Sunday, 5 July 2020

Not just any Juvenile Green Woodpecker

I was going to post these two photographs of a juvenile Green Woodpecker on Twitter. This may have been seen by a couple hundred people if i'm lucky, and then maybe liked, maybe retweeted and then all too quickly forgotten and lost amongst many thousands of wildlife photos posted every day - but no! I thought I'd add them to the blog and write a few lines about how much I like them - that's the beauty of blogging.

Why I do like the photographs?'s not just the nice, low ground level and eye to eye contact of the subject, but the pose, the subtle head angle as the bird is alerted to my presence and the click of the camera. Then there's the background - not clean, but messy with a blurred depth of field, full of that golden colour of summer - uncut long dry grass, flowing gently in the early morning breeze - that's why I like these photographs and the reason I still blog!

London, Photography, Wanstead

London, Photography, Wanstead

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Bionic Herring Gull

This Herring Gull initially threw me when I first saw it - not the ID but the strange false leg!

The bird was standing on the banks of Alexandra Lake (Wanstead Flats) when I noticed a shiny, glistening leg reflecting in the early morning sunlight, from a distance the Gull appeared to have what looked like a metal leg, but sadly on closer inspection I could see it wasn't a bionic leg (which frankly would have been very odd) but a fishing lure! The hook from the discarded lure had gone straight through the webbing in the Herring Gulls foot. The injured foot was then being held in a tucked-up position and the lure was just dangling vertically to the ground, making it look strangely like a leg. Although a massive hinderance, the bird didn't appear to be in any distress and I watched it fly around the lake a couple of times, with the lure dangling below.

There's always a group of non-breeding Gulls (mainly 2nd-calendar year birds) hanging around Alexandra Lake so it'll be interesting to see if this birds sticks around and if so, how it fares. My feeling is that this is a recent injury and the lure will hopefully come away as the hook slowly tears a way through the webbing of the foot, this should hopefully be possible as I believe all legal fishing hooks are now barbless.

It would be easy to point the finger at an angler for not disposing of their lures/line/hooks correctly but the lure could easily have snagged on something, snapping the line and leaving the lure behind - as someone who has done a bit of angling in their youth I know all to well that this could be a possibility, none the less it's a shame to see an innocent young bird pay the price for someone's fishing misfortune.

2CY, Injured

2CY, Injured

2CY, Injured

2CY, Injured

Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Dragons of Wanstead

Nope! That's not a reference to the fine young ladies who frequent Wanstead but the current wonderful selection of Dragonflies now on the wing in Wanstead Park and Flats.

The four most numerous species I'm currently seeing are the Broad-bodied Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Four-spotted Chaser and the Emperor Dragonfly. As the summer progresses I hope to be able to add to this list with maybe a Scarce Chaser or a Migrant Hawker...let's see!

Dragonfly, Odanata
Male - Broad-bodied Chaser
Dragonfly, Odanata
Female - Broad-bodied Chaser
Dragonfly, Odanata
Male - Black-tailed Skimmer
Dragonfly, Odanata
Four-spotted Chaser
Dragonfly, Odanata
Female - Emperor Dragonfly

Sunday, 17 May 2020

The Best Spaniard to Grace a Golf Course Since Seve Ballesteros

Ever since the government gave the green light for golf courses to reopen I've been itching for 9 holes, so I rocked-up at Lee Valley Golf course wearing my tartan plus 4's and carrying my bag and clubs only to discover the course was still closed - what a shame, but never mind as I'm furloughed I can always come back when it re-opens. I was just about to leave when I chanced upon a singing Iberian Chiffchaff - well...what are the chances of that?? It was also fortunate that I had my bins and camera to hand..!

The bird always kept to the tops of the Sallows on the edge of the golf course and could be clearly heard from the adjacent roadside. In the short-time I was there the Ibe Chiffy was in full and diagnostic voice. It also showed an extensive pollen horn around the base of the bill, giving the impression of being quite long and pointy billed. The underparts were noticeably clean white with a subtle lemon wash around the flanks/vent and face in the good light - although this is not an ID feature those characteristics were more in line with the appearance of Willow Warbler than a collybita Chiffchaffbut aside from those noticeable features it was all about that repetitive and ID clinching song...

