24 April 2013

The early birder catches the bird

Managed to get out early for once. Still after sunrise and not before the dogs had descended on the flats, but since I had work commitments the previous day it was good to be out. A quick circle round the Angel on the look out for misplaced sandpipers my heavy eyes picked up crow activity across the flats near Long Wood. A Short-eared owl was circling, seemingly with no intention of letting the crows detract it from its aim of finding a roost.  Another one clawed back by London's best birder, Wanste..., Forest Gate's Best Bir..., my flat's best birder!

By the time Dan hoofed it over from Bush Wood the owl had gone down somewhere and my interest had been given over to a singing Sedge Warbler (the first Spring record and singing record). Even Jono got out of bed for that.  While Dan scoured the brooms for the owl I walked Jono back to his house and went to look for Redstart in the SSSI.  Bob caught up with me here while I was peering into an empty tree.  As he walked off home the owl appeared again over motorcycle wood where it tried, unsuccessfully to go to roost again.  The resident crows weren't having it. I shouted to Bob and his SOE duck is broken.  We watched as it gave us a little fly past and went off east to try Long Wood again.

That's the third bird this year - a bird we thought we'd be lucky to see once every few years or so - and the closest yet. It probably was hunting here most of the night.

Back on my travels I picked up 2 Swift over Long Wood, only 3 needed for the ton up on the flats and the day felt right to do it. It didn't happen, but might have done if it hadn't been for the curse of my life - work!

A quick breeze through the park made quicker by the news of a Wood Warbler at Stoke Newington - a real arse of a place to get to quickly by public transport.  So I decided to find my own. Maybe next time!

The female/1st winter Restart was still flycatching on the east side of Long Wood as I returned and while scanning the horizon I picked up a large raptor about to be mobbed by crows.  Looked like a sprawk until I saw it dwarfed the chasing corvids.  Didn't look right for a Buzzard, but I am not going to write the "G" word as they don't exist round here.It was way off over Bush Wood, so far in fact I couldn't see it with the naked eye, but was on its way my way, until the pesky crows deflected it north.

Aah tomorrow!

23 April 2013

... and the sun finally shone!

Saturday rounded off rather a good week. Four or five Redstarts, a few Wheatear, copious Whitethroat dripping off every bush and the first Lessers (just for me though), a good Buzzard day and the sun.  How good it is to feel that again.

The female/1st winter Redstart is still enjoying the east end of Long Wood.  On Saturday it was being chased by a male in his glorious best and while he proved irksome in the least to catch up with, Jono's mealworms did the trick for the more modestly plumaged young bird. She/it has been with us for 5 days now, and if it is a young male there may be no reason why it might not stay longer.

Still only the one ouzel and no more Whinchat, but with the first Swift up the Lee Valley can't be too long before they grace the sky with their crazy screaming.  A Hobby must be on the cards too, and every off score Blackcap to be checked and flyover dove to be scrutinised - it aint June yet!

18 April 2013

National recognition

Way hey! Wanstead gets a mention in the Bird Guides weekly round up...

Don't remember 10 + Redstarts....


Wheatear 40
Redstart 10
Yellow Wagtail 2
Tree Pipit 1-2

17 April 2013

The week so far

Monday, as you might all have gathered, was rather wonderful. It's been steadily going down hill since then in a law of diminishing returns.  We will remember Monday for a long time.

Scores to date:

33 + Wheatear (27 was the highest recorded count on Monday, while there was only 1 bird today)
9 + Common Redstart (5 Monday, 3 Tuesday and a late record from today)
3 Whinchat (all Monday)
Ring Ouzel (Monday)

Yellow Wagtail (Tuesday)

Common Whitethroat (first up Monday and increasing in number across the patch)
Blackcap (from zero to all over the place, I had about 20 + singing today)
Willow Warbler (3+ singers each in the park and on the flats and some females)

Piss poor, but the only one I got

If only we had got into the park on Monday the counts for most of the above could have been higher.  Although when I did make it around the Dell on Tuesday I managed to fluff my lines again with the pronouncement of a Pied Flycatcher, which showed no hint of white on wing or tail.  That should have put me off informing the twitter world, but no, it was only after a while staring at empty trees did I consider I might have gone a bit wrong on that ID. Nothing wrong with its upright appearance (admittedly seen from a distance), and droopy wings, even got some buff-ish colouration on the bib and throat.  In hindsight I should have probably been looking in the understorey and not the canopy, as I am pretty sure it was probably a Nightingale.  Sooo big arse!

