27 March 2014

A little post a pro po posts

With not a lot happening migration-wise, it's been hard to muster up any enthusiasm to blog and it's getting harder to get the enthusiasm to go out and look for something to blog about.  A few singing Chiffy, Blackcap, Skylark and Mipit, the Wheatear were smart and tantalisingly non-co-operative, but they've hoofed it and so we wait.

There's always the City Corporation though!

Two weeks ago the Corp finally got round round to erecting the promised sign posts, which lack one vital ingredient - signage! I tweeted about it, which prompted a reply from one of the forest rangers stating that the signs were on their way and that he would be available to discuss matters at the weekend as some people were concerned that things had gone too far already!

Too far already?

During the survey period, where Tim dragged a representative from the Corp. to work out where best to put these posts, the issue of lines of sight was raised!  Incredibly a few posts could ruin peoples appreciation of the plastic bag-trees, clear views of drunks around Angel and the Jubilee pond,  and detract from enjoying the behaviour of the strange men round Long Wood and in the brooms there.

So who could these mysterious detractors be? Lets consider the options:

The drunks
The rough sleepers
The doggers
The fly-tippers
The general litter droppers
Footballers (see also litter droppers)
The model plane enthusiasts
The treasure seekers (a new interest being catered for on the flats, bring your metal detector and dig holes)
Canoodling Asian kids
The plant and fungi harvesters
Migrating traveller camps
Kite flyers
The people who bring car loads of rotting bread and other unsuitable food-stuffs to feed the ducks and pollute the ponds and help the burgeoning rat population
The religious sects who bring unsuitable foodstuffs to litter around the ponds in deference to their gods
The loud picnickers with their barbecues
Other firestarters
The joggers (oblivious to the world around them behind their earphones)
The cyclist or pedestrians
Bird watchers
Or any other of the users of the flats

That, I think, about covers it.  A definitive list of activities, of which most are illegal under the corporation's own rules.  So hardly likely that any of them would be complaining "you've gone too far!"

Oh hang about I forgot someone(s).  Dog walkers.

Let me make it clear there are good dog walkers, who know what a Skylark is, and are probably a member of the WREN Group, or the Friends of Lake Hall Project, and then there are the others who would rather the world went to hell before they would countenance changing their doggies right to crap on a mipit.

Of the two I am going to stick my neck out and say, without any prejudice what so ever, it might just be, probably the second lot who are whinging.

Obviously their wishes come before the Corporation's own environmental obligations as set out in their mission statement.  We are indeed truly fortunate to share the same ground as these wonderful animals, and of course their owners.

Skylark (Red status: Its recent and dramatic population declines make it a Red List species)
Meadow Pipit (Amber status: Meadow pipit numbers in the UK have been declining since the mid-1970s, resulting in this species being included on the amber list of conservation concern)
The Domestic Dog (Numbers increasing. Growing evidence to suggest that there is a correlation in the increase in the canine population and the decline of ground nesting birds, such as Woodcock and others due to disturbance in the breeding season) http://grumpyecologist.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/woodcock-on-wane.html

Only going to be one winner here, can you guess which one?  Here's a further clue: Two declining birds species known to breed on an east London site couldn't stop the area from being cleared ready for a huge housing development as trumpeted in the last budget (not all bad news: there will be parks created for you to walk a dog - that's mitigation, that is).

So what's to be done? The signs when they do come will largely be ignored as they have been in the past, and probably destroyed as have some of the bridleway posts have already, as in previous years.  Calls for some kind of fencing cannot be countenanced.  The birds will just have to fend for themselves: this obviously hasn't worked in the park or on Leyton flats where there are no more Skylark, but the Corporation obviously have high hopes for here!

The problem is that there is only one really good area for the birds to breed, with copses splitting other areas making them more marginal.  Here's a thought create a wide enough patch of rough ground to link the main area with that of the Alex and pub scrub, which might in turn encourage expansion!  It might mean the re-positioning of say 8-10 football pitches, but there is room to accommodate that (brick-pits field and to the west of the northern changing rooms), it would save hundreds of man hours on mowing. Money saved!

