20 February 2013

Patch Goldeneye gold

Feeling a tad crap today after four days in a car with Mr Lethbridge's cold, I was looking for an excuse not to go anywhere in particular.  getting bored of deleting trillions of shite photos of grouse, and more grouse, and big finches as big as your head, I was overjoyed when a text came through from Dan.  Hooray for school bank holidays.  4 Goldeneye were apparently having it large on Perch Pond.  Happy days!

Focus off the badly focused montage of tripe I had accumulated over the weekend, I had something to live for.  I rushed as fast as my sore knees would take me, ignoring the large amount of nothing going on on the flats, just in time to see a group of duck with Goldeneye in them fly off westward.  Arse! Maybe they would pitch down on Heronry or Shoulder of Mutton, I said to Bob, who had also seen crippling views of high speed saw-tooths over his head. Jono flashed by on his bike (maybe I should get mine fixed) coffee break over. Luckily one male was left on the pond.  Not a happy duck, unsettled by joggers and dog walkers.  Who ain't?

Jono confirmed the others had pitched down on SoM, so we wandered back the way we came. Absolutely fantastic.  The 2 males displaying to a completely dis-interested female, so more to each other.

Tony arrived hot foot from the gym, patch tick for him and Steve, patch gold for the rest of us.  By the afternoon they had met up with the single male on Perch and looked set for the night after a bit more audible displaying.

And the little tea shop of happiness was open, school holidays are great!

16 February 2013

My back pages – the patch in the 80’s.

North edge of an empty Heronry Pond in the winter of 1982, probably.

Lindsay and I moved to a house in the Lakehouse estate in March 1981, so Wanstead became my local patch. Herds of bison-like creatures roamed the Flats and grazed in gardens, and Jadis Thatcher ruled the land. Small wonder then that I resorted to twitching, spending much time in East Anglia and with the onset of autumn a migration to the now unfashionable Isles of Scilly. But you don’t want to hear about the Scarlet Tanager on St Mary’s and that pretty US Redstart at Gibralter Point in 1982 - what about the patch? OK, OK, but other excuses for poor patch coverage include offspring, chronic laziness and an odd reluctance to venture out on to the exposed and bleak Flats, haunt of strange folk even then.

My New Year bird count from the Park in 1983 totalled 40 with Tree Sparrow, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Water Rail notable. What were the main differences from today? Well Tree Sparrow - quite common and no doubt breeding - I vividly remember a male singing from high up in a tree opposite the grotto on the edge of the Ornamentals late spring. They were regular up to 1987, but not many since. Redpoll, Bullfinch, Nuthatch and Treecreeper in decreasing order of frequency were relatively easy and surely breeding. Cuckoos were recorded nearly every year in late April and early May. Kestrels were about but I didn’t see Sparrowhawk until 1990, and other raptors like Buzzard, Peregrine etc started visiting much later. Perhaps the oddest missing bird was Jackdaw, which I only saw on the patch in 2000! Willow Warblers were far more common than now with spring/summer counts well into double figures through the park, particularly the bluebell wood , while Chiffchaff were in similar numbers to today with perhaps half that number in the same area.

My “rarities” were sparse and most were on Shoulder-of-Mutton as this was the closest pond. A smart Black-necked Grebe spent a week or so there in late April 1981, forced down perhaps by a cold snap further north. A Common Greenshank was on the pond 16.08.1986, it might have been there the day before according to a park keeper. A Greater White-fronted Goose 26.04.1987 and a nice male Goldeneye in November 1988 both stayed a while. A Wood Warbler sang in the mature trees between the Dell and the Ornamental pond on the twelfth of May 1985. My highest count of Turtle Dove was two on the 4th of June 1986, and the only ones in the 80s. Now for the real sob story, I drove to work after a storm in 1981, and so missed the Gannet on S-of-M. Epic blocker - dipped.

Interesting counts included 15 Brambling on the Flats 02.12.1984, disturbed from East Copse I think, and a flock of eight Yellowhammers on the Flats 13.01.1986.  A Blackcap over wintered in our garden in 1984. As far as I can tell Gt Crested Grebe tended to stay on patch in most of the eighties winters.

