31 January 2016

January: Smartly out of the blocks and off at a canter

Before I dissect what had been our best start to the year, ever, I'd like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the great Martin Garner who sadly lost his battle with cancer on Friday. I will say more on my blog, but suffice to say he was a kind, compassionate man of great knowledge who even in his last days wanted to know more. A great teacher, enthusiastic communicator and all round great bloke he will be sadly missed by the birding world.  I was lucky enough to spend two weeks with him in one of his favourite places–Shetland and in particular on Unst.  The memories of those weeks will stay with me for the rest of my life. David Bradnum and I met up with him for the last time last year on that most northerly of islands.  He was still the chirpy, ebullient character of year's past though his illness had diminished him physically. We both had tears in our eyes as we met and we chatted about the trips we'd shared.

His sharp-eyed skills had not been lost in any way, as he helped us to get on to the elusive Little Bunting which we were having trouble with.

Thanks for all you've given us Martin.

January then.  We kicked off with best first day ever, a great team effort. 69 birds on day one and there was only two ways this could pan out; tortuously or get even better.  Luckily it was the latter. By the end of the month we had achieved what it took us to the 13th Mar (2015), 5th Mar (2014), 3rd Mar (2013), 11th Mar (2012) to attain: 83 species. Lets hope we can carry on in the same manner, but with only Bullfinch, Buzzard missing from our list of certainties it's down to the likes of Yellowhammer, Green Sandpiper and other possible vagrants at this time of year.  Sounds like February could be somewhat colder and therein lies our hopes.

The highlights

  • Short-eared Owl: first January record and Josh gets his contribution in early
  • Little Owl: Job done on the 1st too
  • Firecrest: No worried for this year with at least 4 still kicking around,  Stu's bird is still in Snaresbrook
  • Shelduck: A really unseasonal record this, we don't usually get them till March-April, and thanks to the ever vigilant Mr Lethbridge
  • Lesser-spotted Woodpecker: following a slight bit of trespassing looking for Bob's Wigeon and proof that crime does pay.  Next Day Keith also reported 2 from the Dell later in the month!
  • Great Snipe*: One that will provoke great howls of derision and much sniping I am sure (especially when I add it to my Patchwork Challenge score card–worth 10 points though!).  Tim sent a fuller description to some eminent birding chums, who unanimously agreed GS as best fit. Unanimously they agreed stands little or no chance being accepted! Having not found the bird again in my morning visits, I changed tack and lingered in the Alex scrub at dusk.  My reward, the unwanted attention of a strange man and the sight of a large-ish bird flying backward and forward through the scrub!
  • Turtle Dove: not wanting to miss out on courting controversy Bob picks up a summer migrant over the brick pits (at least there were 2 other sightings reported around the same time from Devon and Norfolk)
  • Brambling: flyovers on the 15th and 16th
  • Caspian Gull: Re-identified from some really crap shots and confirmed on the 29th
  • Mediterranean Gull: Tony spots the lazy larid in amongst a huge roost of Black-headed and Common Gull.
* And with all the eastern vagrants that have been turning up over the month here and on the continent, perhaps not so ridiculous for a former scarce over wintering bird
Of note: Both Chiffchaff (2+ birds) and Blackcap (1 male, 2 female) are currently overwintering, while it hasn't actually felt like winter apart from that week in the middle.  A cold snap which brought in our first Common Snipe for ages, a fly over, calling Lapwing in the darkness and very little else, but which did for our Gadwall–with only 1 recorded in the park towards the end of the month down from several hundred birds.

Siskin numbers are way up on the last few years with a high of 40+ in the Dell and good numbers on other occasions, Linnets are down and Redpoll not as numerous as before the New Year, and where are the Bullfinch (a dog walker has told me he had 3 visit his gardens to the south of the flats during the month).  The only records of Treecreeper coming from Leyton Flats, and only one record from Stuart for the whole of the month, what's going on there mate?

The Stonechat lingered on west of Cat & Dog in the brambles by the changing rooms, while larger thrushes were few and far between.  Redwing a constant by the stables and in the ivy covered trees in Bush Wood and elsewhere, but few flyover Fieldfare.  Thrushes are belting it out everywhere.

Meadow Pipits are hard to find, though 7 one day was interesting, indicating some movement is still happening.  The Skylarks remain stubbornly hard to find and stubbornly only 3, but the male had started singing at the end of the month. Will any more return or is that it?

Peregrine have been sighted fairly consistently throughout the month, outnumbering Sparrowhawk sightings. Not quite warm enough to get Buzzard on to the list.

So to February: will it be down the toilet or on a pedestal?  Watch this space!


