29 November 2014

Beware of these dogs

Walking through the SSSI at about 09-00 this morning, I’d just got to the limes when I saw a couple with two large, pale, bull mastiff-type dogs. I smiled as the dogs barked (you get used to it on the Flats) and they were, ineffectually, called back so I ignored them, walking on with hands in pockets. The man said “Hello” and the woman said “It’s OK, they won’t bite” but I slowed as they were coming towards me and the lead dog jumped up and bit my right hand through my jacket. I hadn’t made any gesture or comment during this time. Embarrassed the woman walked on and the man slipped the leads on the dogs. I said "Hang on, your dog just bit me" and showed the man my wounded hand. They just walked off and although I said I would have to report the incident they were not inclined to give me their address. So I said "Smile" and took a picture:

My wounds are superficial, but this was through my jacket, which is now presumably less windproof. The cut on the edge of my palm is quite deep and stings three hours later. 

If I had been a child and flapped my hands or run away I hate to think what might have happened. These were big, strong apparently aggressive dogs off lead. My daughter is disabled and if they had leaped-up at her she would have fallen over which may have resulted in a fight. If you see these dogs please be wary, on the plus side their owners had collected their faeces up.

All I have to report is 4 Redwing, 8 Fieldfare and two Mistle Thrush around the brooms.

9 November 2014

October: Stonechat time

There were other birds, but I didn't take too many pictures of them, mainly Stonechat.  And it's great, after too many years of having one or two short stayers, we've had virtually constant Stonechat action in the brooms since sometime (I forget when) in September. Of course on the last day of the month they'd disappeared again, much like they did when I was in Shetland.

And there were a few other goodies:

  • Star bird: Lapland Bunting, on the deck, showy (in a fashion), calling and a two day little wonder.
  • For the first time in years I don't predict a good Brambling year and we have our best Brambling year with one day of 30 + birds
  • A Siskin and Redpoll dribble, a Bullfinch breakout on to the flats
  • Lapwing on the list at last and a subsequent rainy day count of 60
  • A record Golden Plover count of 15 on the same rainy day
  • The first Dunlin for two years, ditto the rainy day
  • A good Ouzel passage with some very obliging birds
  • Yellow-legged Gulls pass me by again
  • Valentino returns, again, and again...
  • Firecrest back in Bush Wood (hooray! don't have to go back there till the new year)
  • Possible tardy Tree Pipit
  • Only two Short-eared Owl sightings this month
  • And bon voyage to our late summer visitors: Wheatear, Swallow and Sand Martin
  • Treecreeper in the park on the 7th

Off went the last of the summer's migrants; no Whinchats at all this October, but a couple of Wheatear hung on till the middle of the month.  Just the two warbler noted this month and their numbers ebbed away leaving those brave (probably German birds - yet to arrive) few birds that over-winter.  In their place have come Goldcrest, not in the high cold weather numbers, but in every scrap of woodland.  Stu's had Firecrest on and off most of the autumn, but now they have returned to Bush Wood.  He also had the latest Sand Martin on the 10th, while a few game Swallow were still were still undecided on which way south was.

Mipit numbers peaked early on, and then fell back to less than 10 birds by the end of the month, scattered across the flats.  Maybe some more will turn up if gets cold on the continent. Skylark numbers are down on last year, but the bulk have already opted for the fairground where they have been joined by a few Linnet.

Not a great vis-mig year for finches, though small parties of Brambling (20 strong) moved through in the middle of the month.  Few Redpoll and fewer Siskin, but as usual a lot of UFOs (unidentified finches over), which is annoying. Rather unexpectedly it has been a good autumn for Bullfinches, not in the Old Sewage Works, but on the flats, but we are still waiting for our annual Crossbill. Then of course there was the first winter female Lapland Bunting (thought it was going to be a bugger; turned out to be a doozy crowd puller), it could have stayed longer without boring people.  Stu had the only other bunting of note, a Yellowhammer on the 22nd.

