28 January 2012

Plodding the Patch

Put in a few more hours on the patch today, it's a real shame that weekends are all that I have. That said, we're gaining an extra three minutes a day at the moment, and in another two weeks the morning will be twenty minutes longer. Possibly that's enough time for an hour on the Flats every morning before work. We shall see. Mid April is when it all kicks in though - migrant arrivals, and sunrise at 6am, with birdable light some time before that. Can't wait.

Anyhow, for my troubles I got a new personal high count of Pochard on Heronry, with 54 birds. Great ducks Pochard, with this many in the Park, surely I must get a garden fly-over one of these days. Heaps of activity in the Dell, Siskins and Chaffinches galore, and a male Kingfisher at the far west end of Heronry flew down into that bit you can't get to. See here for a lucky pic.

Big Garden Birdwatch this morning produced 28 species for my garden, not all of them countable as fly-overs not allowed. There go my two Great Black-backed Gulls then. Yep, two! Sensational! With a seemingly miniscule Herring Gull in tow.

Some of the superflock

26 January 2012

Dreams can come true

While JL dreams of Lapwings, ta mate! I saw this...

... and it made me dream how good it would be to have these back on the flats. Something for the little doggies and their simpleton owners to play with. Might even give the denizens of Long Wood something to mull over.

I also saw: 3 wagtails-2 pied and one grey, teal in flight,coal tit's bum, and the rail in his den. And of course Jono's dream Lapwing.

21 January 2012

Meanwhile in Wanstead....

Had a pleasant if rather unrewarding wander round first the Flats, and then the Park. Best of the meagre pickings probably the six Teal on Alex, though there were quite a few Egyptian Geese and Greylags knocking about, and at one point, whilst in the Old Sewage Works, I had four Song Thrushes within about a hundred yards, all belting it out.

Spent a fair amount of time in the area between the Dell and the Ornamental Water looking and listening for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper, but could find neither. The recent cold snap wasn't really cold enough or long enough to induce any local movement, so I guess this is it now until mid March.

Nick scored a Blackcap the other day - it was almost inevitable that there be one knocking about somewhere - and Mike M booted a Woodcock out of the old allotments south of the Roding a few days before that, taking our 2012 total to 72 species. We're still missing Tawny Owl and Great Crested Grebe, so if you have any news, please do write in.

10 January 2012

Stonking Great Big Gulls

Great Black-backed Gull is the world's largest Gull. If you see a big one, they can be monstrous. Larus marinus - the name suggests a pelagic way of life, or the very least coastal, but these days they're a relatively common sight in the right places in London. I used to think there was no way I'd ever see one in Wanstead, and that they didn't stray from the river, but actually I've now seen quite a few, including a couple from the garden. Wanstead lies on the flightpath from the Thames to the Walthamstow and Chingford Reservoirs. Many of east London's gulls roost on these reservoirs - park yourself on Mansfield Hill in Chingford one evening and watch as they come into the William Girling, quite a sight. They return to the reservoirs every evening, and each morning you see them heading back in the direction of the river, no doubt for some tasty rubbish at places like Aveley tip.

I think that they're getting commoner in London. At Canary Wharf the other day I counted at least five in a single scan, and on January 1st in Wanstead, Nick, Tim & I had two - one flying west, and another on the deck near Alexandra Lake. What I once thought was a monster bird (literally) seems to be pretty regular. Today I went for a quick walk around the SSSI at lunchtime. I didn't see many birds, but of note was yet another GBB flopping slowly west. I saw flopping because the wings and manner of the wingbeats, at a distance, reminds me of a distant Grey Heron. Slow, heavy wingbeats, often with significantly bowed wings. You might not think it, but those wings can approach 6ft long! Not quite an Albatross, but getting there. Adults wing tips have large white "mirrors", those of Lesser Black-backeds are much smaller. They're also significantly darker-mantled than Lesser Black-backeds, black, as opposed to slate grey, though unless you see both together this can be hard to judge. As well as the flight action, look for a huge bill. You might think Herring Gulls have large bills - and they do - but this is in a different league - a massive slab. You won't be able to see leg colour on all but an exceptionally close flight view, but on the deck the legs are pink, like Herring Gull.