Apparently the 1980s were a time of much deviant avian sexual behaviour, a hybrid resembling a Red-crested Pochard stayed around S-of-M from 12.04.1985 and a Scaup-type Aythya hybrid hung-out there from 12.04.1987 with a Khaki Cambell! There were a few flashy tarts too, a Budgie flew over 08.05.1983, a Blossom-headed Parakeet (garden tick 29.11.1987) and an Orange-cheeked Waxbill on the edge of Perch Pond in June 1983. The green squawking Ring-necks were yet to arrive though. 
Endless excitement, if only I’d been more diligent on patch, what did I miss? 

15 February 2013

Maybe Shetland!

Oh-oh! Off this weekend with Bradders' Wildlife Safaris, to who knows where?  What is pretty clear is that I will cooped up in a small box for hours and the likelihood of Jono snoring, with the possibility of being stuck in another small box with the near certainty of Jono snoring. Sound interesting?  First stop Carlisle, hmmm mouth watering, and a Travel Lodge.  Then depending on a fat finch on Shetland things will move up a gear...

Meanwhile I had a go at Bush Wood today, just to make sure our Firecrest was still there.  An hour of searching and I found two.  Yay!

8 February 2013

Mipit behaving badly

For the last week or so I've had grief from a pipit. As I would pass through the boggy bit of the SSSI, the truly boggy bit, on the off chance of a Snipe or two, this small bird would fly out from the swamp and idly pitch down somewhere else.  No calls, no erratic flitting to gain height, just a fairly calm, methodical little flutter to somewhere out of sight.  After about the fourth time of asking I got a bit interested.  No white outer tail feathers, ruled out the immediate interesting possibilities and in my heart I knew it was a Mipit, but just maybe...

It also refused point blank to perch up, like the other Mipits passing through, and even eschewed their company, until today. I did get one brief view of it as it perched low behind a bush.  Mipit. But I had to be sure, what if it were one of the Buffs from west London? Then what would we do?

I even dragged Tim out early this morning to help add some greater experience to the proceedings, only for it not to show in the time he had to give me.  As soon as he gone off to check Cat & Dog of course it showed, along with 7 other pipits.  Again no call, and when they all piled off it stayed behind.  Finally after standing ankle deep in the mire and regretting having leaky books, it wandered over a tussock and gave me a chance to nail it with some bad pictures. Mipit.  A bloody Mipit, and after all the effort...

But then you see nothing much is happening down on the patch at the moment, it's limbo time.  Not quiet cold enough for anything really interesting happening and far too early for some migrant action. It's got so bad we've resorted to tweeting Coot. My own fault really, I started it with a text regarding a pair that had appeared on Angel Pond. In my defence I only did this because the last pair to try this vestigial pond made a very bad mistake. The pond was already shrinking rapidly when the pair opted to have young. A disaster waiting to happen, which it eventually did as the last water evaporated as did their young. Coots aren't the sharpest tools in the box when it comes to parenting and location choice, but with overcrowding on Alex, where's as young Coot couple to go?

At least the pond will hold water for longer this year, and they might even get a brood off, but with little cover I rate their chances at an optimistic zero.

One of two Coot showing rather well on Angel... zzzzzzzzzzzz

"That isn't exciting", remarked Mr L
"Nothing much here either", added Mr F.
"First for 2 years!", I said defending my position
"Sorry, my mistake.  That's amazing. Forgive me if I don't twitch them..." replied Mr L

and so it began...

"Coot still Angel.  You could twitch it in a coffee break tomorrow"

"Yeagh, sign me up for the Coot!"

"Coot on the Basin.  First since yesterday"

"Pr of Coot showing down to a few metres on Angel"

Can't wait for the Wheatear.

5 February 2013

January sales

I think we've got off to a bright start, helped by the snow towards the end of the month which brought in a few goodies.  However, serious absences have been noted: where the hell have our Rails got to? More worryingly we should have had some kind of report of Lesser-spotted Woodpecker by now and we still wait for the first Peregrine to fly over or Med Gull slumming it with its garrulous cousins on the flats.  On the plus side the first Little Owl for nearly two years was spotted on the 1st, in the dark, later confirmed to have been calling since just after Christmas. A couple of Brambling reports, we usually manage these in the Autumn, an early Yellowhammer, Waxwing of course, and the cold weather delivery of Smew, Goosander, Woodcock, Snipe, Golden Plover and a lot of Lapwing.  Then there was another that got away; was it a Serin or a really dowdy Canary.  It might have been present in the old sewage works the following day but again little to add to its successful ID.  As for the remainder it was their moment as they were dutifully added to the list on new year's day and will now barely receive a mention till next year.

