28 August 2013

My life is fly

Two more of the little beauties today, but the question we always ask are they the same ones as before. The only one that looked appreciably different was the second one on Saturday, which looked like a juvenile, but three days on I'd say it was odds against these being the same birds. So that's about, er, between 6 and more I make it!

Pied Flycatcher locations Autumn 2013, to date

Managed to pick up the first Garden Warbler for a good few days while Dan, braving the SSSI after a harrowing experience there yesterday involving two men loving each other (or one particular part of one of the gentlemen at least), picked up a Redstart in the Wryneck bush. And on the subject of Wryneck, tardy communication from Barry meant I missed an opportunity to get the pair found on the KGV for my Pointless London List. Wanstead better deliver.


Most interesting bird of the day was the big grey "warbler" which flew into a elder in the company of two Common Whitethroat. I only picked it up at a distance, but it looked large, grey and not too far off a good call for a Barred Warbler, or a rough looking Spotted Flycatcher. Too far off to get a proper ID, I was beaten to the target by a tosser and his dog.  Same ol' same ol'. For the record I have a self-found Barred on Shetland: "big warbler just came in!". I know where I'll be heading tomorrow...

I nicked this off the interweb, and in keeping with what I might have seen will keep it small.  Scrunch your eyes up and squint, preferably from the back of the room or next door.  That's the fella! Maybe!

27 August 2013

Chatty birds

After the pea-souper had finally cleared Dan picked up a fine looking Wheatear and Whinchat in quick succession. A bit of a climb down from Saturday, I'd rather be soaking wet than tramp round for not a lot in the sunshine, but both the Whinchat and the Wheatear were quite amicable to my clumsy approaches, so can't complain, really.

It did feel like I was a step away from treading on a Wryneck, and maybe I was, things only started happening after the fog had lifted. When I retire I am going to live in a migration hotspot and have Booted/Barred/Icterine (add additional names as you see fit) in my borders, Wrynecks and Shrikes in my shrubs, waders in my water feature, and raptors round my roof. Norfolk would be top choice, but I am not a millionaire, nor likely to be one, so bearing that in mind it will probably be East Yorkshire, Northumberland or a council run care home (aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!). There was a place in Shetland, in-expensive and with land, but some how I don't think I could stand the winters.

25 August 2013

Quaility bird

Saturday morning and the bushes were alive with birds and the rain was light. Shortly after meeting Nick east of Long Wood, he exclaimed “crake” and I turned to see a dark brown bird dive into a thicket of brambles. I got no real detail, but Nick had seen enough to be excited (see below). Steve arrived followed by Tony, but despite taping “crex crex” and as no-one had thought to bring a strimmer, it was looking hopeless. We split up and I went with Steve to West Copse to look for Thursday’s Cuckoo. It flew in front of us, when a text came through to say the Tree Pipit had been seen to the east of Long Wood so I retraced my steps. I cut across using a small diagonal path and a small brown streaked bird leapt out from under my feet. Whirring wings, dumpy, dark brown with lighter streaks – straight low flight about 100 yds to just beyond Coronation Copse and dropped down near a bush. Nailed! Must be the crake? It really didn’t fit – something else but ..., I texted “crake just flushed” (but no ?, sorry Nick) and went to get help. Errr no dangling legs, no chestnut on wings; no red on tail sides so no partridge, come to that not much tail just body and wings. We assembled and walked in a line through where I’d seen it go down. I agreed it was streaky backed and Nick was on the phone not unnaturally assuming it was the earlier presumed corncrake. A skylark flew up and I realised size was the clue. It had been about twice the size of a skylark but not really in length, more in girth, darker colour, whirring wings, no visible legs, straight flight. Had to be a quail, another mega just 50 yds from the first?! Nick came back and handed me through to Dominic Mitchell on the phone. I discussed what I’d seen with Dominic and quail was the only possibility. Our flushing sadly came to nothing. It got wetter and I ended up looking a little like this:

(a drowned rat). Quaility bird, but not quaility birder, I was just too slow

24 August 2013

Quail pie and crake conundrum

It all started off quiet enough, constant drizzle, nothing much to get excited about.  Then I picked up a Pied Fly midway down Long Wood, showing well in the gloom, after a while it was replaced by a Spotted Flycatcher and things were on the up.

