Saturday, 29 September 2018

Surprise Yellow-browed Warbler!

Another Saturday morning and I'm back on the patch, it's cold and clear and the sun has yet to rise but I can hear a Yellow Wagtail calling high above Alexandra lake, and there are a couple of contact calling Chiffchaff and then another bird singing from the island. There's a low mist hanging over the Flats but this quickly burns away as the sun begins to rise above the horizon. It's soon evident the Meadow Pipit passage of last weekend has now dried up with just a few single birds milling around the grassland as I walk the ditch towards centre copse.

The Brooms are fairly quiet with just a single Reed Bunting and a couple of Skylarks. I make my way along the 'Enclosure' (east end of Long Wood) and two more Chiffchaff are chasing insects and each other. As I reach the gap in Long Wood yet more Chiffy's are flitting around and then I notice a smaller bird jump the gap between two trees - Raising my bins and this big broad supercillium and a pair of wing-bars fill my field of view - YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER!

After watching the bird for what must have been just a few seconds (as it quickly worked it's way through an Oak tree) I grab my camera to try and get a couple of shots but the bird is moving just to quickly through the branches and is mostly obscured. I knew James was also out on the patch so I quickly call him and luckily he's in the Brick Pit area and is standing alongside me in a matter of minutes - but the bird is no where to be seen. Having messaged out the news, Jono is also quickly on the scene but the bird is not playing ball and isn't even calling which is making the job of finding it again even harder.

For the next hour or so the three of us circumnavigate Long Wood and the trees/scrub in the Brick Pit area, Chiffchaffs are everywhere with maybe twenty or more birds in a fairly small area but that wonderful little sprite is sadly no where to be found - This was my third Yellow-browed Warbler on Wanstead Flats but the first I've self-found making it just that extra bit special.

As we're currently stuck in this westerly airflow the numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers arriving into the UK has been low compared with previous years at this time, so it feels like even more of a bonus to pick one up on Wanstead Flats whilst the likes of Shetland and those other typical east coast haunts struggle to record any.

As autumns on the patch go it's been fairly quiet with many of our regular passage migrants not appearing in the numbers you would have hoped for, but with Red-backed Shrike and now Yellow-browed Warbler on the Year List maybe this year it's all about the quality and not the quantity.

Sadly not today's bird but one of my stock photos from Shetland - Oct 2014.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Shrike Two

I went back to the patch this evening for a second bite at the Red-backed Shrike and I'm glad to say that it showed really well (It's amazing what you can achieve when you don't have two children to entertain). I also managed to add Pied Flycatcher to the year list (that's number 100 up) with one possibly two birds amongst three or four Spotted Flycatchers in Centre Copse - It's never easy to confirm accurate counts when the birds are flitting high up in the canopy, and with up to Seven Whinchats scattered across the Flats and a report of a Tree Pipit, the patch is finally starting to deliver the goods this autumn.

Juvenile, Wanstead, London

Juvenile, Wanstead, London

Juvenile, London, Wanstead

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Red-backed Shrike on Wanstead Flats

As photos of Red-backed Shrike go...I think these are amongst the poorest I've ever posted, but who cares as these photos are of a Red-backed Shrike on the patch!

Year after year, the Wanstead crew try and predict what birds might show-up on the patch and without fail Red-backed Shrike is always at the top of that list, so finally today and after a wait of 38 years (the last one recorded was in the Old Sewage Works in 1980) a bird did the decent thing and showed up! Well done to Nick Croft for finding this cracking juvenile in the Pub Scrub (just east of Alexandra Lake).

I would've loved to of stayed longer for more views of the bird (as it was being a little elusive at times) but with two kids in tow it's only so long you can occupy them with a football - and as I couldn't persuade Tim or Bob to go in goal for a bit I had to reluctantly leave...still, it certainly feels good to add another Shrike to the patch list.

Juvenile, London, Wanstead

Juvenile, London, Wanstead

Juvenile, Wanstead, London

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Yellow-legged Gull Saves the Day

The patch failed to live up to expectations this morning, with just four flyover Yellow Wagtails being the only passage migrant movement of any note, the rest of the Flats appeared eerily quiet! Only time will tell if the extensive grass fire damage will have any impact this autumn on our expected passage migrants, but the early signs don't appear to be very good with pockets of Blackberry and Elderberry largely decimated by the fire and the expected Sylvia Warblers which feed on these berries being few and far between. It's only mid-August so hopefully I'm wrong and we'll be tripping over migrants in the coming weeks.

The only other bird of note was a Yellow-legged Gull. This has been knocking around Alexandra Lake since last weekend and was a welcome year tick (97). The bird appears to be in heavy moult with several secondaries missing, which might explain why it's stuck around for a while.

Gulls, Larids, London

Gulls, Larids, London