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