19 February 2014

The price nature pays

I had a spring in my step today, no easy task in wellies, but that soon dissipated when I heard the sound I hate more than any other in the world.  Even more than Mr Yap or drunks shouting at each other early in the morning: Chain saws!

The Corporation was at it again, this time in the little woodland south of the Police scrape.  Bushes where sparrow liked to have a communal chirrup, understorey where Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat all sang from - and may well have nested in - was being dragged up and chopped up.

The geezer with the chain saw came out of the bush he was trashing when he guessed I might not be too pleased with events.

His defence "it's open space!" Then pointed towards the play area.  "You've got the kid's play area there"

To me it was still quite clearly a wood and judging by the age of some of the trees had been such for a lot longer than the 2-stroke engine he was using to destroy parts of it. "You've got plenty of woodland in the forest" he correctly postulated. I explained it was the very margins that he was so intent on destroying that were the best parts of any forest. 

He was after all only following orders. Of  f****ng twats I pointed out.

He went back into the bush to deliver up open space where there was none before, while I walked off seething. They will be back during the week to take out a heap of birch near centre road, in the SSSI, to help the spread of heather.  Tim's already warned them off the main birch copse because of the Willow Warbler, whether they actually heed anything we say we will find out soon.

Later I met up with Jordan, and I presume Tibo, wandering across the flats on their way to inspect the work.  He explained a rough sleeper had threatened a keeper with a knife there, but its mainly down to the strange men (never seen any) who loiter in the undergrowth.  That's what did for the scrub around the Jubilee and for previous attacks on Long Wood.  Policing the area might be a more environmentally friendly way of doing things, but the Park's police are seldom seen down this way and there aren't enough of them anyway.

This is the thing, virtually every user of this park comes here without thinking twice about the consequences of their actions on this fragile place.  There's nothing new in it, it's the human way, and always nature gets barely a second thought.

I put together this little map of the trashed areas in the last 6 months and its a sizable chunk of habitat that's gone.  It may come back, it may get managed into the ground. I doubt it will solve any problems perceived or otherwise.

Blue areas = trashed, Red = to be trashed

13 February 2014

Adult Med Gull not Valentino shock!

February finally delivers.  After wading through flooded football fields for weeks it feels like, finally I found something. A two-pointer on the Patchwork Challenge.  Kerching!

No ring, so clearly not Valentino!  Possibly the bird from South Park?

Got one of these big ugly muvvers on Saturday.  One of these nasty, windy, wet, miserable, bone chilling days we are going to get a good gull in the masses. Better be something I can recognise!

Today though a Common Gull with a weird head, stood out from the pack.  Naturally I completely blew the whites...

8 February 2014

Do not disturb breeding skylarks on Wanstead Flats, dog-walkers warned

12:23pm Friday 7th February 2014 in Redbridge By Douglas Patient

Skylarks are an endangered species 

Dog-walkers are being asked to keep their pets on a lead while walking on Wanstead Flats from next month to protect an endangered species of bird.

The Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group are worried their breeding season will be disturbed, as they lay their eggs in the long grass.

Tim Harris, Chairman of the Wren Group, said: "We're happy for people to visit Wanstead Flats and watch the birds, but are asking people with dogs to keep them on the leash when walking through the long-grass area where they breed - and to keep to the paths."

The flats have the largest population of skylarks in London and the locations most at risk are east of Centre Road and south of Alexandra Lake.

Gill James, Committee Member of the Wren Group, said: “We are very lucky to have skylarks in the area and we need raise awareness of this issue as people do not realise the damage they are doing."

"Their numbers are declining rapidly, halving in around five years. So it is really important people take care when on the flats to not disturb them."

With a life expectancy of just two years on average, breeding is of paramount importance to the survival of the species.
Members of the Wren Group will be handing out the leaflets and putting up signs to explain the campaign this week.

 Lets not forget the mipits too!

Stolen from The Wanstead Guardian  

2 February 2014

January (may contain traces of Leyton Flats and Snaresbrook)

An all round enthusiastic start to the year, which at one point looked like it might even eclipse last year's pretty solid start.  But then it didn't so we are playing catch up with our exacting standards with 81 the new target to beat for February.  It was the large raptors that let us down, No Buzzard or Peregrine, and the weather: where is the bloody winter? So no Plovers, interesting ducks or, of course, Waxwing. No Short-eared Owl, Brambling or Yellowhammer, but on the plus side

  • Kittiwake taking it easy on the flats
  • Mealy Redpoll in the mix
  • The Water Rail finally gives up anonymity
  • Woodcock on the 1st, a first for Josh
  • Two separate, possible, calling Green Sandpiper reports on the same day
  • Blackcap and wintering Chiffchaff
  • Record numbers of Linnet on the Police Scrape
  • Firecrest in Bush Wood and off Warren Drive
  • Bob finds an early blocker Wigeon
  • And just for Mr Lethbridge somewhere in Africa, a Chaffinch (this joke is now retired!)

