Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Eastern Poland - Day 1 (Biezbra Marshes)

Eastern Poland (18th – 20th May 2018) Trip Report - Part 1

#WansteadOnTour - Jonathan Lethbridge, James Heal, Tony Brown, David Lowe, Richard Rae, Bob Vaughan.
Day 1 (18th May) - Biezbra Marshes

A two and a half hour flight from Heathrow into Warsaw, and a three hour drive east to our first destination of Dluga Luka Marsh for our first target bird...Aquatic Warbler. The transfer and journey had gone to plan and we arrived early afternoon and ahead of schedule. As we approach the reserve there is a bird tour coach on the side of the road, and they’re observing a small pond like inlet on the marsh close to the road side. We pull the car over and are astonished to see up to 100 White-winged Black Terns covering the marsh with several birds feeding on the adjacent small pond, on closer inspection there are also a few Whiskered Terns amongst the gathering, and a later we find a single Black Tern.

Biezbra Marshes, Poland
Team Wanstead soaking up some cracking views of performing Marsh Terns
Biezbra Marshes, Poland

Biezbra Marshes, Poland

Biezbra Marshes, Marsh Terns, Poland

Arriving at Dluga Luka and the weather is improving but the strength of the breeze isn’t filling us with much hope of seeing Aquatic Warbler. At the end of the boardwalk we wait and listen, we can hear a couple of Aquatic Warblers singing but the stiff breeze is keeping the birds low down in the reeds. While we wait our first Honey Buzzard of the trip drifts over, this is quickly followed be a Lesser Spotted Eagle (another target bird) circling above us and then a Montagu’s Harrier low over the reed bed. As the breeze drops and the sun breaks through the clouds and after about an hour’s wait we finally get good views of Aquatic Warbler fairly close to the wooden boardwalk with several birds now singing from the tops of the reeds – a great start to the trip, although disaster almost strikes as Jono hits the deck hard after clipping a loose wooden board, landing on his camera and lens - thankfully no serious damage done other than a bent converter, a stiff shoulder and a little embarrassment.

Biezbra Marshes, Aquatic Warbler, Poland
The boardwalk out onto Dluga Luka Marsh - Be careful of those loose boards!
Dluga Luka, Biezbra Marshes, Poland
The prize - a singing Aquatic Warbler

With two of our target birds already ticked on the first afternoon in Eastern Poland, we head off towards our accommodation a further two hour’s drive to Białowieża village. An early start and a long day in the forests of Białowieża await tomorrow, so what better preparation for an early start (3.30am) than a hearty meal of Deer stew washed down with several Polish beers (maybe one too many) and to finish a shot of the local Bison Vodka – I hope that decision doesn’t come back to haunt me tomorrow...

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Two of my Favourite Butterflies

Mid May and the patch has already got that summer doldrums feel about it - spring passage has now virtually dried up with just a single Wheatear knocking around the Brooms early on Saturday morning. There's plenty of activity from the resident breeding Sylvia Warblers but nothing of new to report with just Garden Warbler still waiting to be added to the Wanstead year list - maybe we'll have to wait until the return of autumn passage to now catch up with that one!

On the plus side at least I had two of my favourite butterflies on show, despite there diminutive size both Green Hairstreak and Small Copper have bag loads of colour and character when seen up close. The Green Hairstreak appears to be doing very on the Flats, I'm unsure if the increase in numbers is also reflected nationally but this once locally scarce butterfly is now a regular sight in the patches of long grass surrounding many of the copse's across Wanstead Flats. The Small Copper was my first this year and looked like a freshly emerged individual and was unusually still and calm for this typically hyperactive little butterfly.

Butterfly, Butterflies
Green Hairstreak
Butterfly, Butterflies
Small Copper

Monday, 7 May 2018

Is there a better sound?

I could listen to the song of a Willow Warbler on repeat and never tire of that delicate ripple of notes, gently rising and falling over and over again. This summer visitor to the UK from its sub-saharan wintering grounds is regularly seen in spring and autumn on Wanstead Flats but unfortunately no longer breeds here, this follows a similar trend across the southern half of the country with a more northerly shift in their breeding range.

Song, singing
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Press play, turn up the volume and listen to that wonderful Willow Warbler song recorded from the banks of Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats as the birds song gently pierces through the distant rumble of traffic from the road nearby.

Saturday, 28 April 2018


It's April 28th and remarkably this is my first blog post this year to feature a photo of a Wheatear. There was a time when Wheatears would feature week in and week out through the spring and then again in the autumn...maybe they're starting to lose their appeal? I don't think so...when you tire of Wheatears, you tire of birding!

With up to six Wheatears on Wanstead Flats this morning, today was a good day and with the added bonus of a peachy spring male Whinchat (the first on the patch this year) it made you forget just how miserable and cold the weather was - what a difference a week makes! Today I was trudging around in full wet weather gear, as opposed to last weekend when trainers, t-shirt and jeans were the birding clothes of choice.

The only other birds of note were a trickle of early morning Swallows heading north and my first Swifts of the year on the patch, bringing up the year list to a healthy 89 - some way off my fellow patch workers totals, but that's always the case and I gave up trying to compete years ago - still...I like to keep them on their toes.

Spring, Male, Wanstead, London
What's not to love about Wheatears?