8 June 2014

May flowers

As the really observant of you will have noticed, there has been a serious lack of effort on the blog of late.  Apparently internet providers need payment at certain times of the year or they withhold their services. Now full working order has resumed, but now its June so don't expect a deluge of updates and frippery!


The month started off where April hadn't quite finished with the late arrival of our last Spring migrants; namely Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Common Tern, Cuckoo and Spotted Flycatcher.  Then the weather got nicer and the birding worse, but that had changed again by the end of the month and with it our birding luck changed big time, and that change of luck will be what this May/Spring/Year will be remembered for. And that piece of good fortune came in (I would say shape, but few if any saw anything of the damn bird) the song of a Blyth's Reed Warbler on the 29th. A bird that fully deserves to have its name in bold, seeing it's only the third London record. The improbability of it all reflected in the national sightings webs: "most sensationally" - Bird Guides; and "more remarkably still" - RBA in their respective weekly sightings coverage of BRW sightings.

... and true enough it was most sensationally and more remarkably lucky. If I hadn't thought I had heard a Willow Warbler I would not have gone via the fairground copse to Jubilee and then on to Cat & Dog.  If there I hadn't heard the singing Reed Bunting I would have not been out of position on my return to the SSSI, and if hadn't been for the lack of decent birds I would have probably not have gone to check the heather patch and heard our unlikely visitor. But I did and it did.

Luckily for me I had heard a Blyth's up in Norfolk a couple of years back, and after quickly ruling out Marsh Warbler, I was left with BRW, but I hadn't had any conclusive views.  That didn't improve when Dan turned up (luckily on holiday), or Bob (day-off), Marco (retired) though we did get to see it was an acro with a greyer tinge to the back than you'd expect on a Reed Warbler.  Luckily Stuart Fisher's interest had been roused by my texts and made a slight detour on his way back from Canary Wharf.  His broad grin when he arrived confirmed what we had thought.  The news could be released.

As Tim had left his phone at home, I can only imagine the profanity that erupted from his lips on reading his messages on his return. My phone went in to melt-down; a notorious one-day wonder and major blocker for many London listers, so imagine a good number turned up.  Certainly Mr Lee GR Evans did and was, apparently, trying to say it was a Marsh Warbler, luckily many better birders than me came and confirmed our diagnosis.  So our 200th species for Wanstead; it would have been better if it had showed a bit and we had some photographic evidence, but its song was sublime. A pretty decent recording of which, considering its proximity to Centre Road, can be heard here


The other highlights

  • 4 singing Garden Warbler on patch (though we are now down to the one singer we have hopes of breeding birds)
  • Whinchats at last 
  • Spotted Flycatcher (a great Jono find when he was not doing birding)
  • Cuckoo finally nailed with a flyover
  • A good Red Kite month with 7 + sightings
  • A one day Tree Pipit (there will be more come the autumn)
  • Reedy is back on the Shoulder of Mutton, this time he's got company
  • Singing Sedge Warbler on the 13th which would account for my "probable" at Angel the day before
  • Willow Warbler still singing by Bush Wood
  • Report of a Little Owl by the Hollow Pond
  • Terns returns

With migration all but over, and in our case mostly all, over, its only another 60 plus days till it gets interesting again. A few Swallows are still meandering north, House Martin numbers could be up (we should check, any volunteers?) and Sand Martins appeared around the Alex most days till the middle of the month.  Swift numbers built up on the grimy days and fell back on sunny conditions. Apart from the one day Tree Pipit, a few Yellow Wagtail passed through on their way north - nationally their numbers are well down, but now its not so much a matter of destruction of habitat here but in their wintering grounds in Africa that raising concerns over their future and our other Summer migrants.

Out Lesser Whitethroat all but stopped singing, which is a good sign, while it looked like at least 2 of the singing Garden Warbler may have had good cause to shut up. After the initial find of a singing Reed Warbler in a patch of gorse on Heronry, and another bird briefly seen in the company of Whitethroat in the Old Sewage Works, our Shoulder of Mutton bird returned mid month and a presumed female joined him a few days later. On the subject of Whitethroats, I've noticed the range in head colouration in singing males, from pale almost female like to dark (more like a Lesser).

