Monday, 16 December 2019

Two Caspian Gulls at Snaresbrook!

Eagle Pond at Snaresbrook is starting to get a bit of a reputation for being a local hotspot for Caspian Gulls, as the regular returning adult has now been joined by a 2nd-winter bird. It appears this new bird is the same one I had at Wanstead Flats on the 7th December (photo here). If so, it's also following a similar pattern to the adult by relocating to Eagle Pond - only time will tell if this new bird sticks around throughout the winter and then who knows, it may even return next winter!

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Monday, 9 December 2019

Back to Gull School

Sometimes, just sometimes you have to hold your hand up and admit that you got it wrong.

I found this bird loafing around Alexandra Lake on Saturday and quickly came to the conclusion that it was a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull, not an uncommon site on the Flats as there's been a couple of birds seen on and off throughout the Summer/Autumn. I got home, grabbed some lunch and then took my son to see Spurs v Burnley (great game by the way and a contender for goal of the season from Heung-Min Son) - then, that evening after the game I tweeted out the photo below as a 2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull. Within a couple of minutes I was quickly questioned on it's parallel sided bill (David Darrell-Lambert) who had also copied in most of London's pre-eminent laraphiles and then soon after Rich Bonser chips in with "Casp genes for sure, and bill structure favours it too. Can't see anything on P10 to decipher a mirror or not, while the slight bit of streaking round the eye could point to a bird from the west of the range. But Casp, yeah".

I had to take stock and looked at the photo again in a bit more detail and sure enough, how did I miss that bill! Not just the bill but the bird also looks quite leggy, and structurally it's no way near as bulky as you might except a Michahellis to be. It also has that slimmer more elegant look about it - again, more in keeping with Cachinnans. 

I tried to blame whole episode on my fuzzy head after a Friday evening down the pub, but to be fair I just made a quick assumption without carefully looking at the bird - lesson learnt! On the plus side it's great to see another Caspian Gull at Wanstead and in 2nd-winter plumage - all my previous records are of 1st-winter birds.

Gulls, Wanstead, London
2nd-winter Caspian Gull
The one that almost got away!

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Snaresbrook Caspian Gull

Wanstead failed to deliver anything of note over the weekend and unless we get a really good cold snap, December and the run up to the New Year could result in some fairly mundane local birding - but at least I have the Snaresbrook Caspian Gull on my doorstep to fall back on when the patch is this poor.

The average large Gull lifespan is around 30 years, so considering this adult bird is still a relative youngster (5CY), I could potentially be watching and photographing this bird for another 25 years - I do pity the readers of this blog!

If you've not been to see this bird then I can thoroughly recommend a visit to this part of north-east London, as it's a real entertainer. From the concrete roadside pathway you can watch it regularly harass and steal the bread from the Black-headed Gulls. The Central Line at Snaresbrook is just a 5 minute walk away, so there's no excuses for those London based birders who don't have any transport and with the Eagle Pub and carvery just opposite what better way to finish the visit off than by popping in for quick pint having enjoyed this rather engaging adult Caspian Gull.

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London


Saturday, 23 November 2019

Snaresbrook Caspian Gull - It's Back!

I've been keeping an eye on Eagle Pond (Snaresbrook) for the last couple of weeks (It's just down the road to where I live) in hope that a certain Gull might have returned for another winter - and today I got the result I was after.

The Caspian Gull is back on Eagle Pond and looking smarter than ever.

It's now the 4th year in a row this bird has decided to spend its winter in the area. It was first seen on Wanstead Flats back in December 2015 (in 1st-winter plumage) four years on and now an adult and in its 5th calendar year it was good to catch-up with it again. 

Weather-wise it was't the best day for photography but I did manage to get a few photos and if the bird sticks around as it has in previous years then I've got every opportunity to improve on these.

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Snaresbrook, London

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Odd Small Gull

A couple of hours on the patch this morning and I was rewarded with a year tick (107) as a calling Yellowhammer circled over the football pitches, it was also good to see my first autumn Woodcock but the most interesting bird of the morning was a rather odd small gull! From a distance and before I picked up any features what stood out was its size - it was small, clearly smaller than the Black-headed Gulls it was associating with on Alexandra Lake.