Wanstead Flats: Firecrest,
Goldcrest, Short-eared Owl, Little Owl, Kestrel, 2 Linnet, 2 Siskin, 2 Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 3 Meadow Pipit, 10 + Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 4 Shoveler, 10 + Teal, Little Grebe, 13 Fieldfare (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: m Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Firecrest, 5 + Goldcrest, Woodcock, Shelduck, 2 Wigeon, 150 + Gadwall, 20 + Shoveler, Teal, 6 Pochard, 10 Egyptian Goose, Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, 10 + Siskin, 3 Redpoll, 2 Nuthatch, 4 Coal Tit, 2 Kingfisher, 10 + Redwing, Water Rail (Wanstead Birders) 69 sp for the combined patch


Wanstead Flats: Firecrest
still Long Wood (Richard Rae), Skylark, Chiffchaff (Tony Brown) Great Black-backed Gull (Jono Lethbridge)

Wanstead Park: 2 Nuthatch (Jono Lethbridge) 2 Firecrest (Bush Wood and north of Heronry), 10 + Goldcrest, 4 Siskin, 100 + Gadwall, 20 + Shoveler, 2 Teal (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Great Snipe
flew across from Alex to the scrub to the east and pitched down, dark form (lacking any clearly visible white on belly), slow flight reminiscent of Woodcock, but not so bulky.  Flushed from between birches at under 5 metres, it showed prominent white on outside of spread tail and prominent wing bars white over dark black and lacked prominent stripes on back, appeared larger and broader winged than Common Snipe, didn't call but made audible wing noise on takeoff. Quickly out of sight low behind trees (so no views of head from my position), Firecrest still Long Wood, 5 Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, 10 + Redwing, 10 + Shoveler, Gadwall, Kestrel, Great Black-backed Gull, 40 + Herring Gull (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 10 + Goldcrest, Nuthatch, 2 Coal Tit, 20 + Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, Little Grebe (Wanstead Birders)


Wanstead Flats: No sign of Snipe,
14 Redpoll, 7 Linnet, 5 Teal, Shoveler Gadwall, Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 4 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Blackcap, 2 Nuthatch, 8+ Goldcrest, 2 Coal Tit, 4 Gadwall, Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats:
1 Skylark (last year we had 8 wintering resident birds–looks like the end is near for the last central London breeding site); Chiffchaff, Redpoll, 4 Great Black-backed Gull east, 3 Teal, 5 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, Coal Tit, 4 Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 10 + Redwing, 150 + Gadwall, 40 + Shoveler, Pochard, 6 Egyptian Goose, Little Egret, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, 10 + Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Water Rail (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Firecrest
Long Wood still (Twitter), 6 Goldcrest, Stonechat still (first wintering bird for over 5 years), Chiffchaff (centre copse), 8 Fieldfare, Redwing, 20+ Song Thrush, 6 Linnet, 9 Redpoll, 4 Meadow Pipit, Coal Tit, 10+ Pied Wagtail, 4 Gadwall, 4 Pochard 12+ Shoveler, Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, 2-3 Kestrel (Nick Croft, Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats:
Fieldfare, Redwing, Goldcrest, 6 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: Woodcock,
Great Black-backed Gull (Bob Vaughan) 2 Gadwall, Kestrel (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 120 Gadwall, 28 Shoveler, Teal, 2 Egyptian Goose, 15 + Tufted Duck, f Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, 20 + Redwing, Grey Wagtail, 6 Goldcrest, 2 Siskin, 5 Redpoll, Kingfisher (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Turtle Dove
(Bob Vaughan), f Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, 8 Meadow Pipit, 10 Fieldfare, Stonechat, 3 Skylark, 10 + Redpoll, 9 Linnet, 2 Gadwall, 4 Pochard, 10 Shoveler, (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: Firecrest Bush Wood (Tony Brown), 10 + Goldcrest, 4 Nuthatch, 4 Coal Tit, 20 + Redwing, 150 + Gadwall, 15 Teal, 20 + Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 2 Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Peregrine Falcon, 20 + Siskin, Redpoll (Nick Croft/James Heal/Tony Brown)


Wanstead Flats:
Stonechat, 12 + Redwing, 8 Egyptian Goose, 7 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 2 Gadwall,48 Greylag Goose, 2 Little Gebe, 10 + Great Black-backed Gull, 8 + Redpoll, 6 Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Goldcrest, Kestrel (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: c.200 Gadwall, 40 + Shoveler, 5 Teal, 6 Egyptian Goose, Nuthatch, 20 Siskin, 10 + Redpoll, Redwing, Peregrine Falcon, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Kingfisher (Wanstead Birders)


Wanstead Flats:
2 Fieldfare, 3 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 10 Egyptian Goose,  Kestrel (Nick Croft/Peter Brinton)

Wanstead Park: 70 Gadwall, 28 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 8 Egyptian Goose, 10 + Redwing, Sparrowhawk, 2 Kingfisher, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit, singing Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Mike Messenger)


