Sunday, 24 September 2017

Local Birding Bonanza

It's rare to miss a Saturday morning on the patch but with a showy Spotted Crake just down the road at Hornchurch Country Park and a juvenile Red-necked Grebe just 10 minutes away at Roding Valley Meadows, it was an easy decision to make.

First stop was Hornchurch, and I had to wait for just over an hour before the Crake put in an appearance, and true to form the bird crept slowly through the vegetation - just a few metres from where I was standing in the fenced off viewing area. The bird seemed totally unfazed by the clicking of cameras from the dozen or so birders on site and walked straight towards us before disappearing into the reeds. After I missed the last local bird in 2013 at Dagenham Chase, it was good to finally catch up with this one.

Hornchurch, Ingrebourne Valley

Hornchurch, Ingrebourne Valley

Hornchurch, Ingrebourne Valley

Hornchurch, Ingrebourne Valley

Next stop was Roding Valley Meadows. I know the area quite well having checked it out in the past (as it's so close to where I live) and to be fair it's a rather pleasant but unremarkable fishing lake, so imagine my surprise when I received news of a juvenile Red-necked Grebe associating with the resident Great-crested Grebes.

If you get the chance to go and see this bird, go and see it - It's an absolute stunner! Most of my previous Red-necked Grebes have always been distant dots on reservoirs in winter plumage, so to see a smart juvenile with that rusty-red neck up close was simply wonderful - Let's hope it sticks around for a bit longer as I'd loved to go back for seconds.


Juvenile, Roding Valley Meadows

Juvenile, Roding Valley Meadows

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A Redstart to beat all Redstarts

There may well be an American Redstart on the Island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides at the moment, but on Saturday morning on Wanstead Flats a Common Redstart gave me as much of a thrill than if I had travelled the 600 miles or so to see its much rarer Yank cousin.

Of all the Redstarts I've seen over the years on the Flats and elsewhere in the UK this was by far the most accommodating I had ever come across. The bird stayed faithful to one Hawthorn tree in the Brooms fields and repeatedly flitted to the ground and then perched up again, happily fly-catching in Autumn sunshine within just three or four metres from where I and the rest of the Wanstead crew were standing. We must have stood and watched the bird for well over an hour and even though migration was in full swing around us, with Meadow Pipits calling overhead and Swallows streaming passed us, all our eyes were transfixed on this wonderfully confiding and striking male Common Redstart.

Here's a little selection of my favourite images from the 200 plus photos I took.

Male, passage, migration

Male, passage, migration

Male, passage, migration

Male, passage, migration

Male, passage, migration


Male, passage, migration


Male, passage, migration


Friday, 15 September 2017

Grey Phalarope at Dusk

I was hoping storm Aileen would wreck one or two seabirds locally (i.e anywhere north of the Thames - as I really didn't fancy a midweek trip to Staines Reservoir). And as widely predicted a Grey Phalarope was discovered the following evening on the south basin of the KGV Reservoir.

The bird was briefly seen again the following morning and then not reported for the rest of the day, despite the lack of news I thought it was still worth a look - as these small waders can easily be missed amongst the rippling wave-breaks whipped up by the wind. So I hooked up that evening with the birds finder (Neville Smith) and he soon picked out the bird distantly in the the north-west corner of the south basin, the rain was starting to fall and the light was fading fast so we hurried quickly around the reservoir to try and get some better views, all the time the bird was constantly being hounded by the Black-headed Gulls and would settle briefly on the water before being chased off again. By the time we reached the north-west corner the bird was now mid-reservoir and after even more harassment from the Gulls, gained height and we thought the bird this time had had enough and was off! But it circled around and landed on the south-side of the reservoir, by the time we had walked around this side the sun had almost set creating a wonderful mixture of blue and orange reflections across the water.

In the fading light we left the bird as it had finally settled on the water and was earning some much needed respite from the Gulls and although the views were never the best, it was great to finally get one of these magical seafaring waders on my London list.

Autumn, London, KGV Reservoir

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Migration Windows

As we all know, birding a patch is all about windows of opportunities and I almost missed the Whinchat window!

Whinchats on Wanstead Flats have been difficult to catch up with this year, having missed a couple of Spring birds (always more difficult and not guaranteed), I was starting to worry that I would struggle to connect with any passage Autumn birds. Numbers appear to be down on previous years, where you could expect to see family parties of up to six birds flying between the Brooms and the tall Rosebay Willowherbs, we've only had one or two birds and none have have stuck, all quickly moving on - possibly due in part to the reduction of good cover because of the City of London Corporation's decision to return the Flats to how it vaguely looked back in the 1970's, with the removal of large parts of the Broom Scrub.

But on Sunday I was somewhat relieved to finally get one - just the one, but that's good enough. This was quickly followed by a Tree Pipit also a year tick - number 98. So things are looking rosy again and I'm just about on par for the year, with hopefully number 99 and 100 just around the corner - let's hope it's a couple of Autumn goodies to get me over the line.

Autumn, Passage, Migration
Number 97 on the patch year list