What with the cold weather good for movement and the need to watch the skies for something interesting birds like Firecrest were not really looked for after initial sightings, though Dan still managed to bag one by the Dell, which could mean a 3rd bird or just the one from the Alex relocating.

Duck numbers fluctuated wildly due to the lack of open water over much of the patch, but I think it's fair to say the Gadwall numbers have been higher than in recent winters, while Pochard's have been going the other way.  The lone Wigeon was joined by 2 more on the Alex, though it might not have known about it, frequenting the park as it's done.

With the Roding still very high any chances of interesting waders have been negligible here, though Woodcock and Snipe have been seen in the old sewage works, mainly towards the Manor Park allotments end (I've unilaterally annexed the land beyond the Gates of Mordor in the name of continuity!)

Little Grebes have all but disappeared from the site during the freeze; 3 stoically sat it out in the diminishing open water of the Heronry, but most have hoofed of to the Roding and moving water.  Great-crested Grebe were handily still on the basin on the 1st.
No Chiffhaff this year, but Blackcap have been reported in gardens around the patch.  I think we might get some later! Nuthatch are still in evidence, which is looking good for the first breeding in years and maybe a comeback. We however, remain Treecreeperless.

A few Skylarks have braved the grassland, supplemented by a few flyovers, and outnumbered by the fluctuating Meadow Pipit with highs in the 20s. As for the thrushes, there were very few Fieldfare and Redwing up to the cold snap, big movement during and a lot of birds (mainly Fieldfare) feeding on open grounded just after, and very few now it's got warmer.  The Hawthorn-apple-pear tree was a good idea for the camera-wise, and even had a party of Waxwing briefly before - you know what! We will be doing this again come the next freeze.

A couple of Buzzard, one which I though looked quite interesting - but absolutely no one else did, and that just about covers it. Here are the highlights and then the filler....

  • Waxwing: 34 and counting
  • Woodcock: sightings everywhere bar where I predicted them to be
  • Snipe: a record 7 in the SSSI boggy bit
  • Golden Plover: just the one, so far
  • Goosander: last year's bogey bird for me expunged
  • Smew: a red-head briefly on the Roding
  • Firecrest: worthy of a mention (Bush Wood, and one in the Dell)
  • Brambling: one on site for a couple of days
  • Yellowhammer: early bird
  • Owls: Little and large (Tawny)

1st January

Wanstead Flats: Little Owl at 16:43 (first sighting for nearly 2 years), 1-2 Snipe, 2 Redwing, 7 Fieldfare, 10 + singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, 10 + Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting, 47 Gadwall, 11 Tufted Duck, 4 Shoveler, singing Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 4 Goldcrest, Great Black-backed Gull (Tim Harris/Jonathan Lethbridge/Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 17 + Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 6 Goldcrest, Coal Tit, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 150 + Gadwall, 60 + Tufted Duck, 4 Shoveler (Jonathan Lethbridge/Bob Vaughan/Paul Davis/Nick Croft)

2nd January

Wanstead Flats: Yellowhammer calling south over brooms, 3 Reed Bunting, 8 Siskin south, 10 + Chaffinch, 40 + Goldfinch, 35 Gadwall, 3 Pochard, 7 Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler, 6 Goldcrest, 2 Redwing, 5 Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Wigeon juv back on Heronry, 94 Gadwall, 62 Tufted Duck, 3 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 2 Teal, 4 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)

3rd January

Wanstead Flats: 48 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 13 Tufted Duck, 12 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 4 Reed Bunting, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest (in the Dell), Nuthatch (Res. Wood) (Dan Hennessy).

4th January

Wanstead Flats: 2 Common Snipe, 20 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, 6 Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 25 Gadwall, 15 Tufted Duck, Pochard, 4 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Grey Wagtail, Kestrel (Bob Vaughan), Little Egret (Chris Legge), Firecrest (briefly in Bush Wood), 6 Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Meadow Pipit, Cormorant in breeding plumage, Little Grebe, 100 + Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull north to roost, 94 Gadwall, 57 Tufted Duck, 3 Shoveler, Wigeon, Pochard, 2 Stock Dove (Nick Croft).