Dull, some would say, but that is patch working, a lot of the mundane with a few nuggets and we don't just go around just ticking stuff we do notice things. Like where are all the winter birds?  Very few Siskin have made it down this far south, no big movements of Redwing and Fieldfare.  Numbers of the former peaked in Bush Wood, but are on the way down.  The wintering thrushes are now looking for worms rather than feasting on berries.  Song Thrush are singing everywhere and for every five to ten of them there is one Mistle Thrush banging it out too!

Duck numbers have also fallen away big time. Not a month on from record numbers of Gadwall, Heronry is now empty of these wonderful ducks. Numbers of Shoveler are well down on last year, and while Tufties appear to be at similar levels, our other diving duck the Pochard is also being noticed for not being here in the numbers we'd expect.

The mild weather may have encouraged the sightings of Chiffchaff and Blackcap (Tim had one singing close to Bush Wood during the month), but it has also meant that the big numbers of Goldcrest we'd expect have failed to materialise, and the Firecrest are just being stubbornly arsey! No I haven't seen one yet.  Though a report of a bird down by the ornamentals is encouraging, might have to go see if I can find that one as I am getting rather bored of failure in Bush Wood.  Here though the Nuthatches have been checking out holes and making a racket whilst doing so and the Treecreepers are still hanging on, so fingers crossed for both these former breeders.

Gull numbers have been enjoying the increasing amount of water on the footy pitches, though bar the Kittwake, there's been nothing much of interest bar the weekly occurrence of Great Black-backs crossing the flats.

Egrets and Heron sightings and unsurprisingly Kingfisher sightings are well down, down to the height of the Roding and its strong tea complexion.

Is the mild weather the reason for the record number of Linnet on the fairground, and possibly for the good number of wintering Skylark there too? Has the unseasonal warmth meant Meadow Pipit just haven't bothered moving so far south as usual?

With just the 76 species recorded so far it means the patch challenge is pretty nip and tuck at the moment.  Everybody appears to be engaged more this year and that's why there's a big cluster of similar scores.  Jono and I are in the Patchwork Challenge, him for a second year, so I have added the points we've scored on to the league below:

Nick Croft 73 (76pts)
Josh Selfe: 69
Bob Vaughan: 68
Tim Harris: 67 
Jonathan Lethbridge: 65 (66pts)

Dan Hennessy: 65
Tony Brown: 64
Richard Rae: 55
Steve Thorpe: 50
Stuart Fisher: 20

This year I am going to try and add the Leytonstone and Snaresbrook stuff of Mr Fisher, cos its just up the road and so fairly local, but then I could get bored of that...


Wanstead Flats: 39 Linnet, 10 Lesser Redpoll, Mealy Redpoll,3 Reed Bunting, Snipe, 50+ Redwing, 20+ Fieldfare, 13 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Little Owl, Nuthatch, 2 Goldcrest, 40 Gadwall, 10+ Shoveler, 10+ Tufted Duck, Egyptian Goose (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: Woodcock, 357 Gadwall, 50+ Pochard, 10+ Shoveler, 4 Teal, 80+ Tufted Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, 6 Siskin, 7 Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 2-3 Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest, 200+ Redwing, Kingfisher - 61 sp for the day down 2 on last yr (Wanstead Birders)


Wanstead Park: Treecreeper, Firecrest (Bush Wood) (Jono Lethbridge)

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: 4 Lesser Redpoll, Kingfisher, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Goldcrest, 40 Redwing, Song Thrush, Meadow Pipit, 72 Tufted Duck, Stock Dove, 250+ Woodpigeon (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: west of Centre Rd - 35 Linnet, 14 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Reed Bunting, 10 Skylark, Kestrel, 60+ Redwing, 10+ Fieldfare, 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/Steve Thorpe)

Wanstead Park: 2 Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, 2 singing Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk, 100+ Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 8 Skylarks, 45 Linnet (east of Centre Rd) (Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest, 2 Treecreeper, 100+ Redwing, Sparrowhawk (Bush Wood) (Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats: probable Mealy Redpoll and 17 Lesser Redpoll, 40+ Linnet, Little Owl, Kestrel (Dan Hennessey, Richard Rae, Bob Vaughan, Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: m Wigeon, 2 Nuthatch, Treecreeper, many Redwing (Wanstead Collective)


Wanstead Flats: 40+ Linnet, 14 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Skylark, Snipe, Great Black-backed Gull, 10+ Redwing, Fieldfare, 50+ Gadwall, 13 Shoveler, 4 Pochard (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 150+ Gadwall, Little Grebe, Goldcrest, 20+ Redwing (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: extremely knackered Kittiwake in with gull roost west of Alex (NC/BV/SF), 500+ Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, 300+ Black-headed Gull, 10+ Lesser Black-backed Gull, 10+ Herring Gull, 30+ Linnet, 20+ Lesser Redpoll, 2 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 10 Redwing (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Stuart Fisher).

