One down, eleven to go. Bet you can't guess what the best bird of January was (which may well be 2015's best bird)? And secondly, how many pictures are to follow of that bird? (Note: all good images of the Slavonian Grebe provided by Shaun Harvey and Tony Brown)
Obviously the answer to the first was the strange black and white duck that was present on Heronry for much of the month, before ice took a grip on the lake, leaving just small patches of open water and a Little Grebe not for sharing. As for question 2, you'll have to count them yourself, but there could easily have been more. Popular, photogenic little bird, and have we said first for the site?
But then January came back with a vengeance and it became a grind. Cold weather brought nothing of interest and even those birds you would expect have been exceedingly thin on the ground.
I think we know why Siskin numbers are way down thanks to a record crop of cones on spruce trees in their forest domains, could this account for the lack of Redpoll? It's been a poor year nationally for Mealy, but Lessers are mighty thin on the ground here too. We would expect a few more Reed Buntings than the one regular male that we have (Tim managed two on one WEBs count) and the last few years have usually offered up a flyover Yellowhammer. Fieldfare and Redwing numbers are way down and some of my colleagues have yet to score Fieldfare for this year. This after a supposed record crop of berries, where are they? In Wood Pigeons that's where! Song and Mistle Thrushes are already singing, which is about bang on, but I've seen Blue Tit doing their fluttering flights and inspecting holes, so for many the weather is still mild enough to think of spring stuff.
The Chiffchaff seen before Christmas has not yet been refound, which is a bit annoying when numbers of up to 30 birds have been seen in the Colne Valley over the other side of London. Bob did stumble upon a Blackcap down the road from his gaff, in a garden, and that's where they probably all are - on fat balls!
Even gull numbers are way down. The Great Black-backed Gull again favoured the worms on the Brick pits field for a number of days in the month, but would soon move on after the human and dog traffic became unbearable. Very few Lessers around, and only a handful of Herring and then mostly immature birds. Valentino has yet to report in.
The freeze that finally did for the Slav, also hit duck numbers and finally pushed out the Wigeon, though one male stoically sat it out on a shrinking basin. In the park both the Heronry and Perch have been devoid of Gadwall, who now favour the Ornamentals, Basin and Shoulder of Mutton (even numbers on the Alex are only just managing double figures), so we won't be hitting any new records any time soon. As for any rarities, the mild weather in Europe has restricted the source, there appear to be very few Smew, Goldeneye and Goosander anywhere in the country let alone in the capital.
Bush Wood, our hope for things cresty and creepy, has been dire. Bob or Dan did get a Treecreeper on one day, but Stu's Snaresbrook remains the best place in the vicinity to find Firecrest.
Raptors have also disappointed: Kestrel and sprawk can't even be counted on as a given, though we've had two records of Peregrine, but no Buzzard. Josh picked up a calling Tawny Owl early one morning, but things are looking bad again for the Little Owl - it's roosting hole appears to be filled with leaves and bits of rubbish, suggesting that squirrels are now using it as a larder.
Better news on the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker front as a further sighting was notched up in the churchyard on Overton Drive by "Net-day" Keith and with many more birders in the park for our star bird, possible sightings have been noted. Possible too was that a Woodlark was on the Police Scrape in the company of one our Skylark's; discernibly smaller and bouncier flight - it was just a silhouette...
Our one representative wader, a Common Snipe, lurks somewhere in the SSSI or Cat & Dog, while the wait goes on for the year's first Woodcock. Also absent from the list is Little Egret; the Roding's too high, too dirty, which would also account for the lack of Kingfisher sightings for the second half of the month, especially with the park's waters frozen over. As per usual finding any of our Water Rail after the new year becomes a major undertaking, high water levels again have pushed the SoM's birds out, but the Aldersbrook remains the best bet for this elusive bird, while there have been two sightings on the Roding (one the wounded bird pictured below).
Whatever! Just abut 40-days before Wheatear return, but that could be a very long time if nothing interesting happens.