Met up with Bob just south of the "enclosure" east of Long Wood, and we chatted.  Not five minutes after we met up a strange bird appeared to fly up from the path he had just taken and pitched down in the brambles. Obviously a crake from its legs hanging out the back, not too large (smaller that a Moorhen) with no discernible white on its rear end.  Unfortunately no discernible markings on its back or obvious rufus in its wings.  Uniform brown with darker primaries. Shortish bill again no colour was stand out.  Well that set us talking.  Mostly about how to flush the bird from the largest, deepest and most impenetrable bramble patch around.  On reflection I think we should have got some blackberry pickers in, as they manage to trash even the most formidable of brambles.

Within 10 minutes Steve and Tony had arrived and we surrounded the patch.  Pretending to be singing Corn Crakes didn't work and flushing the bird seemed highly unlikely so after awhile we gave it up as a lost cause. It will of course hoof it over night. I think we al knew what it was, bloody mega! Bloody disappointing.

I wandered off into the brooms while Tony and the others went to look for the flycatchers.  A sodden Wheatear was the only new bird back that way so I made my way back to Long Wood.  Tony had found a Tree Pipit in the same oak as mine on Thursday, odds on its the same bird.  As we discussed ISO settings and excitable Bob was seen by the vis-mig point.  Tony rushed off, his marathon training coming in useful, while I with several gallons of water in my wellies could only squelch after him. He had flushed a bird from the path in the grassland between Centre Copse and the brooms. I assumed it was our crake, did it have a streaky back.  On an affirmative answer I tweeted out that we'd flushed the crake again.  Wrong!

With the four of us strung out in a line we waded through the grass in the hope of flushing the bird again. I was still under the impression it was a crake we were looking for, so a bit of crexing went on down my end. It was only when Dominic Mitchell phoned to buy any exclusive snaps we might have and he asked for a description of the bird we were currently after that I had to hand the phone over to Bob. He then began describing Quail, which I thought odd.

It finally dawned on me he was talking about another bird, but by this time we had walked through the grass several times with only a couple of bemused Skylark, one with no tail, to show for it. Arse.

We then split up, Tony to Centre Copse where he got yesterday's Cuckoo, Me to Alex where I got nada, and Bob home to check his books, Steve just evaporated!

After a quick pit stop at the Costa, I hid in the Esso Copse while it literally pissed down.  Shouldn't have bothered as I was a drowned rat by that stage. There I saw Marco checking the "enclosure" so I went to meet him. Together we found a second, this time juvenile, Pied Fly and a couple of Spotties, on a rain interrupted tour of the SSSI and Long Wood.  No Wryneck, yet!

22 August 2013

Long Wood

Basically today was all about Long Wood and more precisely the east end of Long Wood and (what I will now refer to as) the "enclosure". As usual we had to wait for Jono to leave, but he wasn't falling for that old trick. So when I texted him: "You are not going to like this but... " he was placed to make a swift return. Not that it did him much good, the Pied Fly had disappeared again, but give him his due, his perseverance paid off and he sauntered off to work happier.

I decided to have a crack getting a picture of the elusive bird; it had shown down to about 10 feet when I first found it–the closest I've ever been, the camera unfortunately in my bag. Barry B and Bob turned up and it showed again, crappily. Then it rained, and kept on raining. After it stopped briefly I noticed 2 Wheatear new in, and a singing Willow Warbler also not present before.

Worth staying put I thought. For once I thought right as a Tree Pipit popped up into an oak, better gets some shots of that then!

Happy and quite wet I squelched off to work. Later Dan notched up a Cuckoo and the Pied to storm past Bob in the scores on the doors race, Bob levelled with the Cuckoo later. It's getting tight down there! Even Mr Bradnum sallied out for a bit of pie, the lingering Cuckoo and, also new in, a juv Stonechat.

