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