Pochard down, Gadwall up was the trend for ducks this month, with a smattering of Wigeon (a high of 8 on the 19th may well be a record), again we need a cold snap or some diabolical weather to get some interesting stuff (Goldeneye, Goosander etc.).  No sign of our wintering rails and with the water levels rising on the roding, it looks like there won't be too many Little Egrets coming our way.

Look away now it's gull time: Oh yes!  Hurtling up are numbers of Common Gulls, dragging with them an influx of Black-headed Gulls and the veteran Valentino, splitting his time between here, Valentine's Park and South Park (Ilford) - he's a busy bird. October is usually the best month for Yellow-legs, and usually miss them by being up in Shetland, this time I missed them by being much closer and in bed.  Again bring on some crappy weather and something interesting might pop up amongst them.  You can but hope!

Of the raptors it was Kestrel, Sparrowhawk or nothing.  OK! one Buzzard. Still time for a Merlin (the two year rule being called upon here).

There was of course the one day I will not forget in a hurry, the 13th, not unlucky at all, just extremely grim and mucky.  The kind of grim and mucky we like and provided you don't die of hypothermia, the kind of day to make birding worthwhile. A great cast of hundreds of Redwing, 60 Lapwing, 15 Golden Plover, Dunlin, Snipe, Ouzels, Brambling and even a trio of Swallow, which has put us back in with a chance of getting a pretty decent score for the year. One things for sure if the weather doesn't turn rubbish soon, there are still dragonfly and butterfly flapping around ffs, we aren't going to achieve parity. So away with these boring southerlies, a bit of arctic weather is what we need to warm our birding hearts...

Wanstead Flats: 2 m Stonechat (1W/Ad), f Wheatear, 30 + Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 6 Swallow, 15+ Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 4 Goldcrest, Reed Bunting, 10 + Goldfinch, 30 + Gadwall, 4 Teal, 2 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Flats: Ad m Stonechat, 30 + Meadow Pipit, 5 Grey Wagtail, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Skylark, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 2 Wigeon, 2 Egyptian Goose, 6 Pochard, 4 Teal, 10 + Gadwall, Shoveler, 7 Common Gull, 13 Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap, 6 Goldcrest, 20 + Linnet, Reed Bunting (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan) 2 Shelduck east over w Flats (Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Flats: Lapwing (mega! first for year), 3 Stonechat, 10 Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, 5 + Chiffchaff, 4 Blackcap, 2 Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 7 Common Gull, 5 Linnet, 2 Teal, 5 Goldcrest (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft/Sally Hammond)

Wanstead Park: 2 Wigeon, 20 + Gadwall, 20 + Pochard, 3 Shoveler, 30 + Tufted Duck, 3 Goldcrest, Little Egret, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 Chiffchaff (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft/Sally Hammond)

Wanstead Flats: m Ring Ouzel fly through, Lapwing, 2 Stonechat, Wigeon, six Teal, ten Shoveller, Goldcrest, 20 + Meadow Pipits, 4 Skylark (Dan Hennessy, John Weil, Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: Stonechat, Reed Bunting, 7 Linnet, 3 Chiffchaff, 4 Skylark (Dan Hennessy and Bob Vaughan, T Harris, Debbie Burkett)

Wanstead Park: Common Buzzard, Nuthatch, Treecreeper (Tim Harris, Debbie Burkett, Cath McEwan, Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Goldcrest (Longwood),Kestrel, Green and G spotted Woodpeckers,Jay, 2 Meadow Pipits (G Gram)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: m Tawny Owl calling and singing from oak on court perimeter with Leyton Flats at 07:00, Common Buzzard low S at 08:10, Nuthatch, 3 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall, 4 Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail, 7 Goldcrest (Stuart Fisher)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: m Firecrest in laurel hedge in Court, Tawny Owl calling (Gilberts Slade), 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 f/imm Teal, 3 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, c5 Goldcrest (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 50 Common, 12 Lesser Black-back and 6 Herring Gull Football pitches, 3 Teal Alex; 20 Linnet, 4 Skylark Fairground.