Now if it would like to precipitate again tonight...

Is Cuckoo this years Wryneck?

Is Cuckoo this years Wryneck?

or Bob chasing the others

Jono had one early in the year, Nick saw one last week and Dan saw one this afternoon. Stay cool, no problem, get out there. Found Dan who'd seen it three times and after another look at the rather beautiful Pied Flycatcher he helped me with a search for cuckoo (and tree pipit). Dan found a wheatear. Met Marco who'd seen the cuckoo fly out of the brooms to West Copse. No pressure - I left them to grill the wood. 
First bird:

and what a white nape patch

Juvenile Cuckoo - get back in. It perched up three or four times, if only I had Jono's gear and skill....

21 August 2013

The big weekend approaches

So just over half way through August and its not been too shabby; birds on the itinerary ticked, but so far just tasters rather than the cup running over.

Understandably the Spotted Flycatcher were late, having only arrived towards the back end of May and as per, one managed to avoid being found all morning and then just suddenly appeared on a branch. With only two hands I had to wait till I had finished my reasonably priced breakfast in a bun and coffee from the Costa before I could countenance an approach. Needless to say it had buggered off before I got to the last mouthful. And what a surprise if Tuesday's female Pied Fly didn't just up and disappear after its brief perch in the Alex scrub. The hour or so of fruitless searching for that did give us another Reed Warbler, a couple of Willow, a Garden Warbler and an aerial dog fight between four crows and a Hobby.

Standing still seems to be the best way to see things, that or following Jono off patch before getting down to the serious stuff. The trouble is there is not enough time in my morning to cover everything - this is the time the patch becomes huge - so I alternate, tomorrow the SSSI (made easier by the fair being in town).

Today (Wednesday 21-8-13)

I think I am beginning to see a pattern. Avoid the SSSI first thing! Better spend your time down Long Wood or get to the Alex, that's where it happens early doors. At the moment.

Nothing had happened 'till I crossed the road and had just seen a stonking Lesser Whitethroat and a very grey Common Whitethroat, then I caught sight of something big perched in the brooms. Grey whatever forgotten I hoof it it off sun side to get a better look at the mystery bird.

As usual I get side-tracked by something else. This time something else in the form of what I first considered to be a juvenile Pied Flycatcher, some way off, being harassed by some Whitethroat. Looked good, not as close or as clear a view as Tuesday's bird, but then having tweeted it out and receiving a phone call from Mr Lethbridge ordering me to keep track of the bird (I had already lost it!) I then go and find a Spotted Flycatcher with enough white on the wing to make me think again. Hmmm turned over by another faux Pied?

Dan and Jono weren't too upset by only getting a spotty, not sure what the guy who came later thought when I tried to explain a decided lack of all things Pied Fly like, especially as his only view of the spotty was as it tipped it over the Esso Copse (that's not coming back any time soon, I mused to myself). Barry "The" Bishop and Next Day Keith were probably pleased enough with the juv Whinchat and a Spot Fly when it, or another showed back in Long Wood (judging from the photos below I think 2 birds).

It's just started raining as I type this. That is good news. Can't wait to see what tomorrow might bring.

9 August 2013

Return of the white arse

On cue Dan picked up the first returning Wheatear, which happily stayed around today so I could take some shoddy pictures of it (along with further dire attempts at capturing the female/juv Common Redstart, which is probably Monday's bird).

Some interesting Warblers over the last week: 4 Reed, possible Sedge, some Willow and a handful of Garden Warblers thrown into the mix; a Common Sandpiper and today the ridiculous mega of a Redshank (heard but not seen) as it got over the flats as quickly as it could towards Manor Park and the Thames further beyond.

Everybody was thrilled for me:

Dan H: "Nice one"

Tim H: "Wow! Mega indeed! Determination pays off"

Stuart F: "Wow! First record?"

... to which Bob V replied: "As far as I know. CMF"*

Indeed as far as we know this is the first confirmed case of Redshank on the patch. Clearly when they were shooting everything from Bittern to Sand Grouse way back when, they probably had a pop or two at a Redshank, but clearly thought it too mundane to mention. Both Tim and I have had possible calling birds before; mine after Katrina a couple of years back.

