29 June 2013

Naff all else to do but take a stroll in the park

 Met up with Mr Fisher at a reasonable hour this morning.  If anyone was going to manage to get anything out of this increasingly dire time of year, it would be Stuart, so I needed to be there, just in case like!

We saw and heard bugger all!. OK, not quite true, but near enough.  A Hobby over the Shoulder of Mutton, a couple of Little Egrets down by the roding, but for the most part it was a lesson in moths, butterflies and damsels - and there weren't many of those either.

It did pick up slightly after Stuart headed back to Leytonshire; a couple of Bullfinch sighed through the OSW, caught up with the egret again, a couple of Kingfisher, loadsa chiffies in the old sewage works, a Grass Snake and some Hornet.  Since nothing else was happening elsewhere, pretty much a result!

26 June 2013

Wanted dead or alive...

... preferably dead!

Shame though as it's such a beautiful animal, but a real menace.  Now if it were a Stoat or a Weasel...

25 June 2013

The Shoulder of Mutton

While it's been a tad quiet of late I've been toying with the idea of a few pieces on my favourite parts of the flats and the park. Since the park has been where the action is at the moment I will start with the Shoulder of Mutton, a must for any walk through the park, not because much happens there, more because it is one of the few idyllic places where at some times of the day you can just stand/sit and be transported away, far away, from London.

The most natural looking of all our water features it nestles between Reservoir Wood to the west, Wanstead Golf Club to the north, Aldersbrook to the south and the larger Heronry to the east. To the west a small drainage ditch enters under thick willow carr which used to surround half the pond, but with the Environment Agency trashing the trees on the north east side it now fringes just the west and south east sides. It is where our reed beds are, and with the removal of the trees we hope that these will spread further. This year's cold spring has meant that by the time the Reed Warbler (and there were 3 singing males at one point) returned and set up territory all the females had been and gone, and now he has too.

In winter the water level rises and creeps further into the trees and last year held two water rail, the year before three.  Teal like the cover in here, while wintering Gadwall can rise to good numbers on the open water - the first Gadwall I'd  seen in London when I first visited the park 20-odd years ago.  Shoveler and especially Tufties, who roost in large numbers, love the shallows and this year the Goldeneye spent a few hours feeding along with them.

 There's usually a Heron somewhere on the pond, though as yet the shy Little Egret rarely bother fishing margins because of disturbance, even though there are plenty of fish and big-uns too. Perhaps when our reeds extend further we may get some exciting herons, like Bob's Cattle Egret.

In the Summer Dragonfly and Damsels skitter across the water and sometimes in the evenings attract the attention of the local Hobby, while at night bats patrol the edges and the paths.  It can be quiet too, the noise of the roads muffled by the woodland so that the calls of Tawny Owl can easily be tracked as the birds move through the canopy, and frogs croaking in the spring time, but tread carefully else you'll end up with unfortunate amphibians under your shoes.

10 June 2013

Turtle Dove over the Shoulder of Mutton

While watching and waiting for views of the increasingly elusive Reed Warbler, and checking to see whether Friday's second bird was still there, I happened to glance up and caught sight of a dark dove hurtling across the west side of the pond. Looked good for a Turtle Dove, but since I've never seen one here, and my last was over a year ago, my concern was I might have been done over by a feral (which come in all sorts here). Hence my 'probable' tweet.  Later Jono texted he had a similar encounter a few weeks back while driving round the mini-roundabouts by the flats. Unable to nail it he had let it go. My views were probably better, but just needed a bit more encouragement from research at home. The trouble with most handbooks is that they show the diagnostic diamond tail with its white and black edging. Mine had the tail tucked away for speed. Some excellent shots from the Peewit blog helped, but out with Josh on Sunday confirmed by decision to go with it; 2 birds at Pegwell/Stonelees and another over our heads at Grove Ferry showed the same features to my bird on Saturday.  I am happy, and a patch tick, and tricky London tick done.

Turtle Dove at Thornham 2011

7 June 2013


A bit of a curate's egg was May.  You keep going back thinking there will be good bits, but in the end the crap does for you. Strangely enough I feel un-perturbed about not seeing anything for the next few months, nothing is expected so it can't really disappoint, and with the patch is looking at its best it's actually very pleasant wandering around a bit and I can actually enjoy myself.

That won't last!