Wanstead Flats: Fieldfare, 3 Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Kestrel (Wanstead Birders)
Wanstead Park: Wigeon, Great Crested Grebe, Siskin, Nuthatch (Wanstead Birders)
Wanstead Flats: Bullfinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 5+ Linnet, 4 Pochard, 3 Shoveler, Kestrel, 5+ Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe showing ridiculously well on Heronry (Nick Croft per SF), 2 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, 2 Teal, Kingfisher, 2 Goldcrest, Siskin, Wigeon, Fieldfare (Wanstead Birders)
Wanstead Flats: 22 Linnet, 2 + Lesser Redpoll, f/juv Bullfinch, 5 Pochard, 3 Shoveler, Little Grebe (Jub), Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe - showed down to 2 feet in the morning but then spent most of the afternoon on the southside of Heronry, Little Grebe, 30 + Gadwall, 2 Teal, 3 Pochard, 6 Shoveler (Heronry and Shoulder of Mutton only), Meadow Pipit, Treecreeper (Bush Wood), Water Rail (The Aldersbrook) (Wanstead Birders et al)
Wanstead Flats: probable Woodlark east over fairground with Skylark, decidedly smaller and different flight to the other lark, shorter tail and more rounded wings, didn't call and not refound [Woodlarks are usually solitary & no call...it could have been anything. Its not unusual for Woodlarks to associate with Skylarks (S.Robinson) Have to agree. Out of breeding season, certainly not unheard of for Woodlark to associate with other congeners (D. Barrett) I agree I have seen them with Skylarks in winter before (SF). In the autumn of 2011 we had a Woodlark associating with Skylark for several days - found by SF himself (NC) Well it's hard to respond to a 'gang' - but good luck with the record], 8 Skylark,1-2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 20 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, 2 Fieldfare, singing Mistle Thrush, 5 Pochard, 7 Shoveler, 15 Gadwall, Little Grebe, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Richard Rae); Kestrel (Ian Stewart)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry (Tim Harris); still present and showing very well on south side of Heronry c11.30 to myself and several other visiting birders, also 2 Egyptian Geese on cricket pitch by golf course, 8+ Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Mistle Thrush on cricket pitch, 6+ Goldcrest, Jay (Ian Stewart); Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in churchyard off Overton Drive (Keith Marchant)
Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest , 3 Goldcrest at roost spot, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Redwing, Great Crested Grebe, 2 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall (Stuart Fisher)
Wanstead Flats: 5 Pochard, 21 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 4 Pied Wagtail, Skylark, 20 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Common Snipe (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, 42 Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, Kingfisher, Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Richard Rae)
Wanstead Flats: 25 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, m Bullfinch, 7 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 7 Pochard, 14 Gadwall, Shoveler, 4 Little Grebe, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Richard Rae).
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, Little Grebe, 9 Shoveler, 2 Teal, Water Rail, Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail, 4+ Redwing, Kestrel (Nick Croft); Wigeon still one on the basin (Dan Hennessy)
Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest, Nuthatch, 3 Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 146 Coot (Hollow and Eagle), 17 Moorhen, Lesser Redpoll, Stock Dove, singing Mistle Thrush, 4 Song Thrush (Stuart Fisher)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe 5th day on Heronry (Tony Brown)
Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest, Coal Tit, 4 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, Redwing (Stuart Fisher)
Wanstead Flats: Peregrine Falcon, 2 Linnet, Bullfinch, Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 2 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose (Nick Croft/Richard Rae)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe on Heronry, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Great Crested Grebe (The Basin), 390 Gadwall, 16 Pochard, 12 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: Great Black-backed Gull, 16 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, 18-41 Linnet, 5 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still (BirdGuides); Kingfisher (Conrad Ellam); 2 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 213 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 1-2 Wigeon, 14 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, Redwing, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge).
