31 December 2013

2013 done

After a couple of dry runs (ha!) to gauge what we might see on the big day, the conclusion is not conclusive.  Could be good, bad or indifferent: so between 50 and 70 birds.  How many of us will venture out the whole day maybe key.

Yesterday a Bullfinch probably means none for a few weeks, Tony's Mealy find in the SSSI has yet to repeated, I had difficulty finding the SSSI let alone Redpolls; the Water Rail are keeping incognito,as are the Treecreeper and Firecrest; the Roding's too high for Egrets,and too mucky for Kingfisher. Last year we had trouble with Jay and currently I am thinking how is that even remotely possible?

We should get Little Owl, unless it pisses down from dawn till dusk and then all we'll get is very wet.  Going to be fun.

Meanwhile rather than guessing everybody's Magical Moment, Magical Bird and Prediction for next year, I thought to consult the team.  Christ was that hard work!

Tim was first to reply:
Best bird: Black Redstart
Best moment: Realising we had smashed the record for Gadwall on the patch, that and the flock of 15
Wheatear on the flats on the 15th April
Prediction for 2014: Spring Osprey [I would be more than happy with that!]

Jono next up
Best bird: Stone Curlew
Best moment: finding the first Wheatear on my (his) birthday
Prediction for 2014: "That I won't be arsed" [Why change an evidently successful formula?]

Richard soon followed with
Best bird: Wryneck on my way home from work
Best moment:
Prediction for 2014: Red-backed Shrike in the brooms [Ticks my boxes!]

Best bird: The Golden Plover on Police Scrape
Best moment: Seeing 12 Wheatear lined up on the logs on that day in April, and realising that something pretty brilliant might be happening.  With special mention to singing Nightingale and calling curlew going over in rough weather
Prediction for 2014: Spring Hoopoe and Barwit over. [Please!] I'd be happy enough to see Bullfinch though!

Tony said
Best bird: Yellowhammer, but loved the Med Gulls and the recent Meally Redpoll. 
Best moment: Really enjoyed the Black Redstart (with the kids in tow), Goldeneye (in my running gear) and great views of the Wryneck (so much better than the 2012 bird.  Gutted to have missed the Stone Curlew (out marathon training)
Prediction for 2014: Glossy Ibis on the Police Scrape, but flushed by a dog walker [That's a given!]

Sally replied with
Best bird: A flushed Wryneck
Best moment: Flushing a Wryneck!
Prediction for 2014: Expecting to see more fights with dog walkers

And then it got a bit like getting blood out of a stone

Stuart pitched in with
Best bird: How about a Great White Egret over Oliver Road flat, pretty damn good for a start! [On the patch mate!] Ah, Wryneck
Best moment: and Nightingale singing sub-song
Prediction for 2014: Great Grey Shrike [I can see a bit of a pattern emerging here!]

Marco submitted
Best bird: Ivory Gull [gah!]
Prediction for 2014: Hawk Owl and for Wanstead Hoopoe!

You want to try that again?
Best bird: Stone Curlew
Prediction for 2014: still Hoopoe!

and finally just as I was on the verge of ending it all...

Bob said
Best bird: Male, spring Common Restart in the SSSI
Best confusing moment: The Quail
Prediction for 2014: Red-backed Shrike in early May


Steve was probably at work, so he's excused and Josh didn't reply.

so to me

Best bird: A toss up between the Black Redstart and the Little Ringed Plover (and the Kittiwake and all the Pied Fly... )
Best moment: Calling a Nightingale one day and then nailing it the next, and others getting in on it.  I wish I had heard it sing. Finding Treecreeper in Bush Wood.  Two moments when I actually swore out loud!
Prediction for 2014: Finding something just after Jono leaves for work.  Black Kite is a good bet since one probably passed over the flats this year. Something big and quite slow so I can take pictures of it!

And finally

the results of Scores on the Doors

Jonathan Lethbridge: 118
Bob Vaughan: 116
Dan Hennessy: 114
Tim Harris: 100
Tony Brown: 98
Josh Selfe: 90
Steve Thorpe: 75 (a guess)
Richard Rae*: 73

* half a year

Someone did score more, but he's an egotist so we wont give him the oxygen of publicity

28 December 2013

The return of the wanderer

Following a lead given to us a few days back I've been following up reports of a Little Owl back in Centre Copse.  The report was from a month ago, but always the optimist....

Bingo the little egg-shaped silhouette was there as reported.  Sweet, and just in time for the new year patch bash.

Today I was mainly trying to do thrushes.  It started well, then gradually down hill, couldn't even find a Song Thrush to pap, and the Redwing were just too shy.  Nice Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush though.  And that's it!  Probably till the new year.  Off to twitch some auk thingy and help Bob, Tim and Jono onto a diver, which they all need and I don't: so another one of my blockers looks to be about to fall.

So 2013, was it good?  you betcha!