Very rarely do they seem to linger, they are always coming or going. I've now seen 14 in Wanstead, and of these only three have been on the ground. The Wanstead Bird Reports show 3 for 2009, 8+ for 2010, and, though not yet hot off the press, will show 10 for 2011. Not many, so still a good bird and one to look out for. Winter is the time, ie now, and your best bet is to plonk yourself on Wanstead Flats in the early morning or early afternoon and look for them flying over, as well as scanning the loafing flocks on the playing fields in the morning - you might just get lucky. It can also be very educational, as obviously there are a lot of different species of different ages flying through.

9 January 2012

Unfinished business: December

2011 revisited just for one more time and a quick look at December and my musings on the year as a whole and what I think might have been the best bits for those concerned.

So I'll start with the best bits

Jono: A fish eating raptor gains top spot, with a Stone Curlew, photogenic sandpipers (both Wood and Common) and maybe even the Green's that he managed to get out of bed for and hoof it down to Alex as they were flushed by a doggie. Possibly a Little Ringed Plover gets the nod too! Obviously Wheatear would figure big time, and ouzels and maybe the fact that he beat his former record total for the patch, again! Who knows meant to ask all concerned for comments at the Annual Wanstead Birder's Piss Up, but was too ill and drunk to care.

Tim: Firecrest, closely followed by Woodlark. LRP again and the number of Redstart paying a visit. Maybe though the day the Red Kite JL and I got over the Alex was picked up by Tim and a group he was leading round the OSW!

Stuart: Finding the Woodlark? Hearing the only Pheasant of the year? Goshawk over Heronry while enjoying a tea and a slice. Grasshopper and Sedge Warbler finds? All-in-all Stuart needs to visit the flats more often in 2012

Natalia: We need you out jogging in the mornings for the gen of what's on the ornamental waters (as we can't be arsed to do it), it works, as in Goosander, Egyptian Goose chicks and other stuff.

Steve: I am guessing that the Green Sandpiper flushed from the Roding would be up the top of his list, but credits go for tracking down the Little Owl before it finally gave up on Wanstead and hopefully found somewhere more to its liking, and with company.

Paul D: I would hazard a guess at Marsh Harrier (seen over the Old Sewage Works), another amazing raptor find following the Black Kite in 2010. Probably not best to talk to him about Firecrest though!

Thanks to all the rest of the birders who have helped make the task of birding the flats more enjoyable: Sally, Helen, Tony and Eve and anyone else I've forgotten.

At the end we were 4 sp down on last year with notable absences in the form of: Wryneck, Merlin, White-fronted Goose, Turtle Dove, Dunlin, Gannet, Golden Plover, Lapland Bunting, Short-eared Owl, Wood Warbler. On the credit side we did add: Kittiwake, Caspian Gull, Arctic Tern, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Grasshopper Warbler, Snow Bunting, Water Pipit and of course Stone Curlew.

This year it is going to be tough, I predict no Little Owl, no Pheasant, no Waxwing and quite possibly all of the above. The only crumb of comfort I can draw on is how useless and wrong my predictions usually are.

Back to December. The highlights were:

Firecrests still in Bush Wood but becoming increasingly (frustratingly) harder to find

5 Water Rail in the Park (record 3 seen in one day)

5 Chiffchaff recorded on one day in the park

Green Sandpiper on the Roding

... quiet really

1 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 30 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 8 Teal, 4 Tufted Duck, f Pochard, 10 Greylag Goose, 10 Skylark, 7 Meadow Pipit, 2 Stock Dove, Lesser Redpoll, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest (Tim Harris/NC), 3 Goldcrest (1 singing), Water Rail, Kingfisher, 2 Egyptian Goose, 50 Gadwall, 53 Tufted Duck, 44 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, 5 Siskin, 11 Redwing, Coal Tit (Nick Croft)

2 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 35 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall, 8 Teal, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 2 singing Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Chiffchaff (old sewage works), Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest, 20+ Song Thrush, 5 Redwing, Fieldfare (all OSW), 5 Lesser Redpoll, Kestrel, 64 Tufted Duck, 67 Gadwall, 37 Pochard, 4 Shoveler, Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe (Nick Croft)

