Sunday, 28 February 2016

On the trail of the Rail

We all know how difficult it can be to see a Water Rail (or maybe not, as I keep on seeing some excellent photos online) but each year I struggle to catch up with the birds that frequent a couple of areas in Wanstead Park throughout the winter, so to see three different birds in one morning was a bit of a bonus - especially as all my previous attempts to add Water Rail to the year list had failed.

The shaded south-east corner of Shoulder of Mutton lake is one favoured haunt and sure enough a bird was navigating through the tangled undergrowth, before seeing me and quickly disappearing. On the same lake and closest to the main path a second bird was briefly seen along the edge of the main clump of Bulrushes, and then later in the morning I found a third bird on the bank of the river Roding opposite the golf course - sorry did I say Water Rails were difficult to see!

Wanstead Park, Shoulder of Mutton Lake
A photo of a Water Rail as you might expect to see one and not like those excellent photos online!
Also of note was a personal record count of 26 Teal on Heronry Lake and with a single bird also seen on the river Roding, a total of 27 Teal for the park is the highest recorded this winter. I also counted 6 Skylarks on Wanstead Flats which gives us a little bit of hope for the future and the survival of one of London's last remaining breeding sites.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Rock Pipit - Littoralis

I gave the patch a miss today and instead headed to Rainham Marshes. I soon picked up a Short-eared Owl being predictably mobbed by a Crow and then had a big female Peregrine fly across the Serin Mound, there were also a couple of Stonechats along the fence line. I then moved on to the Stone Barges in search of a few Gulls, but since the tipping has been reduced on the landfill site Gull numbers were very low and I had to be content with just another pair of Stonechat foraging along the foreshore. I bumped into Dave Darrell-Lambert who was due to take a Gull I.D.workshop on behalf of the RSPB reserve and he had mentioned seeing Water Pipit recently in the area, I then continued along the seawall towards Ferry Lane, when reaching the end I flushed a Grey Wagtail and then a Pipit from the rubbish strewn tide line - the Pipit called and it instantly sounded like the squeak of a Water/Rock Pipit.

The bird continued to feed amongst the rocks and rubbish on the foreshore and after obtaining some good views I discounted Water Pipit due to the lack of prominent white wing bars in flight, reduced supercillium behind the eye and outer tail feathers being subdued in colour, this bird was also much more colder in tone with yellowish underparts and not the brighter white you might expect to see on Water Pipit. It also had a greyish wash around the head and mantle area which indicated that this was a Rock Pipit of the Scandinavian race Littoralis.

Below are few photographs of the bird in question, as always comments welcome.

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race

Littoralis, Scandinavian, Race