Records tumbled.  More species, higher numbers of some, very low numbers of others.  A case of swings and roundabouts.  Looks like we may have said farewell to the Lesser spots, but we have Wryneck! A few missed opportunities: Knot, Serin/Canary, unidentified bunting sp, Tony's might have had Pintail, and Tim may have had Stu's Hawfinch moving through from Leyton Flats: but that's all water under the bridge.  Next year looms.  What cock-ups can I perpetrate,and what others can I get right? What new stuff will pop in? And when will the Wheatear get here?

Exciting stuff.  But now I am bored!

27 December 2013

Crumbling at Christmas

You may have noticed a dearth of blogs for December, and there is a very good reason for that: it's been rubbish! That and I've been a bad birder: watching too much shite that passes for television (which normally I wouldn't), resulting in late nights and later mornings in bed.  Have I missed much? Not by the sounds of it.

The Police Scrape is about the most exciting place to be at the moment, and that's not saying a lot.  Record numbers of Linnet are now swirling around in amongst the goodly number of Skylark, that appear to prefer the fairground to their newly mowed habitat across the road. Barring that and a couple of Chiffchaff in the Old Sewage Works, it has been pretty dire.

The only bright spot a plover I picked up flying, with purpose, eastwards over the flats over to Alex, and then purposefully back the other way.  I found myself rooted in South Copse, where I was following up reports that the Little Owl was back (or it was a month ago!). Blind-sided by the trees, my view of this bird were limited, but when it came back I made a move to get out from the trees and capture it on disc. Needless to say it's speed thwarted this and I got some piss poor shots of it before it hurtled over towards Jub. I thought it might try landing there, but too many late walkers round the pond suggested that my time might be better served going home.  Looked chunky enough for a Grey, and not too much like a Goldy from my bin views, but the camera suggested otherwise and sadly it went down as a Goldie, as I think claiming a Dotterel would have probably been a string too far!

12 December 2013

The gulls of the world aint nothing but trouble

It's quiet down on the old patch and its got colder. But I've been staying in bed thinking of the patch and London rarities, so that's alright.  When I have ventured out it's been quiet and cold out there and I think about my bed.

And when I do go out, there's not much to see.  Skylarks and Linnet piling up on the Police Scrape, always good and there's gulls. Still crap at them, but curiously drawn to them, looking for a way in to understand their various morphologies.  I am talking the big ugly ones here, the ones that were once all known as Herring Gull.  I have to say though, while some of the adults can be scary looking and mightily angry about something, the young are rather beautiful. Some it might even be said could be interesting, but probably aren't.  So here's this new winter collection of "could it be (but probably not)" interesting gullage.

Then it got foggy


Something else you've got to Hate/Love

1 December 2013

November: not awful, really!

Well that could have been worse, but with two new birds and returning birds, there was always something, providing you could find it.

  • A week's worth of listening to Mealy Redpoll in Shetland pays dividends with confirmation that we do have them occasionally on the patch
  • Mediterranean Gulls: two first winter jobs on one day and the adult lingering by the alex for most of the month
  • Yellow-legged Gull: just the one this month 
  • Treecreeper return to Bush Wood.  Forget about the strange sounds one has been uttering, the first birds for two years and brilliant.
  • Firecrest also returned to Bush Wood.  Only two so far...
  • Water Rail back on Shoulder of Mutton.  Two birds that can be coaxed into a sharming showdown
  • Woodcock: two sightings of yet another returning winter bird

With pretty mild weather for much of November, visi-miging didn't really kick-off at all, with the exception of large movements of Wood Pigeon through in the early hours.  Redwing and Fieldfare were few, and finch movement all but dried up.  It's noticeable that while there have been more Redpoll kicking around, including the Mealy, Siskins haven't moved in any numbers at all.  None were reported in the park and just a few singles over the flats.

Other thrush numbers varied from day to day.  On the 25th appropriately there were 25 Song Thrush kicking around the flats including a number of singers, Blackbird numbers also peaked at over 40, but then the next day you may be hard pressed to find any.  Chiffchaff hung on through the month with a couple of birds reported calling on the flats, just the one Blackcap though at the beginning of the month. Goldcrest numbers still haven't troubled the scorers yet, but that's probably down to the mild weather.

Skylarks are favouring the police scrape with a growing number of Linnet for company, one day there will be a Lapland Bunting or interesting finch in with them. While Skylark numbers are pretty static at around 12 birds or more, Meadow Pipit are fewer and spread between Angel, the police scrape and the odd one or two around Angel in the pub scrub.

The police scrape also draws in the Pied Wagtail in a pre-roost get together before they hoof it to Wanstead. Fewer Greys this month and after another bio-blitz by the corporation, fewer Reed Bunting too.  In fact its getting worse for these birds and numbers are way down.

No big raptors, though Josh got a Tawny Owl in Long Wood, early one morning before day break. So it's basically duck time.  The importance of the patch for wintering Gadwall could be reinforced in the next WEBs count, with numbers already pushing the 200 mark across the patch.  A couple of Wigeon sightings and a smattering of Teal, and the return of good numbers of Pochard mean its worthwhile checking the park again.


