Sunday, 20 January 2019

Two more Caspian Gulls!

Back on the patch Saturday morning with the aim of mopping up a few of the commoner birds missing from the year list and I soon pick up Skylark, Linnet and Kestrel as I cross the Flats, arriving at Jubilee Pond and the terribly sad sight of two dead Mute Swans greet me! Both birds look as if they've been caught up in the wire fencing on the east side of the Pond. I believe this fencing was meant to protect the vegetation on the edge of the pond, however it's clear this fencing is a hazard to the wildfowl that frequent the pond and clearly needs to be removed - I reported the dead Swans to the City of London Corporation who confirmed a Forest Keeper team would remove the birds, lets hope they also remove the unnecessary fencing?

Completing my walk around the patch and the only other bird I managed to add to the year list was a wintering Chiffchaff near the allotments in the Old Sewage Works, back at Alexandra Lake for another scan through the gulls and and I pick up not one but two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls on the lake. We've only ever had single Caspian Gulls on the patch at any one time, so to find two birds is a first for Wanstead and my run of finding Casps this winter shows no sign of abating as this is now my 4th and 5th birds since the 10th November, all of which have been 1st-winters.

One of the Caspian Gulls was of the clean white-headed variety and stood out immediately, the other bird was a little less obvious, being more heavily streaked around the head, hind-neck, breast and flanks. Both birds showed a set of nicely uniformed wing coverts with a reddish hue and a good set of tertials - the more I see of these birds, the more I'm enjoying the subtle difference of each and every bird, here's hoping I catch up with one or two more of these eastern beauties before the winters out.

1st-winter, Cachinnans, London
The more heavily streaked individual
1st-winter, Cachinnans, London
1st-winter, Cachinnans, London
The cleaner, white-headed bird of the two.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Urban Cattle Egrets

With two Cattle Egrets in Cheshunt, just ten minutes down the road from my office - I couldn't resist a bit of lunch hour twitching, and sure enough having parked in the estate and walked the short distance to the park at Penton Fields, both birds were on show straight away.

This was a true bit of urban birding with the park being overlooked on four sides by a housing estate and a kids playground at one end - I suppose seeing these birds in this slightly odd environment was a glimpse into the near future, as they continue to increase in numbers and colonise more of the UK.

I'm still yet to patch tick Cattle Egret at Wanstead but I'm sure I won't have to wait too long, especially as there's a kids playground opposite Jubilee Pond!

Cheshunt, Hertfordshire

Cheshunt, Hertfordshire

Cheshunt, Hertfordshire
Just a Cattle Egret flying past a set of kids swings in a playground!

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Opening the Account

After writing off my New Years Day birding plans due to the late night celebrations and a sore head that lasted most of the day - hangovers seem to last longer these days! Today was my first outing on the patch. Having met up with Jono just after first light and in little under 4 hours and a big circuit of the Flats and Park we amassed a reasonable 54 Species - which is about par for the course.

There were quite a few omissions from the list (Kestrel, Stonechat, Song ThrushSkylark, TreecreeperPochard etc, etc) so lots to keep me occupied in the coming weeks, highlights on the walk round were few and far between but catching up with Firecrest in Bush Wood was nice and yet another 1st-winter Caspian Gull (this time on Jubilee Pond) was also an unexpected bonus.

I'll do well to match the heady heights and the quality of birds we had in 2018 on the patch but I'm happy to plug away and let's see what turns up...

1st-Winter, Wanstead, London

1st-Winter, Wanstead, London

Sunday, 30 December 2018

2018 - My Birding Year at Wanstead

I suppose 2018 at Wanstead will be remembered for the long staying immature Red-backed Shrike which delighted many visitors to the scrub east of Alexandra Lake and also London's third ever record of Rustic Bunting in the burnt out Broom scrub which stayed for five days and drew big crowds of twitchers over the weekend of the 20th/21st October, these two birds were both wonderful patch ticks, but there were a cast of other birds throughout the year which all help to make 2018 a memorable one on the patch.

I added seven new birds to the patch list in 2018 which now stands on a reasonable 139.

1. Great White Egret - 17th January
2. Rook - 31st March
3. Black-tailed Godwit - 4th August
4. Red-backed Shrike - 28th August
5. Rustic Bunting - 18th October
6. Barn Owl - 20th October
7. Short-eared Owl - 25th October

I finished the year on 109 a new personal high total, but this could have been even better as there were several notable omissions (Common Tern, Garden Warbler, Tree Pipit, Tawny Owl and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker) which would have made what was a great year into an amazing year, but as with any year listing patch birder it's sometimes the birds you don't see that make the most interesting reading.

Along with birds mentioned above, other highlights in 2018 was a self-found Yellow-browed Warbler in Long Wood on the 29th September, two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls (10th Nov/27th Dec), finding my 10th Mediterranean Gull (17th March) and who can forget the 'Beast from the East' which delivered big movements (1500+) of Lapwing at the end of February, although dipping a Dunlin (this would have been a patch tick) on Perch Lake in Wanstead Park was probably the years biggest disappointment.

Here's a selection of photos from the year on the patch...

Bush Wood, Wanstead
Firecrest in Bush Wood
Wanstead Park, London
Great White Egret on Perch Lake
Wanstead Park, London
Bullfinch in Wanstead Park
Wanstead Flats, London
Med Gull number 10 on Wanstead Flats
Wanstead Flats, London
Black-tailed Godwit on Alexandra Lake
Wanstead Flats, London
Red-backed Shrike - Alexandra Scrub, Wanstead Flats
Wanstead Flats, London
Rustic Bunting, Wanstead Flats
Wanstead Flats, London
Barn Owl, Wanstead Flats
Wanstead Flats, London
1st-winter Caspian Gull, Wanstead Flats
Here's wishing you all very happy New Year and good birding throughout 2019.