Singing, Spring, Song

Singing, Spring, Song

Singing, Spring, Song

Iberian Chiffchaff song captured on the video clearly on three occasions and was a repetitive and distinctive chiff, chiff, chiff, chiff, sweet, sweet, chachacha... 

Sunday, 3 May 2020

A Familiar Shape in the Sky

I saw my first returning Swift on the 22nd April and since then I've been seeing one's and two's silently cross the garden skyline, speedily heading northwards but this morning and eleven days on from my initial Swifts were back!

What do I mean by my Swifts? These are the Swifts that stay local for the summer and nest in the eaves or between the tiles of the houses in my road. This morning there were six dark, scythe-shaped birds circling low and around the house, occasionally letting out a welcoming scream, that unique sound once again joining the spring chorus - these birds were not furthering their journey, but had arrived home having travelled hundreds of miles from central Africa.

For as long as I can remember my Swifts always return in the first week of May and in the coming days these initial birds will hopefully be joined by several more as their mid-air courtship display builds up as they chase one another across the sky, screams getting louder, that familiar sound of summer filling the air all the way through to August until their sudden departure leaves the air silent once again.

The Swift is one of only a handful of birds that stirs up an inner emotion and a special connection, there failure to arrive would leave an unimaginable void difficult to fill.

Apus Apus, Screams, Summer
A familiar shape in the sky...

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Stop Press: Wader Identified Without Spectrogram

Any wader on the patch was always revered at Wanstead and this homage would even extend to the lowly Common Sandpiper, by far and away our most numerous wader during spring and autumn passage. However, with the introduction of 'Nocmigging' (for the uninitiated, that's sound recording nocturnal migration) these once locally cherished group of birds have now seen their crown slip a little, as more waders are now being recorded flying over Wanstead airspace at night.

Call me an old fashioned cowboy but I personally like to see my waders as in the image below and not as a series of dashes on a spectrogram, and yes I do get the science part and I do have some interest as to what's flying over at night. There's definitely a place at the table for capturing and recording this information but please don't tell me that listening to a recorded sound (often barely audible), downloaded and run through a software package (Audacity) to produce a visual representation as a couple of black marks on a sound file (just to aid identification for the recorder) is going to come anyway near to the experience of seeing your first passage Common Sandpiper of spring, bobbing up and down on the muddy fringe of a river bank - whatever next...binoculars that can identity the birds for you!

Wader, Wanstead, Spring

Wader, Wanstead, Spring

Sunday, 19 April 2020

A Plea from the Skylarks of Wanstead

They're hanging on...just!

With possibly only 3 breeding pairs left, have we finally reached the tipping point for the Skylarks of Wanstead? This is a plea to the visitors of Wanstead Flats to please, please stick to the main footpaths which lead around the Flats and dog owners please keep your pets on a lead (or at least under control) as this is now the critical time for our remaining ground nesting birds.

Understandably Wanstead Flats has become a bit of magnet for many more people during this period of lockdown, as everyone makes use of their right to daily exercise as we all continue the fight against the dreadful Covid-19 virus - but could the additional footfall end the Skylarks reign?

The key to saving the Skylark, and the message is simple, 'Keep To The Main Paths' - do this and the Skylark has half a chance and their wonderful song will hopefully continue to fill the skies of east London...

Singing, Wanstead, London

Singing, Wanstead, London

Singing, Wanstead, London

Singing, Wanstead, London

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Lonely Turaco seen on Tinder!

It felt good to be out on the bike this morning, not only because of the exercise (I'm certainly fitter than I was at the start of lockdown 3 weeks ago) but because the overnight rain had dropped in a few common passage migrants on to the Flats. I've been careful in regards to not abusing my daily exercise allowance and have been sensibly limiting my time outside to a couple hours max, this was just long enough to mop up 2 Ring Ouzels, a wonderful singing Willow Warbler, a couple of Wheatears, a flyover Yellow Wagtail and both Common and Lesser Whitethroat - These were all new for the year and only goes to prove how little patch birding I've done during the lockdown period.