The first returning post-breeding Gadwall, both males, were back on Alex by the end of the month, and with up to 6 Pochard still making the rounds (2 females) there's still a chance we might get them breeding somewhere.  Tufty numbers are down, or apparent numbers are down (females on eggs!), while Egyptian Goose numbers rose to 6 on the Jubilee (including one youngster).  The pair of Shelduck were still flying around by the end of the month. Not a good breeding success by the Mute Swans with numbers of cygnet well down.

Better news of the Great Crested Grebe which have passed the mink test with the three young waterborne and growing fast.  Still no sign of any more Little Grebe chicks, but like the Tufties they like leaving it late.

Do we have Linnet breeding?  Dunno!  A singing male on Jubilee and near daily flyovers suggest they should at least try and may be they have.  Confusion as well with the status of Reed Bunting, with birds still being present and a singing male.

As I write a Honey Buzzard has just been seen floating up the Lea Valley, so although my predictions for May were completely rubbish, there's still a chance of something good  August to look forward to.

Wanstead Flats: Garden Warbler (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Common Tern, Swift, Swallow, 3 Little Egret, 2 Lesser Whitethroat (Dan Hennessy/Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: f Wheatear, Garden Warbler, 3 singing Lesser Whitethroat, Kestrel, 3 House Martin (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: 6 Common Pochard (Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Yellow Wagtail, 5 Swift, 3 Swallow, 3 Sand Martin, Garden Warbler, 3 Egyptian Goose, Green Hairstreak (Dan Hennessy/BobVaughan/Jonathan Lethbridge)

 Buzzards I have tried to string into something more interesting

Wanstead Flats: 2 m Whinchat, Red Kite, 3 Common Buzzrd, Hobby, 20 + Swift, 10 Swallow, 5 House Martin, 3 Sand Martin, 3 Linnet, Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, possible Cuckoo heard briefly (Wanstead Birders/Gideon Knight)

Wanstead Park: Reed Warbler singing in gorse bush Heronry, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Common Buzzard, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2-3 Little Egret, 2 Swallow, House Martin (Paul Davis/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Whinchat (male) still present 10.20 - 10.40. Also half a dozen Skylarks and Mistle Thrush (Alan Hobson). 2 Shelduck, Garden Warbler, pr of Linnet, 4 Sand Martin, 5 Swallow, House Martin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: Hobby (Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: f Wheatear, Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, pr Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, 50 + Swift, 20 Swallow, 3 House Martin, m Pochard, Little Grebe with young (Nick Croft/Keith Rayment/Christian Moss) + 4 Green Hairstreak

Wanstead Park: Kingfisher, 2 Little Egret on the Roding (Christian Moss)

Wanstead Flats: Hobby, 50 + Swift, 34 Swallow through, 2 House Martin through (plus 2 resident birds), 4 Sand Martin, Garden Warbler, 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat, Kestrel (Nick Croft) Common Sandpiper (Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Common Sandpiper (present yesterday - Steve Thorpe), 30 + Swift, House Martin, Little Egret, Bullfinch, Lesser Whitethroat (Nick Croft) Willow Warbler (Tim Harris)

Wanstead Flats: Red Kite south, Garden Warbler, 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Egyptian Goose, Pochard, 2 Swallow, 20 + Swift, Pied Wagtail, 50 + larids mainly Herring Gull and some Lesser Black-backed Gull (Nick Croft) m Wheatear, 2nd Red Kite, 50 swift and m Sparrowhawk Alex (dry Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 3 Little Egret, Hobby heard, Sparrowhawk, Lesser Whitethroat (Nick Croft) Common Sandpiper Heronry (dry Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: 50 + Swift, 4 Swallow, House Martin, Garden Warbler, 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat, m Pochard, Kestrel, possible Yellow Wagtail (Nick Croft) Common Redstart (Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: 2 Garden Warbler (OSW), Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Little Egret, m Pochard, 30 + Swift, Swallow (Nick Croft) Willow Warbler (Tim Harris)

Whipps Cross Roundabout:  Red Kite bring mobbed a crow @ 08:30. (Susan Huckle)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: singing male Willow Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 8+ Blackcap, 2 Stock Dove, 8+ Swift, 2 Little Egret east (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Tree Pipit west over Long Wood, Hobby (Dan Hennessy); Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warbler, 100 Swift, passage of 15 Swallow and 15 House Martin (Tim Harris), Spotted Flycatcher (Jono Lethbridge)

