red-breasted Flycatcher, I may even get down the park this weekend.  Steady now!

For five days I carried the wight round my neck that is the camera without taking a shot.  The weather for pictures has been truly awful (so have the results), but today it got a lot better - just couldn't find any birds.

17 September 2013

A duck of little consequence

To the non-Wanstead patch worker maybe.  But patch gold nonetheless. The first in four years and one I have been waiting for since I started working the park and flats. Well done to "Duck man" Dan, and after all that's why we send him to school - just so he can do the park early mornings. I needed a pick-me-up after hearing the wonderful Great Snipe had got the wrong end of a cat. My morning, however, was turned upside down again, and by the time I got back on to the flats it had all gone quiet again, if anything noteworthy had happened at all!

Then I came upon the latest of the increasingly infuriating and stupid interventions of the City Corporation, who for some reason best known to themselves and decided to trash more habitat, this time just to the north of the main part of the Alex scrub.  Yesterday I got a Goldcrest working the brambles, today the brambles and birds had gone.  No doubt there will be more stupid vandalism as the autumn progresses.

The pochard brought up my 151st species for the flats and park and set off an avalanche of congratulations from my peers. 

Yup, still waiting!

15 September 2013

The Wasp factory

After last week this one was always going to be a tad turgid, not that there weren't good birds, just not enough and not different.  The Wryneck stayed till Monday, a Pied Flycatcher put in a brief appearance on Thursday and today Dan turned my Garden Warbler into a Reed Warbler. Spotted Flycatcher have been hard to find, due in no small part to the truly grim weather, which a few weeks ago brought in megas: now just wetness. Numbers of Spotty have been down this year in my reckoning, way down for Redstart, and where are all the Wheatear - I don't think we've reached double figures yet.

It was so dull yesterday I even went to the park.  That was so dull I won't be going back in a hurry.  Or maybe tomorrow when Dan finds some rare duck blown in by the Atlantic storm already throwing the tops of the trees around and which curtailed any effort today.

The one remaining spotty was sheltering on the lee-ward side of the Hawthorn in the Alex scrub doing nicely on a diet of wasps.  A hazardous diet I would have thought, somewhat akin to eating broken glass.  I know nothing of how a wasp stings but it must be a conscious thing and so presumably once they have had the life squeezed and knocked out of them the sting becomes useless. Dogs take note, eating live wasps is stupid!

Anyway after eating a shed load of large chitinous insects the inevitable needs to be done...

12 September 2013

"Crazy" visits

It all kicked off just a bit too late for me today.  There were birds everywhere. Blackcap mostly.  In the SSSI Chiffchaff were the dominant bird, with at least 10 in one Lime alone.  They kept falling out of the bottom there were so many. The Alex held the Lion's share of Blackcap, I could have stayed for longer for a glimpse of something that wasn't a Blackcap, but it was getting late and I wanted to stomp around the east end of Long Wood one more time.

There I met "Next day" Keith who had found another Pied Flycatcher (#10).  We were joined by an American chap I had just left at the Alex, who had checked the London Wiki for places to see birds - naturally we came top of the list! Luckily the Pied performed a bit before getting lost in the wood, leaving us with the second Spotted fly of the day, also found by Keith.

But neither of them are the "crazy" of the title, and that "crazy" is this...

I think we may have to start an exotics list

And as promised to Keith, here's a picture of his self found Pied Flycatcher.

Bits and pieces

It nice to have the old place to myself again.  Sure the Wryneck was good, very good, and Tony you are right in saying we shouldn't take such instances for granted. But it doesn't half take up your time just looking for it, just in case. Now I am pretty confident it's hoofed it I can get back to the job in hand, namely finding the next interesting bird. Yesterday it was a Common Buzzard that refused to be anything else, and today the spotty in the Alex scrub gave me a few palpitations as I picked it up at distance. When I got closer though, it was only going to be one thing, but nice all the same, but with Whinchat numbers picking up today, you are always in with a shout of something out of the ordinary popping up.

A special tree right by the visi-mig point.  Occupants to date: Waxwing, Dartford Warbler, Barred Warbler, Wryneck, Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Nightingale, Yellowhammer (to name but a few)

Actually managed to get down to the Park for the first time ages.  Wintering duck: Pochard, Tufties and Gadwall were new to me and in the old sewage works a reminder of Summer in the shape of a Sedge Warbler down by the Roding.

Back to the flats via the forbidden triangle and the scene of the latest devastation by the City Corporation: where once grasshopper chirruped from every blade of grass, butterfly and dragonfly flitted and buzzed was a badly mown lawn and a food resource destroyed.  Clearing mattresses, carpets, duvets and other shite - no way, but the un-necessary clearance of rough grassland - that's our guardians of the environment for you.

Back at the east end of Long Wood I met up with Mike Dent, whose bird reports we cannibalised for our site list (see the Bird Report tab) .  He complimented us for putting the flats on the map, saying that in his time working the area they never bothered to come here. Luckily he hadn't come to see the Wryneck and was very happy with the five Whinchat that were still giving the runaround to the south of Long Wood.

Took this photo of Greenfinch the other day and unfortunately the male is showing signs of that nasty disease trichomonosis, the other two birds with it appeared clear. Makes you wonder why a disease would want to kill its host, there would be no benefit in it. A bit like us humans destroying our planet I suppose.

Finally: No Barry you only get a mention when you find something good which we don't know is there, not something we know is around.  Come back and try again. Something along the lines of the Marsh Harrier last year, but not a Marsh Harrier as I don't need it. A Honey Buzzard would be good, just make sure we are on hand when you do find it.  OK?

6 September 2013

Barred Warblers are rubbish, on the other hand Wrynecks...

An early start for Wanstead patch folk, and early disappointment.  The elusive Barred (yup we are having it, submission soon) was not for showing, and nor was anything else. Then it rained harder and kept on raining.  So we did the only thing possible: we gave up.  Bob, however, was back out again by mid afternoon and about 5:00 had a Tree Pipit, back in the tall oak in the enclosure.  I was coming back out anyway so I replied saying see you soon.

He replied virtually immediately: "You'd better, Wryneck in the Nightingale Tree"

"Are you shitting me?"

"Ah, well, er nope!"

"Stay on it", or words to that effect.

Jono and Marco were there when I arrived, but had seen nothing. We circled the tree, swished, clapped and then looked elsewhere. Jono made to leave and had got about 50yards when Marco and Bob started beckoning.excitedly!

Probably Tuesday's bird, and therefore a real arse.  Worse than the last one, which was difficult.  For new Wansteader Richard a doddle, he made a slight detour on his way back from work and scored. In honour of Bob re-finding the bird I have awarded him that and a Tree Pipit on his best birds list. It was the least I could do.


And here is where it all happens....