On closer inspection the bird appeared to be just a small adult winter Black-headed Gull but was lacking the usual dark prominent ear spot. Along with the small round head and dainty bill what also struck me was the birds posture in the water with a high angled rear end, almost as if it was top heavy. I'm fairly confident the bird is just a runty BHG but none the less an intriguing bird.

Adult, Winter Plumage

Adult, Winter Plumage

Flight shot showing a typical Black-headed Gull wing pattern and red legs
Not the best photo but it does show how small the gull is in comparison with the Black-headed Gulls in the background and foreground




Saturday, 19 October 2019

Spoilt for Stonechat

Dry, calm and clear - the perfect morning for a bit of a vizmig session - nope absolutely rubbish! It turned out to be a bit of damp squib with very little movement of any note, the only exception was two late Swallows heading low and west, so after bidding farewell to Bob and Jono after we'd tried and failed to find a Rock Pipit amongst the current resident numbers of Meadow Pipit, I thought I'd give our crop of Stonechat a session with the camera especially as the light was actually quite good for a change.

Male, Autumn, Passge

Male, Autumn, Passge

Male, Autumn, Passge


Male, Autumn, Passge

Autumn, Passge

There's been a good autumn passage of Stonechat through the Flats with a high of ten birds seen on the 2nd October and even now we have five birds who appear to be in no rush to move on and have hopefully taken up residency for the winter. In previous years you'd only expect one or two Stonechat to hang around so the omens are looking good for this winter already, but what I'm really hoping for now is a Dartford Warbler to also put in an appearance - It's been decade since the last one at Wanstead so we are definitely due another.


Sunday, 6 October 2019

If Calsberg did Record Shots

You could say the last couple of weekends on the patch have been a little bit special...unlike the photography!

First up was the Osprey on the 28th September, a welcome patch tick and was just the 4th record at Wanstead in recent times.
  1. One early morning over the Flats on the 7th September 2011
  2. One over the Flats on the 8th April 2014
  3. A single bird reported on the 13th April 2016 over the Esso Copse
Wanstead, London
Yes...that is an Osprey
Next up was the Marsh Harrier on the 5th October, yet another sought after raptor and patch tick. This was only the 6th record for Wanstead, the other five sightings are listed here.
  1. One over the Old Sewage Works on the 8th May 2011
  2. One from the Lake House scrub on the 26th August 2012 
  3. One on the 20th March 2013
  4. A juvenile over Long Wood on the 27th August
  5. A female circling over Jubilee Pond on the 5th October 2018
Wanstead, London
From the heavily cropped photos it look as this bird was 1st-winter or female Marsh Harrier
Wanstead, London

And just to add to the record shot bonanza, here's the Jack Snipe I found on the 5th October, not a patch tick but a year tick this time and only my 3rd ever record at Wanstead. This was the 8th record for the patch of this scarce winter visitor.
  1. One on Heronry on the 26th October 1979
  2. One on Alexandra Lake on the 5th February 2012
  3. One near Alexandra Lake on the 29th September 2013
  4. One near Alexandra Lake on the 23rd September 2014
  5. One on Angel Pond on the 6th December 2014
  6. One on Alexandra Lake on the 22nd October 2016
  7. A bird flew onto Jubilee Pond on the 27th February 2018
Wanstead, London

Wanstead, London

Wanstead, London

As it currently stands my Wanstead list now sits on 144 with the Year List moving onto 105. I thought I wouldn't top last years 109 but as we enter the last weeks of autumn and head into the final winter months of 2019 - can I get five more ticks to get me 110? Well...If the last couple of weeks are anything to go by then I've got every chance.