Wanstead Flats: M Ring Ouzel N brooms, 2 Reed Bunting and 3 Goldcrest brooms, 12 Linnet fairground, 2 Egyptian geese Jubilee Pond (Bob Vaughan)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: m Ring Ouzel on Flats, later seen from Court flying high N over Epping Forest, Firecrest (singing briefly), 6 Goldcrest, 7 Skylark W, 20+ Chaffinch (most S), 15 Greenfinch, 13 Linnet over, Kingfisher, 1-2 Reed Bunting S, 5 Chiffchaff, 3 Sand Martin NE, 5+ Meadow Pipit plus a lot of unidentified finches S, 6 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall, 2 Grey Wagtail, 15+ Jay, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: f Ring Ouzel briefly SSSI, 6 to max 11 Skylark, 2 Reed Bunting, 8 Linnet, 15 Lesser Black-back 10 Herring and 20 Common Gull footy pitch, 6 Egyptian Geese, scattered Mpipits, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. (Dan Hennessy and Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: Stonechat (still 1st w male), Wheatear, 8 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, poss. Tree Pipit (Long Wood), 30 +Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 6 + Skylark, 14 + Linnet, 1+ Reed Bunting, 45 Gadwall, 3 Teal, f Pochard, 9 Shoveler, 2 Goldcrest, 10 + Song Thrush, 12 Common Gull, 2 Yellow-legged Gull (early morning nr Bush Wood), 2 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Sally Hammond)

Wanstead Park: 2 Firecrest (w side Bush Wood), 15 Mute Swan, 31 Canada Geese, 2 Greylage Geese, 78 Mallard, 5 Wigeon, 10 Shoverler, 101 Gadwall, 8 Teal, 21 Pochard, 33 Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, 5 Great Crested Grebe (Basin), 6 Grey Heron, Little Egret, 4 Cormorant, 2 Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Tim Harris/Sally Hammond/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats 10:00-18:00: 2 male Ring Ouzel, 1500+ Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 20 + Song Thrush, 30 + Blackbird, 2 Stonechat, 2 Wheatear, c.5000 Starling, 20 + Skylark, 30 + Meadow Pipit, 20 Linnet, 15 Brambling, 20 + Chaffinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 7 Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrest, 15 Golden Plover, 60 Lapwing, 2 Common Snipe, Dunlin, 6 Pochard, 3 Teal, 30 + Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, 20 + Common Gull, 3 Swallow (Nick Croft/Richard Rae)

Wanstead Flats: 3-6 Ring Ouzel (Long Wood and brooms area), c 2000 Redwing, 3 Fieldfare, 50 + Song Thrush, 3 Stonechat, Wheatear, 50 + Goldfinch, 8 Linnet, 20 Chaffinch, Brambling, Reed Bunting, 20 + Meadow Pipit, 8 Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Common Snipe, 3 Teal, 4 Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, 2 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 30 + Common Gull, 2 Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, 3 Swallow (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Richard Rae/Dan Hennessy et al) Ring Ouzel seen again at 2.45 at brooms area.( G. Gram.), Mediterranean Gull (Richard Rae).

Wanstead Park: 3 Wigeon Heronry (Dan Hennessy).

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook Firecrest, 400+ Redwing over between dawn and 10am, 5 Goldcrest, Coal Tit, 11 Greenfinch, Little Egret by pond, Grey Wagtail, Muntjac barking from Court grounds (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Short-eared Owl, Mediterranean Gull (BV), 2 Ring Ouzel still, 40 + Song Thrush, several hundred Redwing, 2 Stonechat, 20 + Meadow Pipit, 20 Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 12 Skylark, 3 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 7 Linnet, 20 + Chaffinch (Bob Vaughan/Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 7 Wigeon (basin), Common Buzzard (Jonathan Lethbridge/Tim Harris)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Tawny Owl 06:40, 950+ Redwing over at least from dawn to 09:30, 4 Skylark (3 of which low SE), Ring Ouzel (heard), Firecrest, 6 Goldcrest, 10+ Goldfinch, 8 Linnet, 300+ Starling N, several Chaffinch over, 25+ Song Thrush over, 4-5 migrant Blackbirds, Swallow S, 18 Meadow Pipit, 2-3 Grey Wagtail (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Lapland Bunting, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Ring Ouzel still, Brambling, many Song Thrush, 2 Stonechat, Bullfinch, 10 + Linnet, 20 + Chaffinch, 20 + Meadow Pipit, 10 + Skylark, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 15 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall (Nick Croft/Richard Rae/Bob Vaughan/John Weil) Lapland Bunting still present at dark, Mediterranean Gull (Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: Lapland Bunting still in grassland south of Alex, 2 Stonechat, 100 + Redwing, 20 + Song Thrush, Fieldfare, 2 Reed Bunting, 10+ Chaffinch, 20+ Linnet, flock of presumed Brambling over, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 10+ Skylark, 100+ Wood Pigeon commuting south, Gadwall, Shoveler, 2 Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff (one singing), 2 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull Bush Wood early doors (Wanstead Birding)

