Sunday, 27 June 2021

Rock 'n' Rollering

Twitching - there's a novelty! I've not done that for a while (for the obvious reasons - lockdown, global pandemic, Covid etc) so the opportunity to see a European Roller - a showy one at that! Just over an hours drive away into Suffolk was too good an opportunity to miss.

Straight from work Thursday evening, up the M11, across the A11 towards Icklingham and I was soon standing on the side of the road over looking a sheep field - It could have been any field in east Anglia really. But there, on the telegraph wires stretching across the field was the unmistakable azure blue of a Roller - just imagine being the finder? They (as we all do) must have checked hundreds, if not thousands of birds perched on telegraph wires over the years for it to be just another Starling or Pigeon! So I can only imagine their delight and amazement to see this Southern European wanderer looking back at them - what a rush that must have been.

I was probably on site for about an hour, watching the bird mostly perched, static on the wires with the occasional short flight, as it dropped to the ground to collect what looked like rather large earthworms before returning to the telegraph wires. As twitching goes (and I don't do much anymore) I've become much more selective in which birds I would like to go and see, gone are the days of pursuing UK ticks and spending hours in a car just for a distant dot on the horizon. I'd much rather see fewer rare birds but the one's I do (hopefully) see, I see well!

A hugely enjoyable little twitch, with a great subject and excellent views, plus it was good to briefly catch-up with a few familiar faces as well - That's my kind off twitching!

Icklingham, Suffolk

Icklingham, Suffolk

Icklingham, Suffolk

Icklingham, Suffolk





Saturday, 15 May 2021

Black-necked Grebe in the Rain

More rain today and I’m starting to get a little bit peeved, my waterproofs need replacing & my walking boots are leaking...but Hey! The Black-necked Grebe on Alexandra Lake continues to show well on the patch so not a total washout. However, this mornings jaunt around Wanstead already had that June feeling about it and unless we get a late overshoot migrant of note, I’ll be dusting off the moth-trap & enjoying a few weekend lie ins until August.

Here’s a little bit of early morning footage of the summer plumage Black-necked Grebe in the rain with a Canada Goose soundtrack!



Tuesday, 4 May 2021

150 - Target Achieved

It's been a decade in the making but this evening I hit the magic 150 for the patch and joined an elite band of Wanstead patch workers who have also reached this local landmark number.

It wasn't quite the punch the air moment I had hoped and dreamt about but the none the less, after missing those Whimbrel just a couple of weekends ago it did feel good to finally get over the line. I had to bide my time all day as news broke this morning of a Black-necked Grebe on Alexandra Lake thanks to Mary (yes - that's Mary who also found the Iceland Gull) and had yet again put the rest of my fellow patch workers to shame, especially as she noticed the bird yesterday (admittedly she wasn't quite sure of the ID) when the majority of Wanstead's finest were swanning around the patch and probably walking right past the Grebe! I on the other hand was playing the doting father and good husband by swerving the patch and doing some family Bank holiday stuff (long walks and gardening) well...at least I have an excuse for not picking up the bird!

Anyway...enough of the jovial finger pointing, basically I'd played it cool all day at work (biting my lip and clock watching mainly) but as the hours and minutes ticked by and the news filtered through, throughout the day the Grebe was still in situ, I knew I had it comfortably in the bag - as Grebes always stick! The last Black-necked Grebe at Wanstead in 1981 (a mere 40 years ago) stayed 4 days on the Shoulder of Mutton Lake and the 2015 Slavonian Grebe stayed a whole 2 weeks on Heronry in Wanstead Park...so it was never in doubt!

I casually left work on time, picked-up my bins and camera from home, swerved some East-London traffic, waited patiently at a dozen sets of traffic lights, stopped to let an old lady cross at the pedestrian crossing, calmly parked in Alexandra Lake car park (free-parking for probably the last time) checked-out a few large Gulls on the lake, walked around to the southern edge and there was Sean, on hand to point me in the direction of the bird - all a bit too easy really! But WOW what a simply stunning bird in full breeding plumage, and even though I didn't realise my dream and find my own 150th bird on the patch it sure beats a couple of Whimbrel quickly flying through!

Patch listing, Wanstead
Black-necked Grebe

Patch Listing, Wanstead
The Magic 150!



Sunday, 2 May 2021

Perfect Day

I can thank Lou Reed for the blog title, but it wasn't quite the perfect day - As my 150th patch tick still alludes me! But in terms of sunrises on the patch (and I've seen a few in my time) this was as near perfect as you could imagine.

A light frost, not a breath of wind, a cloudless azore blue sky with a low hanging mist and a soft golden glow as the sun gently broke the horizon a few minutes before 6am. I think that kind off paints the picture of how serene it was on Wanstead Flats as I crossed the patch at first light on Saturday morning. For a short time it felt a world away from the sprawl and constant noise of urban north-east London.

In these photos I’ve tried to capture and give you an idea of how majestic that May Day sunrise was...but you really had to be there.

London Sunrise

London Sunrise

London Sunrise

London Sunrise