26 February 2012

Buzzard blocker un-blocked; and the ugliest duck in the world

With the ice gone things have settled down a bit, but there's increasing excitement as Jono's Wheatear clock counts down the days, hours, minutes and the seconds to the moment "the" birds are back. Last year Wheatear was # 95, so hopefully we've got a lot of interesting birds to come in the meantime.

Two new additions to the list this week were my Green Sandpiper on the Roding (my first in the park), which I was aiming to get a shot of before some arse golfer flushed it from the other side of the river.  Golfers are now very firmly in the top ten of my "Things the world would be better off without..." list just below dogs and their owners of course.  The second was the first of the year's Great-crested Grebe on the Basin, it wasn't there today, but I think we might get more...

Steve might have had another Goosander on Friday (aw come on enough already!), but today I managed to get my first and second Buzzard, after missing out last weekend in the park.

"Good day for raptors", Jono's text had suggested earlier in the morning.  I couldn't disagree, but was having difficulty moving after yesterday's tramp from Camber Sands to, and around, Dunge.  I have discovered though that sometimes the early bird is not the only one that gets the worm.  Met up with Mr L and we lay on our backs contemplating the kettling gulls over head waiting for Buzzard.

There's one, says JL, and right enough the bird has done the decent thing and is circling hundreds of feet above our heads.  A rather vividly marked one it appears through "big-bins" (unfortunately we couldn't make it into a Rough-legged as one was reported over Upminster later). I watched it gracefully sail northwards, then it tucked its wings in slightly and picked up speed and was lost to view somewhere over Leytonstone.

Now the problems with being on your back is that your field of view is somewhat diminished, and there was the chance we might miss something.  However the next bird, coming west to east was lower and also did the decent thing of passing straight over the top of us.

After Jono left to go and see the muppets, I wandered off to Bush Wood to check on the Firecrest, since no one else had bothered this month. Surprisingly I found one quite quickly in the spot I had originally found them back last year.  Just a word to the wise, we will not be posting any further news regarding these birds just in case...

Steve had got a Woodcock in his morning stroll round the Old Sewage Works, so I thought I stay on after dark to see if I could get one in the park, after having scored one on the flats last weekend.  Er no! but a bat! Presumably a Pipistrelle.  What with Red Admirals flying around and now a bat, it is officially Summer.

I finished off at the Shoulder of Mutton playing owl lures to no effect. Interestingly it appears this small pond is where all the local Tufties gather at night and even in the dark I could see over 50 males swimming about grunting and churring.

Finally found this amazingly ugly duck on Alex on Thursday.  For once the fairy tale did not come true...

19 February 2012

Four-legged creatures we like

After a week of goosanderfrustration, it now appears Common Buzzard's could be a bit of a blocker. Missed 2 today.

Strange to see a fox on one of the islands on the Alex. I know they can swim, if pushed, but I reckon he came across on the ice. Gonna have to swim soon!

14 February 2012

Nothing at all to do with sawbills

OK so I haven't seen any of the plethora of goosander flying up and down the patch over the last week, am I bitter?

Damn Feffing right!

So in lieu of Goosander's here's some pictures of things I did see, while not seeing goosander

13 February 2012

Smew too

Just adding my pic of the 2 red head Smew before they were flushed from the Wanstead end of the Roding by 3 huge dogs....

Goosanderfest 2012

It's been quite a weekend for Goosander. Starting with the five that I had on the Basin last week, the species is now commoner than Mallard.

9th - 5 on the Basin (Jono L)
9th - 1 on the Roding (Paul F)
11th - 3 up the Roding (Tim H)
11th - 2 over Heronry (Tim H)
12th - 1 on the Basin (Steve T)
12th - 2 up the Roding (Tim H)
13th - 1 up the Roding (Steve T)

I'm not that hot with maths, but that I think makes 15 Goosander! Wowzers. OK, so I didn't see any of them at the weekend, but who cares, we operate as a collective. So that's the Goosanders, but we're not quite done with Sawbills. Steve strayed into Mordor, and found not just his first Smew, but a second one with it! They were kind enough to fly up the Roding and into the recording area for Stu, but despite some gentle persuading, Stu, Steve and I could not persuade them to repeat the journey. Whilst trying though we found six Lapwing on Ilford Golf Course.