Saturday, 21 September 2019

A Little Bit of Quality

As we enter the 2nd half of September the quantity of passage migrants is starting to dry up on the patch, but there are still quality birds to be found with singles today of Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat and Wheatear. Today's Pied Fly was my 3rd this autumn and continues the great run of these birds stretching back to the 11th August. Wheatears on the other hand have been low in number throughout spring and autumn with a peak of 12 on the 29th August, this has been reflected by the number of photos I've used this year of Wheatear on the blog...just two (including this one) I'm aiming to put that right next year!

An early morning Wheatear along the Ditch of Despair


Friday, 13 September 2019

Wanstead August Stats

20 records of Pied Flycatcher, 29 records of Common Redstart, 41 records of Tree Pipit...the numbers don't lie - by all accounts it's been an excellent August for common passage migrants passing through Wanstead Flats, confirming what we all already know that Wanstead really is one of London's prime locations for connecting with spring and autumn migrants.

None of this data would be possible without the continuing efforts of a small band of Wanstead regulars who diligently work the patch, with a special shout out to Nick Croft who pounds the well trodden paths for many hours, most days.



Thursday, 5 September 2019

Greenshank!

Waders are revered at Wanstead and Greenshank had only ever been recorded by team Wanstead (well Nick) as a rare flyover, so for the team to see one on the deck and feeding in the shallows of Heronry Lake is just a little bit special and what a great way to bring up the 100 for the year on the patch.

Wanstead, Wader, Autumn Passage

Wanstead, Wader, Autumn Passage

Wanstead, Wader, Autumn Passage

Wanstead, Wader, Autumn Passage

Monday, 2 September 2019

Poolside Birding on the Greek Island of Zakynthos

I've just returned from a super-chilled week on the Greek Island of Zakynthos with the family, although birding was never part of the agenda I couldn't help but explore the local area close to our accommodation, whilst always keeping one eye on the sky as I lounged around the pool. The habitat on our hillside location in the south of the island near Keri was a mixture of pines, Olive plantations and some impenetrable thorny scrub. Each morning I'd make a quick recce of the area before breakfast, the plan was always to get out just after sunrise but I often struggled due to the prior evenings intake of the very likeable Mythos Beer!

It soon became apparent that Zante wasn't exactly alive with birds (well not in this location) in my week on the island I only managed to amass a grand total of just 21 species - I know my birding was limited but I had hoped for a few more...here's the list and the details.
  1. House Sparrow - A small local flock of around 10+
  2. Collared Dove - Several local pairs
  3. Eleonoras Falcon - 2 over the accommodation (1 dark phase)
  4. Common Buzzard - Up to 4 birds circling daily
  5. Sparrowhawk - 2 sightings of single birds
  6. Marsh Harrier - 1 female distantly picked up through the bins
  7. Sardinian Warbler - Numerous pairs, c20 in the area
  8. Serin - 1 briefly in Pine Trees
  9. Red-backed Shrike - 1 male, intermittently seen throughout the week
  10. Spotted Flycatcher - Up to 4 birds seen in the area
  11. Swallow - Numerous, 50+ most days - Including 1 albino bird
  12. Red-rumped Swallow - 20+ most days
  13. House Martin - 20+ most days
  14. Sand Martin - c5 seen most days
  15. Northern Wheatear - 1 in flight
  16. Scops Owl - 1 briefly perched on electricity wires (Well spotted Mrs B)
  17. Great Tit - 4 (1 single bird and a group of 3)
  18. Greenfinch - small local flock of 5 >10
  19. Honey Buzzard - 2 calling birds flying low over the accommodation
  20. Yellow Wagtail - 1 in flight calling
  21. Hobby - 1 over the accommodation
Greece, Zante,
Red-rumped Swallows 
Greece, Zante

Greece, Zante

Greece, Zante
The most numerous bird on my holiday patch - Sardinian Warbler (m)
Greece, Zante

Greece, Zante
Spotted Flycatcher 
Male, Greece, Zante
The local male Red-backed Shrike always kept its distance
And lastly a couple of none bird photos of interest - European Mantis and Cone-headed Grasshopper both of which wouldn't look out of place in the next Aliens instalment.

Greece, Zante

Greece, Zante