As I was leaving I bumped to an old Wanstead favourite - The lonely White-cheeked Turaco!
This magnificent (if slightly gaudy) creature has now been knocking around Wanstead for what must be the best part of 10 years. Despite it's size and colourful iridescent plumage, including striking red wings when seen in flight, it's surprisingly difficult to see and is often just heard singing and calling without revealing itself.

The Turaco appeared to be carrying nesting material (well it is spring) and unless there's another escapee near by then sadly this effort is all going to be in vain, but I suppose you can't stop nature's natural urge to procreate - It's all a bit odd, but it's what you come to expect from a slightly mad Turaco that believes Wanstead is a juniper forest in Ethiopia!

Wanstead, London, Escape
White-cheeked Turaco looking for love! 
Wanstead, London, Escape
The unmistakeable blaze of red in the wing

Friday, 3 April 2020

Lockdown List - Week 2 Update

After the excitement of seeing a Marsh Harrier on the 27th March, I had to wait until the 30th to add a new bird to the lockdown list with Kestrel hovering at a distance but comfortably snaffled in the scope to bring the tally up to 31, this was quickly followed-up with Greenfinch (32) also scoped from some distance - Greenfinch still remains a garden rarity and I still await one to actually visit the garden feeders.

An early start on the 31st and I was rewarded with three Mallard (33) quickly identified through the bins before losing sight of them as they disappeared over the neighbours rooftop. A pair of Mistle Thrush (34) over the garden was a welcome sight and then a single Goldcrest (35) briefly stopped in one of the Birch trees and I was on a roll! An afternoon sky-watch delivered more results with a Peregrine (36) bombing across the skyline - I can be thankful to the local feral Pigeons for alerting me to that one.

The 1st of April dawned the start of a new month and what better way to begin than with a full fat garden tick as a Rook (37) flew low east over the rooftops with that narrow pale bill easily noticeable against the early morning rising sun. The only other new bird on the 1st was a Grey Heron (38) dropping in low behind a row of terraced houses - someone must have a garden pond which is probably missing a few fish now!

The 2nd was noticeable for a movement of Redwing (39) as I recorded c130 in a 2hr hour window from 7.30am mostly going E and NE. The 2nd and 3rd of April will also be remembered for the extraordinary inland movement of Common Scoter through the night, unfortunately they managed to avoid the airspace above Woodford Green but to be honest I didn't give it much of a go and struggled to stay up beyond midnight - I blame the red wine!

Friday 3rd April and I was stood on the patio at the start of another day and for once it didn't feel as cold as previous mornings, I could see movement on the trunk of a tall tree on the horizon and watched as a Green Woodpecker (40) came slowly bouncing towards me. Then a real prize of Fieldfare 'chack-chack-chacking' overhead brought up number 41 on the list - I was almost resigned to missing one of these so was chuffed to add it to the list. This was soon followed by a lone Common Gull (42) another bird that might have been difficult to add with many now on high northern hemisphere breeding sites.

That's week 2 of the lockdown almost complete and I've amassed a reasonable 42 species - with 2 garden ticks. The full list can be viewed here - Lockdown List

Let's see what week 3 brings...

Collecting Worms, Lockdown Listing, BWKM0
Someone's got a hungry family to feed

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Best Kind of Home-Schooling

I recently found out I had been selected for furlough leave as part of a 70% head count reduction by my employer, this hopefully will keep the business a float whilst we go through the devastating effect of Covid-19. Although this situation is not ideal, I was kind off thankful the government were going to support this extended leave by paying 80% of my wage so I can continue to support the family through this awful crisis. This does mean however that I will be more involved in home-schooling my two boys - as any parent will appreciate this is not as easy as it sounds! I have two typical boys (11 and 13) who mostly enjoy gaming and football and have minimal attention spans when it comes to homework, add my short patience's into the equation and this heady mix of emotions means the next month or two is going to be a really interesting time!

The boys have only ever shown a passing interest in bird-watching and the natural world, so imagine my delight when a female Sparrowhawk perched on the garden fence. In the 15 years of living at our current address this has only ever happened once before - I often see plenty of flyovers but rarely do they venture through our small urban garden. I grabbed the camera and fired-off a few record shots through the kitchen window, the Sparrowhawk appeared to be happily perched so I shouted and gestured to the boys and Mrs B to come and have a look, we all peered through the side kitchen window (this is a small window) and gawped at the Sparrowhawk before it was spooked by a neighbour coming out of their front door - for a minute the boys faces lite-up, eyes wide and mouths open! They both claimed "Wow- that was epic!" and discussed the bright yellow-eye and those sharp talons, before sloping off to hide from the next batch of school work.

