29 July 2015

Getting ready to rumble

Things are picking up. A couple of days of massive Swift movement (Dan had over 600 yesterday, 300 was the very conservative count for Sunday, but it could have been twice, three times that number!), a few returning (passing through) Swallow and Sand Martin, a brace of Willow Warbler and now Garden Warbler have begun to appear–they could be our birds from the SSSI, but it seems more likely that they are passage birds as ours haven't been seen or heard for over a month. So the pan is on the heat, get ready for August....

Speaking of Dan, he announced to me, during the bio-blitz weekend, that he is moving to Devon to teach.  A sad loss for us as he is a great, modest, birder and a more amiable bloke as you are likely to meet. We will be having a drink for him in the coming weeks and probably a lot more without him.  Best of luck fella!

27 July 2015

Public enemy No. 1: or just some (more) gulls!

 A rather beautifully plumaged young Lesser Black-back

Getting some bad press lately have our gulls.  Bad in both senses: ill informed and basically wrong,  Or is there something more sinister afoot? With the rise in the idea of re-wilding are the press barons trying to create an unease of nature: how can the prospect of lynx and wolves get any public support when the problem (of our own making) of rogue gulls makes the headlines.  It's all crap of course but totally in keeping with the environmental philosophy of this incredibly damaging and stupid government.  So gulls join foxes, badgers and any raptors as baby eating monsters that should be destroyed.  Meanwhile dogs, who account for 200,000 injuries a year (and are baby eating monsters), continue their charmed relationship with reality.  The dog caliphate reigns supreme. Strangely my affection for gulls is on the increase.

So while out getting a proper soaking on Sunday, and when I should have been counting the fleeing Swifts off south, I was tackling the thorny issue of young gullage; and the identification of young Yellow-legged Gulls in particular.  We could of course wait for an adult to turn up, as they usually do in October, but no I want to nail a young one for the sake of learning.  So there will be more of these pictures unless someone agrees with my incompetent deliberations.  You have been warned!

 Today's suspect: eye patch, big black bill, feathers, tail band, feint windows... er that's it!

21 July 2015

Twitching a Green Sandpiper

You can tell it's July, but to be fair it is probably the first and only twitchable Green Sandpiper we've ever had!  Usually he who finds it flushes off patch.

Probably the bird that Kathy H had down as a Common Sandpiper, and therefore present since the weekend, and spotted by Dan this morning on his way to school. He had come back to confirm its ID this evening as I sauntered up on my way to the river to look for er, Green Sandpiper. After he went for his supper Tony turned up after finishing his.  Tim followed and judging by further tweets and messages both Bob and Jono had a sneaky peek too!

The little wader was quite obviously happy with its little stretch of mud on the west side of the lake–I hadn't noticed this from my usual vantage point of the reed bed to the east, where I stake out the warbler–but it does look for other waders in future. It is that time of year!

On my way home via the river and the chippie I heard the unmistakable call of a Little Owl from Centre Copse, which would be the first this year and which might encourage some enthusiasm from my colleagues over the weekend. Though Bob's response was "can't be arsed".   His tune will change if Dan bags it leaving him two adrift in the all important Scores on the Doors competition!

12 July 2015

Here we go again....

Every year around this time I start taking pictures of what, to me at least, look like good candidates for immature Yellow-legged Gull. Haven't managed to score with one yet, but you can't knock a guy for trying.

So today's (probable Herring Gull) effort is here for your dissection: hefty black bill, eye patch and a kind of black bar on the tail ...


Last weekend I met Mr Harris who was on a mission.  A mission to try out his new pheromone kit on some unsuspecting, and randy, Six-banded Clearwing Moth. Having read of such enterprise on Steve Gale's exemplary blog (North Downs and beyond), I was intrigued to see how a rubber bung in a green mesh bag was going to draw in moths.  Moths, I presumed, that would be new to me. I considered the whole thing a great way for making a quick buck, seeing how his 5 ampules had cost in the region of £35, but as I was on my way to doing nothing, I went along for the ride.

Within minutes of the said bag being placed in a Hawthorn near a patch of Birds-foot Trefoil, things began to happen.  What looked like a good number of small bees or wasps suddenly went for the bag like it was the best thing in the world.  Thing is, closer inspection of the insects showed prawn like features on their tails. These were the Six-banded Clearwings and they were quite beautiful. I realise now I have seen these  before and were oblivious to what they were. After about ten minutes the moths had clearly realised they were being duped, but that didn't stop some or others coming back.  I was impressed at the power of the pheromone.

Turns out Rose S had borrowed some of the special stuff to lure a Red-banded Clearwing to an apple tree, a very smart individual that one. All in all we were all quite chuffed at how it had turned out, however it appears there are birds out there who don't have to resort to chemical warfare to find these little moths....

