26 December 2014

Early retirement (2014 put out of its misery)

The numbers suggest it wasn't such a good year, and I think that is probably true for most London patches, but how can we complain when you think of the great highs and just forget about the dross days.

The Blyth's Reed singing away for the day in May, and remarkably I am still meeting people who turned up after I'd left and for most of them their bird of the year, not surprising I guess as it was only the third London record. The female Lapland Bunting which entertained for two days back in the Autumn.  Those were the big draws in lieu of no Wryneck, but still a good number turned up for the promise of Ring Ouzel, Redstart and Whinchat which didn't disappoint. Local twitches for the second Jack Snipe of the year, and I am beginning to think there are probably more out there than we think; the knackered Kittiwake last January (OK three of us standing in the sheeting rain) and then the silly stuff: Red-crested Pochard, Madarin Duck, Pheasant etc. all in the name of year listing for the patch. Of course there were other single (or two) observer sightings: The Osprey for Dan and I, Bob's heard Curlew, Jono's Hoopoe (that he wont be submitting), Olive-backed Pipit, Rook (yes Rook!), Wood Warbler, Woodlark (only Jono was quick enough to catch up with this as it was a patch lifer for him and hence his speed out of the blocks) to name but a few.

Then there were the days that will live long in the memory not for the quality of the bird(s) maybe, but for the spectacle. The twenty-four Buzzard massing over the park - absolutely amazing, has a greater number of birds been seen at any one time anywhere else in London? Always the joy of the first Wheatear, Whinchat, Redstart, Ouzel and for a few of us this year, the first Lapwing, a real bugger but for me part of one of the best days birding I've ever had on the flats, which included Golden Plover, Dunlin, Snipe, Ring Ouzel, a sizable flock of Brambling and even greater numbers of arriving Redwing.

So my highlights for the year:

The Blyth's you would have thought would be a shoe-in, but basically I am still in self denial over how I could have possibly found something that good. The OBP was great, but it could have stuck around for the others who scampered out to look for it, and while I am convinced (after three more calling birds in Shetland) chances are it will be chucked out by the London Committee. The Lapland Bunting was excellent, especially after the less than satisfactory flyovers from a few years back, but for me my birds of the year were the Osprey and the Rooks.  The former because it was a triple tick (patch, London, year), amazingly close and coming as it did after Jono's words that will long live with Dan and I ("do your worst!") as he travelled to work after leaving us that morning. The Rooks because they were a blocker removed, and I like Rooks.

My prediction for next year: my wish list includes any shrike, a big warbler and a Curlew.

Jono first to replay

Best bird: The Lapland Bunting, but probably the first Wheatear of spring.


Best Bird: Lapland Bunting
Best find: Shelduck (patch tick and blocker removed)
Best occasion: the first spring Ring Ouzel (a very agreeable bird!)
Prediction for 2015: Red-back Shrike (the time to shrike gets ever closer!)


Best Bird: Blyth's Reed Warbler
Best find: Woodcock (patch tick and blocker removed)
Prediction for 2015: Snow Bunting


Best Bird: Lapland Bunting
Best occasion: Autumn's migrants
Prediction for 2015: Black-necked Grebe on the Basin


Best Bird: Lapland Bunting
Best occasion: "Osprey low overhead and Nick's enthusiastic reaction"
Best find: "Slim pickings - Pied Fly less than a minute from my front door felt great"
Prediction for 2015:Yellow-browed Warbler in the Limes in the SSSI

Richard (he did tell me in the pub, but by that time my hearing and memory were compromised)

Best Bird: Lapland Bunting
Best occasion: his first Common Sandpiper which he duly saw and moved on (this could be a scurrilous misrepresentation)
Best find: Tree Pipit/Sedge Warbler

Prediction for 2015: probably a Shrike!

