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) 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 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



Friday, 30 April 2021

Patch Milestone within Striking Distance

2021 is officially my 10th year birding the patch at Wanstead. Unofficially I did visit Wanstead in 2010 and dipped a Wryneck! Well I say dipped, I just stumbled around not knowing where I was going and couldn't find the area the bird had been seen and soon left, mightily unimpressed with the lack of decent habitat - This was coming from someone who had been schooled on the Thameside marshes along the Essex coast. A couple of visits that Winter and the discovery of a Goosander on Perch lake in Wanstead Park and I'd seen the potential of the area and was hooked, aided by the enthusiasm of Jono, Tim, Bob & Nick I adopted Wanstead as my new patch and the rest as they say is history.

A decade later and my patch list sits on a heady 149. That's not bad for someone who can't actually roll out of bed and be on the patch in 2 minutes, I have to make a short drive (or the occasional cycle) and most of my visits have been weekends due in part to work and family commitments, but none the less it's been a big commitment with lots of effort, often forgoing other opportunities to go birding or even twitching elsewhere for the good of the patch. Sometimes I've questioned my sanity when I've woken up at stupid a clock on a Saturday morning (often after several Friday night beers) and trudged around the patch and seen very little, but that's patch birding - there are plenty of lows but it's the occasional highs and those special days when you run into a Great Grey ShrikeWryneck or Yellow-browed Warbler which keeps you coming back for more.

Last weekend I managed to dip Whimbrel (not once but twice) on the patch, this would've have taken me to the magical 150 but the birding gods weren't on my side and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time as a total of 4 birds flew through Wanstead Flats. There's not a lot you can do about it, other than shrug it off and move on. As much as I want to hit 150 as soon as possible the old romantic in me would like to find my own 150th bird on the patch, so as another weekend approaches I'll be setting the bar high again and will be on the look out for maybe a Wood Sandpiper, Bar-tailed GodwitLittle Gull, Arctic Tern, Turtle DoveHoopoe, Black Kite, White Stork...I could go on and on with the possibilities, but to be honest if there's a singing Quail I'll happily take that!

Patch Listing
My patch list of 149 - What will be number 150?