Steve and I also found a Woodcock just east of the Roding approaching the old allotments, and there was a Common Snipe and a Water Rail in the ditch that runs along the southern edge of Reservoir Wood. I can't think of too many other birds of note, though personally I did add two to my year tally with a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker near Heronry, and also caught up with the two Linnet that have been frequenting the Old Sewage Works.

9 February 2012

Cold weather movement part III:


Yesterday when all the shenanigans were going on in Wanstead, I was in camera; in a tribunal to destroy the cruel tyranny that is the leasehold system and its loyal henchmen; the landlord and the management agents. Needless to say we failed and these bastards will be around for a few more years yet.

While I was not able to answer my phone I could feel its desperate attempts to lure me out of the moribund place I was in, but it was only when I got into the pub that I realised what had been happening in my absence from the real world.


Only the 2nd Smew ever to appear on the patch. Distraught, I had to have a few drinks.

There was the slim chance that it would still be there in the morning. Tim was on the case and ready to be there early doors. I was determined to be there too, hangover permitting.

I could hardly sleep with the excitement/anticipation/trepidation, which is really stupid considering I had seen 3 birds just a couple of weeks previously up the Lee Valley.

Out at 07:00 and on the patch, I texted Tim to see if he was in position and ask him to report any disappointment couched in gentle terms, while I struggled across the ice field waste that is now the flats.

It was Jono that texted first: 5 goosander on the basin. Gosh! (or words to that effect)

J Lethbridge

Tim had so far drawn a blank so I changed direction and headed warily towards the basin, via a cup of coffee at the Esso Garage. Fieldfare and Redwing were again moving in great numbers, gulls too with nowhere to settle.

As I approached the garage I heard a call of a plover, mixed in with that of parakeets. I couldn't see either. The call came again clearer and nearer, I was worried I was going to miss whatever it was (especially since I was pretty convinced it wasn't a Goldie), and even more worried that my befuddled head had somehow contrived to turn parakeet noise into plover piping. I got the Ring-necks and finally a plover bolted over Long Wood, circled and flew over my head. Black armpits, job done.

By now Jono had texted to say the Goosanders had vanished, I thought I'd still head that way just in case. However I spent the next hour chasing a mobile snipe up and down the only non solid water course in this part of the park, to ascertain whether it was our 2nd Jack or just jack. It finally ditched flying and showing its back and gave us some pretty close views as it tried to hide in the leaf litter. Unfortunately it was the commoner of the snipe, but it didn't half give us the run-around.

Tim put paid to giving the basin a once over, reporting back negatively for goosander. So onwards to the Roding and a Smew hunt.

I checked the northern reaches first, just in case it had moved up there while Tim had been searching for it, and on the off-chance of woodcock or anything really. Some Bullfinch in the old allotments (including 2 males), a feeding Kingfisher, some teal and a second Kingfisher on the way back.

I approached the last bridge over the Roding thinking the Smew had legged it. But there it was at the bend in the river a couple hundred yards off. I reckoned there was a good chance I could approach the bird hidden and gets some good shots in without disturbing it too much.

Pretty much what happened as it turned out. Apart from the noise of the camera spooking it. It flew north and my heart sank. I dawdled down the path to the old sewage works, the elation all but gone. Then another or the same duck flew past me again. Perhaps!


Jono texted me that, to my relief, he had refound the bird on an extended school run that afternoon. Meanwhile filthy twitcher Paul Ferris had managed to find a Goosander on the Roding somewhere south of the Smew. Things are bubbling up nicely.

8 February 2012


Steve is officially a legend. Got a call late afternoon from him saying he had a funny grebe on the Roding, about the size of a Teal with white in the wing, white on the face, and a brown head. Eh? Well, Red-necked Grebe has white in the wing, but that would be larger than a Teal, have a blackish cap, and what would it be doing on the Roding? Needless to say I caned it down there very quickly indeed, and found Steve still looking at the bird. It was only a bloody redhead Smew! A lifer for Steve and only the second ever! Wow! Sort of predicted, but I never for a million years thought one would actually turn up! I took some photos, did a little dance, made promises of much beer to Steve, and caned it home again.

Oh, almost forgot, Tim had two Golden Plover on the deck this morning, on Fairground Flats. Has the patch ever been this good?!