I'm hoping in years to come when the boys are all grown up and we're sitting around having dinner, one of them might pipe up and say "Do you remember in 2020 when we were all stuck inside during the Covid-19 period and we saw that Sparrowhawk perched on the fence?". As experiencing a moment like this should stay with a child forever and will last a lot longer in the memory than Trigonometry!

BWKKM0, Lockdown Listing
The glare of a Sparrowhawk

Anyone recognise the purple hue of a Renault Twingo in the background?

Friday, 27 March 2020

#BWKM0 Self-Isolated Garden Birding

In a bid to stay sane during these mad and unprecedented times I've taken up the challenge of the Bird Watch Kilometre Zero (Isolated Garden Birdwatching), this is not only a wonderful distraction when working from home but is also good for the soul, as the constant Covid-19 news feed (although informative) is also very depressing.

I kicked-off the challenge on Monday 23rd March and it was slow, very slow but an early start was rewarded with flyover Greylag and Canada Goose both of which are not regular garden sightings, a small movement of c50 Chaffinch on the 24th was the highlight of another slow day and I had to wait until the 26th to score my first Common Buzzard (even though reports from around London were popping up all the time) but it wasn't until the 27th that things really hotted up!

The 27th is my birthday and I had planned a leisurely breakfast with the family. Having spent an hour on the patio skywatching from around 7am and seen very little and I was getting cold (as the garden is North facing and shaded) and I stepped inside to warm-up. I've been doing the daily Joe Wicks Bodycoach PE lesson with the kids at 9am each morning (hey, I've got to keep fit somehow) and went and got changed into some sports casuals - I'm glad only the family can see me! I was sipping a green tea when I clocked a large bird quite low over the rooftops, even without raising the bins my first impression was possible raptor - then I grabbed the ever ready bins and WOW! A Male Marsh Harrier was slowly heading north just over the treeline.

A Marsh Harrier is not only an awesome garden tick but is also considered to be a local mega at Wanstead - I've only ever seen a single bird in almost 10 years of working the patch and that was last autumn, as it stands my currently total is 29 for the #BWKM0 from my urban Woodford Green garden.

So there's a birthday I won't forget in a hurry. Royal Mail may have failed to deliver any cards and presents and I won't see any extended friends and family but the biggest and best prize (excluding the slippers and Gin Mrs B and the boys bought me) was that Marsh Harrier - It has to be said that birding, even from the restriction of your own back garden could be just the cure to get me and many others through this difficult time.

One of the highlights of the week - a low circling Common Buzzard right above the garden


Monday, 16 March 2020

Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake - Winner

We have a winner! As of 8:48 this morning when Jono Lethbridge announced "It's all over lads" and then proudly provided a back of the camera image of a magnificent Wheatear!

So kudos to Jono for not only selecting the correct date, but also finding the first Wheatear to grace Wanstead. In the long history of the Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake this unique double has only ever been repeated once before by Rob Sheldon...way back in 2018.

Wheatear, Spring, First

The roll of honour now reads...
  • 2018 Winner: Rob Sheldon - Date 16th March - Finder: Rob Sheldon
  • 2019 Winner: James Heal - Date 17th March - Finder: Tony Brown
  • 2020 Winner: Jonathan Lethbridge - Date 16th March - Finder: Jonathan Lethbridge

As I type...the 'Golden Wheatear Chalice' is being polished and engraved with the name of this year champion and plans are being made for the big presentation, however due to Covid-19 and government restrictions on large gatherings we may have to scale back the celebrations and limit the number of attendees at this year event. I had hoped to persuade Mr Oddie to present the trophy but due to the planned restrictions on the movement and self-isolation of the over 70's this looks like it's going to be a non-starter, so yet again I may have to step up to the plate. Keep an eye on social media for all the highlights, news and interviews from this top showbiz birding event - that's if the government hasn't closed all the pubs, in this case I'll drive by Jono's house in full body biohazard suit and just chuck the trophy over his garden fence!

