Saturday, 4 August 2018

Urban Godwit

I know a few birders who have gone to the beautiful country of Iceland in spring/summer in the hope of photographing waders at close quarters in their summer/breeding plumage, spending many hours and hundreds of pounds (Krona) in the process to get that perfect image...I say nah! Why bother? Just wait for a summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit to show up on your local urban lake. Hopefully the lake will be littered with floating beer cans and all kinds of litter left by the general ignorant public just to add to the glamour and it'll not only save you a load of time and money but I promise you it will also be a lot more satisfying!

Today Jono found this absolute beauty of a bird parading around the edge of Alexandra Lake - a big fat patch tick for the pair of us. Much to my amazement and unlike any other wader I've seen on the lake it wasn't skittish and it didn't fly off at the first sign of anybody, it just happily fed on the receding waterline - amazing.

It's been a quiet summer for me on the birding front (the hot weather has spiralled my social calendar) but this has certainly kicked started August superbly and with the June/July doldrums know out of the way...could this be the start of a magical autumn on the patch?


Sunday, 27 May 2018

Eastern Poland - Day 3 (Bialowieza and the road to Warsaw)

After yesterday's long day in the field the plan was to have a more leisurely start so we planned to meet up about 6am, but I woke early and decided to have a quick mooch around an adjacent scrub and farmland close to the accommodation. It wasn't long before I'd seen YellowhammerTree Sparrow a couple Black Redstarts, Red-backed Shrike a flyover Hawfinch and Golden Oriole a singing Thrush Nightingale and a River Warbler! What a contrast to the UK where these days we struggle to see a single Yellowhammer among miles of sterile hedgerows and farmland.

Bialowieza, Poland
Red-backed Shrikes were common - but always a delight to see
Meeting up with the guys, the plan was to visit a few local sites around Bialowieza village before taking the longer but scenic cross country drive back to Warsaw. First stop was back to the River Warbler site from last night and sure enough the bird we had heard singing was in the same spot and was obligingly out in the open, also in the same tree was a singing Icterine Warbler.

Bialowieza, Poland
A great spot for River Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Icky, Golden Oriole, Lesser Spotted Eagle...I only wish I could remember its name!
Bialowiesza, Poland
Singing River Warbler
Bialowiesza, Poland
Singing Icky
Our next stop was the Zebra Zubra trail in search of Hazel Grouse but we weren't prepared for how long the trail was. The wooden boardwalk went on and on and on...In the end we gave up looking and turned back - the walk back was somewhat quicker, and had nothing to do with the howling Wolf we had heard!

We also tried and failed to actually see a Thrush Nightingale at a location in the village given to us by our guide but did catch-up with a pair of Barred Warblers, Great Reed Warbler and Rosefinch, as we tried to fit in as much as we could before heading to Warsaw.

Bialowiesza, Poland

On the route back to Warsaw we managed to mop up a few more birds for the trip list along the way - Montagu's Harrier, Serin, Corn Bunting, Little Ringed Plover, and Pheasant and we even managed to pin down and finally see a Thrush Nightingale much to the delight of all the team (especially Mr Rae!).

As a group we managed to record 108 species in our short time in Poland which Isn't bad considering most of the birding was done in and around a forest habitat. The main aim of the trip was to catch up with the Woodpeckers of Central Europe and as we recorded seven species (and this doesn't include Green Woodpecker) you could say it was a successful trip.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Eastern Poland - Day 2 (Bialowieza Forests and the Upper Narew Valley)

Eastern Poland (18th – 20th May 2018) Trip Report - Part 2

I was awoken by a loud banging on the door - "Our guide is here" bellowed Mr Vaughan in a head masterish type of voice. Shi* alarm had failed to go off! And then it dawned on me - I had failed to update my mobile phone to Polish time (1hr ahead of GMT). I hastily got dressed, grabbed what I needed and dashed to the car park. The guys and and our guide (Mateusz) were waiting - a quick apology for my lateness and we were off to our first stop of a very long day..Bison!

A short drive and we watching a single European Bison feeding distantly in a large water meadow, great to see but I'd hoped to of seen this beast of an animal a little closer.

