Saturday, 8 October 2016

This makes me very happy...

My patch most wanted bird...done.

Next one up on this special little list...Dartford Warbler.

Wanstead, London
Yellow-browed Warbler, Wanstead Flats - finally added to the patch list.
...24 hrs later and I've had time to reflect on the events of yesterday, and looking back it has to go down as one of the best autumn mornings on the patch I've experienced. How it all unfolded is brilliantly described by Jono here and James here.

First up was that amazing Yellow-browed Warbler, a patch tick I had long craved for and a bird which had to drop at some point during the autumn as the country seems to be crawling in them - with midweek sightings locally at Snaresbrook and several more across the London region, we all sensed it would only be a matter of time until one of us picked up that unmistakable call. The honours went to James, a relative newby to the patch but a fully deserved reward for putting in some excellent weekend coverage over Wanstead this year.

Then there was a matter of those 'Geese'. Fifteen wonderfully unexpected White-fronted Geese no less - which just seemed to appear out of the sky from no where whilst we were watching the YBW. I like to think I've got a pretty good radar for knowing what you might expect to see at any given point of the year, but seeing a skein of wild grey Geese circling Wanstead Flats in the early part of a mild October definitely wasn't on my birding radar! Had it been mid-february during a record cold snap across the UK with snow on the ground and a biting north-easterly wind blowing straight across the North Sea then maybe White-fronted Geese might have entered my mind.

Wanstead, London, Wild Geese
Totally unexpected
And finally the Ouzels. Ring Ouzels are regular spring and autumn passage visitors to Wanstead and it's a poor year if you don't see one, but with at least five birds (difficult to put down an accurate number, due to repeat sightings) across the Flats yesterday was exceptional, and by continually catching brief glimpses of these birds all morning only added more spice to the proceedings.

So, two patch ticks in one day, doubling my new birds on patch for this year (Cetti's Warbler and Ortolan Bunting being the other two) and you can see why I'm raving about Saturday the 8th October. That morning will be hard to beat this year in terms of a local patch birding experience...but it's only 6 days until next weekend to at least give it go!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

The patch all to myself...

On the patch Saturday morning and I had a very rare occurrence - I was the only birder on site!

With the guys away for the week up north on some far flung isle (I believe the place is called Shetland - never heard of it myself!) I was alone, with the whole patch all to myself (well, that's if you exclude the usual dog walkers, footballers, rough sleepers and general odd balls) it felt good, if not a little strange. As is the draw of Wanstead these days you can almost guarantee bumping into another birder at some point as you cross the Flats - but not today.

The morning started cold and misty but it wasn't long before the sun broke through, quickly clearing the mist and leaving the Flats bathed in warm autumn sunshine - which seemed to be the trigger for the birds. Meadow Pipits seeped, seeped over head and small parties of Hirundines trickled past me, there was no sign of last weeks Stonechats in the Brooms but a Common Whitethroat was still knocking about (I later found two other birds near Long Wood - always good to see these birds into October) but the morning ultimately belonged to the Chiffchaffs with a conservative count of between 25 and 30 birds across the Flats - it felt as if every bush held a least one Chiffchaff and on two occasions I counted six birds together in both Long Wood and the SSSI.

After the recent large influx of Yellow-browed Warblers along the east coast I strained my ears just for the merest hint of tsueeeet amongst the Chiffie's but despite my best efforts I couldn't hear one, so today wasn't to be my day and as the skies darkened and the heavy rain fell (and after getting a good soaking) I called it a day still dreaming of finding one of these magical little eastern gems on the patch.

Shetland, Sumburgh
Yellow-browed Warber is on my patch most wanted list.
(This bird was photographed on some place called Shetland).