31 August 2014

30-31st August: migging brilliant

We will never again mention Reed Warbler again!

or for that matter Nightingale both crap birds...

Can't be bothered with Saturday it was hard work but the alternate day rule was working against us, but Sunday.....


Late up because of some little hitch in my un-questionably fantastic birding skills, Dan was already texting good stuff before I was out of the door.  Mr Brown soon included his haul from down the Alex and it appeared there was very little to add. Wrong!

Just south of the Centre Road car park it was all going off in a small patch of bramble and broom: 2 Redstart, 5 or 6 Whinchat and a Blue Tit. The birds finally made off towards the brooms where I caught up with Dan and Bob coming the other way.  We tried counting the Whinchat but came up with different numbers each time.  Tony had had 3 along with 6 Wheatear along the ditch leading to the Alex, so they wouldn't cause us any trouble.  In the end as I left the flats for Rainham I got up to 8, so all in all 11 birds - getting near the good old days.

Then it was the Redstarts that caused us numerical trauma: Tony's one down the Alex, 1 i found later back at the Angel copse, the 2 I had moving north through the brooms - did they become the 3 or 4 found later in Long Wood, plus the one I found in the SSSI and later Tim found 2 back down at the Alex so, 7, 8, 9 or 10? Sorting out the Spotted Flycatcher was even worse and in the end we settled for 14 of them but there could have been twice that number.  The Tree Pipit was easy: one.

There was just too much going on, especially in the SSSI where a warbler whirlwind was going through the birches with a few Spotted Fly caught up in the maelstrom.

Quite easily the most exciting day on the flats ever and not a ReedWarbler in sight

All pics: Tim Harris, the usual photographer has been sent away to rehab

29 August 2014

28-29 August: visi-migging (not-so)lucky!

28th August

Met up with Tim who was sporting a new hair cut and enjoying the early morning rain and we agreed it looked pretty good for something to turn up.  It didn't, but we found the source of the Tree Pipit calls emanating from the enclosure almost daily for the last week or so. It made Tim happy and then he went to work. I soldiered on and discovered it was a Lesser Whitethroat day, the pub and alex scrubs were littered with them.  OK about eight birds, but with Richard's help we managed to notch up another five elsewhere for probably a record breaking count.  Migrants? Richard also picked up a late Swift going over the brick pits.

29th August

One of those days you don't want to leave the flats, or a particular place on the flats, or go to work.  OK that last one happens everyday, but today doubly so.

First up the Kestrel was giving the female Wheatear a bit of a chase round the brooms, a Whinchat appeared and then disappeared until my way home when I found her by the car park on Centre Road (a male was subsequently reported too). Just a bit further on as I looked for the chat another juvvy Turtle Dove skitted through in the company of a Wood Pigeon. I am beginning to notice how slim they are in comparison to the rather stocky Collared Dove we have round here.

In the enclosure I picked up a little blob of orange in the hawthorns on the north east corner of Long Wood, through the bins it looked like it could have been a Red-breasted Flycatcher, until, that is, I saw the head moments later. Pah! Common Redstart. At least he did the right thing and showed well for about five minutes before disappearing never to be seen again.

With the wind a bit blustery, the northern side of the wood appeared to be the best for passerines. Two or three Spotted Flycatcher (5-6 all told on site and picking up nicely) raced around the elder sheltered by the larger oaks behind. Whitehroat and Blackcap of course, but then I picked up a Garden Warbler getting its sugar ration for the morning from an elder on the northern side of the ride. It would pop out just in range of the camera I thought. I thought it did. However imagine my dismay when I looked at the images to discover no Garden Warbler crippling shots, just a Nightingale bastard Reed Warbler...

27 August 2014

Aug 25-27th: migging wet

 Dan doing wet

With memories of last year and a rain sodden day of Quail (for some of us, one of us), Pied Flycatchers, Tree Pipit and ballsed-up IDs, Monday's weather looked a repeat performance.  True enough it lived up to expectations on the sodden front, birding gems were slightly harder to find. To be fair it was a week earlier than last year's mega day and a week is a long time in migration terms.