Bialowieza, Poland
A distant European Bison
Next up on our list of target birds was White-backed Woodpecker. We were led by our guide through a tangled wet woodland trail, the trail was bogy and with the rain falling and my head banging (that'll be the Vodka) I was beginning to think I should have stayed in bed! But once we'd reached the location and after waiting a short time our target bird showed - lifting my spirits! The forest was alive with singing Wood Warblers and calling Collared Flycatchers, we also enjoyed views of a stunning male Red-breasted Flycatcher. Matuesz quickly followed up White-backed Woodpecker with a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers at a known nest hole at a location near the town of Budy, we could also hear the flutey song of a Golden Oriole and the contact call of a Black Woodpecker nearby, but failed to connect with either.

Bialowieza, Poland
Middle Spot
Our next stop was the Strict Reserve (an untouched area of forest, which was still in its primeval state). We took in a large loop of the forest and was one many groups being guided through the area as is the reserves policy in not letting tourists walk just anywhere in this part of Bialowieza Forest. We’d just stepped through the wooden gates when Bob (I think it was Bob) picked out a Black Woodpecker making short work of a dying Birch tree – this was my first Black Woodpecker and was blown away by its size, I knew they were big, but I hadn’t quite appreciated how big – this looked like a Crow on steroids with a Kango machine strapped to its head! 

Bialowieza, Poland
Black Woodpecker - Carnage!
As we looped the forest trail we managed to find a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, another Middle Spot and countless Collared Flycatchers and more singing Wood Warblers. As we left the Strict Reserve a pair of Honey Buzzards circled overhead and were taking advantage of the improvement in the weather.

Bialowieza, Poland

Bialowieza, Poland

Our first dip of the day was Grey-headed Woodpecker at a nest hole in the Palace Gardens – much to the disappointment of Jono, who had had a run of bad luck with these birds, but our guide soon retrieved the situation by leading us to a Pygmy Owl nest hole a short drive away. Disappointingly we only ever got head views of the bird as it pocked its head out of the nest hole to investigate what that scrapping noise on the trunk was – That’ll be Mateusz doing his best impression of a Pine Martin!
Bialowieza, Poland
Look carefully and you can see a Pygmy Owl
Lifted by the success of seeing Pygmy Owl we headed to Czerlonka in search of Three-toed Woodpecker a bird the team and I were keen to catch up with. An Initial search in a favoured area drew a blank – was this going to be the second Woodpecker dip of day? Then, as I pointed out a Honey Buzzard going low over the tree-line, a voice from the back of the group shouted “Three-toed”! Bob had found the elusive Three-toed Woodpecker a female, our luck had changed, and it was visiting a nest hole giving us all great views much to the delight of the team and our guide.
Bialowieza, Poland
The much wanted Three-toed Woodpecker
Bialowieza, Poland
Red Squirrel, so much better than those yank Grey's!
The next couple of hours were a bit of a blur! The plan was to visit a known site for Nutcracker and Tengmalm’s Owl but this involved a long trek through the forest and later along a disused railway line. It was now after midday and we’d been going for over 8 hours and the temperature was rising - we were all starting to feel the pace. For all our efforts, disappointingly we failed to locate either of our target birds, which made the long walk back even more difficult. 
Bialowieza, Poland
The long fruitless trek through the forest
The plan now was to head back to Bialowieza Village to freshen up and to get something to eat (Wild Boar) before heading to the Narew Valley and the Great Snipe lek. On route back we stopped off for an obliging male Red-breasted Flycatcher and a second attempt at Grey-headed Woodpecker. This time we struck lucky, much to the delight of the team and especially Jono. Matuesz had worked his magic, as he whistled towards the tree the bird obliged by appearing at the entrance nest hole and then came out and flew across the meadow and out of view.
Bialowieza, Poland

Back at the accommodation whilst the guys made the most of a much needed break (grabbing 40 winks) I spent my time showering and brushing my teeth having failed to do either in my haste this morning!

