Sunday, 31 January 2016

Med Gull - lifts the January blues

We're almost at the end of January and this is my first blog post of 2016 - what does that tell you? The patch is hard work - well it is for me!

In the five visits I've mustered during the month I've had very little reward, and my current Patch List total stands at a derisory 62. I still can't find a Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher or Little Egret and let's not mention the word Stonechat, despite knowing the location of a wintering bird on the Western side of the Flats near the Cat and Dog pond, the little bugger keeps on bloody hiding from me...oh well things can only improve, and yesterday It did slightly in the shape of an adult Mediterranean Gull.

As we continue this dull, warm and wet Winter, any hope of a cold weather movement of birds and something a little bit out of the ordinary showing up are dashed, numbers of wildfowl in the park are low, winter thrushes are scarce and birds in general are keeping a wide birth of the area, so it's no surprise to find myself sifting through the only birds which appear in good numbers during the winter - Gulls. The large majority are Common Gulls, followed by lesser numbers of Black-headed Gulls and then there are a few larger Larids (Herring, LBB and GBB gull) and recently if you'e lucky a single Caspian Gull

Mediterranean Gulls remain an annual but scarce visitor to Wanstead Flats, the visit of 'Valentino' each Autumn from his usual Ilford haunt is always a bonus and when I first picked out this current Med Gull this was who I thought it was, but I couldn't see a ring on its leg - which wasn't helped by the length of the grass, and even when the bird took flight there was no obvious sign of a ring - but the flight views were poor and the light even poorer, so I couldn't be 100% sure. If the birds sticks around maybe someone will confirm in the coming days?

Adult, Winter, Wanstead
Spot the Med Gull?
Adult, Winter, Wanstead
Adult Mediteranean Gull
Despite its ever increasing numbers, it's still a pleasure to pick one out in a local flock of Gulls

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 Patch Ticks

My last visit to the patch this year and I've finally caught up with the Firecrest in Long Wood, which brings me up to a respectable 104 for the year, my best yearly total in five years of watching the site at Wanstead with any earnest.

In a fragmented and at times difficult year in which I changed jobs, lived through a 6 month house extension, whilst continuing to see my dad cruelly detetariate at the hands of Alzheimer's, I still found time to fit a bit of birding in along the way and thankfully there were a few highlights to lift the spirits, this included six new birds for me at Wanstead.

The long staying Slavonian Grebe on Heronry in Wanstead Park was great start to the year (January 2nd) and attracted many admirers during its stay, before disappearing after a cold snap when the lake froze over. I then had to wait until March 21st to finally add Woodcock to the list having thought another Winter had slipped by without seeing one. A spring Red-legged Partridge wasn't on the radar when a bird was discovered running across the Flats in mid April, much to the amusement and delight of all the birding locals who weren't around when the last bird was seen back in the 70's. And then possibly my own personal birding highlight of the year was the discovery of a singing Wood Warbler amongst the young Birch trees in the SSSI, the bird sang and performed well all morning in the rain and even stuck around the following day to allow a few more birders to catch up with this locally rare Phylloscopus Warbler.

I had to wait until the autumn to add two former Herring Gull species to the list, the first from the southern end of Europe a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull and then a second from further east a 1st-winter Caspian Gull

I can't grumble with adding six new birds to the patch list in 2015, so what does 2016 hold? More of the same I imagine, with twitching having less and less of an appeal, staying local and finding something a little bit out of the ordinary is my thing and still gives me an enormous buzz - all I need to do now is find that patch defining bird - a male Eastern Subalpine Warbler would do!

Winter, Wanstead, Year list
Firecrest - my 104th species of bird in 2015 on the patch at Wanstead Flats/Park