The lone Whinchat was still alone in the brooms (all it's mates are down at the scrubs), the female Redstart was finally tracked down, keeping low in some small oaks, a couple of Spotted Flycatcher looked rather glum as they tried to keep up with a large mixed flock of warblers and tits in the SSSI, oh and there were 4 Wheatear aqua-planing at various locations.

Tuesday started off where Monday left off but then got decidedly better when the sun came out.  The female Redstart was still in the pub scrub and a pair of Tree Pipit were making a day of it in the cut broom area of the SSSI: it's been a great autumn for these birds and more to the point I got to see them. The birches in the SSSI were still full of warbler, mainly Chiffchaff and they can't all be the progeny of our local birds. As if to make a point, Tuesday's clear night and half of them buggered off.

Wednesday and nothing much had happened (didn't find my first Chiffy till I reached the Alex) until a awesome looking Tree Pipit sat up briefly in the Alex scrub before being flushed by a dog walker. Richard joined me for the trudge back to Long Wood, where we picked up (Next Day) Keith.  With not much happening there we moved over the road to the SSSI, which never disappoints. It was disappointing...

After Rich left we finally found a small group of Chiffies in with Long-tailed Tits at the west end of Long Wood spilling onto the west side of the road.  The main group were moving north on the east side so I went to intercept as they came out of the tall trees. While a stream of LTTs passed me the alarm went up, looking up I got the source of their discomfort - a Kestrel, but then a larger raptor flew into view. Buzzard sized, but not flying as I would have expected a buzzard to. I called out to Keith "possible Honey Buzzard" and started snapping it.  Sadly the camera was still on the low exposure settings for getting vivid warblers in bright sunlight rather than dark raptors in the brightest part of the sky, albeit a now gloomy sky.  So they are crap but show a rather nice long, thin, rounded tail and how the wings were held as it flapped, soared, flapped into the wind. I ran out of the copse, but it had sailed on over east Long Wood and never came back into view.

As is customary, when I get excited with possible raptors, I forwarded a picture to a team of experts, who usually say what I thought the bird was in the first place but then caught up in some spurious/possible feature that the picture has revealed that was very apparently not there when I was looking at it.  Today I was confident before I took and saw the pictures. The experts came back 7-2 in favour of HB, which when taking into account the image they were looking at is pretty remarkable. Remember the old Collins that had silhouettes of birds on the inside front cover with the helpful map...

26 August 2014

July (got to be done!)

The Macbeth of months.  Like your least favourite relative coming to stay, for too long. Like a month or something. I may be on my own here, as I was most of the month on the patch with everybody else sensibly elsewhere.  And, finally, when something did happen I missed it.

Here are the bloody highlights....

Some Treecreeper
Early Wheatear
Pied Flycatcher

Missed it, so did I

My highlights


Wanstead Flats: 2 singing Lesser Whitethroat, singing Garden Warbler, Sand Martin, 6+ House Martin, 30 + Swift, 5 Black-headed Gull, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kestrel, 3 singing Skylark, 2 Stock Dove (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 4 Little Egret at the west end of Heronry (Dan Hennessy) Hobby (Jono Lethbridge)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, singing Garden Warbler, 50 + Swift, 8+ House Martin, 4 Stock Dove, 3 singing Skylark, singing Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Little Egret, adult and 3 Great Crested Grebe chicks, 3 adult Little Grebe, Swift, House Martin, Little Egret, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 3-4 Lesser Whitethroat, singing Garden Warbler, 12 House Martin, 40 + Swift, 2 Egyptian Goose, 6 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 2 Reed Warbler (Tony Brown), 2 Little Egret, Little Grebe with chick, Grey Wagtail, calling Goldcrest, 2 fledged Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Garden Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, Kestrel, f Pochard, 10 + House Martin, 30 + Swift (Nick Croft/Marco Johnson)