Finally: aren't Blackcaps just a bit wrong?  I mean they are just a bit unfinished.  Another turnaround and they'd be pretty near perfect; get the cap to come to the line of the mandibles - a simple fix, otherwise they are going to look a bit strange.

14 April 2013

Sunday anti-climax

Put the mockers on it, didn't I! Said it was going to be mega, what it was was windy. Anything not nailed down is probably in Scotland by now, so despite all our searching no Redstart of either flavour. 

Luckily for you my camera drank to much water yesterday and was left at home with a hangover, so no examples of the paucity of birds on the patch.  Having said that Wheatear numbers grew by the hour, we had three before we all gave up.  Tony had four and check out his stunning pics on http://www.thecowboybirder.com/ and later Dan revived his interest and notched up five. A few Swallows, a couple of HouseMartin and that was that for today. Oh and my Peregrine swooping low over the football games on the western flats.  Bet none of them noticed.

Expect one of these soon

13 April 2013

A Wanstead collective

A wonderful morning with not much to show finds Jono and I looking for the ouzels I thought I'd seen. Problem was they probably weren't ouzels at all just the sun playing tricks on me and clean bins, two things I am not accustomed to.  We met Josh who had just seen a House Martin at the Alex, his #100 species since starting birding in the Autumn, not bad going and he's seen some good birds on route. For want of anything better to do we decide to go and check the Alex out, though we nearly lost Jono to the call of a male Wheatear found by Bob on the police scrape.  Luck playing it's hand yet again!

Having looked at the Alex and the scrub beyond, Jono weakened and made off for the Wheatear, but he didn't get far.  Josh picked up the scream, I followed the trajectory of the camera...

... blimey a Kittiwake.  Just circling calmly over the Alex as it did for the next 10 minutes, while cameras rattled away from both sides of the pond.  Poor old Bob who had just found a Redstart sp in the copses over the other side of the football pitches was told by text to get here now! He moved pretty sharpish, but not sharpish enough as the Kittiwake bored of the Alex sauntered off upwards and over to Manor Park.  If it had been overcast then he would have probably seen it, but he didn't. Sorry Bob.

So about this Redstart?  Not conclusive but possibly the first winter male from Thursday.  So back we wander to the copses and in particular centre or west copse, depending on your disposition. Now it had gone gloomy and a cold wind had picked up, not the best weather for flycatching birds, but there it was back towards us on a small false acacia at the south end of the wood.  I confirmed it was my bird, which made my three companions very happy, and I've got to say that made me happy as virtually everyone had now seen the smart little bird.  OK two grips back, but I am going to get a Little Gull and er an Osprey tomorrow, whether that will wipe the inane smile of Jono's face remains to be seen, but Monday and work will probably see the last of that anyway.

We all went our separate ways, Jono to do Wheatear and then a family thing, Josh for breakfast, Bob to wander round the flats looking for Kittiwake, and myself a hot date with a yank duck at Crossness. Well that should have been enough for anyone, but Mr Fisher arrived to change all that.  He soon found what we'd been looking for by the Alex and a Common Redstart joins our burgeoning list and Bob chipped in with another Yellowhammer, like the last on the side of Long Wood.  Tomorrow will be mega!


My 134th bird for the patch, with the 135th following almost immediately after. I'll let the others post more, but just to show you what an urban patch can produce. Superb!

12 April 2013

The World's Stupidest Coot

The world's most educationally sub-normal Coot has started building a nest on Alexandra Lake. Or should I say near Alexandra Lake.....It reminds me of an old blog I used to read called "Counting Coots", written by some guy over in West London. The main protagonists of this blog were a pair of Coots who year after year tried to nest on a submerged shopping trolley. Year after year the whole lot was washed away, and eventually the author gave up and moved to Norfolk as it was all too depressing. Anyway, this particular Coot is unlikely to have that problem...

