Saturday, 2 December 2017

Eye to Eye with a Water Rail

I gave the patch a swerve this morning, and instead headed to Roding Valley Meadows as I wanted to photograph the long staying Red-necked Grebe again - which is now in full winter plumage, but after doing a lap of the lake it was nowhere to be found - I later found out it was seen at Connaught Water, which isn't a million miles away, so I'll probably check that out another time.

Even without seeing the Red-necked Grebe, it was an enjoying stroll along the river Roding and the surrounding area. There was a female Goldeneye on the lake and a flyover male Goosander, and there were also plenty of Redwing and Fieldfare, along with and one or two Siskin and Redpoll calling overhead - but the highlight was a rather showy Water Rail.

I could hear the unmistakable pig like squeal of a bird calling from a small patch vegetation on the lakes edge, and then after a few minutes patiently waiting I was rewarded with some cracking views of this usually elusive bird, as this bold as brass Water Rail crept out of the reeds and nonchalantly walked towards me before the sound of my camera shutter sent it scampering away in the opposite direction - maybe I should give the patch a swerve more often?

Winter, Secretive

Winter, Secretive

Winter, Secretive

Sunday, 19 November 2017

You can't beat a bit of Bully

Bullfinches on the patch are scarce, I've only ever seen four birds in about seven years. So when a pair were being seen regularly in and around Long Wood I was more than keen to catch up with them - especially as this would be a welcome addition to the year list, but after several visits to their favoured area I was having no luck - but this all changed on Saturday morning.

After a big circuit of the Flats in which the only highlight was the discovery of a Stonechat in the grassland near the Cat & Dog pond - a favoured area for wintering birds in previous years. I passed through Long Wood again after drawing a blank earlier in the morning, and as I reached the Reggae Tree (still one of the best named locations on the patch) I could hear a couple of softly calling Bullfinches, but knowing how easily spooked they can be, I slowly edged closer towards where the calls were coming from and after a few minutes, there, feeding on the last of the blackberries was this really smart male Bullfinch. I just managed to fire off a couple of record shots before the bird flew off calling, but to my surprise there wasn't just two birds, there were in fact four birds! Two of which looked as they were 1st-winter birds - so in a matter of minutes I had managed to double the amount of Bullfinches I had ever seen on the patch. 

Male, Shy, Wanstead

This winter Bullfinch is being seen in record numbers nationally and are following a similar pattern/route as Hawfinch with many arriving from the continent pushed our direction in search of food after what is believed to be a combination of a poor Beech Mast Autumn and crop failures across Northern Europe. We could also be in for a bumper winter for Brambling with reports of big numbers (10's of thousands) just across the north sea in Scandinavia. Most of the sightings of Brambling at Wanstead are brief flyovers of a single calling bird, so it would be good to get few of these colourful finches on the deck.

Saturday mornings Stonechat happily posed for a photo or two, in what was the briefest of Winter sunshine windows before the rain arrived.

1st-winter, male, Wanstead, Wintering