Wanstead Flats: Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Reed Bunting, 6 Redwing, singing Song Thrush, Blackcap, 4 Teal, 5 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 5 Tufted Duck, 5 Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 8 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 9 Teal, 18 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 5 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 10+ Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, 11 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Chaffinch, Fieldfare, 7+ Song Thrush, 20+ Blackbird, 5 Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 50+ Gadwall, 40+ Tufted Duck, 20 Pochard, 4 Shoveler, 6 Little Grebe, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Mealy Redpoll over SSSI, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 7 Linnet, 5 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 30+ Blackbird, Mediterranean Gull, 41 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, f Pochard, 13 Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk, Chiffchaff, 10+ Meadow Pipit, 7 Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 1st-winter Mediterranean Gull, ad Yellow-legged Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, 9+ Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, 2 Chiffchaff, Stock Dove, 7+ Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, 5 Shoveler, 10+ Gadwall (Wanstead Birders).


Wanstead Flats:
adult Mediterranean Gull, Snipe, 2500+ Woodpigeon SW, 300+ Starling W, 18 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, 2 Reed Bunting, 10+ Chaffinch, Goldcrest, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 2+ Siskin, 30+ Goldfinch incl flock of 26, Linnet, 10+ Song Thrush, 16 Fieldfare, 16 Redwing, 5 Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, 12 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel (Tony Brown/Dan Hennessy)


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull, 18 Pied Wagtail on police scrape, 2 Skylark, 2000+ Woodpigeon SW, 300+ Starling W, 6 Redwing, 26 Fieldfare, 13 Lesser Redpoll, 10+ Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, 20 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 10 Tufted Duck (Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull still on playing fields by the Alex (Bob Vaughan); still at 14:20 (Richard Rae); 16 Pied Wagtail police scrape, 2 Meadow Pipit, 8 Skylark police scrape, Reed Bunting SSSI, Chiffchaff, Kestrel, Sparrowhwak (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Treecreeper responding to tape (first for 2 years), Firecrest (first returning bird of winter) - all Bush Wood, Goldcrest, Water Rail SE corner of Shoulder of Mutton (first returning bird), 11 Gadwall there too (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/Bob Vaughan/Richard Rae).

 Pic: Richard Rae


Wanstead Park: Bush Wood - 2 Treecreeper, 2 Nuthatch, Coal Tit (Jonathan Lethbridge).


Wanstead Flats: 13 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 9 Song Thrush, 5 Mistle Thrush, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 20+ Goldfinch, 9 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2-3 Pochard, 32 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 10+ Tufted Duck, Kestrel (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 6 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 30+ Greenfinch, Linnet, 4 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 4 Fieldfare, Redwing, singing Song Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Firecrest (Bush Wood), 2 Goldcrest (Res Wood), 2 Treecreeper, Nuthatch, 24 Fieldfare W, 2-3 Redwing, Stock Dove, 4 Chaffinch (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Mealy Redpoll, Snipe, 26 Fieldfare, 300+ Starling W, 2 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Bush Wood/Reservoir Wood - Firecrest north of old pond, 6 Goldcrest, 2 Treecreeper, 2 Nuthatch, Sparrowhawk, 6 Redwing, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull, Wigeon, 15 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 8 Tufted Duck, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 2-4 Linnet, 10+ Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, 18 Fieldfare, Redwing (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull still on Alex, Woodcock over Long Wood (first returning bird), 5 Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, 3 Redwing, 2 singing Song Thrush, 9 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, Egyptian Goose over, 10+ Chaffinch, m Sparrowhawk with prey, m Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 11 Lesser Redpoll, Mealy Redpoll (old sewage works), 2 Water Rail sharming to each other on Shoulder of Mutton, Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, f Teal, 173 Gadwall, 50 Tufted Duck, 12 Shoveler, 29 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, 4 Little Grebe, 9 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull
still in with gull roost by Alex (6-700 gulls on site today incl 400+ Common Gull, 300 Black-headed Gull, with a few Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull, 25+ Song Thrush, 40+ Blackbird, Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, 8 Skylark, 14 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 8 Linnet, 10+ Chaffinch, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Stock Dove, 23 Gadwall, 12 Tufted Duck, 7 Shoveler, f Pochard, 2 Teal, 5 Egyptian Goose, 50+ Mallard (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Tawny Owl (Long Wood) 06:00 (Josh Selfe); ad Mediterranean Gull still Alex, 12 Lesser Redpoll, 10 Linnet, 12 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 15 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 22 Gadwall, m Teal, 7 Shoveler, 10+ Tufted Duck, Fieldfare, 3 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Woodcock, Snipe, 11 Linnet, Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Fieldfare, 2 Mistle Thrush, 19 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 5 Tufted Duck, 3 Egyptian Goose, Kestrel (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 6 Lesser Redpoll, 7 Linnet, 14 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Stock Dove, 21 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, f Pochard, 8 Tufted Duck, 4 singing Song Thrush, 3 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail, Little Egret, Goldcrest, 157+ Gadwall, 65 Tufted Duck, c50 Pochard, 9 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 17 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Chaffinch, 12 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 51 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 10+ Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Goldcrest, Stock Dove, 9 Song Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park:
Shoulder of Mutton - 2 Water Rail, 10 Gadwall, 2 Egyptian Goose, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 19 Linnet, 12-14 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit (Police scrape) (Nick Croft)