Which leaves the patch competition and no prizes for guessing who won

Nick Croft  126 (3rd time in a row and getting a bit vexing)
Bob Vaughan 113
Dan Hennessy 108
Jonathan Lethbridge 102 (an impressive strike rate considering)
Tim Harris 101
Richard Rae 95
Tony Brown 94 (work is a great handicap)
Josh Self   87

Hard working getting the scores out of these people so watch as the figures change on publication

So 2014 done and although the fat lady hasn't quite sung she was out walking a few dogs on the flats this morning.

3 December 2014

Remember, remember (utterly forgettable) November!

utterly forgettable

The perils of patch working; it can get dull, very dull.  Not so much the fault of the patch itself - it's (virtually) always is good to be out there - it's more the thought of the mile slog there and back in the sure and certain knowledge that you are going to see bugger all.  But hope springs eternal. Of course if we'd nailed a certain pigeon at the beginning of the month it would be a different story.

It was so-oo dull that my camera decided a better course of action would be to ingest a large amount of lime-scale remover (serves me right for even considering cleaning my bath) and while it turns out the move wasn't fatal I still had to purchase a back-up (50D) just in case. I would have gone for the 5d mkII but luckily, or not, my credit card baulked at the idea. A few weeks on the radiator and the 7d is alive, but I should really send it off for a thorough clean just in case the next time it rains it doesn't start frothing up all over the place.

As it transpired the weather was so gloomy that the back-up hardly ever made it out of the bag.  I spoil you.

So that was November.

Oh hang on there's something I usually do around here....

... the highlights (steady now!)

Strap yourselves in

  • Firecrest(s) at Snaresbrook Crown Court become regular for Stu, while Bob finally clinches the birds in Bush Wood
  • Short-eared Owl on the 20th, probably/possibly the same bird as before
  • 1st winter Mediterranean Gull on Jub
  • Yellowhammer calling over the Alex
  • 2 Stonechats early on in the month, one the long-stayer and a new adult male for the day
  • A couple of Brambling records
  • And of course the maybe-mega that got away
Linnet numbers rose and fell on the police scrape (a high of 27 towards the end of the month), Stu had more luck with Redpolls on Leyton Flats with fewer making it further south. Just the one Siskin record, but Bullfinches continued to be seen heard over the flats until the middle of the month. Reed Bunting became scarce again and a calling Yellowhammer an audible highlight on one dull day.

So it's basically about ducks and the rise of Gadwall numbers across the patch.  Still along way to go before reaching the heady highs of the beginning of the year, but added interest comes in the form of a few associated Wigeon. Still not cold enough for any of the ducks we need, though with Dan taking his lunches at the basin this is our best hope.

Redwing numbers dropped to a trickle, but slightly more Fieldfare recorded. Song and Mistle Thrushes may have started singing again but numbers of the former bird have dropped as the migrants have moved on.

Chiffchaff were the only warbler remaining and after being absent for most of the month one appeared in the sedges by Angel and another in the old sewage works. Goldcrest numbers have dropped off on the flats with the birds probably preferring the pickings in the park.

No sign of Water Rail at any of their preferred haunts, but as with everything its not cold enough, even the Snipe haven't really bothered in coming back.

The Corporation did more mowing, this time in the SSSI, and while initially they provide a bonanza for the likes of wagtail, pipits and Green Woodpecker, the bonanza is short-lived and really doesn't make up for all the cover and potential food sources removed. The Skylark are more likely to be found on the police scrape or the footy pitches at this time of the year anyway. Worryingly there are only 7-8 birds left.

So thanks November I am off for my medication

Wanstead Flats: 15 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing, Reed Bunting, 2 Goldcrest, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 3 Teal, Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 5 Meadow Pipit, Skylark (Nick Croft/BobVaughan)

Wanstead Park: Little Egret, 6 + Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, 60 + Gadwall, 31 Tufted Duck, 16 + Pochard, 6 Shoveler, m Wigeon, 6 + Goldcrest and a blue budgie (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: m Stonechat, 10 Fieldfare, 7 Mistle Thrush, Redpoll sp, 2-3 Bullfinch, 2 Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting, 8 Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, 3 Skylark, 3 Goldcrest, 19 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, 11 Tufted Duck, m Pochard, 3 + Little Grebe, 2 Kestrel, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: Brambling, Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting, 36 Fieldfare, 8 Redwing, 10 + Song Thrush, 300 + Common Gull, 200 + Black-headed Gull, 2 Kestrel, 8 Skylark, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 15 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 3m Teal, 2 f Pochard, 5 Little Grebe, 600 + Wood Pigeon south (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park/Bush Wood: Firecrest, 6 + Goldcrest (Bob Vaughan)

