17 November 2013

This sharming man

Ah! The Smiths.  I might go out tonight (and go looking for Water Rail), but I haven't got a thing to wear...

Since we've all but cleared up the malarkey about Treecreeper, I thought I would have a wander round the whole patch today, while I waited for news on the Dartford Warbler at Richmond. No news, so I just about did the circuit. It felt good to be out on the patch.  A Woodcock, the first returning bird of the winter, charged over Long Wood from somewhere in the brooms.  Could be good, I thought.  A mass of gulls and a lack of football going on made me wear towards Alex.  The adult Med was on the lake, so no need to go to Southend for me then.

From Friday

For the first time in an age I made it to the old sewage works, thinking Grey Grey Shrike.  I am still thinking it, and one day it will happen.  Bar four Goldcrest and four Redpoll (3 Lessers and one bigger Mealy with a profile that looked like it had been on the wrong end of fight) it was quiet as I remember it. I counted duck on part of the ornamentals, but couldn't be bothered to do the whole. Meandered through the yew on the east side of the glade luring Firecrest that weren't there and then looked on Perch and in the Dell for Water Rail.  None. So up to the shoulder of mutton for a bit of nuisance. Here the tape worked rather well with two birds responding from either side of the pond.

Back in Bush Wood I met up with the Friends of Bush Wood, who had been doing a bit of maintenance, which is why there wasn't much in the way of birds about.  Finally caught up with the Treecreeper (singular) and today it was loud, but of the Firecrest there was no sign in the gathering gloom.

14 November 2013

Back to Bush Wood

With things unresolved yesterday it was back to Bush Wood again today.  Not only for the Treecreeper but, with the sun shining and the wind a bit tasty from the west, a good chance to clobber Firecrest and be sheltered at the same time.

The lure soon pulled in the presumed female Treecreeper, but the second bird was not about, and she wasn't getting riled by taping.  So I went further into the wood to the old pond where I had found her yesterday. A large party of Blue and Great Tit where foraging in the holly on the north side, and I could hear Goldcrest and a couple of Nuthatch calling to each other.  At one point a Firecrest hove into view, but always just out of shot.  Again a presumed female as the male would have been having ago at my head with the tape playing. I did the circuit and returned to my starting point just north of Belgrave heights and this time both birds came to the lure. Wouldn't you know it the male did a little bit of faux Lesser-spot.  Very quietly and not as strident as the bird on Sunday, more like the calls I had found on Xeno Canto.



As opposed to this

Jono said his had been quite voluble; hard to imagine for such a little voiced bird. I can see what he's getting at though, but I am still not convinced, as yet! Dan, meanwhile, has commented that when we heard LSW the only thing that was in the tree, which was the source of the noise, that he could see was Treecreeper.

Not satisfactory.  Stu will come and try and record the birds interacting with the tape at some point and maybe then we can get some resolution.

Treecreeper trouble!

The reader to this blog might recall that on Sunday we had rather a good time of it down in Bush Wood: the first Treeper(s) for two years, the Firecrest were back and while innocently luring the creepers we had, or we thought we had, a calling Lesser-spot reacting to the tape. Then Jono has to go and twitch the blighters in the morning and chucks the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.

Having failed to get up at a decent time to go out I had written off the day and decided on more sleep.  It was easier. A text from Mr Lethbridge stirred me briefly from my dreams. It was a picture of a tree with the instructions to look at a branch. Hopeless directions as I could barely make out the branch let alone any small bird that might be on it. He called to tell me that he had heard the Treecreeper making sounds that could be described as Lesser-spotted Woodpecker when he had payed his tape and the two birds had been interacting. Getting no sense out of me in my befuddled state he later sent another text.

".. I am relatively convinced that it (the call we are talking about) is a Treecreeper going bananas"


I had a go on xeno canto, and found nothing which could be said to be anything like what we, and presumably Jonathan, had heard. So I texted Stu and the wise Mr Harris for their views and when there response came back negative I decided to reach out to my London birding colleagues.

Anyone ever heard a Treecreeper use the call of a lesser spotted woodpecker? Jono found the Treecreepers in bush wood this morning and thinks what we thought was lsw was in fact Treecreeper responding to the lure. Don't know what he heard, but I've checked xeno canto and nothing close was obvious. To Bob, Dan and myself what we heard was classic lsw, but it only responded to Treecreeper and then immediately, calling once each time. Didn't see anything - I joked at the time: probably the Treecreeper!