5th January

Wanstead Park: Firecrest, 1-2 Nuthatch, Coal Tit (J Lethbridge)

6th January

Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe, Reed Bunting, 3 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 7 Siskin, 2 Bullfinch, 7 Goldcrest, Woodcock, 2 Mistle Thrush, Tawny Owl calling from Reservoir Wood, 50 + Herring Gull north to roost (Nick Croft)

8th January

Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe, Siskin, 2 Reed Bunting,  5 Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 2 Shoveler, 9 Gadwall, singing Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Stock Dove singing res wood, 3 m Teal, 90 Gadwall, 51 Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler, 8 Pochard, 2 Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, pr Bullfinch, 3 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

9th January

Wanstead (Belgrave Road): Waxwing (per J Lethbridge)

10th January

Wanstead Flats: 2 Mistle Thrush, 3 Meadow Pipit, 14 Gadwall, 3 Pochard, 5 Shoveler, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 100 + Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 10 Pochard, Wigeon, m Teal, 33 Goldfinch, Siskin, 5 Goldcrest, 2 Pied Wagtail (Nik Croft)

11th January

Wanstead Flats: Fieldfare, 4 Goldcrest, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park (Bush/Res Wood): 27 Gadwall, 2 Egyptian Goose, Nuthatch, Firecrest again behind Belgrave Heights, 5 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

12th January

Wanstead Park: Wigeon (J Lethbridge)

14th January

Wanstead Flats: 2 Snipe, 2 Reed Bunting (J Lethbridge), 11 Gadwall, Sparrowhawk, 2 Fieldfare, 20+ Goldfinch, 8 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Wigeon, 150+ Gadwall, Teal,  2 Shoveler, 11+ Pochard, 60+ Tufted Duck, 8 Siskin, Kestrel (Nick Croft).

15th January

Wanstead Flats: 36 Lapwing west (9 on police scrape), 7 Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Reed Bunting, 20 Goldfinch, Fieldfare, Redwing, 4 Goldcrest, Collared Dove, 11 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 93 Lapwing west over Old Sewage Works & Perch pond (TB/NC), Nuthatch (Bush Wood & Res Wood), Bullfinch OSW (BV), 118 Gadwall, 10 Pochard, 60 + Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler, Little Grebe, Siskin, Redwing (Tony Brown/Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

16th January

Wanstead Flats: 21 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 10 Tufted Duck, 27 Greylag Goose, 3 Fieldfare, Redwing, 3 Mistle Thrush, 3 Skylark, 11 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Snipe, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Teal (JL), 7 Shoveler, 90 + Gadwall, Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe, Siskin, 2 pr of Bullfinch (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge).

17th January

Wanstead Flats: Woodcock flushed from beneath bush east end of Long Wood at 11:30 (NC), 2 f/juv Wigeon Alex, 15 Gadwall, 1 Pochard, 10+ Tufted Duck, 5 Shoveler, 2 Reed Bunting, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Fieldfare, Redwing, 5 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge).

Wanstead Park: f Smew on south end of Roding flew south round bend, pr Bullfinch, 14 Lapwing (north) (Bob Vaughan), 50+ Gadwall, 30+ Tufted Duck, Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Sparrowhawk, Siskin, 2 Little Grebe (Nick Croft).

18th January

Wanstead Flats: 5 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 10 + Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 10 + Tufted Duck, 4 Fieldfare, 2 Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft) Woodcock, 2 C. Snipe, 15 Meadow Pipit SSSI (Jonathan Lethbridge)

Wanstead Park: Kingfisher, 40 + Lapwing south before the snow, 50 + Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 1 Teal, Pochard, 3 Little Grebe, 5 Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Redwing and a dead dog in the Roding (Nick Croft).

19th January

Wanstead Flats: 2 Goosander over Long Wood then west over SSSI (NC), Golden Plover over jub (BV), 121 Lapwing, 2-3 Snipe,  193 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting, 23 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, Wigeon, 10 + Gadwall, 10 + Tufted Duck, Pochard, 7 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 4 Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge/Dan hennessy/BobVaughan)

Wanstead Park: 3 Lapwing, 60 + Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, 11 Pochard, 40 + Tufted Duck, 3 Teal, 6 Siskin, 3 Little Grebe, Little Egret, Fieldfare, Redwing, 6 Goldcrest, Nuthatch, dead dog in Roding (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge/Bob Vaughan)

