Monday, 28 January 2013

The most photographed bird in the UK...

...and I don't mean Katie Price or those Bearded Tits in Hyde park nor come to think of it that Slav Grebe in Dartford that is pretty darn popular!

Waxwings - surely they are most photographed bird in the UK?

Well, I'm happy - I finally have a few images of Waxwing which I'm pleased with, having seen Waxwings on numerous occasions throughout the winter I was still yet to nail a decent photograph, even on Saturday when I went to check out the small group which had been frequenting Chingford, I came away with my usual distant shots of birds perched on TV aerials! So I decided to give it another go this morning, especially as the weather forecast for the week looks wet and miserable, thus further reducing my chances of some decent images, and with spring virtually around the corner, these birds will soon start to disappear Northwards with no guarantee of another eruption next winter...oh yeah and not forgetting a certain Marathon to train for - my window of opportunity was definitely getting smaller!

I waited until the school run was over and headed back to Chingford, the street they had been seen on was by now nice and quiet, I parked up sensibly opposite the favoured Rose Hip bush and waited... I wasn't there long before the familiar notes of soft trilling could be heard and then twelve birds all landed together on a TV aerial (not more dodgy photos!) directly opposite the chosen bush, and then within a few minutes BINGO - the birds came down in sorties to feed on the overripe Rose Hips.

Due to the proximity of the bush the birds would often do a quick smash and grab feeding routine, quickly flying back up to the TV aerials once disturbed by a passerby or one of the residents leaving the house - how inconsiderate, couldn't you have waited for that milk and surely the Jeremy Kyle Show hasn't finished just yet ;-)

Photographs in the bag and youngest child to collect from nursery I was off, already thinking about my next target...mmm what was that postcode for Littlebrook Lake?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A mutation of 'Fieldfares'

With news of Mr Croft's amazing Hawthorn/Apple tree bearing fruit in terms of attracting winter Thrushes with even a flock of Waxwings briefly stopping to see what all the fuss was about - I ditched my planned run this morning (the footpaths were far too icy was my excuse) and headed over to Wanstead Flats to take a look at this new mock orchard for myself.

As I crashed through the snow covered SSSI area in wellies, stomping through the undergrowth in hope of flushing a Woodcock or even a Jack Snipe, I could hear a familiar harsh chattering sound overhead as a large number of Fieldfares circled the area and landed in a clearing on the ground - it shows how often I've been to the Flats this year as these birds were the first I'd seen here (pathetic patch tick number 55).

Despite my best stalking efforts they were far too flighty to get close to on the ground, but as a flock they were hugely impressive, especially when flushed by the predictable dog walker up into a tree, with over sixty birds all grouped together.

I did eventually get to see the mock orchard but with only two Fieldfares enjoying the apples, I was, as you might expect a little disappointed - unless of course the big single flock from the SSSI can find their way there!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Four Sawbills and a Muntjac

With my fourteen week London marathon training plan now in full swing and less than a hundred days until the big day (gulp!) I have a commitment to run four times a week (if the old pins can take it!), so the opportunity to go birding has diminished somewhat but I always knew this would be the sacrifice I ultimately had to make, especially if I am to achieve my goal of completing the course. However, I still managed to get out on Saturday morning as I also have another commitment to meet with the BTO and their monthly WeBS count. Gunpowder Park in the Lee Valley was my first stop and arriving at first light, I was greeted out of the gloom by a timid Muntjac Deer circling the fringes of the small woodland lake, but as soon as he got a sniff of me he was off and disappeared back into the woods.

The site at Gunpowder Park doesn't herald very much in terms of species and numbers of Wildfowl other than the usual dabbling ducks with Teal being the most numerous through the winter months, so I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up four Goosander on the River Lee. These birds were quite edgy and each time I moved closer with the camera they happily moved further along the river! Therefore I only managed a couple of distant record shots for my efforts. Technically the River Lee is not part of my WeBS count area, so unfortunately these birds don't count as part of my monthly survey.

With an easterly cold front approaching and winter finally arriving (hooray) well, that's according to our expert meteorologists, the UK is in for a much overdue cold snap which could possibly last for over a week - and not before time. I think we are all bored of this wet and mild tropical weather - give me a good old fashioned British winter, I want to see snow blizzards, icicles, sub-zero temperatures, a biting wind, frozen fingers and toes, dead batteries and kids with matching scarfs and bobble hats, all rosy cheeked with runny noses - bring it on! This icy blast will hopefully encourage many more of these Sawbills and their closely related cousins onto our inland rivers and lakes, providing better photographic opportunities and maybe a bonus point or two for many a patch-worker in the near future.

Finding myself with a couple hours spare in the afternoon (thanks to a kids party) I headed in the direction of Wanstead Park in search of much needed patch year ticks but disappointingly only managed to add Little Grebe and Wigeon (thanks to JL) so the list currently stands at a derisory 53 - oh well, at least I have a reasonable excuse - I'm busy until the 21st April!