3 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 34 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 8 Tufted Duck, f Pochard, Little Grebe, 578 Common Gull (Tim Harris/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2-3 Firecrest (Bush Wood south of Quaker cem on westernmost path), possibly another 2 in Reservoir Wood, 8 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff (old sewage works), f Blackcap (Reservoir Wood), feeding Redwing (Bush Wood), 8 Shoveler, 88 Gadwall, 43 Tufted Duck, c. 40 Pochard, 20 Teal, 6 Heron (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

4 Dec

Wanstead Park: Chiffchaff, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Bullfinch (Steve Thorpe)

6 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 30 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 4 Tufted Duck, 13 Egyptian Goose (flew NW towards the basin), 17 Mute Swan, 3 Fieldfare, 3 singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush, 5 Meadow Pipit, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Chiffchaff, Little Egret, Kingfisher, 3 Bullfinch, 6 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Siskin, Coal Tit (Reservoir Wood), 6 Goldcrest, 90 Gadwall, 65 Tufted Duck, 39 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, singing Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Grey Wagtail, f Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe)

7 Dec

Wanstead Park: 3 Firecrest (Bush Wood, associating with Long-tailed Tit), 7 Goldcrest, 5 Stock Dove, Coal Tit (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

9 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 31 Shoveler, 1 Teal, 5 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall, 15 Egyptian Goose (nw over Esso garage), 5 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 3 Bullfinch, 36 Pochard, 53 Tufted Duck, 60 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron (Nick Croft)

10 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 28 Shoveler, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Gadwall, 4 Egyptian Goose, Fieldfare, 2 Skylark, 2 Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2-3 Firecrest (Bush Wood; Tim Harris/Barry Bishop/NC), 6 Goldcrest, 2 Bullfinch, 5 Siskin, 10+ Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Goldfinch (finch action down the old sewage works), Chiffchaff, Coal Tit (Reservoir Wood and Bush Wood), 10 + Redwing, 6 singing Song Thrush, 1 singing Mistle Thrush, drumming Greater Spotted Woodpecker (Bush Wood), 22 Pochard, 46 Tufted Duck, 41 Gadwall, 2 f Shoveler, 3 Little Grebe, 30 + Ring-necked Parakeet in one flock going south before dusk (Nick Croft)

11 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 30 Shoveler, 5 Tufted Duck, 6 Teal, 12 Egyptian Goose (north west) + 2 Alex, 4 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 3 singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush (City of London Cem)42 Ring-necked Parakeet (north), 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, 3 Goldcrest + Coal Tit (C of L Cem), Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Green Sandpiper north up the R Roding , Water Rail, Grey Wagtail, Teal (Steve Thorpe), Little Egret, 3 Grey Heron, 2-3 Kingfisher, 20+ Chaffinch, 30+ Goldfinch, 4 Bullfinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll (all Old Sewage Works), 20 + Siskin, Chiffchaff, Sparrowhawk, 40 + Gadwall, 40 + Tufted Duck, 2 f Shoveler, 30 + Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, 10 + singing Song Thrush (OSW) (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe), Firecrest (Bush Wood), 20 Lesser Redpoll (Shoulder of Mutton) (Tim Harris)

13 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 34 Shoveler, 7 Tufted Duck, 15 Egyptian Goose (north west), 5 Gadwall, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Old Sewage Works: 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Bullfinch, 20 + Goldfinch, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting, 20+ Song Thrush (6-10 singing), Redwing, Fieldfare (Tim Harris/Steve Thorpe/Nick Croft), f Wigeon, 4 f Shoveler (Perch) (Nick Croft)

16 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 30 Shoveler (27 Alex, 3 Jub), 5 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall, 4 Teal, 5 Egyptian Goose (NW over Esso garage), 17 Mute Swan (Alex), 1 redwing, 2 Fieldfare, singing Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, 3 Meadow Pipit, 5 Herring Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Green Woodpecker, Greater-spotted Woodpecker, 10 Greenfinch and snow (Nick Croft)

18 Dec

Wanstead Flats: 456 Common Gull, 190 Black-headed Gull, 186 Canada Goose, 48 Mallard, 24 Shoveler (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 4 Firecrest (Bush Wood), 5 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff, 28 + Lesser Redpoll, 6 Siskin, 2 Bullfinch, 8 Teal, 83 Gadwall, 42 Pochard, 48 Tufted Duck, 119 Mallard, Kingfisher, Water Rail, 3 Heron, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe/Natalia Benajeh et al)

