Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bread-crusted Pochard

Who said February was a dire month for birds?

Following Saturdays patch year tick of Med Gull I've only gone and quickly added another to the list...Red-crested Pochard! Ok, Its origins are a bit questionable...but I see it's quickly appeared on Jono's list - so that's good enough for me. In the short time I had watching the bird it showed very little interest in the white-sliced loaf being chucked in its direction by a family feeding the ducks on the pond, although when a well dressed gentleman turned up with a Warburtons seeded batch the bird soon perked up - clearly this bird is from one of our Royal Parks in west London!

Duck, Wildfowl, Female
Bread-crusted Pochard...Ha..Ha..Ha

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Desolation of Patch

The easy option would have been to stay in bed, the weather forecast wasn't encouraging (overcast and breezy) and with it still being February, there was very little to be enthusiastic about on the patch, but the overriding urge to get up and have a look took over and I was soon on the windswept Flats in the near dark - but this decision was quickly justified, as the bright white-wings of an adult Mediterranean Gull were easily picked out in the gloom amongst the throng of Common Gulls on Alexandra Lake.

With the loss of Valentino (our deceased annual Med Gull) catching up with another Med Gull on the patch has been made a little bit more difficult, and although one or two birds are seen annually it was a bonus to get one early in the year and certainly brightened up what has been a difficult few weeks on the patch - and this isn't just a reference to the lack of birds.

Adult, Wanstead

Adult, Wanstead

Adult, Wanstead

The decision by the City of London Corporation to remove large swathes of Broom and native hedgerow in the last couple of weeks in an attempt to return the Flats back to how it looked twenty five years ago has shocked all of us who have an active wildlife interest in the Flats - each weekend visit has been greeted with apprehension as another area is targeted. This week, it was the area known within the birding fraternity as 'The Pub Scrub' (with reference to the Golden Fleece Pub), sadly the word 'Scrub' will have to be removed as a point of reference going forward as there is now no scrub!

What's left of the Pub Scrub!
I fully understand the need and the requirement for habitat management but the scale of the removal of suitable nesting sites for our struggling native song birds and breeding summer migrants has made the slow birding start to 2017 on the patch even more difficult to stomach. Only time will tell if these large scale changes will impact Wanstead's breeding bird population but in the short term it has left ugly scars on the landscape and a bad taste in the mouths of all of those people who enjoy Wanstead Flats for its fauna and flora.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Aldeburgh, Long-tailed Ducks

As family days out go, not much beats a drive to the Suffolk coast to Aldeburgh during February half-term - especially with the promise of eating fish & chips on the sea wall, whilst the kids throw pebbles in the sea and chase the resident Herring Gulls - but I wasn't expecting to see a couple of Long-tailed Ducks on the River Alde!

Blessed with some welcome winter sunshine we parked-up and followed the sea wall south towards Orford Ness and as I scanned the river Alde I picked up a smart pair of Long-tailed Ducks being pushed along with the rising tide close to the river bank. Buy all accounts it has been an excellent winter for these birds off the East Anglian coast with up to 300 birds being reported at Holme/Titchwell alone, but it was a real bonus to see a pair of these skittish sea ducks up close and on the river. The birds soon moved out to the middle of the channel and I lost sight of them on the bend as they continued to dive and head in the direction of the mouth of the river and towards the sea.

Also of note along the river Alde were 52 Curlew and 3 or 4 Rock Pipits around the area of the Martello Tower but another big bonus was seeing a flock of 20 Barnacle Geese heading north and flying low over the sea. As non-birding winter family days out go, this was right up there with the best of them - but how fortunate was it that I had my bins and camera close to hand!

Suffolk, Winter

Suffolk, Winter

Suffolk, Winter

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Cocksure Pheasant

In regards to working the patch It's been a very slow start to the year with nothing of note throughout January, and I was starting to wish away February so I could hit March with a spring in my step as thoughts of early spring migrants helped raise the spirits, but February wasn't going down without a fight and only goes and delivers a rather fine patch tick in the form of a Pheasant - in these parts Pheasants are not to be mocked as these birds are rare - with only five records in the last decade!

The bird had been reported hanging around the new horse paddock in the the Old Sewage Works and was duly confirmed and ticked by those who are able to bird the patch during the week, but for us weekend birding warriors it was Saturday morning until I had my first attempt at adding this bird to the patch list. Unlike a certain Cetti's Warbler which played hardball last spring in the same area, the Pheasant did the decent thing and was parading around the horse paddock as soon as I turned up shortly after first light. A dog walker soon had the bird running for cover and into the 'big hedge' but within minutes it had popped out again and happily stood on the paddock perimeter fence - looking quite at home, as if the bird had always been apart of this manor.

The strange thing was, once you've seen a Pheasant on the patch and as good as that was, you don't hang around studying its finer details or is after all just a Pheasant, so I didn't linger and left to cover the rest of the patch which again was painfully slow and bereft of birds - so thanks February for this little winter gift but roll-on March.

Cock, Wanstead, London