A living landscape!  Something that's all the rage with local wildlife trusts, the RSPB and right minded councils.  Has it got any chance?  I should cocoa!

Perhaps we should follow the route of it being a requirement of the increasing dog population and their needs.

18 March 2014

Wheatear cam

Knowing how excited you must be, as we are, awaiting the first arrivals of our talismanic Wheatear, we are proud to introduce our new log cams so you wont miss that special, uplifting, moment!

...and for those doing the night shift...

10 March 2014


Falling from the open sky
Let the lovely rooks sweep by.


 ... and they did and I got more happiness from seeing these two birds than virtually everything else, avian, I've seen this year.

Because a) it was on the patch; b) it was a patch tick and they are going to become increasingly rare; c) it was a major grip back - these birds not so regular as you would think; d) it was one for the team; and e) five minutes earlier I had escorted Mr Lethbridge off the premises, again, with the all usual consequences, again!. 

If it works why change it?

Of course he was happy for me!


8 March 2014

A quiet stroll and an excellent sit

Hi, Jono here. The one who started this blog. The one who used to go birding in Wanstead a lot and now doesn't any more. Wansteadbirder? Yeah right.

So, today I went out on the Flats. It was fairly mild, it wasn't raining, there was nothing to twitch. A Chiffchaff was a welcome sign of Spring and a yeartick, and there I met Dan (fresh out of Waders), and Tony. Neither of them had seen much, and that state continued so we chewed the fat, engaged in some cynicism, and then Tony left. Dan and I went to check the Park, where we found very little indeed - a few lingering Ducks. Dan went off to convince a multimillionaire friend that Wanstead was a great place to buy, and I returned home to the terrace and a cup of tea.

I don't know why I bother going on the patch as predictably the action kicked off immediately. I had a Sprawk fairly early on, but much (much) better was a large Peregrine heading directly towards the Prof's sadly unoccupied house. I tried. Only the second sighting of Peregrine on the patch this year, and my sixth from the garden in ten years, so less than annual. And thus good. Buzzard was of course my primary target on this nice blue sky day, but it took another three and a half hours before one finally appeared, fairly low and heading south towards Forest Gate. The Red Kite never happened, and has been deferred to tomorrow.

Takes my total to a frankly massive 69. I have no idea if I am still last or not. I hope so. It's where I deserve to be.


2 March 2014

The month just gone...

February consigned to the dustbin of mediocrity for another year great month!

Blimey February without freezing temperatures is like July. The weather was the same as January and for the most part so were the birds. Early blossom and the first leaves have now appeared so we don't want any cold days anymore, perhaps some air masses coming up from Africa and Europe to bring in the migrants and some early morning rain to dump them on the patch. Don't really mind if we have more rain as it will keep the police scrape and the flooded jubilee pond just right for the waves of waders we're hoping for (and perhaps it will stop the fair/circus from happening).  Some warmer weather might encourage the newly destroyed habitat (courtesy of the Corporation) to grow back a little.

Before I get to that, it's time for another apology.

This time to Geoff Harding over a certain Lesser Spotted Woodpecker report that we didn't include in the Annual Report. In a comment on a house keeping and travel blog optimistically called The Wanstead Birder, Mr Harding revealed his disappointment (my word) for his "sighting" being looked on as unsubstantiated. I checked the London Wiki for the report on the 24th which was a of a "male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling 50yds from Warren Rd entrance (Geoff Harding)." So there's the problem, a few of us heard calls we thought could be down to LSW but couldn't follow them up with sightings (it's happened already this year!). Around that time we spent rather a lot of effort trying to find Lesser spots in any of their favoured areas, and thereafter widened our search to include the Warren Road entrance with no luck. We presumed that it would be just a matter of time before we found a male drumming or calling, but as it turns out the only other report was mine from the flats. 