7 February 2012

January review

January was confusing. It was like spring: thrushes sang non-stop, Honey Bees buzzed around their hive in Bush Wood, butterfly came out, and it was positively balmy. That'll change, you mark my words...

A new year, new lists to start, new targets to set and get, and of course the unknown. What rarities Will plop themselves down on the shore of Alex for all to see, and what records will be broken, and what bird's mourned by their absence.

Well it all started rather well, Tim, Jono and myself bashing the patch against the weather and coming up winners over last year. Some good birds too: Firecrest, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Greater Black-backed Gull to name but a few.

Then it sort of petered out to leave us slightly down on last year, mind you we've been everywhere but the patch on many occasion, not year listing for some, and year listing like an idiot for another (yes I am trying for 300 this year!).

The highlights:

Firecrest still roaming Bush Wood

The Lesser spots reappear

Woodcock in the old allotments

A brace of Buzzard over the park

1st Jan

Wanstead Flats: 17 Gadwall, 7 Tufted Duck, c. 20 Shoveler, 7 Teal, 11 Greylag Goose, 4 Stock Dove, 5 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 4 Skylark, 10 + Redwing, 3 Fieldfare, singing Song and Mistle Thrush, Peregrine Falcon. Kestrel, 2 Greater Black-backed Gull (Tim Harris/Jonathan Lethbridge/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2-3 Firecrest, 4+ Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, 2 Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting, 27 Lesser Redpoll, 10 + Siskin, 5 Bullfinch, 7 Little Grebe, 8 Grey Heron, Little Egret, 2 Kingfisher, Water Rail, 30 + Redwing, 8 Egyptian Goose, 68 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 73 Tufted Duck (Tim Harris/Jonathan Lethbridge/Nick Croft)

3rd Jan
Wanstead Flats: 2 Reed Bunting, 14 Goldfinch, 13 Gadwall, 40 + Jackdaw, 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)
Wanstead Park: 2 Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

4th Jan
Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe, 26 Fieldfare (south), 17 Redwing, 5 Egyptian Goose, 7 Tufted Duck, 12 Gadwall, 15 Shoveler, Teal, Goldcrest, 3 Reed Bunting, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Egyptian Goose, Fieldfare, Kingfisher (Steve Thorpe), Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 18 Redwing, 3 Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 9 Teal, 46 Gadwall, 89 Tufted Duck, 11 Shoveler, 41 Pochard, Little Grebe, 2 Water Rail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff (Nick Croft)

7th Jan
Wanstead Flats:50 + Goldfinch (capel point), 5 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Reed Bunting, 14 Gadwall, 16 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 5 Egyptian Goose, Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Goldcrest, 2 Greater Black-backed Gull, 4 Stock Dove (Nick Croft/Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Park: 2 Firecrest, 10 + Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, 30 + Redwing (some subsong), 2 Fieldfare, Linnet, 4 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 2 Bullfinch, 5 Stock Dove, 3 Sparrowhawk, 2 Water Rail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 64 + Gadwall, c.100 Tufted Duck, 77 Pochard, 10 Shoveler, 4 Teal, 5 Egyptian Goose, 3 Little Grebe, 1-3 Kingfisher, 5 Heron (Nick Croft/Stuart Fisher/Tim Harris)

8th Jan
Wanstead Park: Little Egret, 30 Redwing, Greater Black-backed Gull, Chiffchaff (Nick Croft) Water Rail, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest

9th Jan
Wanstead Park: Woodcock (old allotments), 2 Little Egret, Water Rail, Grey Wagtail, 12 Fieldfare, 9 Lesser Redpoll (Steve Thorpe/Mike Messenger).

10th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 6 Lapwing (west), 11 Fieldfare, Redwing, singing Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, Great Black-backed Gull, 4 Teal, 14 Shoveler, 7 Gadwall, 9 Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, Lesser Redpoll, 40+ Goldfinch, Skylark (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: c. 80 Pochard, 92 Tufted Duck, 40 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 2 Water Rail, Little Egret, 6 Cormorant (west), 20+ Redwing, 50+ Fieldfare, singing Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, Kingfisher, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe).