Leyton Flats: Kingfisher, Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe x 2, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay x 2 (RO) Brambling over Gilberts Slade at dawn, 4 Redwing, Linnet, Grey Wagtail, 6+ Goldcrest, 17 Gadwall (Hollow and Eagle Ponds), drake Shoveler, Green Woodpecker, 2 Egyptian Geese (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 2 Fieldfare, Redwing, 5 Song Thrush, Reed Bunting, 2 Linnet, Skylark, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 3 Teal, 3 Shoveler, Gadwall, 4 Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan) Currently Bob and Rich are trying to track down what could be an exciting bird, Bob and I have poor views of a dove sized (and looking) bird with a longish pin-tail, flushed from beneath trees in the SSSI, dark above with a hint of white on the flank, so if your in the vicinity....

Wanstead Park: 50 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 15 Pochard, 40 + Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: No sign of "possible" Mourning Dove from yesterday in SSSI (based on our pooled sightings it was the best fit bird after some research), Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Stonechat male first winter (possibly 2 birds), Redwing, 10 + Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, 4 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 4 + Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest in the Court grounds, 2 Tawny Owl (Gilberts Slade) (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Stonechat, 40 Fieldfare, 17 Redwing, 7+ Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipits, 4 Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Bulfinch, 5+ Goldcrest, 28 Gadwall, Teal, 5 Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 11 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel (Dan Hennessy/Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 27 Mute Swans, 41 Canada Geese, 12 Egyptian Geese, 4 Eurasian Wigeon, 193 Gadwall, 9 Common Teal, 92 Mallard, 11 Shoveler, 17 Pochard, 40 Tufted Duck, 9 Little Grebe, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtail (Wren Wildlife Group).

Wanstead Flats: 15 Fieldfare, 6 Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Linnet, 11 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, 8 Pied Wagtail, 2 Goldcrest, 4 m Teal, 18 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, 8 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft/John Weil)

Snaresbrook Crown Court: 2 Firecrest, Treecreeper, Gilberts Slade: Tawny Owl (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 1st winter Mediterranean Gull, 300 + Common Gull, 200 + Black-headed Gull, 2 Peregrine Falcon (males judging by their size), Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 6 Skylark, 2 Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, 2 Linnet, 2 Pochard, 12 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 10 + Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 5 + Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 20+ Redwing, 7 Song Thrush, 9 Gadwall, drake Shoveler, 6-7 Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 10 Fieldfare, Redwing,15+ Song Thrush, 13 Mistle Thrush, 20 + Blackbird, 20 Linnet, 5 Skylark, 15 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 3 Goldcrest, Kestrel, 15 + Gadwall, 6 Pochard, 7 Shoveler, m Teal (Nick Croft/Richard Rae/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Flats: 21 Fieldfare, 15 + Song Thrush, 4-6 Skylark, 7 Linnet, 5 Goldcrest, 25 Gadwall, 11 Shoveler, 9 Pochard, m Teal, 2 Little Grebe, 5 Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel (Wanstead Birding)

Wanstead Park: 10 Teal, 4 Wigeon, 14 Shoveler, 187 Gadwall, 60 + Tufted Duck, 40 Pochard, 5 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, 2-3 Kingfisher, 10 + Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Leyton Flats: 10+ Redpoll, 3 Bullfinch, Sparrowhawk, 5 + Goldcrest, pr Shoveler, 6 Pochard, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Greater Black-backed Gull. (Joe Dickens and Martha Birungi)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest, Grey Wagtail, 4 Goldcrest, Fieldfare, 6 Gadwall, 3 Egyptian Geese, 39 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard, 2 Great crested Grebe (Stuart Fisher). There are 2 areas at Snaresbrook Crown Court, first the copse east of Eagle Pond in the ivy covered trees not far from pedestrian entrance, secondly one roosts in the giant Laurel hedge near the lower visitor car park towards the NW side of the Court grounds, this can often be detected (its often very vocal) from over the fence in Leyton Flats as it sometimes heads off in that direction early in the morning (SF).