With the demise of this former breeding bird it is important for all reports to be looked into with an open mind, and that is what transpired, but calling and a sighting are two different things and if the latter had been used on the LBC page then we would have probably accepted it, even after our attempts to substantiate it. I would have been happy to, though whether the powers that be would have let me is another question.  I had a similar experience myself with a LSW I saw at Radipole the first time I went there.

So back to  February was a trifle dull, and it's only thanks to Mr Fisher's Leyton reports that we have enough to pad this round up out with. The month has apparently got better, like a good wine, with age, as Shelduck and Red Kite have been added subsequent to February's demise.  Yay!

The highlights

  • Linnet numbers peak at 54 on the police scrape
  • 2 adult Med Gulls make it 5 for the winter period
  • A Pheasant is spotted down by the stables, the first record for 2 years and not a game bird!
  • Yellowhammer over Heronry
  • Firecrest no show in Bush Wood, but Stu's birds more confiding
  • Rook south over Leyton Flats 
  • Buzzard over Leyton Flats
  • Red Kite over the cemetery
  • 2 Shelduck on the Police Scrape


All the Gadwall have just about left, Shoveler numbers down, Pochards all gone and only a few reports of Teal.  Only the Tufties have been braving the dullness that was February. Gull numbers fluctuated depending on how horrible the weather was (the worse the better) and as their temporary pools recede so the dominance of the Common Gull is now being usurped by the Black-heads.

On the raptor front; has anyone seen a male Kestrel? There only appears to be the one female hanging around north of Long Wood, which is quite worrying.  No signs of Sparrowhawk displays and only singles when they are seen.  On the other hand Tawny Owl reports have increased, while no one bothered the Little Owl too much.

Fieldfare and Redwing numbers fell, with just a few of the stripey-eyed thrush left on the flats, but still good numbers in Bush Wood and moving around the old sewage works and stables area. A few Blackbirds have joined in the thrush medley, but even their numbers appear down from last month.  It's been a rubbish winter for finches, with a few Siskin hanging on in the park, but numbers of Redpoll of any type are down to a trickle.

Still just the one Snipe holding out in the SSSI, and no sightings of Woodcock since the first day of the year so it appears many of our winter visitors have just gone back from whence they came leaving a bit of a void while we wait for the Spring migrants.

In other news:

Tim has been putting in a huge effort to help our Skylarks.  He's been talking to dog owners, and even took a few of them on a Skylark safari, whilst cajoling the Corporation to do more.  Signs are promised (again!) but whether the breeding areas will be afforded any more protection that remains to be seen.  Meanwhile myself and Mr Harris (again) did a little showcase on the Birds of Wanstead Flats, at Coffee7 during the month.  Since no one asked for their money back I will take it as a success!

Wanstead Flats: 40 Linnet, 10+ Skylark (incl song-flighting bird), Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 4 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, Common Snipe, Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, 10 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler - many gulls (mostly Common & Black-headed) (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Flats: 54 Linnet, 2+ Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, singing Chaffinch, 20 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 600+ Common Gull, 400+ Black-headed Gull, 13+ Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail,
Sparrowhawk, 10 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 3 Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 10+ Redwing, 7 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Kingfisher, Little Grebe, 16 Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 25 Gadwall, 26 Mute Swan, Redpoll sp, 25+ Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 45 Linnet, 5 Skylark, Little Owl (Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Park: Bullfinch, Chiffchaff, 15+ Redwing chased by Sparrowhawk (Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Flats: 7 Skylark 2 singing, 20+ Linnet, 5 Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, 2 Pochard, 14 Mute Swan (Jub) (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Water Rail, 10 Gadwall, 6 Tufted Duck (Shoulder of Mutton), Redwing, 4 Stock Dove (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Flats: 35 Linnet, 4 Skylark, 6 Redwing, 50+ Jackdaw, Great Black-backed Gull, 20+ Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1000+ Common Gull, 800+ Black-headed Gull, 20+ Herring Gull, 9 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Great Crested Grebe back on Heronry, Little Grebe on flooded Roding, 100+ Gadwall, 9 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk, 250+ Jackdaw in pre-roost on Wanstead golf course, 2 Goldcrest (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Flats: 10 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 5 Skylark, 15+ Linnet, 11 Tufted Duck (jub), 4 Shoveler on floods, Great Black-backed Gull (Nick Croft).