I'm with Stupid

So am I

11 April 2013

Black Redstart: Mega

My enthusiasm from last night was getting to the point it was being sorely tested: absolutely bugger all on my circuit round by the Jubilee (no waders), through the SSSI (no chats), and around the brooms (no ouzels) - and I was on my way to the Esso garage for a pick-me-up Costa and bun and then the park.  Who should I bump into but local family hero Mr Lethbridge, similarly underwhelmed by the morning's offerings. Instead of my coffee I escorted him to the Alex.  "Swallow" we said in unison as we climbed up the hillocks on the south-side.  They were hard to make out in the murk as they scythed their way over the water, and even harder to count. We agreed a compromise of three and a half. That sorted I walked him off the patch.

Wet footed I trod back to Alex.  Definitely four Swallow now. As they danced over the dark water, I watched a chiffy climbing through the birch.  Having not taken a picture yet, I thought if it should just pop out on to a branch...  It flitted further long the straggling clumps of trees and I followed. Turning up the west side I saw a larger bird flit into the same tree as my warbler.  Great Tit I confidently assumed.

The Great Tit then did the decent thing and perched out on to one of the more visible platforms and became a Black Redstart. I knew that would make Mr Lethbridge happy on his journey to the salt mines.

Another bird of myth from the records expunged. Just a 42 year wait for this one. I thought I had one on the other side of the Alex two years ago (hang about, isn't there some kind of law on this kind of situation?), but I had to let it go on the grounds of being a tad crap and not smart enough to outsmart a smart bird.

Shortly afterwards Tim arrived.  Luckily he had been late leaving for work, and luckily I refound the bird. He left and Steve turned up.  A lifer for him, lazy bugger, told him he should go down to Rainham for them. Now what we assumed must be a female began to sing, so a first winter male then.

After Steve, Tony, which meant I spent most of the morning standing around in my very wet boots. The Swallows kept me entertained and Steve had found a Sand Martin in amongst them. The poor Swallows were obviously finding it hard work, unlike the flycatching Redstart, and every so often would go and sit it out on a tree in the Alex scrub.  There were now seven of them.

After Tony turned up, I finally made a bolt for it on the premise I was going to find a Common Redstart or ouzel or something.  I found lots of singing Redwing instead. And that was good too!

10 April 2013

It might be, just about, Spring, perhaps!

All is well with the world.  A lone Swallow flitting up the Heronry westward and the sun nearly shines.  I was so happy I had to give Natalia a little kiss. There was no one to smooch when I heard my first Willow Warbler of the year on the way back across the flats and certainly nothing available for full-on snog a few moments later when I picked up my first Wheatear on the patch.  Ah well!

Tomorrow!  And for the first time in ages I am actually quite excited and eager to get on to the patch.  Of course that is the kiss of death, and it will be shite, but at least there will be a Willow Warbler to get all emotional over. I bet there were Redstart there today 'n'all, but I had no time to check and maybe the rain will deposit a few ouzels to chase around.

No pictures of any of the new arrivals, so here some waiting in the departure lounge...

7 April 2013


I was thoroughly wrong about the Wheatear then.  After all the trumpet blowing I was blindsided by a thing called the weather.  Whatever, it didn't stop us from having a pretty damn good month with 13 new birds on the list, the same as 2 years ago.  Hang about, that's the alternate year rule popping up again.

Still no sign of Lesser Spot, and its not just here, known LSW sites across London have no reports either, so where have they all gone.  That was rhetorical, you'll get no answer from me!

What we did have was some good stuff and some very good stuff, and thus I introduce the highlights

  • Tree Pipit (31-Mar): Hawky's contribution , you can come again
  • Kittiwake (25-Mar): all and sundry have had one now, but still quality
  • Stone Curlew (24-Mar): Mr Lethbridge scores big 2 years on from the last
  • Northern Wheatear (23-Mar): one, yup! just the one
  • Marsh Harrier (20-Mar): great find by Tim H (he also had the 2nd Short-eared Owl of the year too!
  • Woodlark (19-Mar): Tony B weighs in wth an early record
  • Stonechat (19-Mar): Another of Tony's finds
  • Shelduck (14-Mar): Should be more, another one for Jono
  • Rook (8-Mar): Dan twisting the knife
  • 9 Curlew  (8-Mar): Wader man Dan and the first for 42 years
On top of which we had the first Peregrine sightings, a Water Rail was finally pinned down, 3 Golden Plover graced the police scrape and Waxwing invaded Forest Gate (viewable even from the flats). Migrant wise a tad shite, as only the Wheatear, Paul Hawkins' Tree Pipit and a singing Blackcap in Long Wood can be counted.  So April will be mega...

