19 March 2015


I have a Grey Wagtail that visits the flat roof of the building that adjoins mine in Forest Gate.  It brings a taste of the exotic to the rather drab fare of feral pigeons that wander around its margins. Today a pair touched down on Heronry just about in their breeding best and completely in contrast to the cold pallor of the day.

A Water Rail was back on the Shoulder of Mutton and a really flighty male Wheatear on Alex (maybe a second bird?).  Then Marco went and ruined it by getting a Red Kite over the SSSI while I was back in chains down at Canary Wharf.

18 March 2015


This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Motacilla oenanthe. The generic name, Oenanthe, is also the name of a plant genus, the water dropworts, and is derived from the Greek ainos "wine" and anthos "flower", from the wine-like scent of the flowers. In the case of the wheatear, it refers to these birds' return to Greece in the spring just as the grapevines blossom.

Its English name has nothing to do with wheat or ears, but is an altered (perhaps bowdlerised) form of white-arse, which refers to its prominent white rump.

Blox to that.  They are back......

Northern Wheatear
2009 15-Mar
2010 20-Mar
2011 30-Mar
2012 16-Mar
2013 23-Mar
2014 20-Mar
2015 18-Mar


14 March 2015

Short-eared Owl (tufts it out)

It's been a pleasant but quiet week, but it's getting better.  Yesterday I added another Stonechat down in the Pub Scrub, but today was back to not much.  I was down by the Roding when a whoop of joy alerted me to Bob's creeping up on me literally and figuratively- he had spotted the Little Egret that had just flown over my shoulder and was already catching fish in the river.  "#72" he announced by way of greeting.  He followed me down to the Manor Park allotments just in case I found something that he'd have to come back for. Ha! Haven't found diddly for ages...

Luckily he had only just poured his cup of tea when I texted "Short-eared Owl south of Long Wood has landed", or words to that effect.  By the time he got there he found me prostrate at the alter of the remarkable bird now perched on a bramble by the enclosure. I had crawled 50 yards and now I need new trousers...

 The usual views of SEO

That'll be that then!

Owl overkill

12 March 2015

Leucistic Greylag

I've seen this bird a couple of times before, flying around in the company of Greylag and assumed, wrongly, that it was a farm job,or some hideous cross.  Today it actually landed and immediately regretted the decision.  It must have owed the resident pair of Mute Swan on the Alex money or something,as they hounded constantly while I was there.  Perhaps it was a ploy by the other geese to get the over zealous Mutes of their backs.  If it was it worked as they received as much attention as the ducks. Doesn't say much for the intelligence of swans though.

Nice blue eyes...


10 March 2015

Spike in Shoveler numbers (March WEBS)

Tim Harris 10 March 2015

As expected, the coordinated waterbird counts for the Wanstead Park lakes, Hollow Pond (Whipp's Cross) and Eagle Pond (Snaresbrook) conducted on Sunday 8 March for the British Trust for Ornithology showed that most of our wintering wildfowl have now gone. That said, a count of 56 Gadwall in the Park is still an impressive figure, even though it is less than 15 percent of the maximum at the start of the year. Eleven Pochard still lingered on The Basin, but there was little else of note in the duck department - apart from the Shoveler count. For the second March running, Debbie noted a spike in numbers at Eagle Pond, with 24 birds, and there were 17 in the Park. Even excluding the two birds that Anne-Marie noted at Hollow Pond, that makes a very respectable total of 43, the highest count of winter, suggesting that these birds are assembling prior to leaving for continental Europe. Maybe they are part of a slow eastward passage in anticipation of moving off to breeding grounds? We simply don't know, but it will be interesting to see if they stick around (unlikely) or if the pattern is repeated next year.

Otherwise, there are clear signs that Little Grebes will be nesting again at The Basin and Shoulder of Mutton Pond (as well as Alexandra Lake), and both The Basin and Heronry Lake had a brace of Great Crested Grebes. A Kingfisher was briefly glimpsed by Perch Pond and James picked up two Little Egrets on the River Roding.

Thanks to All this data provides a valuable resource for the BTO, so thanks to Kathy, David, Bea, James, Andrew, Haydn, Saci, Debbie and Anne-Marie for giving up their time on a Sunday morning.


7 March 2015

A first day of Spring

With the large numbers of Stonechat moving through London on Friday it was no surprise today when Dan texted me his find in the brooms, and, what with the sun and a pleasant breeze from the south, you could be forgiven for thinking that Spring had sprung. We'll see. Perhaps more of a harbinger of spring was the sight of Mr Lethbridge out of hibernation and "Badger" Bob, another rarity on the patch, shamelessly twitching the chat.

It looked like it would be dripping large circling raptors at anytime, but all we could muster were a few Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel last knockings as I made my way home. On the plus side I picked up 2 Little Egret flying up the Roding, which was actually good today: 2 Teal, 2 Kingfisher, 2 Goldcrest - OK not that good, but it has been dire recently. Then later while watching a Nuthatch west of the ornamentals a Chiffchaff briefly sang from somewhere behind me- that's my first warbler of the year.