  • Singing Sedge Warbler
  • Further records of Garden Warbler and one claims a territory in the old sewage works
  • Late Whinchat (7th) and Wheatears (12th)
  • Another Short-eared Owl on the flats early doors
  • Cuckoo sighting in the SSSI and a bird calling in the park later in the month
  • Lesser-spotted Woodpecker finally, but could be a blocker!
  • 2 Little Ringed Plover over Long Wood
  • Mystery buzzard sp over Bush Wood
  • The return of the tern
Felt like early spring for the most of the time, cold, wet, and potentially good for birds if they all hadn't gone through already, or weren't pitching up north of the wash.

Swallows were still moving through–a high of 50 birds west through the park before 09:00 was noted on Sunday the 19th (when I should have been ogling an eastern thrush, if it had only been there to be ogled), Sand Martin numbers have picked up and the House Martins have returned to their nesting site off the Aldersbrook Road. Swifts became dozens and then hundreds over both park and flats, a lot of the same birds, they move around a bit Swifts do.

The occurrence of singing Sedge Warblers made us start thinking of breeding birds, which knocked that straight into touch, more promising is the singing Garden Warbler in the old sewage works, but its hard enough to see him let alone any non calling bird in the foliage. The Willow Warbler sang for most of the month from the silver birches in the SSSI with a few other songsters popping up in the park, OSW and Bush Wood, they though didn't linger. At one point I counted seven Lesser Whitethroat singers on the flats alone, another one of those birds that's hard to pin down unless they are calling, but we have confirmed one nest site so far. Meanwhile the chiffies and Blackcap just get down to it. Strangely no Reed Warbler, I bet that'll change!

A few Wheatear and one male Whinchat made into the month, but it's only about 80 + days till they return, and as yet no sign of Flycatchers, though someone e-mailed Jono about a potential sighting in the copses where we've had spring birds before. Just one Yellow Wagtaill was recorded and as yet none have landed, and numbers have been lower than in recent years, again a national trend it would seem.

Jono got his first Cuckoo on patch, and a second bird was heard calling in the park a week or so later, we may have young ones lurking somewhere soon. Of the other summer migrants: a Common Tern flew above my head from Heronry towards the basin on the 15th, but was the only record for the month; our resident Hobby are back and could have already picked out a potential nest site, judging by the frequency of calls.

The only other new bird for the year was a calling male Lesser Spot on the 13th, hopefully it won't be the last, but again unless caught in flight or calling there's not much chance of seeing them.

The grebe failed again on Heronry, something obviously spooked the sitting bird and the eggs were taken.  They reverted to the original nest and looked settled and with a new clutch, only for disaster, probably in the shape of a mink, to strike again early in June with one of the adults disappearing and the remaining bird giving up the nest. Again it didn't take too long for the eggs to go.

Otherwise there are young birds all over the lakes: Greylag bred in the park for the first time, and it looks like most of the Swans got a brood out. Common Pochard, which I thought to should have all gone by now, have stuck around.  Mostly boys, but with one duck being seen on occasions, could they be nesting somewhere.  Tufties as always are late breeders, and then young suddenly appear as if from nowhere.

The only waders of the month were two Little Ringed Plover flying low over Long Wood on the 12th,  looking like they have been on the Jubilee before being flushed.  With new drainage going in on the fairground it looks like the end of the Police Scrape, so the new look Jubilee better be good.

While the Corporation go all out to trash bits of habitat and fail to make good their promises on the Skylark front, we can only wait to see what stirs from the long grass.  Three birds are still singing, but there could be others with more pressing business. The same applies to Meadow Pipit; at one point it looked like we would have 7 territories, now just the 2-3.

As for raptors, another Short-eared Owl (the 4th record this year) was seen early on the morning of the 4th by Marco (his first) and Bob; a high count of six Common Buzzard on the 6th from the park; one or two sightings of Peregrine, and last but not least the mystery bird seen mobbed by crows over Bush Wood towards the end of the month.  Too far off for any meaningful ID, I tweeted it out in the vain hope that someone could confirm or otherwise to the west of us.  London's number one birder was obviously not at his post.