Wanstead Park: 5 Wigeon, 5 Great Crested Grebe (Basin), 25 Redwing, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher (Richard Rae/Jono Lethbridge)

Wanstead Flats: No sign Lapland Bunting, Yellow-legged Gull, Mediterranean Gull (Dan Hennessy).

Wanstead Flats: 4 Stonechat, Yellow-legged Gull, Mediterranean Gull, 3 Snipe, 10 + Linnet, Swallow, Goldcrest, Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaff, 35 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 2 Kingfisher, 8 Wigeon, 52 Gadwall, 50 + Tufted Duck 15 Pochard, 8 Goldcrest, grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Short-eared Owl one flushed from SSSI, 6 Brambling, 4 Siskin, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Chaffinch, 10+ Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting, 4 Stonechat still centre rd car park, 52 Gadwall, 3 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, Stock Dove, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Chiffchaff, 3 Redwing (Nick Croft/Birdguides).

Wanstead Flats: Mediterranean Gull, Stonechat, 3 Redwing, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, 5 Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark, Reed Bunting, 22 Gadwall, 4 Pochard, 3 Teal, 9 Shoveler, 10 + Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook Crown Court: Firecrest (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 35 + Brambling, 3 Bullfinch, 10 + Linnet, 15 + Chaffinch, 20 + Greenfinch, 10 + Goldfinch, 3 Stonechat still, 20 + Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 8 Skylark, 7-8 Chiffchaff, 5 + Goldcrest, 11 Gadwall, 4 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 3 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, several hundred Wood Pigeon through (Nick Croft).

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Yellowhammer low N calling, Firecrest in copse near Eagle Pond in court grounds, 7 Goldcrest, 3-4 Linnet over, 8+ Meadow Pipit over, 2 Pied Wagtail, Kingfisher, 750+ Woodpigeon S (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe, 10 Linnet, 15 + Chaffinch, 3 Reed Bunting, 10 + Meadow Pipit, 5 + Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 5 Skylark, 5 Chiffchaff, 5 + Goldcrest, 20 + Song Thrush, 10 Redwing, 3 Stonechat, Kestrel, 4 Teal, 20 + Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, f Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, 3 Little Grebe, 50 + Common Gull (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats: Gadwall 2, Great Crested Grebe 2, Heron 1, Jay 6, Collard Dove 1, Herring Gull 1, Shoveler 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest 1 seen 2 more heard. (RO)

Wanstead Flats: Brambling over SSSi, Common Buzzard, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Linnet, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Teal, 5 Egyptian Geese, 12 Pied Wagtail, 8 Skylark, Chiffchaff (Bob Vaughan) 3 Stonechat (brooms), Kestrel, 4 Jay,(G.Gram).

