30 January 2014

Railing against the weather

I chose Thursday as my day off because on Monday that was when the cold easterlies were due in. Thursday arrived after 32hrs of constant rain and counting. No problem let’s try for the Water Rail, ideal conditions, there must be flocks. Shoulder of Mutton has become Torso of Mutton (do sheep have a torso?) so the water edge comes to meet you. After the first hour in the drizzle I was half way there, lots of aquaticus but no rallus. I had heard that surveying for Water Rails was best done at night as they are more likely to respond, but respond to what? I had downloaded Water Rail song (!), call and their sharming. Sharming is the raucous shrieking noise made when two Water Rails meet or dispute a feeding area, apparently. I tried all three - nothing.  I wandered slowly and damply all around ToM as close to the water as possible and returned to stand by the bramble patch in the SE. Standing six inches in I heard what sounded like a Water Rail call, but a bit high pitched. I retaliated with my phone's call to get an instant sharming “whark, whark, whark” from within the brambles. Gotcha!  Stood around for another ten minutes, not even a glimpse. One short of my end of Jan target, it's stopped raining though, shall I go out for Tawny Owl?

25 January 2014

Smash and grab

I find myself in the curious position of apparently doing the least birding of anyone, but the easily most blogging. I guess Nick is due a rest after all his efforts last year. Anyhow, I managed a glorious hour on the patch today, half of which was spent unsuccessfully attempting to photograph Shoveler on Alex, before giving up in disgust and heading off to the Old Sewage Works in search of year ticks.

This turned out to be a much better option, and the Roding was a lot more productive (and far less grim...) than last time, with a Grey Wagtail at the Sluice, and a pair of Bullfinch a bit further on. I wasn't sure these latter actually existed, I have no idea what is different about January given I couldn't find any at all in December. But exist they do as I have managed to capture one of them on film - well, pixels. Not very well it has to be said, but nobody said photographing Unicorns was easy.

No sign of the Little Egret, but the water is still very high and the feeding area it likes basically isn't there at the moment. All in good time. My quick tour over, I headed back for lunch and lego, via an unfortunate Frog.

19 January 2014

Tick and sit

Spent a happy few hours wandering around the patch this morning, by my reckoning my second visit this year, so it was a bit of tick-fest. Met up with Tony in the SSSI who had the same idea, but neither of us could find a Snipe. Not to worry though as Great Black-backed Gull and Kestrel were year ticks for both of us, as were Teal over at the Alex. It got better though, with a fly-over Cormorant whilst walking down Wanstead Park Avenue, and then a real mega, Grey Heron over the allotments.

Attempting to look for Grey Wagtail and Little Egret in the OSW, we came across the gruesome sight of a body in the Roding. The police were already on their way, and having nothing to add we didn't linger - not nice at all and something we'll probably remember for a long time. Needless to say no birds, but we lucked out with Siskin near Perch, and a few other bits and pieces on the way back towards Bush Wood. Coal Tit and Firecrest the targets, but both playing hard to get. Until I got home that is, when sitting having a restorative coffee overlooking the garden and what should fly across my line of sight? Boom! Coal Tit!

Coal Tits plural actually, as I've just downloaded the photo I nabbed through the window and there are actually two (count 'em!). Not a great photo, I just wanted to grip Tony off really, but the bird (only noticed one at the time) spent a great deal of time in my neighbour's conifer. Whether this is meaningful or not is probably too early to say, but if it is I'll definitely be charging an entrance fee.....

15 January 2014

Mildly Scary Moment

Passing Wanstead Flats this morning I glanced out of the car window. JEEEEEZUS!!! A smallish bright white gull.....luckily a proper look through bins revealed it to be a partially leucistic Black-headed Gull, but for a moment the heart was racing. It's incredibly bright white, and shines out like a, dunno. It just shines out, but unfortunately is gank and not mega. I returned home to get a camera, just in case Ross's Gull is claimed in the next few days... It's probably too white to be Ross's Gull, but it's still a bit of an eye-opener. In other news, I've seen a Chaffinch. I didn't mean to, but I'm just that talented.

7 January 2014

Storm tossed waif

Paddled about this morning, if this continues I might have to get a canoe. Met up with Bob at Jubilee, with not much to report we went our separate ways, him to look for Great Black-backed Gulls and me for Kestrel, well anything really, in the SSSI.

A large-ish flock of Redpoll cavorted between the birch stands, steadfastly refusing to stay put long enough to count let alone check for big, grey uns. And that was the high point as I sloshed my way across Centre Road and met up with Bob again, who likewise had had no joy, by Long Wood. He, sensibly, was giving up, while I for want anything better to do was going to look for Med Gull in the scattered carpet of gulls west of Alex.

I made it half way scanning the first large group and stopped immediately: C-gull, BH Gull, C-gull, C-gull, Kitti.... wahT! there was a black-headed gull with a banana for a bill. Wait a minute they don't have bananas for...