Wanstead Park: Mealy Redpoll type with 6 Lesser Redpoll (east of Shoulder of Mutton in Birches) (Bob Vaughan).


Wanstead Flats: c850 gulls incl c550 Common Gulls and c250 Black-headed Gulls, also 2 Great Black-backed Gulls but no sign of Kittiwake to 8:45, Chiffchaff, Snipe (Tim Harris, Josh Selfe); 30+ Linnet, 25 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Reed Bunting, 10+ Fieldfare, 30+ Redwing, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 41 Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, f Pochard, 10+ Tufted Duck, 5 Skylark, 6-12 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Chiffchaff (2nd bird), 150 Common Gull on western flats (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest Warren Wd, Kingfisher (Christian Morris)


Wanstead Flats: 20+ Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, 6 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Little Owl, Redwing, c1000 gulls in roosts (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: c150 Gadwall, 40 Pochard, 40+ Tufted Duck, 26 Mute Swan, Little Egret, 13 Lesser Redpoll, Sparrowhawk, Little Grebe, Goldcrest, Redwing (Nick Croft); Grey Wagtail (Louis & Gosia) 


Wanstead Flats: Little Owl, Snipe, 20+ Fieldfare, 10+ Redwing, 24 Linnet, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Steve Thorpe/John Whele)

Wanstead Park: Bush Wood - 2 Nuthatch inspecting old woodpecker holes, Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Redwing, Fieldfare (Tim Harris/Bob Vaughan/NickCroft); m Bullfinch Old Sewage Works (Bob Vaughan)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest along west boundary of court with Long-tailed_Tit flock, m Blackcap on Leyton Flats, Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, Lesser Redpoll over, Grey Wagtail, 10 Ring-necked Parakeet, 4 Stock Dove, 105 Tufted Duck, 7 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, Kingfisher (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 8 Skylark, Grey Wagtail, 30 Linnets (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 2 Siskin, 10+ Lesser Redpoll, 2 Bullfinch, Kingfisher (Tony Brown); Bush Wood - 5 Goldcrest (2 singing birds), Treecreeper, 3 Nuthatches, Coal Tit (Wanstead Birders, Louis & Gosia)


Wanstead Flats:
early doors 6 Redwing, Skylark (NC), 2 Great Black-backed Gull, 30 Linnet, 15 Skylark, 2 Pied Wagtail (Dan Hennessy).

Wanstead Park: singing Goldcrest and Coal Tit Wanstead Golf Club House (NC), 3 Bullfinch (DH), 2 Little Grebe (BV), Grey Wagtail, 2m Teal (NC) (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy/Bob Vaughan).


Wanstead Flats: 20+ Linnet, 8+ Lesser Redpoll, 2 Reed Bunting, singing Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, Redwing, 10 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Park: 2m Bullfinch (ad & 1st-w), Grey Wagtail, 8+ Goldcrest, Redwing, Sparrowhawk, 50+ Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 20+ Pochard, Kingfisher (Nick Croft/Josh Self).

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: 2 Nuthatch (Gilberts Slade), Lesser Redpoll, 2+ singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush, 6 Ring-necked Parakeets on court building, Pied Wagtail, 2-3 Goldcrest, 2 Redwing, 7 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, Kingfisher, 4 Egyptian Geese, 4 Grey Heron (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 50 Linnet, 20 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, 8 Skylark, 2 Egyptian Goose, 11 Tufted Duck, 3 Shoveler (Jubilee), Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 10 Gadwall, Shoveler, Pied Wagtail (Shoulder of Mutton), 2 Nuthatch, 2 Treecreeper, Coal Tit, 6+ Stock Dove, 20+ Redwing (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats:
40+ Redwing, 5 Fieldfare, 10+ Song Thrush, 40+ Blackbird, singing Mistle Thrush, 5 Meadow Pipit, 8 Skylark, 40 Linnet, 7 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Shoveler, 44 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 4 Pochard, Little Grebe, 5 Stock Dove, Kestrel, possible heard only Green Sandpiper (Nick Croft); Chaffinch (Jono Lethbridge).

Wanstead Park: Old Sewage Works - 11 singing Song Thrush, 15 Redwing, 12 Goldfinch, displaying Stock Dove (and also possible Green Sandpiper heard, hmmm!) (Tim Harris).