Wanstead Flats: Med. Gull, 3 Stonechat, 2 Reed Bunting, Sparrowhawk, 4 Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipit, 8 Linnet, (Tony Brown, Dan Hennessy, Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 4 Wigeon on ornamentals (Kathy Hartnett)

Wanstead Flats: 4 Bullfinch, Brambling, Siskin, 16 + Linnet, Reed Bunting, 30 + Redwing, 10 + Song Thrush, 3 Stonechat, 10 + Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 4 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 4 Goldcrest, 6 + Skylark, 2 + Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 1000 + Wood Pigeon, 3 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 3 Pochard, Clouded Yellow, 2 Holly Blue, 2 Red Admiral (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Wigeon still on ornamentals (Neil H)

Wanstead Flats: 3 Stonechat, Redwing, 20+ Song Thrush, 2-3 Bullfinch, 10+ Linnet, Siskin (h), 10+ Chaffinch, 2+ Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff (h), 3+ Goldcrest, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 100+ Common Gull, 4 m Teal, 3 Shoveler, 20+ Tufted Duck, 12 Gadwall, 8 Pochard, 7 Little Grebe, 10+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Siskin, 30 + Goldfinch, 15+ Pied Wagtail, 10 + Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 20 + Song Thrush, 14 Redwing, 3 Stonechat, 11 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 4 male Teal, f Pochard, Little Grebe, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 52 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 13 Pochard, 40 + Tufted Duck, 24 Mute Swan, 5 Little Grebe, 3 Siskin, Bullfinch, 20 + Goldfinch, 6 + Goldcrest, 3 Grey Wagtail, 20 + Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Stonechat, 30 + Redwing, Fieldfare (h), 10 + Song Thrush, 6 Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, 6 + Goldcrest, 7 Linnet, 20 Chaffinch, 10 + Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 4 Skylark, 6 Pochard, 8 Teal, 10 + Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 20 Tufted Duck (Nick Croft/Richard Rae)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Bullfinch, 6+ Linnet, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Redwing, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 2 Teal (Nick Croft)

7 November 2014

So wtf was that then?

Aah the first real frost of the autumn!  Should have been good for bird movement, but wasn't.  I had ended up alongside the Roding having just congratulated Bob on finding a Chiffchaff in the brooms (via messages). He replied: "Umm well not really".  To which I replied after a deliberate pause: "Yes it's shit, do better!"

So I am now down by the Roding seeing nothing and then he calls me: "Just flushed something from the SSSI, which had a long tail... " I won't bore you with Bob's inability to get his tree identification right, but suffice to say it sounded interesting enough, but decidedly pheasanty, that a tick might be on offer.  Not that I rushed back, it would have only been a flats tick for the year, but at this time of the year that can't be sniffed at.

He texted later that he hadn't re-found the bird and had got scratched for his efforts. It was vaguely on my way home to I would still give it a go. When I arrived a gaggle of litter pickers were having a chat so I detoured through the brooms to outflank them.  It was in the general direction of Bob's flushed bird and the cover could hold a hundred pheasants; it held three Greeat Tits.  Circling back via the Lime avenue I confronted by a dog walker to the front of me and another to my right.  I did a quick ziggy zag thing which would take me through the boggy bit by the line of sallows that marked the edge of the SSSI. As I approached one of the outlier trees a bird clattered through its lower branches and shot away like a bullet across the scrub and disappeared all too quickly behind a bush heading towards the centre of the SSSI. What struck me was that it wasn't a pheasant, but it was also pretty clear that this was Bob's bird. Larger than a Green Woodpecker, dark grey backed (showing distinct scalloping), with pointed wings and what looked like a pin tail, not that long from this angle, but very noticeable.  It also appeared to have a strange mark on its face and a flash of white on its underside. I had no idea what the feck it was, it was like nothing I'd ever seen before.

I spoke to Bob again and compared our sightings.  He had been blind-sided by the Oak the bird had flushed from, but we agreed on some of these features, not that it helped us much. He would look in his US books as it was certainly un-familiar as a European species.  A little while later he came back with Mourning Dove as a possibility, which I checked out on my return home. Come to think of it it did remind me somewhat of a Turtle Dove in wing shape and build.

The nearest flight shot of what I might have seen: Mourning Dove

Needless to say Bob, Rich and later Adrian Pearson put in some effort to find the bird (Adrian still under the illusion it was a Sand Grouse I had described). So tomorrow guess where we will be?