Tuesday, 1 December 2020

From Russia with Love

It's a funny how a weekend of fog and murk can play havoc with a birds natural navigation, especially when this coincides with the migration and large winter arrival of wildfowl into the UK, but I won't complain as Wanstead along with many UK sites (including several in the London region) benefited from all the confusion as White-fronted Geese popped up in the most random of places.

Before connecting with the lone adult bird that first appeared on the football pitches on Monday, I'd only ever seen a single flock of White-fronted Geese on the patch, when a skein of 15 flew over the Flats on 8th October 2016 - this was one of those 'Special' patch days that sticks in the mind, as there was Yellow-browed Warbler and several Ring Ouzel also knocking around that wonderful autumn day.

Unlike the skein of geese that circled the Flats in 2016 today's single White-fronted Goose happily (if not a little oddly) grazed all alone on the football pitches, affording some amazing views of this truely wild grey goose from the east - It was eventually spooked by a couple of passers by and flew to the relative safety of Alexandra lake. It's a bit of a worry just how confiding this goose is (I suspect its contact with humans has been minimal, if at all) here's hoping it safely does a bunk and joins up with a wintering geese flock somewhere safe and doesn't end up as Wanstead fox fodder!

Albifrons, Wild Grey Geese
'Russian' White-fronted Goose (albifrons)

Albifrons, Wild Grey Geese
Who knew the lush green grass of a football pitch would make ideal grazing for a lost Russian grey goose!
Albifrons, Wild Grey, Geese
Take off - Aeroflot style!

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Intermedius Lesser Black-backed Gull

A Lesser Black-backed Gull (1CY) still retaining its juvenile plumage in November! Is this a common sight? Well, not in urban north-east London, and I can't remember seeing one in this plumage on the patch before so late into the year - this chocolate brown Lesser Black-backed Gull stood out amongst the throng of Gulls on Jubilee pond (Wanstead Flats). 

As far as I'm aware all our British or 'southern' juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls (graellsii) have long gone through a post-juvenile moult into a 1st-winter plumage. With this being the case, seeing a 1CY bird still in this juvenile plumage would suggest a bird from the far northern colonies, mostly likely the northern tip of Norway, so you could safely presume a bird of the ssp 'Intermedius'. 

A fair number of our Common Gulls on the Flats also originate from Norway and will have followed a similar line of migration south, as the Scandinavian winter takes hold.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Intermedius) are not uncommon (but are far less-common than our nominate graellsii). I've seen adult birds (probably the easiest plumage to pick-out) with their noticeably darker tones in the mantle/back/wings on the Flats before, but I've never knowingly seen a juvenile, so It's been a nice little bit of Gull education. I also suspect this may have been a just a brief stopover for this bird before continuing on to southern Europe and North/West Africa and its wintering grounds, a journey of over 5000km before finally losing those juvenile feathers and moulting into 1st-winter plumage - who said Gulls are boring?

As always, comments appreciated and most welcome.

Juvenile, 1st Calendar Year
Lesser Black-backed Gull (ssp. Intermedius)

Saturday, 7 November 2020

The Snaresbrook Caspian Gull - Returns for the 5th Year!

What a thrill to have this beauty back on my doorstep for another winter and looking absolutely majestic!
It was almost midday when I found the bird happily sat on the water at Eagle Pond, eagerly waiting for the next opportunity to steal some bread from an unsuspecting Black-headed Gull. The light isn't great at this time of day and I spent most of the time pointing the camera towards the low autumn sun, but at least there will be plenty of opportunity to improve on these photos over the coming winter months.
This is now the 5th consecutive year this Caspian Gull has spent the winter in the Wanstead/Snaresbrook area and I've been fortunate to have watched it slowly go through various ages and moults from 1st-winter back in December 2015 to full blown adult here in 2020.

It clearly loves the area or should I say the bread that's in constant supply from the duck feeding public, and long may it continue to come back year after year as watching and photographing a local Caspian Gull sure brightens up a quiet winters day when nothings happening on the patch at Wanstead.

Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook

Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook

Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook
Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook



Sunday, 25 October 2020

'Eastern-type' Lesser Whitethroat on Wanstead Flats

Just a few photos of the 'Eastern-type' Lesser Whitethroat from Wanstead Flats today (25th October 2020).

A great find by Rob Sheldon and with poo sample collected for DNA analysis, team Wanstead eagerly await the findings - Will it be Blythi or Halimondendri?

As always, comments and opinion welcome...

Bylthi, Halimondendri
Blythi, Halimondendri 
Blythi, Halimondendri

Blythi, Halimondendri 
Blythi, Halimondendri