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest in hollies along west boundary of Court at 10:15, Lesser Redpoll over, Grey Wagtail, 8 Shoveler, 3 Redwing (Stuart Fisher).

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 13 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall, Kingfisher, f Sparrowhawk, singing Nuthatch (Gilberts Slade), Redwing, 87 Tufted Duck, Egyptian Goose, 5+ Ring-necked Parakeet, Grey Wagtail, 7 Goldfinch (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: un-ringed ad Mediterranean Gull, 4-5 Skylark, 6 Shoveler, 2f Pochard, m Teal, 10 Tufted Duck, Meadow Pipit, 2 Redwing (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 3 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 4 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 30+ Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler, 7+ Siskin, 2+ Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher, displaying Stock Dove, Redwing (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull still (Dan Hennessy)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest left roost in laurel hedge in court side early am, singing Goldcrest, 220+ Jackdaw in Epping Forest roost, Sparrowhawk by Snaresbrook tube stn (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull still (Tony Brown)

Wanstead Flats: 2 ad Mediterranean Gull (5 birds now this winter) (DH), 8+ Skylark (3 display song flights), 5 Meadow Pipit, 15+ Linnet, 6 Fieldfare, 10+ Redwing, Kestrel, 13 Shoveler, trilling Little Grebe on Alex (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: report of Pheasant by stables (first record for 2 yrs), Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 2-3 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll, flock of 10+ Goldfinch, 10+ Redwing (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft).

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 9 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, m Reed Bunting, 5 singing Skylark, 6 Meadow Pipit, Redwing, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Snipe (Nick Croft/Tim Harris).

Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull still, 1000+ Black-headed Gull, 1000+ Common Gull, 15 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 15 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 14+ Mute Swan, 4 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 2 Redwing (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 20+ Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher, Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Gadwall pr, 5 Shoveler, f Pochard (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: 18 Linnet, 6 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 2 Stock Dove pr, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Treecreeper, Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker, Skylark all SSSI area (Quentin Given)

Wanstead Flats: 5 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 4 Skylark, 5 Linnet, 4 Lesser Redpoll, f Reed Bunting, 3 Redwing, Kestrel, 2-3 Sparrowhawk, 17 Shoveler, 26 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall, 4 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Rook S, 2 singing Nuthatch (one on Leyton Flats), singing Grey Wagtail, 2 Egyptian Geese, 53 Tufted Duck, 7 Shoveler, 2 Goldcrest pr, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, Redwing, 4 drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher (Stuart Fisher)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: singing m Firecrest on Court boundary, Common Buzzard, 12 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, 2 Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Coal Tit (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 6 Skylark on territory, 4-6 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 6-8 Linnet (1 singing), Lesser Redpoll, 3 Reed Bunting (1 singing), Sparrowhawk, 5 Redwing, 2 Stock Dove pr, Shoveler, Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Yellowhammer N, Bullfinch, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, 4 Gadwall, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff singing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: singing m Firecrest on Leyton Flats, Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail, Great Crested Grebe, 16 Shoveler on Eagle Pond, 2+ Stock Dove, Kingfisher, 3 Gadwall (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 7 Shoveler, 16 Tufted Duck, 3 Little Grebe, 6 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush pr, 10+ Linnet, f Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, 2 Stock Dove pr (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 70+ Redwing, Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, Little Egret, Goldcrest, 2 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, f Pochard, 30+ Tufted Duck (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: singing Chiffchaff, 7 Shoveler, Kingfisher, Redwing (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Red Kite (Paul Ferris), 2 Shelduck on Police Scrape (Julie Donovan)

Wanstead Park: Tawny Owl (Tim Harris)

Forest Gate Common Buzzard (Nick Croft)