Monday, 28 April 2014

The two L's of birding?

Remember the days when this Blog was crammed full of interesting topics about birds, with one or two half-decent images thrown in to boot - how quickly things change! I've now resorted to posting photographs of London's most numerous rodent in a vain attempt to throw-up some interest in this rapidly declining Blog - so what has changed?

Basically the two L's - Lifestyle and Luck.

Having spent the best part of last year unemployed, I had acres of spare-time to pursue my favourite past-time, of course this was squeezed in between the odd school-run and a few domestic duties, oh and job-hunting! But now fully employed with a young family to entertain, my free time is now at a huge premium, I'm lucky if I get the odd morning at the weekend to enjoy the wider-world outside, and because this is such a small window of opportunity my fortunes in seeing, let alone photographing something of interest percentage wise is rather small - am I complaining? No - I wouldn't change a thing but I wouldn't mind a little bit of the old luck! I estimate birding is made up of 60% luck, 20% aptitude and another 20% knowledge, so whether you stumble across a Wryneck on your local patch, see an Osprey drift over your house or even find a yank Warbler feeding on your bird table, it's all mostly right place, right time - you can increase your percentages by being in the right place, at the right time, on the back of reading a decent weather forecast or by constantly just being in the field (which I'm not) but still, I believe birding is mostly made up of luck, and if she's not currently smiling down on you, it can be a tough and lonely place (ok, tough and lonely is bit over the top, but you get my drift).

What I'm trying to elude is this, I'm still going through a lean-time on the birding front and spending what little free-time I do have wondering around Wanstead Flats in the hope of seeing a Shelduck flyover (still missing from this year patch-list, despite numerous sightings by others) has become all rather frustrating, when at the same time I could be on the coast tripping over migrants, experiencing flocks of waders, or witnessing large moments of Terns and Skuas, or anyone of numerous other birding scenarios - so it's time for a little change of scenery. 

My next foray won't be chasing yet another uninspiring patch year tick, but to some remote coastal peninsula, hopefully surrounded with birds and a CF card full of crisp images - but the way my lucks been going, the guys will pull a huge mega out of the bag and my next birding window will be spent back on the Flats trying to bloody relocate it!


Common around the Alexandra Lake area and a lot easier to photograph than those darn flighty Lesser Whitethroats!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Plugging away

Having recently missed out on quality patch birds in the form of OspreyRing Ouzel and Common Redstart I had high hopes for the long Easter bank holiday weekend, but unfortunately the weekend failed to live up to expectations.

With two early morning visits to Wanstead Flats squeezed in between family commitments I only added Common Whitethroat, House Martin and Yellow Wagtail to the patch year-list totals. Given the time of year you would hope the birding-gods might be smiling down on you, delivering a small patch gift of gold in the form of a CuckooTurtle Dove or even a just a Whinchat - something to lift the spirits and justify getting up and out early from that lovely warm bed!

Oh well, we all know how quickly things can change - but sometimes you need to find or see something a little out of the ordinary to give you that spur and resilience required in continuing to bash a local-patch without reward.

Female, Wanstead, London

Friday, 11 April 2014

Epping Forest

Epping Forest is virtually on my doorstep but apart from the odd weekend family amble through the woods and brief winter visit in search of ducks at Connaught Water I rarely pay it a visit! But given its size, and the maturity of its ancient woodland, apart from your typical woodland bird species it must also herald many other passage migrants which go vastly undetected. With this in mind, I did a brief circuit around Connaught Water, through the forest and along Chingford Plain, typical early returning summer migrants were plentiful with singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in good numbers but what I was aiming for was something a little more rewarding in the form of a Common Redstart, Pied Flycatcher or Tree Pipit - I guess my timings were probably a week out, or with the amount of cover and trees in full-leaf they can just easily avoid detection!

At least this showy Nuthatch performed well for the camera, I can only imagine I was stood in its territory or near a potential nest hole as it was very vocal, calling and flying with-in just a few metres.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Patch year ticks

On an overcast and damp morning (potentially great for grounding summer-migrants) the highlight was looking like Jono berating an ignorant dog-walker for traipsing through prime Skylark breeding territory! But somehow I managed to trump that by adding five - yes five Wanstead year ticks, making my current patch total this year a wee-bit more respectable.

 Year List

First up was a solitary calling Willow Warbler in Long Wood, followed by my patch nemesis and the long, long-overdue Collared Dove (I still think the current Wanstead Bird Report is a little out of touch calling these locally common breeders*). I then added a Peregrine Falcon which swiftly crossed the Flats heading towards Forest Gate, before saying au revoir and parting company with my fellow soggy Wanstead birders as I headed to Alexandra Lake for one final sortie before slopping off home for breakfast. Here, a flyover Little Egret lifted the gloom somewhat before finally seeing the patch's first returning Swallows of the year - as a pair quickly zipped past me and out of view, which had me almost skipping back to the car!

It may not have been the migrant-full morning I had wished for and the weather had almost promised, but you see nought by laying in your warm and cosy bed on a Sunday morning.

Coot, not American Coot
Coot - Not America! Just the Eurasion version

*I jest