Refreshed again, we picked up Mateusz and headed north for about 90 minutes to the Upper Narew Valley. Arriving on site as the sun was setting conditions were perfect, still with clear skies – These conditions were also perfect for mosquitoes as the boggy marsh was covered in the little bloodsucking blighters! Thankfully I’d packed my Jungle Spray much to the relief of the rest of the team.

Walking out onto the marsh we could hear our first Corncrake calling, this soon turned into a second bird and then several others. We honed onto the closest calling bird but despite our best efforts couldn’t see it for the love or money – the bird was literally calling around our feet and we could even see the grass shake as it moved around but frustratingly it just wouldn’t reveal itself. Moving on to view the Great Snipe Lek, Mateusz pointed out a distant ridge approximately 100 metres away. It was then Mateusz said he could hear a bird calling near to where we were standing and then a bird took flight and landed in the long grass not too far away, despite the fading light the bird was still visible, and with scope and bins trained on it, for the next 20 minutes or so we all enjoyed one of the most amazing sights, as this Great Snipe put on an display of bill-clacking, then stretching its neck out and pointing its head to the sky, with the occasional tail wag, displaying those white feathers – this was repeated several times before the bird eventually flew off. You could tell by the broad smile on Mateusz’s face that we had witnessed something a little bit special. In near darkness the marsh was alive with bird song and along with Corncrakes we also heard Grasshopper Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Woodcock and churring Nightjar.
Lek,Bialowieza, Poland
Yes - that is a Great Snipe in the dark at IS0 10,000
As we headed back to Bialowieza there was just time for one more stop off at a known River Warbler site, and true to form as we pulled up in the cars in pitch blackness we could hear the unmistakeable metallic sewing-machine sound of a bird singing close by. It was now after 10pm and we’d been on the go for about 18hours, we were all exhausted but agreed it had been a day to remember.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Eastern Poland - Day 1 (Biezbra Marshes)

Eastern Poland (18th – 20th May 2018) Trip Report - Part 1

#WansteadOnTour - Jonathan Lethbridge, James Heal, Tony Brown, David Lowe, Richard Rae, Bob Vaughan.
Day 1 (18th May) - Biezbra Marshes

A two and a half hour flight from Heathrow into Warsaw, and a three hour drive east to our first destination of Dluga Luka Marsh for our first target bird...Aquatic Warbler. The transfer and journey had gone to plan and we arrived early afternoon and ahead of schedule. As we approach the reserve there is a bird tour coach on the side of the road, and they’re observing a small pond like inlet on the marsh close to the road side. We pull the car over and are astonished to see up to 100 White-winged Black Terns covering the marsh with several birds feeding on the adjacent small pond, on closer inspection there are also a few Whiskered Terns amongst the gathering, and a later we find a single Black Tern.

Biezbra Marshes, Poland
Team Wanstead soaking up some cracking views of performing Marsh Terns
Biezbra Marshes, Poland

Biezbra Marshes, Poland

Biezbra Marshes, Marsh Terns, Poland

Arriving at Dluga Luka and the weather is improving but the strength of the breeze isn’t filling us with much hope of seeing Aquatic Warbler. At the end of the boardwalk we wait and listen, we can hear a couple of Aquatic Warblers singing but the stiff breeze is keeping the birds low down in the reeds. While we wait our first Honey Buzzard of the trip drifts over, this is quickly followed be a Lesser Spotted Eagle (another target bird) circling above us and then a Montagu’s Harrier low over the reed bed. As the breeze drops and the sun breaks through the clouds and after about an hour’s wait we finally get good views of Aquatic Warbler fairly close to the wooden boardwalk with several birds now singing from the tops of the reeds – a great start to the trip, although disaster almost strikes as Jono hits the deck hard after clipping a loose wooden board, landing on his camera and lens - thankfully no serious damage done other than a bent converter, a stiff shoulder and a little embarrassment.