Wanstead Flats: Snipe, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Linnet, Reed Bunting, Teal, Egyptian Goose, 35 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, Kestrel, 27 Redwing, 5 Fieldfare, 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark incl one singing (Nick Croft)


Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Egyptian Geese, 82 Tufted Duck, 5 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 2 Mistle Thrush pr, 3 Redwing, Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, 2 Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats:
49 Linnet, 9 Skylark, 20 Fieldfare, Little Owl (Tim Harris/Richard Rae)

Wanstead Park: Bush Wood - Nuthatch (Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats: WeBS highlights - 6 Mute Swan, 38 Greylag Geese, 42 Gadwall, 2 Teal, Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 8 Tufted Duck, 23 Moorhen, 67 Coot, 333 Black-headed Gull, 825 Common Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull (Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: WeBS highlights - 23 Mute Swan, 211 Gadwall, 77 Mallard, 19 Shoveler, 20 Pochard, 69 Tufted Duck, 6 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 39 Moorhen, 105 Coot, 94 Black-headed Gull, Kingfisher (WREN group)


Wanstead Flats: m Blackcap, 21 Lesser Redpoll, 40+ Linnet, 10+ Goldfinch, m Reed Bunting, 10+ Fieldfare, 10+ Redwing incl some singers, 40+ Blackbird, singing Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush, 12 Skylark, 5 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 30 Tufted Duck, 2f Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 29 Gadwall, Egyptian Goose, 38 Greylag Goose, Little Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 20+ Redwing, 20+ Fieldfare, 30+ Linnet, Reed Bunting, 9 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 3 Nuthatch, singing Coal Tit, 4 Goldcrest (2 singing), large numbers of Redwing, 2 Shoveler over, 19 Gadwall, Tufted Duck (Shoulder of Mutton) (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest incl m in laurel hedge in court grounds then on western perimeter early am, Treecreeper and Nuthatch (Gilberts Slade), 10 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 2 Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, 2 Stock Dove (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 37 Linnet, 13 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 10+ Song Thrush, 4 Mistle Thrush, 3 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, 33 Gadwall, Kestrel, Goldcrest, Little Grebe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail, 20+ Lesser Redpoll (some really pale birds amongst them), 5 Siskin, 31 Gadwall, 12 Pochard, c50 Tufted Duck, Shoveler, 10+ Redwing (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: Water Rail in SW cnr of Eagle Pond at dawn, Lesser Redpoll, Grey Wagtail, 10+ Redwing, Nuthatch (Gilberts Slade), 6 Stock Dove, 18 Ring-necked Parakeet, 15 Gadwall (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 2 Stock Dove pr, 8 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 40 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Fieldfare, 6 singing Song Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 9 Gadwall, singing Coal Tit, lots of Redwing, 4 Stock Dove (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 45+ Fieldfare, 40 Linnet, Bullfinch, 6 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 2 Goldcrest, 22 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, f Pochard, Snipe, 2 Stock Dove pr (Josh Selfe/Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: 1-2 Firecrest and 2 Goldcrest (Bush Wood - Josh Selfe); Little Egret, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, 70+ Redwing, 2 Teal, Shoveler, 25 Gadwall, 17 Pochard, Water Rail (Nick Croft/JS).

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: 1-2 Firecrest, 10+ Redwing, Grey Wagtail, 15 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, f Sparrowhawk (watched it kill a feral pigeon by drowning it in a puddle), Stock Dove, 2 Great Crested Grebe (Stuart Fisher).


Wanstead Flats: 7 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 4+ Redwing, 14 Fieldfare, Chiffchaff, 45 Linnet, 4 Reed Bunting (Tim Harris, Dan Henessey)

Wanstead Park: Water Rail (SoM), f Bullfinch (OSW) (Tim Harris, Dan Henessey, Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: 30+ Linnet, 8 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 8 Tufted Duck, m Pochard, m Shoveler (Jub), Redwing, Fieldfare, 2 Kestrel (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)

Wanstead Park: 10 Gadwall (SoM), 2 Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, 10+ Redwing (Nick Croft/Josh Selfe)


Wanstead Flats: 3 Skylark (one doing display flight song), Meadow Pipit, 3 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Nuthatch, singing Coal Tit, Goldcrest, 4 Stock Dove, 10+ Redwing, Grey Wagtail (Bush Wood), Siskin, 10 Gadwall, 16 Pochard, Shoveler, Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan).

Leytonstone E11 (St Anne's Rd): Blackcap m on suet feeder & cotoneaster (G Sutton).


Wanstead Flats: 47 Linnet, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 8 Skylark, 4-6 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 9 Shoveler, 27 Gadwall, 15+ Redwing, Fieldfare, 4 Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Water Rail, 2 Teal (Bob Vaughan); 10 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 10+ Pochard, Little Grebe, Goldcrest (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 50 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Redwing, 5+ Fieldfare, 2 Mistle Thrush, 12 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Nuthatch, calling Treecreeper, 10+ Stock Dove, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, 20+ Redwing, Lesser Redpoll (Nick Croft)