Any views would be welcome

To which I got several replies with some helpful sources on Treecreeper calls, but generally I got the feeling that it must be Lesser spot! Without knowing what Jono heard I was, as it were, pissing in the wind!

Today he clarified his experience

Hi, just seen these messages. Anyway, I caught up with two Treecreepers in Bush Wood on Monday morning, and was keen to also see if I could find LSW as I've not seen one all year - anywhere.

Didn't take long to find a Treecreeper (used a tape) and pretty soon there were two. Usual soft Treecreeper noises, until the birds started to interact, at which point, as bird #2 came right in to chase bird #2, at the point they "met", one of the birds (difficult to see which one but I think the chaser) made a call I've not heard before and which I think is the woodpecker call Nick et al are talking about, though obviously I wasn't there when they heard what they heard. I would describe it as superficially similar to the falcon-like keekeekeekeekeekee of LSW, but not as loud, not as long (1.5-2 seconds max), and certainly not as pure -  huskier. I did a double take, but I was no more than six feet away and saw a Treecreeper do it. I admit to playing the tape for an injudiciously long time to see if I could work the birds up to doing it again, and managed to hear it a couple more times - each time at the height of the action as one bird virtually collided with the other this highly agitated LSW-style call came out briefly. I can't see it carrying too far in woodland, but I was also surprised by the volume and insistence of it.

My conclusion based on what I heard, and especially given that nothing responded to LSW, but did respond to Treecreeper, is that this is what was heard, but the usual caveats about not being there apply - in both directions. I can't find it on XC either, but when I have a spare moment I will try and see what BWP might have to say. My Treecreeper recording is from the 10 disc set by Roche, and the call I heard isn't part of it.

Stuart is going to post it on one of his international forums through Xeno Canto, and I have texted the Sage of Sheffield, MatanGarner, to get his views. Personally, while it is disappointing that it might not be a LSW and they're rare enough as it is, we might have stumbled on some as yet un-recorded bird behaviour, which is exciting.  Today when I went the two birds were not together and while one was happy singing to me the other just prrrreeeped!

Bush Wood is where it's at!  Oh, and we now have two Firecrest, one of which I was going to nail totally as it perched on a bare twig against the sky.  Then my phone rang.  It was work, they wanted me in early as it was busy. A chance blown and the day ruined.  Arse as some might say.

10 November 2013

Bush Wood triple whammy

Late up this morning and I missed the chance to go and do filthy twitching with Lethbridge, Monkey and Shuan Boy. Doh!. Reading that message two hours later did not fill me with enthusiasm to go anywhere except back to bed.  I thought about Rainham. Then thought about the Sunday train service.  Finally I found enough energy to wander down to the flats.  It could only be rubbish: a Sunday, fine weather and late - a sure-fire recipe for zip. So it went, except for a Chiffy in Long Wood, my prediction of the futility of it all was bearing out.  After a Costa, I rethought my plans.  Might as well look for a) Water Rail and b) Firecrest on the basis that these two areas would be the less crowded with people.

First up Shoulder of Mutton and a bit of Sharming paid dividends when I got a reply. The first returning bird of the winter.  Buoyed with that success I made my way through the middle of Reservoir Wood, until I came to a fallen tree blocking my path. So backtracking I went via the garages on the sunny side of the wood, which in the past has had Firecrest. A solitary Goldcrest was in with a tit flock which moved between feeders in the gardens and the upper storey of the trees. I checked all the branches, just in case of a case of Nuthatch or... wouldn't it be great to get a Treecreeper. I've got a bit of previous when Mr Lethbridge is called away filthy twitching, so there was every chance of history repeating.

With no Firecrest or anything else forthcoming I moved across the road to Bush Wood, to find...  absolutely f'in nothing.  A couple of Great Tits, Robin (of course) and plenty of pigeon, but nothing else anywhere.  Did all the favoured spots of yore, tape lured, tried a bit of sip, sip, sip, s-sip sip sip.  Nothing.

Circling back just left one ride un-checked.  Immediately I picked up a female Firecrest feeding in the Holly by the path, but just as I was texting that out a movement up a trunk caught my eye.  Oh yes! Oh no! it didn't appear again even with hard stares at the trunk.  Bum, or should I just call it anyway?