Biezbra Marshes, Aquatic Warbler, Poland
The boardwalk out onto Dluga Luka Marsh - Be careful of those loose boards!
Dluga Luka, Biezbra Marshes, Poland
The prize - a singing Aquatic Warbler

With two of our target birds already ticked on the first afternoon in Eastern Poland, we head off towards our accommodation a further two hour’s drive to Białowieża village. An early start and a long day in the forests of Białowieża await tomorrow, so what better preparation for an early start (3.30am) than a hearty meal of Deer stew washed down with several Polish beers (maybe one too many) and to finish a shot of the local Bison Vodka – I hope that decision doesn’t come back to haunt me tomorrow...

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Two of my Favourite Butterflies

Mid May and the patch has already got that summer doldrums feel about it - spring passage has now virtually dried up with just a single Wheatear knocking around the Brooms early on Saturday morning. There's plenty of activity from the resident breeding Sylvia Warblers but nothing of new to report with just Garden Warbler still waiting to be added to the Wanstead year list - maybe we'll have to wait until the return of autumn passage to now catch up with that one!

On the plus side at least I had two of my favourite butterflies on show, despite there diminutive size both Green Hairstreak and Small Copper have bag loads of colour and character when seen up close. The Green Hairstreak appears to be doing very on the Flats, I'm unsure if the increase in numbers is also reflected nationally but this once locally scarce butterfly is now a regular sight in the patches of long grass surrounding many of the copse's across Wanstead Flats. The Small Copper was my first this year and looked like a freshly emerged individual and was unusually still and calm for this typically hyperactive little butterfly.

Butterfly, Butterflies
Green Hairstreak
Butterfly, Butterflies
Small Copper

Monday, 7 May 2018

Is there a better sound?

I could listen to the song of a Willow Warbler on repeat and never tire of that delicate ripple of notes, gently rising and falling over and over again. This summer visitor to the UK from its sub-saharan wintering grounds is regularly seen in spring and autumn on Wanstead Flats but unfortunately no longer breeds here, this follows a similar trend across the southern half of the country with a more northerly shift in their breeding range.

Song, singing
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

Press play, turn up the volume and listen to that wonderful Willow Warbler song recorded from the banks of Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats as the birds song gently pierces through the distant rumble of traffic from the road nearby.

Saturday, 28 April 2018


It's April 28th and remarkably this is my first blog post this year to feature a photo of a Wheatear. There was a time when Wheatears would feature week in and week out through the spring and then again in the autumn...maybe they're starting to lose their appeal? I don't think so...when you tire of Wheatears, you tire of birding!

With up to six Wheatears on Wanstead Flats this morning, today was a good day and with the added bonus of a peachy spring male Whinchat (the first on the patch this year) it made you forget just how miserable and cold the weather was - what a difference a week makes! Today I was trudging around in full wet weather gear, as opposed to last weekend when trainers, t-shirt and jeans were the birding clothes of choice.

The only other birds of note were a trickle of early morning Swallows heading north and my first Swifts of the year on the patch, bringing up the year list to a healthy 89 - some way off my fellow patch workers totals, but that's always the case and I gave up trying to compete years ago - still...I like to keep them on their toes.

Spring, Male, Wanstead, London
What's not to love about Wheatears?

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Waders and Wagtails

On a glorious spring morning on Wanstead Flats I thought the days highlight was going to be Bob in a pair of shorts, but a couple waders trumped those milky white pins!

I'd done a big circuit of the Flats where I added Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Grey Wagtail (about time) to the year list, so I joined Nick for a spot of skywatching from the banks of Alexandra Lake in hope of witnessing a bit of raptor movement - although it was warm and sunny maybe it was still to early in the day as those big blue skies were empty. With one eye on the time I was about to head-off when out of the blue a Little Ringed Plover dropped in from the west! At one point it looked as if it was going to settle on the lakes edge but quickly changed its mind and carried on east. Nick and I were both gassing about the result of seeing an LRP when a smart Alba Wagtail also appeared on the edge of the lake and then just as I thought my morning was over a Common Sandpiper appeared out of know where, with that rear end bobbing along the muddy fringe of the lake - you wait weeks for a spring wader to show up on the patch and then two appear in a space of fifteen minutes!


Friday, 13 April 2018

Black Redstart in my Garden!

I thought Friday 13th was meant to be unlucky!