4 July 2015

June: Not entirely rubbish shock!


Yup, Autumn is here!

As June's go and considering it was June it really wasn't that tediously painful, really. OK I spent a week with eyes to the ground doing the bio-blitz thing, but I have to say I enjoyed that immensely. I've already forgotten virtually everything  that some exceedingly patient people told me but it's a start. Birding wise: not as bad as was feared which serendipitously leads us into the highlights.

  • A late, late Wheatear show (the latest ever or, conversely, the earliest ever returning bird) on the 4th
  • Stu's still getting Firecrest noises in his ears, which could be a specific case of tinnitus
  • Siskin on the 8th and 23rd
  • Shoveler, four of them, the first returning birds of Autumn on the 19th.  A pair of Teal followed in the same week
  • A young Shelduck flew west over Heronry on the 19th 
  • The month's only Red Kite on the 23rd
  • The first breeding report of a Common Pochard on Alex on the 27th, 3 young are still avoiding gulls, swans or other mishap
  • John W snaps a Cuckoo by Long Wood on the 29th
  • The same day a visiting birder ruffles a few feathers by reporting a duo of juvenile Little Ringed Plover on Alex that same morning
  • ... and a Black Kite in the Old Sewage Works on the 28th

Thought I might slip that one at the end so no-one would notice.  I originally twittered that to the London Bird Club account as a "possible" only due to the fact I hadn't a clue as to what a juvenile Red Kite should look like, not sure I've ever seen one–and this wasn't one either.  So just to be on the safe side, I erred with caution, while completely erring on not having my camera out (not that my camera has a helped with my IDs in the past, so maybe a good thing).  Anyway a description is soon to be winging it's way to the rarities committee to add to my growing collection of records that have bin (sic) filed.

But, wow! Pochard breeding, that's great news. Great news for Reed Buntings too as signs that they are/were rearing young in the SSSI accumulated during the month. Sticking with the SSSI, not sure what's happening with the Garden Warbler–it's all gone quiet down at Motorcycle Wood. Not so quiet have been the offspring of Common and Lesser Whitethroat.  Two or three Lesser Ws have started singing again: failed or on seconds? Meanwhile the Willow Warbler sings on. As for the other warblers, both Chiffchaff and Blackcap are doing well, and in the reeds on The Shoulder of Mutton we now have another male singing, though probably too late to attract the ladies, while Reed No. 1 is hard as rearing a family.

Back on the flats and the struggle to see any increase in the populations of either Skylark or Meadow Pipit goes on; birds are still singing but where's the result?

No Swallows after the beginning of this month and no reports of Sand Martin either, but House Martin activity over SoM has been frenetic with a few dozens of Swift thrown in for good measure. As for their nemesis, there have been very few records of Hobby and then only singles.

In other news Ringlets appear to be on the increase and the Purple Hairstreak have started appearing as too have Gatekeeper.  Yup it's another long month before the real birding can begin again...


Wanstead Flats: Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, 3 Swallow, 7 House Martin, 20 + Swift, 2 Kestrel, m Reed Bunting (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook Crown Court: Firecrest singing briefly early am (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 3 Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, 3 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 60 + Swift (including one showing extensive white on throat to breast and on underwing), Sand Martin, 3 House Martin, 3 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Reed Warbler, Great Crested Grebe (still with 2 young), 2 Little Grebe, Little Egret, Kestrel, 30 + Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: f Northern Wheatear (latest ever spring bird), 4 Lesser Whitethroat (inc. fledged young), 2 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, 4 occupied House Martin nests + 1 being built, 10 Swift, 2 singing Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 singing Skylark (Nick Croft/Tim Harris/Neil Preston)

Snaresbrook: 2+ Treecreeper (Gilbert's Slade) presumably a family group (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: Buzzard sp north over Bush Wood and distant, Kestrel, 4-5 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 3 singing Skylark, 2 singing Meadow Pipit, 5 Little Grebe, m Pochard, Reed Bunting, Swallow, 5 House Martin, 20 + Swift (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Reed Warbler, pr Great Crested Grebe with 2 young, 3 Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Wagtail, 50 + Swift, House Martin, m Pochard (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Hobby, Kestrel, 50 + Swift, Sand Martin, 5 House Martin, Pochard, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Painted Lady, Small Heath (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats: 3 singing Lesser Whitethroat, calling Garden Warbler, singing Willow Warbler, 4 House Martin, Swallow, 40 + Swift, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 singing Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 3 singing Skylark, f Reed Bunting carrying food, m Reed Bunting, Pochard (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Kingfisher, Little Egret, 4 Great Crested Grebe (pr with 2 young), 2 Little Grebe, Hobby, Sparrowhawk carrying food, Kestrel, 30 + Swift, House Martin, Grass Snake on Herony showing extremely well, up to 3 Painted Lady (Nick Croft)


Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: male Siskin in birches on Leyton Flats, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, 14 Swift (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 3 singing Skylark, 2 singing Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 20 + Swift, House Martin, 3 Pochard, 4 Little Grebe (2 young), Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 singing Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, Little Egret, up to 5 Grey Wagtail, 10 Swift, 3 House Martin (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 5 Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, pr of Reed Bunting, Linnet, 35 + Black-headed Gull south west (failed breeders presumably), Kestrel, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 6 House Martin, 30 + Swift, Little Egret (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Tawny Owl calling 10pm, Little Egret, Kingfisher, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, Pochard, Common Tern, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Reed Warbler, Kestrel, 6 + House Martin, 40 + Swift (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats (evening): 100 + Swift, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 3 Pochard, 3 Noctule, Pipistrelle (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat (+ 1 collecting food), singing Willow Warbler, calling Garden Warbler, 40 + Swift, 6 + House Martin, 4 + Meadow Pipit (2 singing), 4 Pied Wagtail,  3 singing Skylark, Kestrel, m Sparrowhawk, 2 Grey Heron, Painted Lady (Nick Croft) 3 fledged Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Stock Dove (Tony Brown)


Wanstead Flats: m Peregrine Falcon, 2 m Kestrel, 6 + House Martin, 30 + Swift, Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Pied Wagtail, 3 singing Meadow Pipit, 2 singing Skylark (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Neil Preston)

Wanstead Park: 3 Grey Wagtail, singing Reed Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitehroat, Little Egret, 5 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 9 + House Martin, 50 + Swift, singing Coal Tit, Lesser Black-backed Gull diving and catching Signal Crayfish (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: singing Reed Warbler (Cat & Dog), singing Willow Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat (2 singing), singing Reed Bunting, 2 singing Skylark, 2 singing Meadow Pipit, 4 young Pied Wagtail, 3 House Martin, 50 + Swift, Kestrel, Painted Lady (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 3 Lesser Whitethroat, singing Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 6 House Martin, 30 + Swift, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 4 Shoveler first returning birds, 4 Gadwall, young Shelduck, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Reed Warbler, 7 Grey Heron, Little Egret, House Martin, 40 Swift, remains of 50 + Crayfish left by Lesser Black-backed Gull's fishing efforts, Hedgehog  (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, 50 + Swift, 3 House Martin, Kestrel, 3 Pochard, 2 Gadwall (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Red Kite NW over Bush Wood, Siskin (Dan Hennessy), Reed Warbler, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, Little Egret, Goldcrest, 9 House Martin, 30 + Swift (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 9 Pochard, flyover Shoveler Alex (Bob Vaughan), 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat, 3 singing Meadow Pipit, 2 singing Skylark, Reed Bunting, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 20+ Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 3 Grey Wagtail, Pochard (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Hobby, Kestrel, 5 Pochard, 3 singing Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, singing Skylark, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Little Grebe, 40 + Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 3 Little Egret, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, Shoveler, 3 Grey Wagtail, singing Goldcrest, singing Reed Warbler, 8 House Martin, 40+ Swift, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 5 Nuthatch (family group at Gilberts Slade plus another individual further down), Little Egret East, Grey Wagtail, 6 Mistle Thrush, 2 Great crested Grebe, 5 Tufted Duck (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat, singing Willow Warbler, singing Reed Bunting, 7 House Martin, 50+ Swift, 4 Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, singing Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 3 Pochard, Kestrel (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat singing, 50 + Swift in evening over Alex, House Martin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, singing Reed Bunting, 5 Pochard (+ 3 young–first recorded breeding), Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 1-3 Painted Lady, 2 Purple Hairstreak, 5+ Ringlet (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: Black Kite over OSW from south (presumed nr adult/adult; pale head but overall dark with feint white in underwing near carpals), circled very high returning south, tatty Buzzard west, Sparrowhawk, 50 + Swift, 8 House Martin, singing Reed Warbler, Little Egret, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Park: Hobby, Kestrel, singing Reed Warbler, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, 3 Little Egret, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 3-6 Grey  Wagtail, Nuthatch (The WREN Group)


Wanstead Flats: Cuckoo (John Whele), 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Goldcrest, 3 Skylark (Bob Vaughan) 2 juvenile Little Ringed Plover on Alex (as reported to J Whele by visiting birder)

Wanstead Park: 5 Gt Crested and 3 Little Grebe, Swift nesting (Bob Vaughan)