Wanstead Flats: 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Common Snipe (Cat & Dog + Angel ponds), 7 Skylark (including 1 song-flighting), 19 Meadow Pipit, 16 Fieldfare, 2 Little Grebe, 10 + Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Kestrel, 2 Stock Dove (Nick Croft, Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail (first sighting this year) south-east corner of Shoulder of Mutton, 80+ Gadwall, 3 m Shoveler, m Teal, 9 Pochard, 50 + Tufted Duck, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 10 + Siskin, Goldcrest, Redwing, 3 Stock Dove, 4 Great Black-backed Gull (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 11 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, Teal, 5 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 4 Litle Grebe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Peregrine Falcon (over Heronry), 60 + Gadwall, 6 Pochard, Great Crested Grebe (Heronry, presumably a returning bird), 14 Siskin, 16 Redwing, Little Egret, 7 Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 11 Shoveler, f Pochard, Siskin, Kestrel, 12 Fieldfare, Redwing, 7 Skylark, 6 Meadow Pipit (Tim Harris/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 50 + Gadwall, Teal, 10 + Siskin, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove (Nick Croft); Brimstone, Comma (Kathy Hartnett)

Wanstead Flats: 30 Waxwing west over Capel Point, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 2 Reed Bunting, 17 Meadow Pipit including 1 singing, 6-7 Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Fieldfare, Egyptian Goose over Esso Copse, 21 Shoveler, 5 Little Grebe, singing Blackcap Long Wood, 2 Goldcrest and a Coot flying over the brooms! (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Little Egret on Roding, 10 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 40+ Gadwall (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: up to 11 Skylark, 10 + Meadow Pipit, 4 + Reed Bunting, Common Snipe, Egyptian Goose, 8 Shoveler, 6 Fieldfare, Redwing, 4 Goldcrest, 4 Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe/Tony Brown)

Wanstead Park: 6 + Siskin, 30 + Gadwall, 2 Teal, Water Rail, Little Egret (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Flats: 4 singing Skylark, 2 singing Meadow Pipit + 11 others, 3 Pied Wagtail, 17 Shoveler, 20 + Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Reed Bunting, Little Grebe, 2 Stock Dove SSSI, Fieldfare (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: 20 + Gadwall, 4 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 40 + Tufted Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, Water Rail, 30 + Siskin, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Linnet, 10 + Stock Dove, 5 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 9 Curlew (first record since 1971), 100 + Lapwing, Rook (Dan Hennessy/Jonathan Lethbridge)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail, Teal (Jonathan Lethbridge)

Wanstead Flats: 4 Linnet, Pochard, 2 Teal, 2 Shoveler, Chiffchaff, 4 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge/Dan Hennessy/Marco Johnston)

Wanstead Park: 2 Firecrest, 5 Goldcrest, singing Coal Tit (Bush Wood - NC), Kingfisher, 20 + Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 3 Teal, pr Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe, Water Rail, 20 + Siskin, Lesser Redpoll (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge)

Wanstead Flats: 20 + Fieldfare, 20 + Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Skylark, 4 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 8 Shoveler, 20 + Tufted Duck, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Little Grebe, Common Snipe, Chiffchaff (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge)