There I was, bleary eyed and tucking into my usual pre-work bowl of porridge when a bird caught my eye through the patio windows - I thought it was just another one of the local Robins flitting around the garden. The bird flew straight into one of the Birch trees, so I stood up to get a better view through the windows (still carrying the bowl and spooning in mouthfuls of porridge) and then I almost choked on the porridge when this Black Redstart was looking right back at me with that rufous coloured tail gently flicking behind. The camera is never too far away so I grabbed it and fired off a few record shots and was blown away with what I had found in my small north-east London garden.

This was by far the best bird I has ever seen in the garden. Until now I've only ever had the usual mix of common garden birds along with odd wintering Blackcap. To put it into some kind of context, in all my years birding the patch at Wanstead I've only ever seen one Black Redstart and this was a similar spring record back in April 2013.

To my amazement when I returned home from work the bird was still knocking around and without having to dash to work (as I did this morning) I had more time and managed to get into the garden and creep within just a few feet as it happily posed on my fence, allowing me to get some decent photos of this wonderful little gem of a bird. This was right up there with one of the best birding experiences I've ever had, and even now I can't quite believe that my little garden has played host to a magical Black Redstart.

London, Garden

London, Garden

London, Garden

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Rook Club

I'm now a fully paid up member of the Rook club, having finally patch ticked this rather elusive corvid.

Historically March is a good month to catch up with Rook on the patch with many of last years juveniles seemingly on the move and Mr Croft frequently picks out these birds crossing the Flats, so frequently in fact that a few of us were wondering if he was actually releasing Cambridge caught birds from his rucksack! But on a bird-less and rather dire Saturday morning in which Summer migrants were none existent, Jono and I were bemoaning the fact how dreadful it was when he picked out a corvid flying towards Alexandra Lake and tentatively called "Rook". We watched the bird fly towards the tall trees banking the lake (a popular location for Crows in the area) but with the views I had I just wasn't totally convinced (I am the eternal pessimist) but Jono was having none of it and we circled the lake to see if it had actually landed, and sure enough it had, and it was perched up high with the other Carrion Crows.

The I.D. of the bird wasn't as straight forward as you'd think, from the angle we were looking at it against the backdrop of a lead grey sky the bird was mostly silhouetted and I had to fire-off a dozen or so images on the camera with the exposure bumped right up (hence the rather arty black and white photo below) to finally pick out that peaked crown and long straight culmen - both of which were not as obvious as you would think when viewing the bird through bins.

So Rook finally falls and is now sitting nicely on the patch list (thanks mainly to Jono's persistence) but one things for sure I hadn't realised just how easy it would be to overlook a young Rook - yeah an adult you'd picked that one out a mile away but a juvenile, now that's a different matter and a little lesson learnt.

Juvenile, Crow, Corvid
Rook - just look at that conk

Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Old Man of Wanstead

The blog title isn't a reference to dear old Mr Vaughan but Common Gull J9R5 which is still lingering on the Flats - the old boy is a regular Winter visitor to Wanstead and is at least 22 years old having been ringed as an adult in 1998 in Bergen, Norway. The majority of the Common Gulls have now left for another Winter and J9R5 will also soon be heading north for the summer, here's hoping he returns next Autumn.

Darvic,Colour-rings, Gulls, Ringing
Common Gull J9R5
The Gulls were the only birds of interest as I covered the Flats on Saturday morning, although I did spend a fair bit of my time checking every Corvid which flew over as Rook continues to elude me.  As we approach the end of March Wanstead is currently struggling to record any early Summer migrants, with just a couple of singing Chiffchaffs being new for the year. So apart from Rob's Wheatears on the 16th, we're yet to see a Sand Martin, Swallow or a Little Ringed Plover - but with the long Easter weekend on the horizon this could all change very quickly.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Med Gull Milestone

On Saturday in a blizzard of snow I saw my 10th different Mediterranean Gull on Wanstead Flats. Apart from 'Valentino' - Ilford's annual winter visitor to Valentines Park, which also frequently visited the Flats between 2013 - 2016 all the other birds rarely hung around for more than a day.