11th Jan
Wanstead Flats:17 Redwing, 34+ Fieldfare, 6 Mistle Thrush (2 singing), 4 Song Thrush (2-3 singing), 7 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark (1 singing), 30+ Lesser Redpoll (SSSI), 10+ Goldfinch, 2 Linnet, 10+ Greenfinch, 2 Reed Bunting, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Nick Croft), C Buzzard (Jonathan Lethbridge).

12th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 20 Lesser Redpoll (SSSI), 8 Fieldfare (Tim Harris), 3 Egyptian Goose (west), 14 Shoveler, 13 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall, 3 f Teal, 5 Skylark (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 3 Chiffchaff, 20 + Redwing, 6 Fieldfare, 74 Tufted Duck, 62 Pochard, 38 Gadwall, 1 Shoveler, Little Grebe, 2 Bullfinch, c. 20 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Siskin, 3 Linnet, Water Rail, Heron (Nick Croft) Little Egret, Grey Wagtail (Steve Thorpe).

13th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 62 Fieldfare (mostly west), 5 Mistle Thrush (1 singing), 4 Skylark, 1Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Reed Bunting (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park:
24 Fieldfare (south west), large numbers of Redwing (singing in the canopy), 5 Goldcrest, Coal Tit (Nick Croft)

16th Jan
Wanstead Flats: Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, Siskin, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, 3 Stock Dove (Nick Croft). 2 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Eve Wei)

Wanstead Park: 2 Water Rail, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 30 Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, 43 Gadwall, 6 Pochard, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Grey Heron, 10+ Siskin, 30+ Redwing, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft) yesterday Common Buzzard over the plain (Steve Thorpe) reports of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Just to add that we saw the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Sunday last (AR)

17th Jan
Wanstead: Blackcap and Coal Tit on garden feeders (Nick Croft per Sally Hammond).

18th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 7 Shoveler, 6 Teal, 7 Stock Dove, Fieldfare, 4 Redwing (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 3 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 10 + Siskin, Little Egret, 4 Grey Heron, 20 + Redwing, 3 Mistle Thrush, Sparrowhawk, 2 Goldcrest, Meadow Pipit flushed from plain, Pied Wagtail, 2 Little Grebe (Nick Croft).

20th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 15 Shoveler, 6 Teal, 7 Gadwall, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose (then flew east), 13 Greylag Goose, 2 Redwing, 2 Stock Dove, 16 Goldfinch, 8 Lesser Redpoll (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Water Rail, 2 Shoveler, 30 + Gadwall, 60+ Tufted Duck, 50 + Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, 20 + Siskin, 30 + Chaffinch, 20 + Greenfinch, 40 Redwing, 2 Little Grebe (Nick Croft), Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Grey Wagtail, Little Egret (Tim Harris).

22nd Jan
Wanstead, private garden: Male Siskin on bird feeder (Chris Legge)

24th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 9 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Fieldfare, singing Song and Mistle Thrush, Reed Bunting, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Teal, 10 + Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 4 Tufted Duck, 20 Greylag Goose, Grey Heron, 3 Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk (Forest Gate) (Nick Croft).

25th Jan
Wanstead Flats: 8 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, 33 Redwing (south), 3 singing Song Thrush, 1 singing (5) Mistle Thrush, 15 Goldfinch, 19 Shoveler, 7 Teal, 2 Gadwall, Lapwing (east) (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Greater Black-backed Gull (south, old sewage works), 10 Linnet, Water Rail, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, 3 Little Grebe, 12 Gadwall, 71 Tufted Duck, 59 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, 20 + Redwing, Stock Dove (Nick Croft).

28th Jan
Wanstead, private garden: 5 Siskin, 2 Long-tailed Tit (Chris Legge)

29th Jan
Wanstead Park: 1 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, in the woods near to the Dell. (Tony Brown)

31st Jan
Wanstead Flats: Skylark, 4 Redwing, 7 Shoveler, 4 Tufted Duck (Nick Croft); 2 Egyptian Goose (Jonathan Lethbridge).

Wanstead Park: Coal Tit, 10 Lesser Redpoll, 8 Siskin, 4 Bullfinch, 30+ Chaffinch, c.100 Redwing, Fieldfare, Grey Wagtail, 2 Little Grebe, 3 Goldcrest, c.60 Tufted Duck, 45 Pochard, 14 Gadwall, 2 Egyptian Goose (Nick Croft).