Phoned Bob, who missed the last one after sprinting the length of the pitches: "You might want to come back out, this might be of interest... "

Apparently it was. I kept my distance until he arrived. Not quickly enough to my mind, as I was rapidly approaching saturation point, the only idiot left on the flats in the teeth of the driving rain.

The bird hardly moved, just flapping forward a bit when bumped into by a crow, barely offering a defence to some bullying Common Gull. Not a good prognosis. Finally, when Bob arrived, we edged forward, and a bit more. This bird was not for moving. It looked perky enough, not moribund, just very knackered. I went off to search for Meds, while Bob tried to see what colour its legs were.

I gave up looking for meds as the gulls had redistributed themselves all over the place, and was about to leave when Stuart turned up. Apparently a London tick for Mr Fisher. We approached again and finally it had enough of lenses and congratulatory behaviour, it glided a dozen metres or so and resumed its belly resting.

We had thought about trying to take it in to care, but, with this little flight, we ditched the idea. I just hope the sunshine gave it the energy to move on and it wasn't the owner of the feathers Dan found later.

What an absolutely beautiful bird and one I don't think I will ever get as close to again, unless its being rung.

... and no time consuming cropping!

6 January 2014

December recalled (not too fondly)

The year ground to a halt in December, which was kinda disappointing considering what had gone before. What was needed was some kick-ass freezing weather, instead we got rain and wind and wet. It was bad all over London, so we can have no complaints really. So stuck on 135 species for the year. In the end we were just checking on what we might be able to blitz on New Year's Day.

The highlights

  • Records for Linnet and Gadwall
  • Tony bags a Mealy in the SSSI
  • Bush Wood becomes hard work, but Firecrest and Treecreepers still present throughout the month
  • Late warbler action with 2 Chiffchaff on Christmas Day and a garden visiting Blackcap
  • Valentino pays just the one visit this month
  • Little Owl back where it should be
  • A couple of Woodcock
  • Golden Plover on Christmas Day


Wanstead Flats: Reed Bunting, 8 Meadow Pipit, 6 Song Thrush, 18 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 7 Tufted Duck (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: Treecreeper (Bush Wood), 2 Goldcrest, 7 Siskin, Grey Wagtail, Little Egret, 2 Little Grebe, 4 Egyptian Goose, 9 Teal, 225+ Gadwall, 40+ Pochard, 75+ Tufted Duck, 14 Shoveler, Water Rail, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/Jonathan Lethbridge)


Wanstead Flats: 20+ Linnet, 11 Skylark, 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 5 Fieldfare, 8 Song Thrush, Redwing, 2 Egyptian Goose, 19 Tufted Duck, 10 Shoveler, 24 Gadwall, m Pochard (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 35 Gadwall, 11 Shoveler, 10 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Fieldfare, 3 singing Song Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 3 Pied Wagtail, 5 Goldcrest, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Water Rail, 251 Gadwall, 11 Shoveler, 7 Teal, 33 Pochard, 90 Tufted Duck, 3 Egyptian Goose, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats & Park: 23 Linnet, 12 Skylark Police scrape, 307 Gadwall (previous record smashed), Wigeon (Tim Harris/Dan Hennessy).


Wanstead Park: Bush Wood - 2 Firecrest (Tony Brown)


Wanstead Flats: 3 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, 20+ Blackbird, 4 Mistle Thrush, 10+ Linnet, 6+ Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, 11 Long-tailed Tit, 27 Gadwall, 14 Tufted Duck, 3 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, Stock Dove (Nick Croft); f Blackcap in gdn (J Lethbridge)


Wanstead Flats: 36 Linnet, 6 Skylark, Snipe on Police Scrape (Bob Vaughan), 24 Lesser Redpoll SSSI (Steve Thorpe)

Wanstead Park: Treecreeper and Nuthatch Bush Wood (Bob Vaughan); Wigeon (Dan Hennessy)


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull, 34 Linnet, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting, 11 Skylark, 4-7 Meadow Pipit, 20 Gadwall, 21 Shoveler, 22 Tufted Duck, 4 Pochard, 6 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 363 Gadwall (a new record), 41 Pochard, 20 Shoveler, 14 Teal, 90+ Tufted Duck, 130+ Mallard, 16 Mute Swan, 150+ Jackdaw going to roost, Kingfisher, Treecreeper, 4 Goldcrest, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Siskin, 30+ Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 10 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Skylark, Chiffchaff, 2 Reed Bunting (Wanstead Birders)


Wanstead Flats: 37+ Linnet, 13 Skylark on police scrape (Steve Thorpe)


Wanstead Flats: Woodcock, 4 Snipe, 41 Linnet (new site record), 2 Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 3 Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, 14 Shoveler, 16 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard, 26 Gadwall, Teal, Goldcrest, 7 Song Thrush (5 singing), singing Mistle Thrush, Redwing, singing Stock Dove (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe)