Wanstead Park: 2 Kingfisher, 3 Little Egret, Reed Warbler, House Martin, 10 + Swift, 13 Black-headed Gull, 4 Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft/Marco Johnson)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Little Egret west, 2 Great Crested Grebe (one with possible nest site on Eagle Pond), 7 Tufted Duck, 2 Black-headed Gull, Coal Tit, c5 Swift (Stuart Fisher)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Common Tern on Hollow Pond, 3 Great Crested Grebe (1 juv Hollow Pond, pr, female on nest at Eagle (Stuart Fisher)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Oystercatcher East at 10:10 (presumed to be same bird as one seen over Blackhorse Road at 6:10am), 2 Common Tern, Sand Martin, Whitethroat singing, 2 Green Woodpecker, 3 Black-headed Gulls (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 5 Common Gull, 40 + kettling Black-headed Gull feeding on flying ants, 3 Skylark, 40 + Swift, 6 House Martin, Lesser Whitethroat (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 3 Reed Warbler, 2 Little Egret, 3 Little Grebe, 4 Great-crested Grebe, 10 + Black-headed Gull (+ 1 juvenile), 2 Common Tern, f Shoveler, Kingfisher, 30 + Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Jono Lethbridge)

Wanstead Flats: 30+ Black-headed Gull, 6 Common Gull, Kestrel, 4-5 Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, 40+ Swift, 300+ Starling, House Martin, singing Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 30+ Greylag Goose, 3 Little Grebe chicks, 3 singing Skylark, singing Stock Dove; Purple Hairstreak (Nick Croft).

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Treecreeper (heard), Common Tern, 4 Great crested Grebe (incl 2 juvs), Sparrowhawk, 6 Black-headed Gull, 2 Stock Dove, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, 12 Tufted Duck, 20 Mallard (Stuart Fisher)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Treecreeper, Peregrine soaring over lunchtime (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Park: Nuthatch calling in Bush Wood (Bob Vaughan).

Wanstead Flats: 2 Common Gull, 40 + Black-headed Gull, 6 House Martin, Swift, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 4 Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Marco Johnson) Common Sandpiper (Gary Hewett)

Wanstead Park: 2 Reed Warbler, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Little Grebe, f Pochard, Swift, House Martin, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Marco Johnson)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 7+ Chiffchaff, 5 Little Grebe, 2 Common Gull, 5 Skylark, 1-2 Meadow Pipit, 10 + Swift, 6+ House Martin (Nick Croft/Marco Johnson) Northern Wheatear, earliest return record (Gary Hewett)

Wanstead Park: Little Egret, 2 Grey Wagtail, Peregrine Falcon carrying food, Reed Warbler, 2 Common Tern, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Little Grebe, Gadwall, Swift, House Martin (Nick Croft/Marco Johnson)

Wanstead Flats: SSSI and Long Wood: 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 20+ Common Whitethroat, 15+ Chiffchaff, singing Willow Warbler, Yellow Wagtail over, 2 Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, Sparrowhawk with food, 5+ Swift, 6+ House Martin, 4 Stock Dove, family of 5 Mistle Thrush and a family of 6 Goldfinch (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: Long Wood/SSSI - 10+ Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, 20+ Common Whitethroat, singing Meadow Pipit, 4 Skylark, Stock Dove, c.10 Swift, House Martin, Kestrel (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Flats: Lesser Whitethroat (pub scrub), 10 + Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, 2 eclipse Gadwall, Great Black-backed Gull, Kestrel, 15 + House Martin, 2 Swallow east, 2 Swift, 400 + Starling, 3 Skylark (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Flats (Long Wood/SSSI): 22 House Martin, 1 juv Swallow, 3 Swift, 15 + Chiffchaff, 3 Lesser Whitethroat (Long Wood), 20 + Common Whitethroat, juv Willow Warbler, 10 + Blackcap, 2 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Treecreeper (two different areas), 2 Stock Dove, Painted Lady, Jersey Tiger (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Yellow Wagtail east, Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, 7 House Martin, 3 Swift, 25 + Chiffchaff, 15 Common Whitethroat, singing Willow Warbler, 12 + Blackcap, 40 + Long-tailed Tit, 30 + Blue Tit, 1-2 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 6 Little Grebe, 20 + Goldfinch (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flat/Snaresbrook: Treecreeper just west of Crown Court, Kestrel alarm calling, juv Willow Warbler, 5 Great Crested Grebe (incl pair with 2 chicks on Eagle Pond) (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: f/juv Pied Flycatcher (Birdguides), Treecreeper (first record for the flats), Willow Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Sparrowhawk (Dan Hennessy)