Wanstead Park: Lesser Redpoll, 20 + Siskin, Stock Dove, 20 + Gadwall, 30 + Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Short-eared Owl NNW over brooms (TH); flock of 25 Lapwing south-west (TH/TB); 4 Redwing, 10 Fiedfare, 2 Stock Dove, 3 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, 7 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, Kestrel, Common Snipe (Tim Harris/Tony Brown/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 7 Waxwing visible at Horace Rd viewable from Capel Point, 25+ Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 4 Skylark, 3 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 5 Shoveler, Egyptian Goose, 2 Snipe, Stock Dove singing from Esso Copse (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: 60 Gadwall, 1 Shoveler, 2 Great Crested Grebe, many Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 16 + Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft); Common Buzzard being mobbed by crows over north (Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Shelduck over west (JL/DH), 10 + Meadow Pipit, 9 Skylark, Siskin, Linnet, 9 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, Kestrel, 10 + Fieldfare, Waxwing (Jonathan Lethbridge/Dan Hennessy/Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)
Wanstead Park: Firecrest (Res Wood), 4 Little Grebe, pr Great Crested Grebe carrying nesting material, Pochard, 3 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, displaying Sparrowhawk pair, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Stock Dove, 2 Goldcrest, 6 Skylark, 10 + Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Gadwall, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 3 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 10 + Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 27 Waxwing corner Danes Rd/Woodgrange Rd (Bob Vaughan); 12 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 6-8 Skylark, Fieldfare, singing Redwing, pr displaying Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Flats: Chiffchaff, 6 Skylark, 10+ Meadow Pipit, 9 Shoveler, 6 Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe)

Wanstead Park: 40+ Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, pr Teal, pr Great Crested Grebe, Siskin, 10+ Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Woodlark over pub scrub NE, f Stonechat (TB), 4 Lapwing (DH), 15+ Meadow Pipit, 6 Skylark, Siskin (Tony Brown/Dan Hennessy/Jonathan Lethbridge/Steve Thorpe/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Water Rail in SE corner of Shoulder of Mutton, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, 10+ Gadwall, 20+ Siskin, 3 Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest, Redwing (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe); Blackcap singing in Bush Wood (Tim Harris)

Wanstead Flats: imm Marsh Harrier east over northern flats towards Ilford (TH/NC), 30+ Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 8 Skylark, 10 Shoveler, Teal, 3 Grey Heron (Cat & Dog), Fieldfare, Redwing (Tim Harris/Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/JonathanLethbridge/Steve Thorpe/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail, Little Egret, 3 Teal, 2 Shoveler, pr Pochard, 6 Gadwall, Siskin, Sparrowhawk, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: Peregrine Falcon over pub scrub (TB), Lapwing, Common Snipe, Chiffchaff, 3 Siskin, 3 Linnet, 20+ Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 8+ Skylark, 9 Shoveler (Tony Brown/Bob Vaughan/Jonathan Lethbridge et al)

Wanstead Park: 5 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe, 10+ Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 4 Teal, Siskin, 5 Goldcrest, Redwing, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 2 trilling Little Grebe, 4 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Skylark, Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: 4 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 8 Redwing, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Northern Wheatear in ditch west of Alex but briefly (TH/JL), 40+ Meadow Pipit, Great Crested Grebe Alex (first for 2 years), Little Grebe, Gadwall, Shoveler, 35 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, Kestrel, Chiffchaff (Tim Harris/Jonathan Lethbridge/Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft); male Blackcap in garden (Nightingale_Lane) since early Jan (G Gram)

Wanstead Flats: Stone Curlew (JL) (Ldn yr-1st) until mid-morning when it flew off high (Birdguides), 2 Golden Plover (DH), 50 Lapwing, 5-6 Snipe, L Scaup hybrid Alex (Jonathan Lethbridge/Dan Hennessy et al)

Wanstead Flats: Kittiwake east along Cemetery boundary (NC), 3 Golden Plover on police scrape till 08:00 (DH), Aythya hybrid still Alex (JL), m Peregrine Falcon north over brooms, Kestrel, 40+ Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 13 Skylark, 4 Linnet, 10 Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, Shoveler, Little Grebe, 2 Snipe, 2 Chiffchaff (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/Jonathan Lethbridge)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest Bush Wood (Paul Meade); 12 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 6 Gadwall, 6 (3pr) Teal, 4 Great Crested Grebe still, 5 Little Grebe, 30+ Siskin, 6 Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 6 Linnet on police scrape, 13 Fieldfare SSSI, 20+ Meadow Pipit SSSI, 3 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, 2 Shoveler, Little Grebe, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 24 Shoveler, 50+ Gadwall, 2 (pr) Teal, 2 (pr) Common Pochard, 50+ Tufted Duck, 2 (pr) Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe, 30+ Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Meadow Pipit, 50+ Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, 2 (pr displaying) Sparrowhawk, 10+ Stock Dove, 2 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Tree Pipit (north over brooms), Chiffchaff, Lesser Redpoll (Paul Hawkins), Lapwing (Dan Hennessy)