29 August 2012

Ruby Tuesday, and then Wednesday


Lumbered out around 06:30, I wish I could get up earlier - this time of day is awesome, no-one about, quiet(er), cool, everything as fresh as it's going to be (including myself).  Dan texted me about a Yellow-legged Gull on the western playing fields.  I need that.  Didn't think it would stick though, they are really piss-easy to flush.  But it was there and that ladies and gentlemen is my 100th tick for the year on the flats.  Still along way back from last year, but there is still time.

No sooner had I grabbed that, Dan texted from Long Wood: Redstart and Spotty at the east end. Steve, who had now joined me went for one last look at Cat & Dog, where we found a prospective Wryneck-necker.

 I knew I would end up at that bush again, and I knew that it would be me crashing through the scrub in order that others should see it.  A lot going on in that bush, a Reed Warbler had joined the Whitethroats and they chased each other around and anything else that came into their orbit.

I heard the Wryneck call quietly to itself, as I thought I'd done last night.  A kind of woodpecker chuckle.  He finally gave the large crowd of 2 plus Steve and Jono what they wanted and then  buggered off.

No traipsing through the ant hills today though, I got a patch to work.

With our 2 guests, we did Long Wood: Redstart showing rather well, up centre path: Wheatear, Spotted Flycatcher, and a rather smart Lesser Whitethroat, then over to Alex: Whinchat trying to make like a bush and the back end of a tit flock, even picked up another or the same Yellow-leg on the way there.

We were however expecting more with all that rain last night. Dan did report numerous Chiffchaff at the east end of Long Wood, but they like the mist and the dew, had evaporated by the time I strolled up.

Wednesday and I am feeling crap.  Still I would feel a lot worse if I didn't slog round the patch.  Meadow Pipits were chasing each other around the Angel pond, for some reason they have all moved up here from the main brooms. I had a dream last thing this morning, interrupted by a loud Tree Pipit call.  A premonition. Just in case I forget to give the answer in the final act - no it wasn't.

Whinchat were in residence in the broom field along centre path.  I counted four but Jono came up with 6 later, otherwise it was a bit quiet.  As for the local celebratory: he had no visitors at all, and once I'd found him, I had him all to myself for about 15 minutes.  He didn't do much in that time, just swung his head from side to side.  Then he hoofed it over the back of the bush and into the jungle.

Yellow-legged Gull

Yellow-legged Gull is an increasingly common summer visitor to London and the south-east, and I've now seen quite a few in Wanstead, which I realise is rather elitist of me. If you had to order the commoner large gulls in adult plumage in terms of increasing darkness, Herring Gull would be at the lightest end of the scale at light grey, with Lesser Black-backed Gull in the middle with a charcoal-grey mantle, and Great Black-backed Gull approaching dense actual black, as well as being an order of magnitude larger. Yellow-legged Gull sits between Herring and Lesser Black-backed - a darker grey that is nonetheless a long way from charcoal. Herring Gull has pink legs, LBB has yellow legs, and these are the only two real confusion species unless we throw Caspian into the mix. Generally though people try and turn other gulls into Caspians, rather than the other way around. Anyway, enough boring ID stuff. If you want to see one in Wanstead, we have one! Early mornings the bird below is currently favouring the playing fields adjacent to the two tower blocks at the extreme western end of the Flats. There are generally some LBBs there as well so that you can accurately judge colour.

28 August 2012

Wanstead Wryneck

The Wryneck is now on day 4 - the one in 2010 stayed for 9 days, so there is still potentially time to catch up with it if you have not done so already. If you're looking for directions, take a look at this map. The bird is in area 17, known as the Lake House Road Migrant Scrub - pithy no? The favoured area is probably just a bit to the right of the number 7 - there is a group of small hawthorns, perhaps three of four of them, which stick up above the broom - the predominant plant. You'll be in the right place if you are stood looking at those with Lime Trees at your back, close to an obvious bend in the path, and with another path behind you leading off approximately south-east. One of the hawthorns has a lager can stuck in it, left there by some twat, rather than one of us as a deliberate Wryneck marker.The bird like the two hawthorns behind this. Hopefully that is about as clear as it can be, once you're on the ground it will all fall into place. The bird shows best in the morning, with just before 10am seemingly a good time, when it likes to come and catch some sun in one of the hawthorns. No doubt now I've said that it will never do so again... Once it moves off to feed on the ground, your chances of seeing it are very slim. Yesterday one group waited for approximately four hours before it showed again, and that sighting was only due to some "encouragement" of the booted kind. Parking: available on Lake House Road entirely free of charge, try and avoid just after the bend though. I'd park up opposite Richmond Way and come in from there, the paths are pretty obvious, you want the one about 30m in from the road, rather than the ones that runs alongside it. For those on public transport, Forest Gate and Wanstead Park stations (both BR) are probably closest. Walk down Centre Road and turn left along the right hand side of the gigantic Olympic police base, following the green fence, and turn right once you have got past the last mature trees at the far end.

