Thursday, 28 April 2016

Mixed Singing - Willow Chiff

At the weekend I managed to get a couple of half-decent photos of the Mixed Singing Phyllo which has been belting out its combination of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff song in Motorcycle Wood on the Flats recently.

Mixed singers are not a new phenomenom and in the last decade have become more and more frequent. It is widely thought that mixed singers are not the result of hybridisation but more of an anomaly in the song learning process with birds mimicking each others song where breeding populations overlap. This individual would seem to be a Willow Warbler based on the primary projection and its song, which is mainly Willow Warbler with the odd Chiffchaff notes being intermittently and randomly added, although the overall plumage is generally duller in tone, and with its dark coloured legs would suggest Chiffchaff when seen in the field.

Mixed Singer, Collybita,

Mixed Singer, Collybita

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Patch Gold (Well almost, Flava)

April 23rd? More like February 23rd. The thermometer on the car hovered just above zero as I stepped onto the Flats at 6.30am - wishing I'd remembered my gloves, I wiped my running nose onto my sleeve! Clear blue skies and a cold northerly wind greeted me as I followed my usual Saturday morning route around the patch.

A Wheatear was soon flushed from the brooms and headed high and north - it had clearly got better places to go than hang about on a busy piece of green East London and be disturbed all day. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling, just about lower enough to make out a bit of colour - a typical spring record, rarely do they ever stop and land. I finally added House Martin to the patch year list and a Reed Warbler was nice bonus feeding along the edge of Alexandra Lake, and has saved me a summer trip to the Park and the Shoulder of Mutton Lake to year tick the pair which now annually nest in the reeds.

By mid-morning the sun had finally began to raise the temperature as I heard the call of another Yellow Wagtail going over - this bird seemed a bit closer, I then picked it up flying low over the grassland south of Alexandra Lake, following the birds movement it only goes and lands! A Yellow Wagtail actually landing on the Flats is not to be sniffed at, I can only remember one other occasion when I've seen a bird on the deck, all my previous records are just flyover passage birds.

It's been a slow spring and hard work on the patch of late, so seeing this bird certainly helps to keep those patch embers burning.

Flava, Wagtail, Spring, Wanstead

Slightly overshadowed by Mr Flava Wagtail, the Reed Warbler on Alexandra Lake showed well in the bushes which overhang the water, and helped to move along the Patch List to number 82.

Acro, Warbler, spring, Wanstead

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The wait is over...

I finally connected with a Wheatear today on the Flats (April 10th). As the harbinger of spring for most birders this was late - on average about 2 weeks late! But this just goes to show how poor the passage of Northern Wheatears through Wanstead has been - this was our first male, and just our second bird this spring (with a female hanging around for three days from the 30th March). Whilst most London sites have enjoyed good numbers, us patch birders of Wanstead have had to endure the torment of sightings and photographs from across the region - We can only hope for a second wave of birds in the next week or two to make up for this dismal start.

On Saturday I also caught up with the male Common Redstart which has taken up a temporary residency in the SSSI area, and later I added a second bird, a female east of Long Wood on a day which produced up to seven birds across the Flats/Park for the Wanstead Birders, an excellent early spring number and puts to shame our Wheatear spring totals - Patch birding remains a lottery and still continues to surprise and frustrate in equal measures..

Male, Wanstead, London

Male, London, Wanstead