30 December 2016

Out with the old

 Wheatears always a winner. Pic: J Lethbridge

That time of year again.  The time of collective naval gazing and polishing our crystal balls served up with a side order of tosh.

First off what the others thought of 2016

First up Mr Brown

"Best Bird: Great Grey Shrike [Didn't see that one coming!]
Best Event: The flyover White-fronted Geese, whilst watching a Yellow-browed Warbler. This marginally pipped receiving a man-hug from Jono after getting him onto the GG Shrike
Prediction: More Shrikes! A spring Woodchat in the Old Sewage Works would do!"

Tony's prediction: Woodchat Shrike in the Old Sewage Works and not, as here, on the Norfolk coast

Next up Mr Heal, who had a successful second year on patch reaching the nirvana of 100 species for the year:

"Best moment has to be first hearing the YBW when I realised it wasn't someone playing a tape. My prediction is that I will find a Dartford Warbler in the Brooms on 29 October, 2017. That will follow the Red-rumped Swallow I shall also find flying low over the Brooms on Saturday 22 April."

For Mr Rae it's been a quiet year on the birding front, on the nappy changing front, however, that's another matter...

Richard went for the first Yellow-browed Warbler/White-fronted Goose combo [... I see a trend forming here–one where Bob and I aren't present!] as his best event, finally getting a Firecrest (Long Wood), because of what he puts down to the effort involved.  He is predicting an Iceland Gull and will not be drawn into making the same mistake as last year by stating where.

Mr Harris has had many other things on his mind this year primarily successfully co-ordinating the Wanstead Pan-Listing Big Year, which smashed the target set of 1000 to currently stand at 1505 species.  Apparently he wants to achieve 2000 species in 2017.

Tim's best find was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but after being reminded that the best bird category didn't need to be one of his went with the Corn Ortolan Bunting, which he missed as he was twitching a moth.  He predicts a Richard's Pipit in the Autumn.

  Bob done this

Mr Johnson goes for the original Yellow-browed Warbler as his best bird/event as he was left to find it on his own and predicts a Nightjar which will probably be flushed by a dog walker–well that's OK as long as someone is at hand to appreciate the work of fido

Mr Vaughan had a pretty good year while just shy of his 2015 tally and broke the 150 barrier and joined the illustrious club of two

His best birds were the Dunlin, Hooded Crow and the Ortolan and the best event the Great Grey Shrike [meh!]. He's gone for Pine Bunting [No problems with confusion species there then!]

  Bob done this

Mr Lethbridge did inform me of his choices at the annual drinks, but because I was probably drunk by that stage all I have is a list of drinks. There was some kind of scribble mentioning a Yellow-browed, which I assume was the event of the year because of the supporting cast of ouzels and wild geese rather than purely about gripping off Bob and I.  Best birds for him were the Great Grey Shrike and magnanimously Bob's Hooded Crow, which didn't coincide with a working from home day or illness.  My prediction for him is that he will magically appear when we find something good... His prediction a Black-necked Grebe.

Which just leaves me. 2016, what a year! Not good for celebrities, democracy and the future of the planet but in local patch birding terms another of great surprises. January kicked off with the best possible start and a record count on the 1st, my Great Snipe on the 3rd (the report is currently languishing in the BBRC's inbox awaiting its non-proven status], Bob's Turtle Dove on the 9th (very likely the Rufous Turtle Dove that appeared in Kent not long after, ha!), his Caspian returned by the end of the month and then it went a bit Isabelline.

It was March before something else decent popped up and did the decent thing of hanging around so that James and I could add Hooded Crow to our year lists. No problems for the London Rarities Committee on this one as we got pictures, though I am fully expecting a NP for last year's bird.

Spring was predictable–good, but not so good as last year–it was May that turned up the good stuff.  Long anticipated May's Cetti's was long over due (Mr L's prediction from last year), actually seeing Greenshank instead of hearing them was wonderful, Bob chipped in a brace of Dunlin and a smart male Red Crested Pochard spent the day on Heronry, a Raven by month's end meant that May was this year's April from last year!

 Pic: J Lethbridge

June and July happened and will keep on doing so until we say "No, enough!" and just skip to August, which itself was pretty average bar a Golden Plover and the year's first Tree Pipit and Pied Flycatcher.  While September held no Wryneck it gave us the Ortolan, which is my fourth life tick on the patch (Dartford Warbler I think, Wryneck, Firecrest being the others) and was good for Redstart if nothing else.

 Bob done this

October is fast becoming one of my favourite months, though some of the good stuff was found while Bob and I were languishing in Shetland (and then all the good stuff was found there while Bob and I were languishing here): near enough 1000 Chaffinch going north, a hundred plus Skylark on passage, and a smattering of Brambling. Then the good stuff: Hawfinch(es), Serin (for Stu), Woodlarks, Jack Snipe, culminating in THE BIRD OF THE CENTURY–Tony's great Great Grey Shrike* (I can be magnanimous too!)–and not forgetting a small matter of the Yellow-brows, White-fronted Geese and ouzels.

What will be the cover of the 2016 report, commissioned by James H from one of his pics of the October YBW and illustrated by Richard Allen

November gave us a Merlin and Goosander, while December the small matter of a Yellow-browed grip back that stayed and stayed and stayed... (in your face Lethbridge children!)

My best event: the Ortolan as it took perseverance over the course of the day to actually nail it, and in the end it was quite fun. A close call with my December sprite, which if it can just hang on a couple of more days...

My prediction: Penduline Tit on the Shoulder of Mutton, and in the real world a Marsh Warbler in the Old Sewage Works.


Not quite, there's the little matter of the Wanstead Birding Championship of 2016

A creditable 5th place for James on 102 and a tie for 3rd place with Jono and Tony on 106, which considering Tony was virtually only able to do weekends is very commendable, while Jono is no longer the butt of "he's gone, now lets find some rare stuff", but no doubt is suffering from the lack of air miles he gets coming to the flats–his best find = the end of his street, ha!

That leaves, a now retired, Bob in a clear second on 113. Well done mate!

Ha ha I win again

It matters little

* Predicted by Mr Fisher in last year's almanac


  1. A most entertaining round up. Sometimes I wished I lived in Essex...

  2. Actually I am claiming the October YBW as my best find, as I heard it from the Limes when I had no knowledge of James being around the other side also hearing it. Indeed like him I thought it was a tape. Keeping with the theme of magnanimous however I am letting him deal with all the paperwork...

  3. Steve you are welcome anytime. We have a handy pub on patch if it gets dull

  4. Woohoo - a podium finish, where do I collect my bronze medal from?

  5. Gregg's with my black coffee and a slice

  6. Hello!

    Nice site! I saw a biggish woodpecker-sized bird on Wanstead flats this afternoon - it had quite a big patch of yellow breast (kind of golden) and I think the rest of it was brown / black. It flew up from the ground near me then onto a nearby tree. Any idea what it was?! The way it flew looked quite like a kingfisher.