While I thought about that I tried a few snaps of the Firecrest, which came out predictably badly. Even the tape lure wasn't encouraging her to be more visible. Might as well try Treecreeper calls.  So I did. And it worked: one little fella hurtling out of the trees to a chestnut behind me, and then another, which chased the first one round the tree for a bit.  Sweet.

Patch gold.  The first birds for two years.  Common as the proverbial everywhere else, so to you maybe not such a big deal, but here we should have them, literally crawling all over the place.  We don't.  I have to say I am somewhat blase about the birds when I see them elsewhere, but this is on the patch and now I can fully appreciate the beauty in their plumage, their movements, their calls, their song.  Absolutely wonderful birds. In a world of lists, the patch is pre-eminent and I'd go as far as to say if a Glossy Ibis turned up here I might even run for it!

And to emphasise this a mini-twitch of our own developed.  Dan arrived first, then Bob, then Richard. That now meant we had to find the birds again. We picked them up about 20 minutes later on the main and most easterly of the North/South rides, the tape lure working wonders. Result.  Patch lifer for Dan and most likely for Richard.  Then it got really interesting. Several times when I started the tape a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker called. "Did you hear that?", I said the first time it happened. We all had after the third time. Could we find that bird, well no! I tried Lesser-spot calls.  Not a peep. Give it a TC, bingo.  Probably where we've been going wrong all this time.

Today's other star

Pics above by Richard Rae

9 November 2013

Young gull, get out of my mind

Oh yes another ill-informed piece on gulls is in the offing.

Since it is now clear to go over the police scrape, which by the way is looking good after a bit of rain, with the removal of Newham's firework fencing, I decided to go by Jub first thing.  After picking my way over what in arable terms is called a ploughed field, I arrived at "new" Jub expecting very little. As usual at this time of the morning a sizable flock of gulls was waiting for the witless to bring them flour-based products. A quick scan and I thought I'd found an interesting bird...

As it hadn't flown after a couple of dog walkers and early drunks had passed it, I went round to get a closer look. Now I don't have to say this, and everybody knows I am crap with gulls, but I was still none the wiser when I got quite close. I could see elements of Med, which are quite obvious from the pictures here, so what I was thinking about I have no idea. I did show them to Tony B later, when we met up by Long Wood and, not surprisingly from the back of the camera, he was not sure either.

 However things became a lot clearer while we looked through the main group of gulls, which congregate within commuting distance of the Alex. I pretty quickly picked up what I thought was the same bird, dark-small-bill, closest to us. A second look and we agreed it was another Med, a first winter one this so not Valentino or the adult of a couple of days previous.

Even better, when it managed to raise itself from its slumber, rings on both legs (green plastic left/metal band right).  Interesting, and certainly not my bird, in fact nothing like it at all.  Then Tony found what was probably my bird at the back of the pack before it hoofed it west. Two Meds? Unheard of, and two new birds.

From Tony's pics and his diligent use of what's left of his free time he managed to contact the German ringing organisation that tracked returns. He's still waiting on the exact location, but Germany - wow!

On my return home I had a look at the Helm's and my pics.  Now obviously a 1st winter Med too, which is a bit of a shame as the first page I turned to in the Helm's was of a Saunder's Gull.  I quite like the look of that.

What Valentino thinks of it all ...

7 November 2013

October fest

Following closely on the heels of September, it's October.  A time of thrushes and finches: summer meets winter the days disappearing, fungi and fruit, and wind and of rain.

The highlights of which were:

heading for the out door:

  • 2 Spotted Flycatcher (different birds on the 5th and 6th and the latest on record)
  • 7 Yellow Wagtail (last being on the 13th)
  • Wheatear until the 15th
  • Whinchat late record on the 12th
  • Tree Pipit late record from 16th-19th in the SSSI
  • Late Swallow (2) on the 23rd

In transit

  • Ring Ouzel: 3 or more birds from the 10th-13th (with a possible record from the 22nd), short but sweet and some showy individuals and not the usual runaround
  • Big movements of Redwing on the 10th and 11th (1650 + and 400 + respectively) and an arse to count
  • Stonechat(s) on the 6th, 12th, 17th, 26th and 30th 

... and in the arrivals lounge

  • Brambling  (five on the 10th, and singles on a couple of occasions later in the month)

and finally...
  • Yellow-legged Gull (adults only please) on the 12th and 13th
  • Mediterranean Gull: Valentino pays a visit
  • Oystercatcher: Tim working late gets the bird while walking home

A young Common Whitethroat on the 4th was the last of the other warblers, while Chiffchaff and Blackcap managed to make it to the end of the month, but now we are just talking singles. Very few Goldcrest have arrived yet and no sign of the Firecrest either: a Nuthatch the best that Bush Wood had to offer.

