Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wheatear and more on Rainham's Ferry Lane

At last...a summer migrant, and a what a bird to start with!

Birds, Birding, Rainham, RSPB, Photography

I've virtually given up waiting for this year's Wanstead Wheatears to show up, having trudged up and down the Flats on several occasions in that bitterly cold north-easterly wind in the hope of seeing a white-rump dancing between the gorse bushes without any luck! So, encouraged by the recent photographs on the blogs of Paul Hawkins and Shaun Harvey I decided to take the quick option and skip down the A13 and the magical bird enticing qualities of Rainham's Ferry Lane to pick up an easy Northern Wheatear, and within minutes...bullseye, my first of the year!

Birds, Birding, Rainham, RSPB, Photography


Birds, Birding, Rainham, RSPB, Photography

After lapping up the delights of the male Northern Wheatear, it wasn't difficult to pick up the other 
stars of Ferry Lane 'the Black Redstarts', both male and female birds were giving obliging views feeding on the marine invertebrates along the foreshore, with Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail and female Stonechat all in company - come to think of it, the only thing missing on the back of these spring easterly winds was probably a BLUETHROAT - I'm sure there's one skulking in a reed ditch somewhere on Rainham Marsh!

Birds, Birding, Rainham, RSPB

Birds, Birding, Rainham, RSPB







Saturday, 23 March 2013

A Snowy Grebe

At last a summer migrant has finally arrived on Wanstead Flats - it's just a shame that I didn't get to see it!

Fresh from his travels in Morocco, where judging by his recent set of images Mr Lethbridge had been dining on numerous types of Wheatear for breakfast, lunch and dinner he only goes and pulls out a somewhat overdue Northern Wheatear from under his hat - actually given today's weather conditions it's still probably under his hat!

Despite searching most of the Flats in an all-enveloping Arctic snow blizzard I couldn't find it - c'est la vie, there will be others - but your first bird of the spring (spring! - now there's a joke) is always a little bit special but with a pre-marathon twenty mile run planned in the morning, there's no chance of me returning tomorrow to look for it - my wait continues...

The only minor consolation was a Great Crested Grebe on Alexandra lake, not exactly the most uncommon of birds but a bit of a rarity for the Flats.


Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Stonechat 1 - 0 Wheatear

Still not a sniff of a summer migrant on Wanstead Flats - no flyby Sand Martin, singing Chiffchaff or even the merest flash of a white rump - which I'm told you can usually set your calendar by!

I'd be lying if I said my target bird this morning wasn't Wheatear, with birds peppering the south coast and more local ones seen around the Walthamstow Reservoirs and Rainham Marsh, there just had to one on the Flats hiding somewhere...but alas nothing! Still the morning wasn't without reward with a fine female Stonechat appearing out of the early morning gloom and then four flyover Lapwings, followed by a single Woodlark almost following the line of the Lapwings and straight over the Flats - there may well have been no summer migrants, but I couldn't grumble with the quality that was on offer.

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography



Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pipits and Larks

That's right, a couple of our all important ground nesting birds - a bit of a conservation message coming!

I'm fortunate enough to live only a short drive away from the urban oasis (maybe that should read jungle) that is Wanstead Flats - not your typical grassland countryside habitat that you would normally expect to find and hear singing Skylark and Meadow Pipit but a small green piece of north-east London with a tiny but significant breeding population of these two birds - god only knows how they manage it, but somehow against all the odds they do!

Anyone who has ever visited the Flats will know how disturbed this area can be, surrounded on four corners by an ever growing population of London which is gasping for air and space, the Flats can be a real magnet for all manor of people and their activities; footballers, light aircraft enthusiasts, joggers, dog-walkers, religious worshippers, more than a few oddballs (I'm not referring to the local birders) and not forgetting one or two other past times which are probably best not mentioned!

So with an ever decreasing breeding population of ground nesting birds on the Flats, I can only applaud the efforts of the local birdwatching fraternity, who are endeavouring to keep alive this fragile breeding existence by placing signs around the grassland areas, in a vain hope that someone will firstly stop and read the signs and secondly actually avoid the areas and stick to the well trodden paths - we can but hope the signs will be a success and the unmistakable sound of the Skylark will be heard above Wanstead Flats this summer, the next and for many more years to come!

