Thursday, 4 January 2018

2017 - My Birding Year on Wanstead Flats

That's another years birding on Wanstead Flats over, with a total of 106 birds seen/heard in 2017. 106 is actually my highest ever total for the patch which I should be pleased about, but overall it was a fairly unremarkable year, and a lot of the time it was a bit of a slog for very little reward, but I suppose that sums of patch birding, you take the rough with the smooth and you have good and bad years - Here's hoping 2018 throws up one or two nuggets of patch gold!

There were a couple of highlights, the singing spring Nightingale at the back of Motorcycle Wood was a patch tick and so was Hawfinch, when a flock of 9 birds flew over me when I was in the Broom fields, sadly the views of these birds were all to brief. The biggest accolade of the year goes to finding the 1st Spring Wheatear for London on March 11th, when I picked out a distant male bird in flight that eventually perched up on top of Coronation Copse, much to the delight of Mr J. Lethbridge.

On the obvious omissions, I failed to see Lapwing, SnipeShelduck and Firecrest which could have boosted the totals to the heady heights of 110 - this would have been quite remarkable for someone with limited time who doesn't actually live in Wanstead.

Here's a little photo journal of the year I've put together...

A cock Pheaseant in early February around the new horse paddock in the Old Sewage works started the year of well and was an early patch tick.

Late February and the 1st Mediterranean Gull (adult Winter) of the year was recorded on the football pitches.

A Red-crested Pochard towards the end of February on Jubilee Pond was nice a bonus, even if its origins were a tad questionable.

One of the few highlights of my year, was the discovery of London's 1st Wheatear of Spring on March 11th.

A very smart continental type Stonechat was present for a morning around the 'Ditch of Despair' on March 26th.

The sight of three Little Ringed Plovers provided early optimism for some rare (any wader is rare in Wanstead) Spring wader passage in April as Heronry Lake had sprung a leak in Wanstead Park, and the exposed mud had us all rubbing our hands, alas the Little Ringed Plovers were the only highlight.

A photogenic Little Owl was a rare sight one early morning in May. A breeding pair was later confirmed in the summer when three birds were seen together, and was excellent news for this somewhat difficult Owl to catch up with on the patch.

A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the football pitches at the beginning of July, confirmed once again the importance of Wanstead Flats as an urban site for our much maligned Gulls.

Now this was unexpected! A perched (as opposed to flying over) Common Tern on Jubilee Pond in July stayed just long enough for me to grab a few photos before it took flight, and headed high and north.

A showy Garden Warbler gorging on the ripened Blackberries in mid August is always a welcome sight and was the beginning of the Autumn migration.

One of the classic sights of Autumn on Wanstead Flats, a Spotted Flycatcher flycatching from a high branch in the Brick pits, one of a couple of birds which lingered for a few days at the back end of August.

With Autumn migration now in full swing, the sight of fresh juvenile Whinchats in the Broom fields during September is another must see moment on the Flats, sadly there numbers seem to be down on previous years - was this down to the lack of suitable cover after the Corporation of London's decision to remove pockets of Brooms?

When a bird shows and performs this well, all those early mornings on the patch when you see very little are soon forgotten - this male Common Redstart in mid-September made us all smile.

Another Mediterranean Gull and this time a 2nd Winter bird in November was seen on the football pitches and then around Alexandra Lake for the day.

A rare visit to Bush Wood in search of year ticks and a Treecreeper duly obliged, unfortunately the Firecrest I was also after failed to show.

It's always pleasing to catch up with a Bullfinch on the patch but to see four birds together around Long Wood was memorable, and doubled the number of Bullfinches I had previously seen on the patch in one fail swoop.

And that pretty much sums up my birding year on Wanstead Flats for 2017 - You can view my full list here 2017 Patch Year List.


  1. Cheers Mr Vaughan - I'll be hoping for a little something special in 2018!

  2. Tony, a wonderful selection of images. Giving Mr. Lethbridge a run for his money...

    1. I’m trying to Steve but it’s like Manchester City against Bournemouth!