Wanstead Flats: 10 + Meadow Pipit, 10 + Pied Wagtail on newly cut area in SSSI, 8 Skylark, 7 Linnet, 4 Redwing, 10 + Song Thrush including 4 singing birds, 2 Mistle Thrush, 44 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 2 Pochard, 10 + Tufted Duck, Little Grebe (Nick Croft); 5 Pied Wagtail, Fieldfare, 3 Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 5 Green Woodpecker, 6 Jay (RO)

Wanstead Flats: Short-eared Owl (flew in from east over Alex, then chased by crows flew high east again), Little Owl (BV), Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 9 Linnet, Siskin, 30 + Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Redwing, 10 + Song Thrush, 5 Mistle Thrush, 4+ Goldcrest, 15 + Meadow Pipit, 15 Pied Wagtail, 5 Skylark, 54 Gadwall, 5 Teal, Pochard, 17 Shoveler, 8 Egyptian Goose, 10 + Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Stock Dove (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: 2 Firecrest in the big Laurel hedge and nearby scrub NW end of Court early morning, 9+ Lesser Redpoll, Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, Grey Wagtail, 7 Stock Dove, Kingfisher, 20 Gadwall, 2 Great crested Grebe, Coal Tit (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 47 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 9 Mistle Thrush (1 singing), Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Bullfinch, 9 Linnet, 10 Meadow Pipit, 8 + Pied Wagtail, 5 Skylark, 2 Goldcrest, 4 Pochard, 5 Teal, 12 Shoveler, 54 Gadwall, Egyptian Goose, 3 Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Flats: 4 Fieldfare, 15 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 10+ Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, c.50 Gadwall, 6 Teal, 15 Shoveler, 4 Little Grebe, 6 Skylark, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook/Leyton Flats: 1-2 Firecrest in buddleias near laurel hedge in Court, 8 Fieldfare, Siskin N, Lesser Redpoll, 6 Shoveler, 34 Gadwall, Kingfisher, Meadow Pipit, Nuthatch, Great Crested Grebe, Sparrowhawk (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: m Bullfinch, Kestrel, Goldcrest Long Wood; 4 Skylark, 16 Linnet Police Scrape; Snipe, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Fieldfare SSSI (Bob Vaughan)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest at roost spot, 14 Lesser Redpoll, Common Buzzard SW over Leytonstone at 12.33, Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 28 Gadwall, 2 Redwing, 5 Shoveler (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 27 Linnet, 5 Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 3 Goldcrest, 3 Fieldfare, 60 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, 20 TuftedDuck, 2 Pochard, m Teal, Little Grebe, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook Crown Court: Firecrest (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Yellowhammer, 10 + Linnet, 4 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Goldcrest, Fieldfare, Sparrowhawk, 71 Gadwall, 33 Shoveler, Teal, 20 + Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 89 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 31 Pochard, 30 + Tufted Duck, 3 Egyptian Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook Crown Court: 1-2 Firecrest early morning (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: Chiffchaff, 20 Fieldfare, 12 Linnet, 13 + Goldfinch, 10 Chaffinch, 1-2 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Pochard, 54 Gadwall, 14 Shoveler, 200 + Starling, 600 + Common Gull, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook Crown Court: Firecrest still at dawn (Stuart Fisher)

Wanstead Flats: 8 Mute Swan, 381 Canada Geese, 8 Greylags, 40 Mallard, 8 Shoveler, 27 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 19 Tufted Duck, 3 Little Grebe, 31 Moorhen, 88 Coot, 79 Black-headed Gull, 273 Common Gull, 2 Skylark, 6 Meadow Pipit, Goldcrest, 16 Linnet (Tim Harris)