The martins soon departed and no interesting Swift came our way. Coming in were Blackbird and Song Thrush and probably a lot of Robin. No big influx of Fieldfare as yet (just the one large flock of 30 on the big Redwing day of the 10th).

Apart from the Oystercatcher, waders were represented by Snipe (5 on the 12th the high)and some Lapwing on the 2nd. Ducks though were on the up: Wigeon returned to the park and the Alex, Teal were to be found and Gadwall are edging towards their peak numbers.

Raptors were in the form of one Peregrine, a Common Buzzard, no Hobby and on a few days Sparrowhawks, including one that probably deserves a bit more time (if it had allowed): a really small bird which shot through Shoulder of Mutton on the 27th - Sharp-shinned anyone?

1st October

Wanstead Flats: Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, Reed Bunting, 10+ Song Thrush, 6 Mistle Thrush, 10+ Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap, 3 Swallow, 2 House Martin, 2 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 3 Common Gull, 10 Little Grebe, 10+ Shoveler, Common Pochard, 8 Gadwall (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 21 Swallow E, House Martin, 15 calling Chiffchaff, 15+ Meadow Pipit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 6 Mistle Thrush, 20+ Goldfinch, Linnet, 10 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 2 Pochard, 10+ Gadwall, 13 Common Gull, 15+ Herring Gull, 7 Skylark (Alex), Lapwing E (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 8 Swallow E, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 13 calling Chiffchaff, Skylark, Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 7 Shoveler, 4 Gadwall, 2 Linnet, 20+ Goldfinch, 10+ Common Gull (Nick Croft/Richard Rae/Tim Harris).


Wanstead Flats: 35+ House Martin SE, 7 Swallow, 6 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, 5 Grey Wagtail, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 10+ Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, m eclipse Teal, 6 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, f Pochard, 20 Common Gull, 30+ Lesser Black-backed Gull, 20+ Herring Gull (Nick Croft/Tony Brown)


Wanstead Flats: Spotted Flycatcher (latest bird for site), Wheatear, 6+ Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap, 7 Song Thrush, 10+ Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, 6 Pied Wagtail, Swallow (Wanstead Birding)


Wanstead Flats: Spotted Flycatcher (different bird to yesterday), Stonechat, Yellow Wagtail, 20+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Wagtail, 5+ Pied Wagtail, 8 calling Chiffchaff, 6 Blackcap, 6 Linnet, Siskin, 8 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, f Pochard, Kestrel, 8 Skylark (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 4 calling Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, 4 Meadow Pipit, 14 Gadwall, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 140+ Redwing S/W, 6 Song Thrush, 20+ Blackbird, 5 Mistle Thrush, 30+ Meadow Pipit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 6 calling Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 5 Skylark, Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Teal, 3 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, f Pochard, 8 Linnet, 15+ Common Gull (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Yellow Wagtail, 15+ Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, 30+ Meadow Pipit, 5 Skylark, Reed Bunting, 6 Linnet, 7 Redwing, 8 Song Thrush, 4 Mistle Thrush, 8 calling Chiffchaff, 5 Blackcap, 10 Gadwall, Teal, 10 Shoveler (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/John Whele)


Wanstead Flats: 1-2 Lesser Redpoll, 9 Linnet, 25+ Goldfinch, 2 Reed Bunting, Redwing, 6 Song Thrush, 20+ Blackbird, 30+ Meadow Pipit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 21 Gadwall, 14 Shoveler, 2m Teal, 2 Skylark (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Ring Ouzel pitched down south of Long Wood 07:50, 1650+ Redwing, 30+ Fieldfare, 10+ Song Thrush, 4 Mistle Thrush, 5 Brambling (Long Wood/Esso Copse), 4 Siskin, 10+ Chaffinch, 3 Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting, 15+ Meadow Pipit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 4 Skylark, 8 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 10 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, m Pochard, 2 Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, 2-3 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, Common Snipe (Nick Croft/Barry Bishop/Harry Lacey)