Wanstead Flats: 35 Linnet, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, 7 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Great Black-backed Gull, 3 displaying Stock Dove, 3 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk (Wanstead Birders)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, 1st winter Great Crested Grebe plus 2 adults on the basin, 4 Little Grebe, Wigeon, 200+ Gadwall, c 20 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 16 Pochard, 6 Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk (Wanstead Birders)
Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 1-2 Firecrest, Lesser Redpoll, Meadow Pipit, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, singing Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, 2 Shoveler, 4 Great Crested Grebe (including a pair displaying) (Stuart Fisher)
Wanstead Flats: singng Mistle and Song Thrushes, Reed Bunting, 3 Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still present (via Twitter), immature Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 41 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 10 Pochard (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: 19 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, f Pochard, 3 Teal, Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Kestrel, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe Heronry Pond 15.00 still Wanstead Park Avenue end (Barry Jones); Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 42 Gadwall, 11 Shoveler (Nick Croft); also drake Teal and Kingfisher (Robert Callf)
Wanstead Flats: 21 Gadwall, 8 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 2 Little Grebe, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Sparrowhawk, Great Black-backed Gull (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, 360+ Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, Wigeon, Redwing, 2 Goldcrest, Siskin (Nick Croft/Jono Lethbridge)
Wanstead Flats: 20 + Linnet, 5 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, Great Black-backed Gull, Kestrel, Common Snipe (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe present but elusive on south side of Heronry, 43 Gadwall, 5 Pochard, 8 Shoveler (Nick Croft); SG still north side of Heronry Lake 1620 (Dominic Mitchell via BirdGuides)
Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest, Coal Tit, 4 Gadwall, Shoveler, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Greenfinch, 3 Greylag Goose, 53 Tufted Duck, 2 singing Song Thrush (Stuart Fisher)
Wanstead Flats: 500 Common Gull, 17 Goldfinch, 4 Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting (T Harris)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry Pond (Wanstead Twitter); 11 Ring-necked Parakeet (over north & 2 pairs inspecting tree holes), 4 Stock Dove, 2 Teal & 100 Gadwall - both on Ornamental Water (Tony Kennelly)
Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe (Richard Rae)
Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry Pond at 1245 close in to the island (Alastair Dent); it was there earlier too 11.30-11.45 along with Kingfisher, Little Grebe, pr of Shovelers (Alan Hobson); 407 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 32 Pochard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, Siskin (Tim Harris and Wren Group).
Wanstead Flats: 7 Shoveler, 7 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, 14 Linnet, Reed Bunting, Redwing, Kestrel, Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: No sign Slavonian Grebe on an all but frozen Heronry, Little Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, 48 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: 8 Skylark, 2 Pied Wagtail, 19 Linnet, 3 Pochard, 3 Shoveler, 13 Gadwall, 6 Redwing (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Wigeon, 42 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft/Mike Messenger)
Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Nuthatch, 76 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 3 Green Woodpecker, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker (drumming heard), m Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 5+ Redwing (Stuart Fisher)
Wanstead Flats: 12 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, pr Teal, Little Grebe, 24 Linnet, 2 Redwing, 6 Mistle Thrush, 5 Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Snipe (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: Goldcrest, Nuthatch, f Sparrowhawk in garden (Bob Vaughan) Mike Messenger had 2 Snipe flushed from the Heronry sometime in December
Wanstead Flats: 11 Shoveler, 15 Gadwall, 5 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, Reed Bunting, Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: 41 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 10+ Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: 30+ Goldfinch, 15 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 11 Redwing, 8 Fieldfare, c5 singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush, 12 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 8 Skylark (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)
Wanstead Park: 12 Gadwall, 3 Fieldfare (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: 20+ Goldfinch, 15 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 13 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, Little Grebe, 3 Stock Dove, Common Snipe, 7 Skylark (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: possible Firecrest (Bush Wood), Coal Tit (Bob Vaughan), Water Rail with neck wound on Roding (appeared well considering), 189 Gadwall, 17 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Bullfinch, 10 + Goldfinch, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: 14 Meadow Pipit, 12 Linnet, 30+ Gadwall, 5 Pochard (Bob Vaughan)
Wanstead Park: Tawny Owl heard calling 07:00 Bush Wood (Josh Selfe); Blackcap (Bob Vaughan)
Wanstead Flats: 30+ Goldfinch, 5 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 7 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 8 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 12 Gadwall, 2 Egyptian Goose, Stock Dove, Common Snipe (Nick Croft).
Wanstead Park: Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 15+ Chaffinch, 2 Goldcrest, 48 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 7 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, 5+ Stock Dove (Nick Croft).
Snaresbrook Crown Court: Firecrest, Lesser Redpoll over, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redwing, 2 singing Song Thrush early am (Stuart Fisher).
Wanstead Flats: up to 10 Skylark, Pied Wagtail, 19 Linnet, 20+ Goldfinch, 6 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 12+ Tufted Duck, 2 Stock Dove, large immature hawk through scattering the gulls (probably large female Sparrowhawk) (Nick Croft)
Wanstead: Nightingale Lane regular M Blackcap on feeder & singing last 2 days.(G.Gram)
Wanstead Flats: 11 Skylark, Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 24 Linnet, 2 singing Chaffinch, m Reed Bunting, 4 Mistle Thrush, 8+ singing Song Thrush, 12 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, Kestrel (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Flats: 8 Meadow Pipit, 8 Skylark, 25 Linnet, 2 Fieldfare, 8 Mistle Thrush, 12 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, f Pochard, Kestrel, Goldcrest (Wanstead Birders)
Wanstead Park: 215 + Gadwall, 23 Shoveler, Pochard, 14 Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)