SOS - Save Our Skylarks

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation
Meadow Pipit

Birds, Birding, Photography, Conservation
Skylark




Tuesday, 12 March 2013

London Marathon update

With little to write about regarding our avian friends - as I'm yet to see a spring migrant. I thought I would turn to my efforts in training for the London Marathon. With less than six weeks until the big race I'm feeling lean and fit, having lost a stone in weight thanks to the little bit of running I do, an improved diet and abstaining from the booze - well almost! I'm a little bit nervous but itching to make that starting line, although it hasn't all been plain sailing - I almost had to hang up my trainers!


Running, trainers
Honestly, that photo hasn't really been staged ;-)

Until two weeks ago I was still struggling with a calf strain which took an age to clear up - three weeks in fact, not a disaster but a big chunk of training I had to miss! In those three weeks, I invested in a pair of compression calf-guards, attended two physio sessions and had three sports massages (all not without some considerable pain to myself and my pocket) in a desperate bid to clear up the injury. I hope this shows my determination to succeed - at one stage after testing the calf again with a short run, I had to stop within twenty minutes and walk home due to the pain and worry of tearing the muscle, which would have ultimately ended my chances of running - a particular low point when I thought my marathon plans were virtually over! But thankfully after a combination of factors - rest, physio, massage, stretching exercises, swimming pool sessions, and a little bit of soul searching and encouragement - I'm back, fit, a little bit lighter in the pocket but focused on April 21st.

In the two weeks following the injury I've completed the Roding Valley half-marathon (probably a bit too soon after injury) and finished in a respectable 1 hour 56 minutes - especially pleasing as I said to myself that if I had not made it to the finish line that day, I would have pulled out of the London Marathon. The following weekend I ran my longest distance to date, a cold and tough 15 miles on the roads through Epping Forest, all injury free with just a few stiff and aching joints the following day.

The next couple of weeks are crucial and will be equally as tough with an 18 mile run planned this Sunday and 20 miles the following Sunday both vitally important in terms of fitness and race preparation. Then hopefully things should start to get a little easier as I enter the last couple of weeks and the tapering stage of my training with the hard road miles behind me, I will start to reduce the amount of miles I run each week until the big day...I can't wait - I must be mad!

I'm still some way off my target of raising £1400 for the Family Holiday Association a great charity who do some amazing work with less fortunate children and their families, so if you could make a donation through my fundraising page click here please! I and the charity will be ever so grateful.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

'WARNING' Waxwings and close up!

I tried to ignore the messages from Mr Croft but they kept on coming and the temptation became stronger and stronger until finally I broke! The lure of that sweet trilling was just too much...more Waxwings were on the horizon - well Forest Gate! And all but a mere stones throw away, therefore with a decent bit of afternoon light I succumbed to their call for probably the last time this winter...so with these final words I wish you well and thank you for brightening the dark British winter once again with your colourful presence, may your long journey north be safe and your breeding season be plentiful - until the next time we meet "farvel og lykke".

Enough of this hogwash and drivel - have a few photos!

Birds, Birding, Photography


Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography



Friday, 1 March 2013

Birding at dusk

A brief afternoon visit to the Stone Barges at Rainham turned out to be a rather special couple of hours birding! The plan was to catch up with the Black Redstarts which have been frequenting the tide line close to the river wall. I met Shaun Harvey who also had the same idea and it wasn't long before we found a female bird, along with a Common Sandpiper and two each of Grey Wagtail and Water Pipit all pushed close to the river wall by the rising tide. The impressive male Black Redstart was later found feeding amongst the tidal rubbish on the river side of the wall with Dominic Mitchell showing impeccable timing and showing up at the perfect moment.

Birds, Birding, Photography

Birds, Birding, Photography

A quick couple of photographs and everything was going as planned when Shaun suggested taking a look at the old silt lagoons on the West side of Rainham marsh, where he had recently seen and photographed Barn Owl and that's when the fun really started...

It wasn't long before we picked out our first Short-eared Owl being harassed by the usual Carrion Crow and then as luck would have it a striking male Hen Harrier appeared from nowhere but sadly disappeared all to quickly from view - a rare glimpse of one of our most endangered raptors. A Woodcock flew up from the ground ahead before a second Short-eared Owl appeared and then, not one but two Marsh Harriers joined the show, before finally a third Short-eared Owl finished a quite remarkable hours birding at dusk in urban East London - with the light quickly fading it was time to call it a day, but I will definitely be back as I never did catch up with that Barn Owl!

Birds, Birding, Photography