And of course Jono was delighted too

 "Yeah, you can't have a dodgy heard only ... (?)"

Ah! the pantomime villain is back.

"What about your Oystercatcher?"

"It was foggy..."

* CMF = Cosmic Mind Fuck (er! quite Bob)

5 August 2013

... and so it begins

It felt good this morning.  Overnight rain  (we like overnight rain) and overcast with a few sunny intervals as the day woke up, which I nearly didn't. Too late for the full circuit, I thought to spend sometime looking at bush!

I was looking at bush trying to will a rather bright young chiffy to be something more unusual, when, in the dead tree the bird had finally shown itself to be nothing more unusual than a bright young chiffy, the familiar sight of a red-flicky tail appeared. Nearly a week earlier than in previous years, a rather demure female/juvenile Common Redstart. I had assumed a spotfly would have been first on the autumn migrant list, but also I was concerned that with everything being late this year, we might have to wait for any migrant action.

Not so.  Oh no!

Having said that, it'll probably be crap for the rest of the week.

Having said that it'll probably be brilliant.

Having said that, I have no idea!

Bring it on.

The Hill of Summer

Well that was pretty rubbish. For the main, July is like June: no birds so it's bugs and plants and enjoying the sun, and falling asleep in the sun, or staying in bed avoiding the sun. You get a few tantalising interludes which make you think: "next time", and then "next time" is crap, but you keep on trying. Occasionally. Or just stay in bed.

Not surprisingly there were very few avian highlights. They were happening everywhere else bar Wanstead, London, the South East, anywhere near....

Crossbill: five early birds on 3 occasions
Common Sandpiper: a year's worth in one day, and then another
Great White Egret: Mr Howard (RSPB Rainham's very own) spots a GWE flapping north up the Roding. Odds on someone would have seen it if they had been in the Old Sewage Works that morning. I was in bed 50 miles away. Consolation is: Don't need it!

I am not even going to bother trying to big-up anything else just to pad the highlights out, it's gone, done, forgotten...

What we did have was returning ducks: first the Gadwall, then a few Teal and finally some Shoveler on the Heronry, all looking a tad worse for wear, but welcome none the less. Returning gulls; Black-headed Gull numbers soon reaching 3 figures

There were a few more Reed Warbler sightings and soundings, Garden Warbler too...

... that's quite enough, anymore and I might have nightmares and relive the whole bloody month.


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow, 50+ Swift (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Little Egret, Kingfisher, Kestrel, Common Tern, 5 Black-headed Gull, 50+ Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 2 Sand Martin, 3 House Martin, 30+ Swift, eclipse drake Gadwall on Alex (first returning autumn bird), 3 Little Grebe, 4 Meadow Pipit, 6 Skylark (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Reed Warbler on Shoulder of Mutton, Common Tern over, 9 Black-headed Gull, eclipse drake Gadwall (probably the same as on Alex), Great Crested Grebe, 5 Little Grebe, female Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: Lesser Whitethroat SSSI still singing, 4 House Martin, 30+ Swift, 9 Black-headed Gull W, 20+ Herring Gull W (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Lesser Whitethroat Old Sewage Works, Common Tern, singing Goldcrest (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding young still in nest hole, Lesser Whitethroat singing SSSI, possible calls of young Willow Warbler, 30+ Swift, 3 House Martin (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Common Tern, Nuthatch (Bob Vaughan); Little Egret, 10 Black-headed Gull circling over Shoulder of Mutton, 20+ Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 5 Lapwing S (Bob Vaughan).

Wanstead Park: 2 singing Coal Tit (Bob Vaughan).


Wanstead Flats: Kestrel, Coal Tit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Garden Warbler still singing in old sewage works (Tim Harris), Common Tern heronry, Common Buzzard (Jonathan Lethbridge/Nick Croft), Little Egret, Great Crested Grebe, 40+ Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 34 Black-headed Gull (incl 1 juv), 5 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 House Martin, 20+ Swift (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 3 Common Tern, 17 Black-headed Gull, Hobby, 7 House Martin, 10+ Swift (Nick Croft); Garden Warbler Bush Wood (Tim Harris).