20th January

Wanstead Flats: Woodcock, 6 Lapwing, 60 + Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 17 Meadow Pipit, 6 Skylark, Goldcrest, Linnet (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge/Bob Vaughan/Marco Johnson/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: 2 Snipe, 7 Teal, 80 + Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 6 Siskin, Goldcrest, Fieldfare, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge/Bob Vaughan/Marco Johnson)

21st January

Wanstead Flats: (0745-0830) 23 Meadow Pipits in brooms plus c.10 flying W, 150 Fieldfares in the brooms, 5 Redwing (Tim Harris, Josh Selfe). Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, 17 Waxwing (briefly on hawthorn in broomfields where I've strategically placed apples), 3 Lapwing, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe). 4 Reed Buntings (Dog & Cat - Bob Vaughan).

Wanstead Park:  Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 3 Lapwing, Little Grebe, Reed Bunting (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe).

22nd January

Wanstead Flats: 'possible' Serin (small yellowish finch with yellow rump, no discernible wing bars in the brief moment I saw through the bins, size of a linnet, and twittering rather linnet-like) briefly over Centre Path but didn't look like it was flying far - may have been associating with 15 Linnet new in today, also Snipe Long Wood, Lapwing, 60+ Fieldfare, 20+ Meadow Pipit, Skylark (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 10 Skylark south, 70 Gadwall Perch, 30+ Goldfinch, 20 Siskin, 2 Bullfinch (Nick Croft)

23rd January

Wanstead Flats: 16 Waxwing over visi mig site, Brambling east, 2 Skylark, 50 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing (NC/Tim Harris), Buzzard south over Alex (probably the one later at Tower Hamlets Cemetery), 5 Shoveler, 2 Pochard (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Woodcock south end of Old Sewage Works, 6 Siskin, 60 + Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, Little Egret (Nick Croft).

24th January

Wanstead Flats: 7 Snipe SSSI (record for site), 100 + Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, 9 Meadow Pipit, 4 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, Pochard (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Reed Bunting, Teal, 70 Gadwall, Sparrowhawk, 10+ Redwing, 20+ Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft). 7 Teal (3m 4f) - River Roding (Tony Brown).

25th January

Wanstead Flats: Brambling east (possible 2nd bird Alex), 10+ Linnet, singing Stock Dove, 100+ Fieldfare, Redwing, Kestrel, 4 Shoveler, Gadwall, Pochard (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Woodcock (old sewage works), Kingfisher, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, 90+ Gadwall on Perch, 2 Shoveler, Fieldfare, Redwing (Nick Croft)

28th January

Wanstead Flats: 10 + Fieldfare, 3 Mistle Thrush, 10 + Tufted Duck, 5 Shoveler, Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: singing Coal Tit, 15 + Siskin, 2 Teal, 6 Pochard, many Gadwall, Grey Heron (Nick Croft)

29th January

Wanstead Flats: 5 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, 10 Tufted Duck, 2 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Fieldfare, 2 Goldcrest, Reed Bunting, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Grey Heron (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 100+ Gadwall, 60+ Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler, 7 Pochard, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Goldcrest, 30+ Goldfinch, 10+ Siskin, Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Redwing (Nick Croft)

31st January

Wanstead Flats: 60+ Gadwall, 15 Shoveler, 25+ Tufted Duck (all Alex), 3 Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Kestrel, singing Chaffinch, Goldcrest (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 100+ Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, 40+ Tufted Duck, trilling Little Grebe on Shoulder of Mutton (Nick Croft).

4 February 2013

The only way is Essex!

Spotted my first tagged Common Gull on the flats today, and knowing that Hawky was ringing at the weekend, I thought what the odds that this was one of the 2 Common Gull he reported as ringed on his twitter feed.  Sent him the details and was very surprised to get back an answer the same day. My gull had managed to fly the treacherous 30 or 40 miles from the tip at Pitsea, or he could have taken the C2C and changed at Barking for Gospel Oak, like I would have done.  Who knows!

Nice, quick work from Hawky and the North Thames Gull Group.  I am impressed, and encoraged to get that Lesser B and Herring G that occaisionally frequent our gull roost.

1 February 2013

SEO over my house!!

Happened to look out of the front window this afternoon just in time to see a Short-Eared Owl flying by at rooftop height. Lucky for me it crossed the road, gained height, and I was able to grab a camera and get it out of the back window as it disappeared off towards Leytonstone.