27 August 2012

Icing on the cake

What a cake!

The best kind of cake.  Your favourite of course.  One that doesn't make you sick after you've eaten one slice too many.  A perfect cake.  Cooked by the best chef in the world of cakes.  Perhaps with a desired drink: filter coffee perhaps, black of course.  A nice comfortable chair, your feet up kind of cake. I think the conclusion here a good cake, with icing on top.  Proper stuff with fresh cream or whatever you fancy.

So that was the weekend then.  A big fat cake with a lot of icing and a strong black coffee, or perhaps a pot of tea. And the armchair stuff.

Friday through to Monday.  A lot of cake. Someone left the cake out in the rain on Saturday and the whole thing could of gone tits up, big time.  But luckily we could make that recipe again, and it was called Sunday.  Monday was just about licking the plate clean.

"Let them eat cake", Mary-Antoinette was supposed to have said, though she meant brioche, but we have been eating cake all week, different kinds of cake, and then it went way gastronomic.  Can you have too much cake. Normally no, this cake is none fattening, uplifting and just up the road.  What a cake!

Friday's cake, we thought could not be bettered, so Jono and I headed for a place where cakes are blown in when the weather conditions are right. But I digress.

Friday and Dan pulls out another Pied Flycatcher, with Jono a probable in the bandstand copse on the south side of the flats, this is getting ridiculous. These are the 4th and possibly 5th Pieds this year, more than in the preceding 3 years.  I went through the motions of trying to look for it, but really I couldn't have been too bothered after all I had seen 2 already.  4 Whinchats, OK not yet the high numbers of years gone by and big numbers of Spotties haven't occurred yet, but its still early.  5 Wheatears, Redstart and a couple of Linnet meant an OK day.  Could it get any better.  Maybe, but a day's sea watching with the perfect set of conditions roused Jono into rash thoughts.

So after driving 6-7 hours, we're sitting at Pendeen watching the sea.  Nothing is happening.  Jono gets a call I get a text.  "F*****g Wryneck on the flats".  I mean it was nearly the end of Cornwall.  It got worse: Pied Fly, Redstart etc.

We were pretty confident the Wryneck would stay, but would it relocate? hopefully it would relocate.  It didn't relocate. It had picked probably the least suitable place for us to find it and that's how it turned out, all bloody weekend.

Sunday and we are playing it cool, you know nonchalant. I potter around Jub and Cat & Dog and then through the birch woods, Jono takes a long route through the brooms, but end up we did at a hawthorn bush to await Mr B's great find (hats off to the cowboy). I got two short glimpses through someone's scope of the bird.  Jono will share his lucky snap of it with a Redstart for company. And that was it, didn't show again all day. It could have been anywhere in the mass of bramble, broom and hawthorn.  There are ant hills everywhere in here, you find them by tripping over them.  Enough cake for an army of Wryneck.

While I stood with Mr Bishop and (Wanstead virgin) Sean Harvey, Barry nonchalantly says: "Marsh Harrier over there".

I looked and there over Cat & Dog was a fecking Marsh Harrier.  Scramble for phone, camera.

"Don't you get many then?" he asks all innocent. Do you see any fucking marsh, I thought to myself. Unfortunately Sean, being new to the site was trying to help Jono - back with the main crowd - directions, but he was blind-sided by the lime trees. Oh cruel fate. Future gripping essential.

Monday and wearing a small hangover after the celebratory drinks of the night before.  I tip toe round the the same route as Sunday.  Yellow Wags over C&D, Redstart report from Stu in Long Wood, and a small gaggle of last night's dippers gathered in front of a hawthorn.  The bird a no show.  I had determined not to spend all day looking at this particular bush again. Bush is nice, but too much of one bush makes Jack a slightly jaundiced boy.  I went round the back of it and kicked some and did some booting. The bird flew up from where it had been feeding and sat in a tree, then out on a branch.  Would have been a good shot, bar the light being from behind, but Steve who  had just arrived with Stu scared it off.  Luckily it just went round the other side. We could hear the appreciative oohs and aahs from the assembled group.  Job done. It didn't show for another 7 hours. 

Bob Vaughan, who missed this showing, because he had made the schoolboy error of going home for breakfast, stayed the course and finally found the bird again to the joy of Mr Lee GR Evans who had already dipped 6 Wryneck this week.

Wryneck happiness.  Tomorrow we'll probably have to do it all over again.  I am beginning to hate that particular bush.

Cake! With large dollops of icing!