19 Dec

Wanstead Flats: f Wigeon, 13 Shoveler, 3 Reed Bunting, Linnet, 20 + Goldfinch, 7 Fieldfare, 19 Ring-necked Parakeet (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 4 + Chiffchaff (old sewage works), 3 Goldcrest, 2 Water Rail, 79 Gadwall, 34 Pochard, 42 Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, 5 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Pied Wagtail, Fieldfare, 4 Redwing (Nick Croft), 1 Chiffchaff (pump house), Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk (Steve Thorpe)

24 Dec

Wanstead Park: 3 Water Rail, Little Egret, Kingfisher, 35 + Lesser Redpoll, 10 + Siskin, Bullfinch, 2 Coal Tit (Nick Croft)

8 January 2012

A good day in Wanstead Park

Managed 51 species today in a walk round the park, including several new ones (for me) for the year. Started in Reservoir Wood where a very vocal Coal Tit was tweeking away, and progressed from there to the Ornamental Waters. I walked the east side from the OSW up, not seeing much - so muddy that I had to keep my eyes on the ground and not on the Roding. At the pumphouse I met Steve, who had some fine advice, which was to wait and watch. I usually just tear round, hardly ever stop moving, but sure enough, just by standing on the shingle and looking downstream, we gradually picked up flickers of movement. These turned into two Kingfishers criss-crossing the river about two-hundred yards away - I had likely walked right past them on my way up. So, thanks Steve - maybe it's something I should do a little more.

We carried on together, back the way I had came - next targets Little Egret for Steve and Grey Wag for me. We succeeded with both - the Grey Wag downstream from the tarmac bridge, and the Little Egret near the Golf Course bridges. On our second tour of the OSW, some Bullfinches were piping away but remained invisible - it really is a stronghold for them and long may it continue. A quick cuppa and bit of cake at the Tea Hut, and then on to find a few more species - Redpoll near Shoulder of Mutton, and Goldcrest in Reservoir Wood.

Nothing new for the year, Nick and Tim cleaned up yesterday by the sounds of things, but I'm keeping pace nicely.

1 January 2012

And we're off!!

A new year, a clean slate. Now that I'm dry I feel up to telling you about it - the latter half of the festivities was extremely wet, but ultimately extremely productive. Last year we got 56 species; this year we blew that away with a final total of 63, including such Jan 1st gems as Peregrine, five Bullfinch, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, Little Egret and Firecrest.

Nick, Tim and I (hi, yes, this is JL, with a guest appearance...) started off in the SSSI, which is where we got the Peregrine, probably one of the Stratford birds, which although close, we very rarely see. Buoyed by the top start, pretty much the next bird was a slow and lolloping GBB Gull, another rare visitor, and mostly as a flyover. It was therefore a big surprise to find another on the deck near Alex, though we managed to look through it for about five minutes before we twigged.

A few Teal on the Alex, and we left the Flats on 47 species, missing only Reed Bunt and GS Woodpecker. The OSW rectified those particular ommisions, but unfortunately didn't produce any of the actual birds we were hoping for. Nevermind, on 51 species we headed for the Dell, which had Siskin ready and waiting, in contrast to last year when we didn't get one. Tea and cake at the LTSoH, via a Water Rail at the top of Perch, and then it was Firecrest time in Bush Wood. Hard work, but we each got a view in the end.

That's when the rain set in, and boy did it set in. In fact it's still raining as I type this, and most of my clothes are still wet. Tim caved and went for lunch, and Nick and I manfully carried on. First stop the Basin which didn't have the hoped-for Great Crested Grebe but did have 8 Egyptian Geese, and then a fruitless and muddy tour around the Ornamental Waters. Arriving at the OSW again, Nick forced me to go around it again. Lucky he did, as this time we got the Bullfinches, the Little Egret, and a bonus Chiffchaff. A quality start. Where were you all?!

PS, in IE, our list of birds etc does not show on the right of the blog. To solve this, use a decent browser like Chrome or Firefox, or click on the blogpost title (ie "And we're off" today), which should bring it up.