Wanstead Flats: Firecrest
, Goldcrest, Brambling, 3 Redpoll, 40 + Goldfinch, Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 2 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler, Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Snaresbrook: Firecrest along Snaresbrook Road, not far from roundabout, 2 Nuthatch, Treecreeper (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats:
10 Redwing, Fieldfare 2 Pochard, 5 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, Meadow Pipit, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 40+ Siskin, Redpoll, 5+ Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail, 2 Pochard, 9 Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Brambling
(BV), 3 Linnet (TH), Reed Bunting, 40 + Goldfinch, 4 Redwing, 4 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, 7 Egyptian Goose, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 3 Goldcrest (Bob Vaughan/Tim Harris/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 4 Siskin, Kingfisher, 22 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, Sparrowhawk (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe
, 6 Redwing, Reed Bunting, 12 Gadwall, 2 Little Grebe, 3 Kestrel (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 2 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Keith Marchant), Water Rail, Woodcock, 2 Little Egret, Blackcap, 5 Goldcrest, 10+ Redwing, 3 Teal, 70+ Gadwall, 30+ Shoveler, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Lapwing calling in the dark over Warren Wood (Nick Croft/James Heal)


Wanstead Flats:
WEBs 24 Shoveler, 8 Gadwall, 15 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochard, 117 Mallard, 7 Egyptian Goose, 103 Coot, 36 Moorhen; also 6 Redwing, Stonechat still, Firecrest, 5 Goldcrest, 2 Redpoll, 2 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 2 Kestrel, f Blackcap, Chiffchaff (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 30 + Siskin, Redpoll, Nuthatch, 8 Redwing, 2 Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (James Heal/Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe
, Stonechat, 2 Redpoll, 3 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 2 Goldcrest, 5 Shoveler, Great Black-backed Gull, 3 Kestrel, 2 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 3 Stock Dove (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Peter Brinton)


Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe
. Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 2 Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pochard, 6 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 2 Little Grebe, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 2 Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan/Peter Brinton)

Wanstead Park: 20 + Siskin, Grey Wagtail, 6 Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, Goldcrest, 15 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall, 7 Teal, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: Little Owl
(Tim Harris)


Wanstead Flats:
5 Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Fieldfare, 7 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, 4 Egyptian Goose, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Peter Brinton)

Wanstead Park: 30 + Siskin, Redpoll, 30 + Redwing, Water Rail, 21 Gadwall. 21 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 5 Egyptian Goose, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats:
Stonechat, 2 Linnet, 11 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler, 4 Egyptian Goose, 10 Tufted Duck, Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Heron (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Firecrest, 2 Goldcrest, Stonechat, 3 Redwing, 6 Linnet, Redpoll, 190 Common Gull (western flats), Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 3 Skylark, 7 Meadow Pipit (James Heal/Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park: Tawny Owl calling c.18:00, Woodcock, 20 + Redwing, Redpoll, 15 + Siskin, 14 Gadwall, 20 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 3 Little Grebe, Little Egret, 6 + Goldcrest, Coal Tit (Nick Croft).


Wanstead Flats: 
3 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, 2 Redpoll, 6 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 6 Egyptian Goose, 5 Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Woodcock (Jono Lethbridge)


Wanstead Flats:
10 Shoveler, 4 Gadwall, 5 Tufted Duck, Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, 2 Skylark, 30 + Goldfinch, Kestrel (Peter Brinton/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park:10 + Siskin, 2 Grey Wagtail, 6 Redwing, 13 Teal, 12 Gadwall, 37 Shoveler, qw Tufted Duck, 4 Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Caspian Gull, Firecrest,
Stonechat, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, 6 Gadwall, 21 Tufted Duck, 7 Pochard, 12 Shoveler, 4 Egyptian Goose, 2 Great Black-backed Gull (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats:
singing Skylark + 2 others, 19 Tufted Duck, 10 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, 2 Gadwall, Little Grebe (Peter Brinton/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 24 Shoveler, 15, Tufted Duck, 2 Teal, 1 Gadwall, Little Grebe, 10 + Stock Dove, Goldcrest, Siskin, Chiffchaff, Sparrowhawk, 6 Redwing (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Park: Caspian Gull
(BirdGuides); Firecrest Long Wood (Twitter) 20 + Herring Gull, 3 Great Black-backed Gull, 30 + Tufted Duck, 10 + Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 4 Pochard, 48 Greylag Goose, 3 Skylark, 2 Kestrel (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft/Sick Note)

Wanstead Park: The Basin–3 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 2 Tufted Duck, Redwing, 6 Stock Dove (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: ad Mediterranean Gull,
2 Great Black-backed Gull, 15 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 6 Pochard, 5 Tufted Duck, 18 Egyptian Goose, 2 Little Grebe, Redpoll, Kestrel (Tony Brown/Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Peregrine Falcon (Bob Vaughan), Sparrowhawk, 2 Coal Tit, Nuthatch, 4 Redpoll, 8 Siskin, 8 + Goldcrest, 10 + Redwing, Water Rail, 31 Shoveler, 9 Gadwall, 4 Teal, 20 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats:
3 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 8 Linnet, 8 Tufted Duck, 6 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Little Grebe (James Heal/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 15 + Siskin in mixed finch flock Bush Wood (James Heal)