Friday, 23 January 2015

Winter Wheatears!

I decided it was about time I got myself over to Wallasea Island for a few hours before the end of Winter. The idea was to indulge in some quality raptor action, but this never quite materialised. Despite seeing two wonderful ring-tailed Hen Harriers adjacent to the car park, I failed to see any Short-eared Owls or the Rough-legged Buzzard which has been knocking around for quite a while now.

There were large flocks of Corn Buntings and Linnets in the fields, and Lapwings and Brent Geese constantly streamed overhead but it was the Stonechats which ultimately caught my eye. A volatile little bird which thrives in milder winters but always lives with the possibility that one harsh cold snap could massively deplete their numbers, so it's good to see them doing so well at this time - I counted six birds along one ditch and I know these numbers are replicated in pockets around other sites along the east coast. With their inquisitive nature and tolerant ways, it's no wonder Stonechats are a firm favourite with anyone who owns a camera, which got me thinking - surely they're winters answer to the summer Wheatear?

Wallasea Island, RSPB
Are you looking at me?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Have a Goosander, have two!

With news of a pair of Goosander enjoying the delights of Connaught Water alongside the usual collection of fence hoppers, I stopped by early morning to have a quick look. The beauty of Connaught Water is you have a car park directly opposite the lake and a circular trail you can cover in fifteen minutes, and that's as much time as I needed to get cracking views of both male and female sawbills.

I've seen Goosander at Connaught Water in previous Winters, but typically these has just been single birds in the middle of the lake, but the two today must have swapped notes with that Slavonian Grebe down the road at Wanstead, as yet another species of winter wildfowl delivers terrific views - Let's hope 2015 continues in this vain, as a local Great northern Diver would go down a treat!

Male, Connaught Water, Epping Forest

Female, Connaught Water, Epping Forest

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The search continues...

Keen (well, we are into the second week of Jan - I'm sure this will fade) to add a few more ticks to this years patch-list, I arrived on the Flats in semi-darkness. First stop was the boggy bit of the SSSI in hope of beating any dog-walkers and flushing last years ever present Common Snipe, but unfortunately the mild weather has moved this bird on - I'm sure it will be back once Winter returns again.

The first tick of the day was a Great black-backed Gull flying high over the flats, this was soon followed by a second tick in the shape of a female Bullfinch with three Lesser Redpoll feeding in the Birch trees near Motorcycle Wood. After a couple of hours traipsing through the brooms and sifting through the Gulls on the football pitches, the GBB Gull and Bullfinch was as good as it got, so I headed to the Park to check on the celebrity Grebe - yep still showing extremely well!

Wanstead, Winter Plumage, London
Winter plumage Slavonian Grebe, Wanstead Park
I checked a couple of favoured spots for Water Rail in the park without any luck and also looked for Siskin in the Dell but drew another blank, as time ticked on and the park started to fill with the usual weekend ensemble, I headed back to the Flats where I finally found a long overdue tick, a small party of Skylark were in the short grass on the fairground - so just the three new birds added to this years 2015 Patch List making that a not to shabby 62 species to date.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

More Slav-tastic Grebe

With a couple hours spare and today's rain finally relenting I headed to Wanstead Park for another look at the showy Slavonian Grebe. I soon found it hugging the perimeter of the lake, where it seemed very content and was regularly diving and catching what looked like sticklebacks. The bird has now been on site for five days and unless we have a sudden cold-snap and the lake was to freeze over I can't see this bird moving off anytime soon.

When I originally photographed the bird last Saturday the weather conditions and light were poor, so it was good to go back and capture the bird again in more favourable conditions.

Winter Plumage, Wanstead, London

Winter Plumage, Wanstead, London

Winter Plumage, Wanstead, London

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Slavonian Grebe, Wanstead Park

There's know better way to start the new year than with a a big fat patch tick, and today this was in the form of stunning winter plumage Slavonian Grebe. This potential 1st (TBC) for Wanstead was found by the man for all weathers Mr Croft on Heronry Lake in Wanstead Park.

After dropping everything at home (I was cleaning out the smelly U-bend of a dishwasher outflow pipe at the time) and dashing to the park, I arrived to find the Slavonian Grebe on view but on the opposite side of the lake, but after a short time and aided by the local Black-headed Gulls who kept on pestering it, the bird slowly crossed the lake and came a lot closer giving exceptional views to most of the Wanstead regulars, and despite the rain and the gloomy conditions the photos have come out OK.

I also added Kingfisher and Wigeon to the this years patch list which brings me up to the heady heights of 54 - today was local patch birding at its very best.

Winter Plumage

Winter Plumage

Winter Plumage

Winter Plumage

Winter Plumage

Winter Plumage

Winter Plumage

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 Patch List, so it begins...

I unsurprisingly failed to get passed the front door on the 1st of the year - usual excuses, late night, alcohol consumption, family commitments etc, so the 2nd of January would be my official start for the Wanstead patch list. A full mornings romp around the Flats, Park and Bush Wood returned a solid, if unremarkable 51 species in total. There were very few highlights and list was more noteworthy for its glaring omissions than anything else. Missing from the list was Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Redwing and Snipe and also following the same pattern as last year Collared Dove!

The full list can be seen here... Wanstead 2015

I've set my self a little target of 100 species this year - and this should be easily within reach, but as the previous two years have shown I've tantalisingly fallen short of my century on both occasions - could this be the year I break through the mythical one hundred barrier?