Wanstead Park: Reed Bunting (Steve Thorpe)


Wanstead Flats: 32 Linnet (Jubilee Pond/SSSI), Reed Bunting, 2 Egyptian Goose, 39 Gadwall, 16 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 4 Common Pochard, 25 Tufted Duck, 2-3 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Meadow Pipit - no Skylark for second day, 2 Fieldfare, 9 Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Treecreeper, 2 Nuthatch, Coal Tit, 10+ Stock Dove, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, 30+ Redwing, 20+ Blackbird (all Bush Wood), Water Rail, 22 Gadwall (Shoulder of Mutton) (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 52 Gadwall, 23 Shoveler, 20 Tufted Duck, 4 Pochard, 33 Linnet, 12 Skylark, 4 Fieldfare, Redwing, 20+ Blackbird, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Stock Dove, Snipe (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe).

Wanstead Park: c250+ Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 40+ Tufted Duck, 10+ Pochard, Little Grebe, 2 Goldcrest, Redwing, Fieldfare (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 36 Linnet, 13 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, Kestrel, Coal Tit, 3 Shoveler, 5 Tufted Duck, 6 Redwing, Reed Bunting, Snipe (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe).

Wanstead Park: c200 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 40+ Pochard, 100+ Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, 3 Goldcrest, Coal Tit, 20+ Redwing, Stock Dove (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe).


Wanstead Flats: Golden Plover circled flats silently before returning W, 19 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 32 Linnet, 6+ Redwing, Snipe, 13 Shoveler, 20 Gadwall, 10+ Tufted Duck, 4 Pochard, Kestrel (Nick Croft/TimHarris/Steve Thorpe).

Wanstead Park: 2 Chiffchaff (old sewage works), 200+ Gadwall, 20 Shoveler, 50+ Tufted Duck, 10 Pochard, 20+ Redwing, 3 Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe/Paul Ferris).


Wanstead Flats: 42 Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting, 9 Skylark, 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Egyptian Goose, 4 Shoveler, 2 Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush, Great Black-backed Gull, Kestrel (Steve Thorpe/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 18 Redwing, 20 Gadwall (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Little Owl, 38 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, 10 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 30 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 2 Teal pr, 3 Pochard, 10+ Tufted Duck, 2 Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, 6 Mistle Thrush, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Kingfisher, 7+ Siskin, 2 Lesser Redpoll, Grey Wagtail, 140 Gadwall, 12+ Pochard, 10 Shoveler, 60+ Tufted Duck, Little Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Mealy Redpoll, 12 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Linnet, 60+ Fieldfare, Little Owl, 2 Great Black-backed Gull (Tony Brown)


Wanstead Flats: 28 Linnet, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 30+ Redwing, 8 Skylark (J Lethbridge); Little Owl, Kestrel, 15 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, Gadwall, Shoveler, 2 Teal, 3 Stock Dove (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Marco Johnson)

Wanstead Park: 10 Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, 3 Goldcrest, 5 Heron, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, 20 Redwing (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 37 Linnet, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Reed Bunting, 40+ Redwing, 5 Fieldfare, 5 Shoveler, 5 Tufted Duck, 5 Skylark, 3 Great Black-backed Gull (Tim Harris/Jono Lethbridge/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Nuthatch, 2 Kingfisher, 3 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 100-200 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Teal pr, 100+ Gadwall (Basin & Ornamental Waters only), 30 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, Grey Wagtail, 2 Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

2 January 2014

Welome to 2014

A rather damp and thus poor start to 2014 saw us end the day on 61 species. I say us, really I mean Nick, as most of us gave up once the proper rain set in - about 11am, a much reduced coverage. Nick exists in a state of perpetual dampness, so didn't actually notice and continued to flog round the Park whilst the rest of us sat it out indoors. The Little Owl did the decent thing by remaining present over New Year, as did the Great Crested Grebe, but Bush Wood was a wind-swept avian desert and we couldn't find anything in there at all.

The day was most notable from my perspective due to not seeing things. There have not been many January firsts where I have returned home without a Dunnock or a Chaffinch, for example. And no Cormorant, how is that even possible? I probably could have found these had I wished to get wet, but funnily enough I didn't fancy it and went home for a cup of tea instead. I figure I'll get them sooner or later.

In addition to the Owl, highlights were a flushed Woodcock in Bush Wood that was a lifer for Josh, and a Nuthatch at the Alex. Poor fare in other words, but I have remedied the situation slightly this afternoon by managing a quick dash to Bush Wood in better weather which netted the Treecreeper near the Quaker compound, and a Firecrest a bit east of that towards the main ride. Here's a photo of the former, no time to stick around for the latter as I needed to get back to the mines. And still no hint of a Chaffinch!