Wanstead Flats: 2 Common Gull, 20+ Black-headed Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Tern E, Sand Martin, 3 House Martin, 30+ Swift, singing Meadow Pipit, 5+ Skylark (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Little Egret on Heronry, 2 Common Tern, House Martin, 20+ Swift (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 2 Common Gull, 35 Black-headed Gull, 2 Sand Martin, 3 House Martin, 20+ Swift, 8-10 Skylark, 6 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 5 Stock Dove, Goldcrest calling (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 2 Common Tern, 2 Little Egret, Garden Warbler still singing in the Old Sewage Works (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Park: Little Egret and Common Tern Heronry (Josh Selfe).


Wanstead Flats: 2 Teal Alex (Dan Hennessy).

Wanstead Park: 7 Little Egret, 3 Common Tern, juv Black-headed Gull all Heronry (Dan Hennessy).


Wanstead Flats: 6 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 52 Black-headed Gull (4 juv), 30+ Swift, House Martin, family group of Lesser Whitethroat (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 32 Black-headed Gull (3 juv), Common Tern, Little Egret, Coal Tit, 2 Mink (Nick Croft); Grey Wagtail, large Grass Snake swimming towards me against the current, also Shrew running across path, also Weasel along lakeside path - paddling in the River Roding 3.30pm (Jean-Patrick Elmes).


Wanstead Flats: 2 Crossbill just off the flats (J Lethbridge)


Wanstead Flats: 52 Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, 10 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 10+ Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 3 Little Egret, 38 Black-headed Gull 8juv (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: Little Egret E over Alex, 80+ Black-headed Gull (8 juv), ad Common Gull, 3 singing Meadow Pipit (1 with food), 6+ Skylark, Coal Tit, f Sparrowhawk, m Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 5 Common Sandpiper on Heronry (first for site this year), Peregrine Falcon being mobbed by resident pair of Hobby, m Sparrowhawk, Common Tern, 2 Sand Martin, 7 House Martin, 20+ Swift, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Dan Hennessy)


Wanstead Flats: 5 Lapwing E, 100+ Black-headed Gull, 5 Common Gull, 30+ Swift, 7 House Martin, Lesser Whitethroat, 8 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, c10 Skylark, Purple Hairstreak (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Kingfisher, 3 Grey Wagtail 1juv (Nick Croft).


Barking (River Roding): Great White Egret north up Roding (Howard Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Little Egret west over jub, 7 House Martin, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Sparrowhawk, 5 Common Gull (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Crossbill E over Shoulder of Mutton, 3 Grey Wagtail, 2 returning Shoveler, Peregrine Falcon in Old Sewage Works, Little Grebe with 4 yg Heronry (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 displaying Skylark, 2 singing Meadow Pipit, House Martin, c9 Swift, 200 Black-headed Gull, 4 Common Gull, Herring Gull (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Reed Warbler doing subsong OSW, 2 Kingfisher, 2 Little Egret, Grey Wagtail, Shoveler (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Tawny Owl calling at daybreak (Dan Hennessy); Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, 2 f type Kestrel, juv Common Gull, 2 House Martin, 10 Swift (Nick Croft/DH).

Wanstead Park: 2 Shoveler (DH), 2 Hobby pr, Goldcrest, 2 House Martin, 5+ Swift (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy).


Wanstead Flats: Common Sandpiper (Jono Lethbridge); eclipse Gadwall, Little Grebe with 3 yg, 8 Mistle Thrush, House Martin, Swift (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)

Wanstead Park: 3 Little Egret, Little Grebe with 4 chicks, Great Crested Grebe, 2 eclipse Shoveler (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff numbers building in SSSI, House Martin, c30 Swift, 2-3 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 3 Gadwall (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Grey Wagtail, 7 House Martin, 2 Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe sleeping on Perch Pond (Nick Croft)