Wanstead Flats: 100+ Common Swift 12:00-14:00, female Whinchat, 3 Garden Warblers including 2 singing birds, singing Lesser Whitethroat, Hobby (Tim Harris, Dan Hennessey, Marco Johnson)

Wanstead Park: singing Willow Warbler Bush Wood (T Harris)

Leyton Flats/Eagle Pond: Little Owl (P Betts)

Wanstead Flats: 2-3 Garden Warbler, 30+ House Martin through in one tight flock, 2 Swallow, 100+ Swift, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, 30+ Swift, Little Egret (Nick Croft/Keith Rayment)

Wanstead Flats: Cuckoo, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 100+ SWift, 5 Swallow, 7 House Martin, 3 Sand Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Pochard, Linnet, 2 Shelduck over (Nick Croft et al)

Wanstead Flats: Yellow Wagtail, male Wheatear, singing Reed Bunting (Dan Hennessy/Bob Vaughan). 14 Swallow, 5 House Martin, 30+ Swallow, f Wheatear, 2 Linnet, 2 singing Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 2 singing Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Shelduck, pr of Pochard, 30 + Swift, 2 Sand Martin, Swallow, 5 House Martin, Hobby, Black-headed Gull, 65 larids in the gull creche on Jubilee, f Reed Bunting (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Hobby, Sparrowhawk, 3 Swallow, 20 + Swift, 2 Little Egret, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Red Kite N at 13:20, pr Pochard, 5 Tufted Duck, singing Willow Warbler, 2 Common Whitethroat, Coal Tit (family party) (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Hobby (Tony Brown)

Wanstead Flats: f Wheatear, possible f Whinchat, Garden Warbler; 8 Green Hairstreak butterflies (Bob Vaughan/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Flats: Garden Warbler, 30 + Swift, Sand Martin, 4 House Martin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 6 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, Linnet (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Hobby (Bush Wood) (Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: singing Reed Warbler (Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: Garden Warbler, Swallow, 4 House Martin, 30 + Swift, 2 m Pochard, Egyptian Goose, Kestrel, Linnet (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: singing Reed Warbler, 2 Common Tern (Dan Hennessy), Great Crested Grebe with 2 chicks, second acro, probably Reed Warbler in Old Sewage Works, Kestrel, 50 + Swift, 6 House Martin (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 100+ Swift, 1 Swallow, 2 Sand Martin, 6 House Martin, Garden Warbler, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Reed Warbler still singing Shoulder of Mutton, 2 Little Egret, 2 Common Tern, 30+ Swift, House Martin, Swallow (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 2 singing Garden Warbler, several hundred Swift, Sand Martin, 2Swallow, 6+ House Martin, m Kestrel, Little Egret (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Reed Warbler, pr Common Tern, 3m and 1f Pochard, 2 Little Egret, 50 + Swift, House Martin, Great Crested Grebe have stuck with 2 chicks (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Garden Warbler, 30 + Swift, 2 House Martin, 3 singing Skylark, Green Hairstreak and Small Copper (Tim Harris)

Wanstead Flats: Singing Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Swallow, 4 House Martin, 50 + Swift, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Little Egret (Richard Rae), 2 Reed Warbler, 3m + 1f Pochard, 2 Common Tern, Grey Wagtail (Dan Hennessy), Red Kite, 1-2 Hobby, 3-4 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 Sand Martin, House Martin, 50 + Swift, Great Crested Grebe has 3 chicks, Little Egret, Terns still at 19:00 (Nick Croft/Paul Davis)

Wanstead Flats: Red Kite (Rose Stephens)

Wanstead Flats: Linnet, 2 Black-headed Gull, Budgie (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: singing Reed Warbler, 11 House Martin, 2 m Pochard + 1 female, pr Shelduck east, 2 Common Tern, 3 fledged Common Whitethroat (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: BLYTH'S REED WARBLER singing in brambles just west of Long Wood/Centre Road still 2.30pm at least but rarely if ever showing, please keep to footpaths (Nick Croft et al per JA) Still singing and calling to 1900 at least (Matt Palmer). 6 Egyptian Goose, singing Reed Bunting, singing Linnet, Lesser Whitethroat, Sparrowhawk, Cuckoo (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Flats: singing Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat carrying food, 4 Swallow (Wanstead Birders)