The other stuff 


Wanstead Flats: 7 Swallow, 2 House Martin, Sand Martin, 2 Swift, 2 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, singing Reed Bunting, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, 7 Pochard (Nick Croft/Tim Harris);


Wanstead Flats: Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Kestrel, pr Sparrowhawk displaying over the park (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Little Egret (Mike Messenger)


Wanstead Flats: 3 Swallow, Willow Warbler, Linnet over brooms, pr Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 m Pochard (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Hobby (ornamental waters) (Bob Vaughan): Peregrine Falcon west over Bush Wood, 3 Swift (Jonathan Lethbridge) monthly round up here


Wanstead Flats: Short-eared Owl (Marco Johnson/Bob Vaughan), Swift, House Martin, Swallow (Dan Hennessy)


Wanstead Flats: 05:00-05:30 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 27 Swallow through, singing Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Linnet, singing Goldcrest Capel Point, 2 Common Pochard (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Hobby, 6 Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, 20+ Swift, 4 Swallow, 2 Lesser Whitethroat (Jonathan Lethbridge/ Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: m Whinchat broomfields, singing Sedge Warbler (Jub) (J Lethbridge); f Wheatear (Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats: f Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 5 Swallow S, Sand Martin, 4 Swift, Kestrel, Pochard, 8 Tufted Duck, Little Grebe (Tony Brown/Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 30 + Swift, 4 Sand Martin, 5 Swallow, Willow Warbler, Hobby, Kestrel, pr Pochard, 2 Little Egret, Linnet (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 20 + Swift, 4 House Martin, Sand Martin, 5 Swallow, 2 Little Egret, 3 Linnet (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan); Broom Tip Moth in trap - first for metropolitan Essex (Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats: Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 5+ Swift, Swallow, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pochard (Nick Croft/Tim Harris/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 2 Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe have abandoned nest and moved to another and presumably eggs have been predated, Swift (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: m Cuckoo SSSI, Garden Warbler (Jonathan Lethbridge/Tony Brown)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Little Ringed Plover east over Long Wood, f Wheatear, 50 + Swift, 15 Swallow, Sand Martin, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Linnet, 35 + subadult Herring Gull in dawn roost (Nick Croft/Marco Jonhson/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Little Egret, 5 Pochard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe (Nick Croft/BobVaughan)


Wanstead Flats: m Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (first confirmed record this year) by Centre Road north of Long Wood, 60-100 Swift, 4 Sand Martin, 2 House Martin, Swallow, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 5 Pochard, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Peregrine Falcon (OSW), 50 + Swift Ilford Golf course, House Martin, Little Egret W over Heronry (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 50 + Swift, 5 Stock Dove, 3 Linnet (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Common Tern first record this year, 4 Little Egret on Roding, Willow Warbler, 30 + Swift (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 50 + Swift, 5 House Martin, Sand Martin, Linnet, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Willow Warbler, 3 Swallow N, 5 House Martin, 30+ Swift (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 50+ Swallow before 09:00, 4 House Martin, 40+ Swift, Kestrel, Little Egret N up Roding and then again over Heronry S later, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Linnet (Nick Croft); Buzzard (J Lethbridge)


Wanstead Flats: Large buzzard-sized raptor circling high over Bush Wood, being mobbed by crows at first then west, straight flat winged with kink at wrist apparent sometimes, Kestrel, 3 Sand Martin, 3 House Martin, 50 + Swift, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, 2 Little Egret north (Nick Croft). Flat wing! sounds like a Honey (Richard Francis). Was hoping someone on the Lockwood might have seen it and confirmed what it was! When it was avoiding the crows it did look somewhat owl-like in the way it flew (NC).

Wanstead Park: Garden Warbler, m Pochard, Peregrine being mobbed by Lesser Black-backed Gull (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Hobby, 50 + Swift, 4 Swallow through, House Martin, Lesser Whitethroat (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Little Egret, Garden Warbler, Hobby, 2 Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, Bullfinch (Nick Croft/Paul Davis)


Wanstead Flats: Willow Warbler, 30+ Swift, House Martin, Kestrel (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 6 Sand Martin, House Martin, 40+ Swift, Hobby through, Little Egret (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 2 drake Pochard Alex, 50-100 Swift, 3 Swallow north, House Martin (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Garden Warbler osw still, Hobby calling, Kestrel, 50+ Swift over Ilford golf course, 3 Pochard (Nick Croft); Willow Warbler Bush Wood (Tim Harris).


Wanstead Flats: 150-200+ Swift, 5 House Martin, Sand Martin, 4 Swallow, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk, 2 Egyptian Goose (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 100+ Swift, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Common Pochard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)