  1. 23rd October 2013 - Adult (Valentino)
  2. 9th November 2013 - 1st-winter (colour-ringed)
  3. 9th November 2013 - 1st-winter
  4. 16th February 2014 - Adult
  5. 31st October 2015 - Adult
  6. 30th January 2016 - Adult
  7. 27th March 2016 - 1st-winter
  8. 25 February 2017 - Adult
  9. 12th September 2017 - 2nd-winter
  10. 17th March 2018 - 1st-winter
1st-winter, Wanstead, London
Med Gull number 10 - in the Snow on Wanstead Flats

Despite the ever increasing numbers of Mediterranean Gulls in the UK with breeding pairs now reaching over 600+ they're still infrequent visitors to Wanstead Flats, and even though I've now seen ten different birds I'm still yet to see a smart adult in summer plumage with its wonderful full black hood - that's definitely next on my Med Gull list of goals!

Friday, 16 March 2018

We have a Winner

Well, that was fun...while it lasted.

Congratulations to Mr Rob Sheldon who is the 2018 'Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake' winner by correctly predicting the date of the first Wheatear to put in an appearance on Wanstead Flats. He not only predicted the correct date but only goes and finds the birds himself, picking out 2 possibly 3 males early on the Flats this morning. There was a brief stewards enquiry when we got notified of his find, as Rob had just returned from a trip abroad and we had to clarify he hadn't skipped through customs with a pocket full of Wheatears, but on checking his passport this clearly showed a Bangladesh stamp - not a known strong hold for Northern Wheatear.

Plans are a foot for the 'Golden Wheatear' presentation in which the mayor of Woodford and Wanstead will be presenting this years winner with this much sought after trophy at a venue to be decided (probably a local Witherspoons) along with the prize giving of as much booze Rob can consume on behalf of his fellow contestants - who aren't bitter about his win at all! One contestant (I'm not mentioning any names) declared that Wheatears were sh*t anyway after spending every second of daylight looking for them, but drew a blank on the two days they'd chosen - thankfully he is now making a full recovery after sleeping off a K-Cider binge and an increase in his medication.

Spring, Wheatear
Rob Sheldon correctly selected the 16th March - and is this years winner.

Commiserations to the all the other contestants...there's always next year!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake

As we finally wave goodbye to a rather long Winter that will be remembered mainly for a nasty sting in its tail, which brought patch ticks to many with displaced birds appearing all over the place - thoughts turn to lighter mornings and evenings, a rise in temperature and the start of Spring. You can forget about the Daffodils, buds on trees, boxing Hares and randy Squirrels as there is only one harbinger of Spring in Wanstead and that's the Wheatear!

As a bit of fun we've ramped up the stakes this year - it's also a little bit of additional encouragement to get out onto the patch, as the inaugural Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake has taken shape.

Team Wanstead have each chosen two dates in which they think the first Wheatear will be seen on the patch and whoever gets the correct date, will receive a beer from all the others team members on our next social gathering.

Nick has gone early in an attempt to equal last years patch record of the 11th March and Jono has gone late, maybe he's hoping last weeks easterly blast will delay there arrival. With the rest of us loading the middle to 3rd week of the month, the traditional arrival for these rather special Spring migrants. The only dates not covered by the group are the 28th, 29th and 31st - who wants to bet that one of these will be the winning date!

Check back here for an update later in the month to see who will be crowned the winner of the “Golden Wheatear”.

Wanstead, Spring

Saturday, 3 March 2018

2 Years Ticks and a Caspian

With a fresh covering of snow arriving Friday afternoon, I was champing at the bit to get out onto the patch Saturday morning, as I was hoping for more of the same cold weather movement that Wanstead had experienced throughout the week. Arriving at Alexandra Lake I could see it was still mostly frozen but the temperature had risen above zero for the first time since last saturday and the big thaw had now begun. I bumped into Rob and we walked across the snow covered Flats together, it was apparent no birds were on the move and the skies were empty, apart from just a few pockets of Redwings and Fieldfares.