Wanstead Flats: m Ring Ouzel still broom fields early morning showing well, 400+ Redwing, Fieldfare, 20+ Song Thrush, 6 Skylark, 10+ Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 3 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 2 Wigeon pr, 10+ Gadwall, 10+ Shoveler, 4 calling Chiffchaff, 2 Kestrel (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Sally Hammond)


Wanstead Flats: ad Yellow-legged Gull (Bob Vaughan), 3 Ring Ouzel incl flyover (Dan Hennessey), m Stonechat, 5 Snipe (Dan Hennessey), Yellow Wagtail, c100 Redwing, 5 Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipit, Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff (Wanstead birders); 15 Jay, 6 Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Sparrowhawk soaring over Aldersbrook, f Kestrel mobbed for a prolonged spell by Crows (Matthew Cunningham); f Whinchat Broom fields (Matt Reed).


Wanstead Flats: Yellow-legged Gull (Josh Selfe); Ring Ouzel, Yellow Wagtail (Dan Hennessey); 2 Swallow, 50+ Redwing, distant chat sp in flight (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Northern Wheatear and 2 Wigeon Alex, 2 Fieldfare and 50 Redwing over, 5 Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Tree Pipit (late record ), 2 Wigeon, Siskin, 10+ Redwing (Tony Brown) pics here http://www.thecowboybirder.com/2013/10/late-late-tree-pipit.html


Wanstead Flats: Stonechat, 2 Wigeon, 2 Reed Bunting, 45 Redwing over (Dan Hennessy).


Wanstead Flats: 3 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 2 Reed Bunting, 4 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 2 Chiffchaff (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Tony's Tree Pipit still present SSSI, 3 Reed Bunting, 200 Redwing and 60 Fieldfare through, Siskin, 2 Linnet, Snipe, Chiffchaff, Wigeon and 3 Teal Alex (Dan Hennessy, Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Park: poss Ring Ouzel west end of Long Wood, 24+ Siskin W, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, 14+ Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, 15+ Meadow Pipit, 3 Grey Wagtail, 6 Pied Wagtail, 7 Skylark, Chiffchaff h, 5 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 11 Shoveler, 18 Gadwall, 3 Teal (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Oystercatcher (Tim Harris), Mediterranean Gull (TB), 2 Swallow, 15+ Lesser Redpoll, 5 Linnet, 7 Chaffinch, 11 Skylark, 15+ Meadow Pipit, 8 Pied Wagtail, 11 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 2 Gadwall, 7 Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Tony Brown/Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Brambling h, 2 Siskin, 3 Linnet, 10+ Chaffinch, 7 Goldfinch, 3 Reed Bunting, 250+ thrush W (mainly Redwing also Song Thrush heard with them), Fieldfare, Chiffchaff, 1+ Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, 3 Teal, 7 Gadwall, 10+ Shoveler, flock of 50+ Jackdaw, movement of 400+ Woodpigeon S (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Coal Tit (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Stonechat (Louis and Gosia), 7 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 3 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 10+ Fieldfare W (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Nuthatch, Goldcrest (Bush Wood), small Sparrowhawk (Shoulder of Mutton), 3 Egyptian Goose (The Basin), 113 Gadwall, 3 Wigeon, 2 Pochard, 9 Shoveler, 4 Teal, 50 Tufted Duck, 5 Little Grebe, 7 Heron, Fieldfare (Old Sewage Works), Kingfisher on Roding (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: c400 Gull - majority Black-headed Gull and Common Gull but 50+ Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull in mix, 11 Teal, 17 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 4 Little Grebe, 3 Meadow Pipit, Skylark (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 110 Gadwall, 30+ Tufted Duck, Wigeon, 3 Shoveler, 5 Little Grebe incl yg chick, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Brambling S, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 10+ Linnet, 7 Siskin, 10+ Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Blackcap, 15 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 6 Song Thrush, 2m Teal, 7 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 4 Tufted Duck, 5 Skylark, 8 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/John Whele)


Wanstead Flats: Stonechat, Linnet, Siskin, Reed Bunting, 5 Redwing, 6 Skylark (Dan Hennessy), Stonechat, Chiffchaff (Tony Brown)