Rob was keen to add Stonechat to his year list and we headed to the Cat & Dog pond, and good news the wintering Stonechat had survived the big freeze and was still clambering to the tops of the long grass. As we walked the ditch towards the pond a Woodcock flew from cover giving us both good views as the bird circled the SSSI looking for somewhere else to hide. At this point Rob headed towards Bush Wood in search of Treecreeper and I headed back across the Flats and towards the Park in search of a certain large chunky-billed finch that was now being seen more frequently near the Temple and Glade areas.

As I searched the wooded areas around the Temple and Chalet Wood a few Redwings flew passed and with them was the unmistakable broad white-wing bars of the large finch I had been looking for - a Hawfinch! It was soon lost to view but I did manage to see it briefly again in flight before losing it as it flew deeper into Chalet Wood. With two quality year ticks now safely in the bag, I left the park and drove the short distance home.

I decided to stop off at Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook for quick look at the long staying Caspian Gull and soon found it standing on the ice. A family was feeding the ducks and to my surprise it flew from the ice and landed on the concrete edge of the lake along the walkway. This was the first time I had seen this bird do this, as it typically spends most if its time in the middle of the lake and would generally ignore any bread offerings to encourage it closer, maybe as we've gone through Winter it has now become more confident and tolerant of people, either way I was more than happy with the views.

3rd-winter, Gulls, London

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The Beast from the East...Delivers!

By all accounts it's been an amazing week on the patch and it all kicked-off last Saturday morning at around 8.30am when I picked out a small flock of Lapwing crossing Wanstead Flats heading north-west, since then the movement of Lapwing hasn't really stopped. On Saturday the count ended up on 108 and then each day following there have been daily counts of 91 on Sunday, 116 Monday, 298 Tuesday, 860 Wednesday and 127 if my maths are correct Team Wanstead have now recorded 1590 Lapwing - simply amazing!

Add in a couple of Golden Plover (surprised we haven't had more), daily sightings of Common Snipe, a single Jack Snipe and a semi-frozen Dunlin on the ice on Perch Lake (Great find by Nick) and you could say the blast of a Russian cold Winter dubbed the "Beast from the East" by the press has certainly lived up to expectations.

Unfortunately I've missed out on most of the fun, due to earning a crust and being tied to my desk all week but I did manage to grab a lunch break, where I discovered a mixed flock of Winter thrushes close to where I work, the birds were gorging themselves on the last of the berries and there must have been up to 50 Fieldfare and a dozen Redwing in and around one tree, small consolation for missing out on the movement of birds at Wanstead but'll soon be the weekend.

Winter, Thrush, Berries

Winter, Thrush, Berries

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Horned Lark, Staines Reservoir

I've been wanting to see this bird ever since its initial discovery back in November last year, and I thought I'd missed my opportunity when it quickly disappeared, so I was more than pleased to hear it had re-appeared again at the back end of January in the same location on Staines Reservoir - I wonder where that had been for a couple of months?

I've not been back to this neck of the woods since the last American vagrant to grace these West London collection of reservoirs - this being the Buff-bellied Pipit back in the winter of 2012. I remember it being a dreadful day then, with persistent heavy rain. Today wasn't a lot better, maybe the rain wasn't quite as heavy but it was a dark, overcast day with drizzle and the gloves were a must. 

Arriving just after 8am (thankfully there were no problems on the M25) and I didn't have to wait long before someone located the bird feeding on the banks of the causeway which split the reservoir in two and despite the weather, I managed to get a few decent images of the bird primarily aided by the fact it was only a matter of metres from where I was standing. I could easily pick out several key features like the dark upper parts and crown, the flared bright white eye stripe and those distinctive rich-rufous flanks - a very smart bird and well worth circumnavigating the M25 for.

Staines, London

Staines, London

Staines London

Staines, London

I don't know a great deal about Horned Larks other than they are found on almost every continent and there are lots of subspecies, and when I say lots, I mean at least forty-two (so I've read) but it appears this bird is considered to be one of two subspecies either alpestris or hoyti both are migratory and North American - It'll be interesting to know what the eventual outcome is, but either way it's a great bird for London.