The good birders of Wanstead have all agreed to donate £10 each (£5 for each date pick) to a worthy charity and I am pleased to announce that this years beneficiary will be the OSME (Ornithological Society of the Middle East) with three future projects planned in Lebanon, Azerbaijan and Egypt the 2020 champion will be given the honour of choosing which worthy project to support.

Which just leaves me to thank all of this years competitors for there participation, good humour, genorosity and sporting prowess and roll on next year...

Sunday, 15 March 2020

White Storks over the Thames

I managed to jam the two White Storks that had roosted overnight on Dartford Marsh from the Rainham side of the river. Fraser and Jono had both confirmed there presence in the morning whilst I was getting wet and not seeing much on Wanstead Flats, so with nothing to lose I thought I'd go and check them out - even though I knew how distant the views were going to be.

I arrived at Rainham (Wennington/tip end) and soon picked the Storks out across the river standing in one of a group of tall dead trees (as perfectly described by Jono) and then within a few seconds (and there's the jammy bit) they both took flight and started circling together, slowly gaining height. The Storks soon spooked all the gulls along the Thames foreshore and for a few seconds there were hundreds of birds in the air together. They started to slowly drift west along the Thames before I lost the pair of them as they headed further into Kent.

Reintroduction, Rewilding, London
Will this sight become more regular in the UK?
Not visible in the photo above but it was reported that one of these birds is wing-tagged or colour-ringed therefore they're mostly likely from one of the three reintroduction schemes in South-East England (Knepp Estate and Wadhurst Park in East Sussex or Wintershall Estate, Surrey) so unfortunately not genuine vagrants from across the Channel - none the less it was still good to see these large, magnificent birds in flight over this neck of the woods, and hopefully with the continued success of the re-introduction schemes this may become a far more familiar sight across UK.

Click on the link to read more about the White Stork Project.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Large Hybrid Gull

The other weekend and before I got nicely distracted by the adult Med Gull on the Flats I also photographed what I thought then was an adult Yellow-legged Gull but something about the grey tone of the mantle/wings didn't seem quite right - it was just a smidge too dark, but not quite dark enough for Lesser Black-backed Gull.

I've since reviewed the photos and I've come to the conclusion that it could actually be a hybrid and most likely a Herring Gull (argenteus) x Lesser Black-backed Gull (grasselli). Large hybrid Gulls are not an uncommon sight but it's not an area I'm over familiar with so I sought out a couple of opinions and by and large the feedback I received was positive and in agreement that this bird could indeed be a hybrid.

Structurally the bird is identical to an adult argenteus and has a red orbital eye-ring and yellow legs (not strikingly yellow, more of a washed-out yellow). Unfortunately I never got any flight photographs (that's the Med Gulls fault) as it might have been interesting to see the wing pattern.

Hybrid Gull
Herring Gull (argenteus) x Lesser Black-backed Gull (grasselli).
To also back up the theory that this bird could be a hybrid, it also appeared to be paired up with a Herring Gull (argenteus) as shown below. This photo also gives you a good impression of the birds size and shape and just how dark the slate-grey tone was when compared with a Herring Gull (argenteus).

As always...comments welcome.

Hybrid Gull
Argenteus to the left and hybrid to the right

Monday, 24 February 2020

The 3rd Annual Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake 2020

As yet another long dreadful winter has passed over Wanstead, there were very few bird highlights for months of toil in the wettest and soggiest of conditions (Caspian Gull, Med Gull and Bullfinch) but at least all the ponds are filled to the brim and Alexandra Lake is looking like a lake again instead of a muddy puddle it had become...but there is another glimmer of light on the horizon for this urban east London location. The evenings are starting to get lighter, blossom is slowing appearing and Bob has trimmed his beard! This can mean only one thing...Spring and Europe's (we're going big this year) premier, low carbon, birding competition 'The 3rd Annual Wanstead Wheatear Sweepstake 2020'.

This years 2020 contestants are as follows...Colours chosen at random (although Mr Sheldon requested orange to match his Essex sunbed tan).

The 2020 runners and riders

There was much speculation as to who would be drawing the tickets out of the hat this year to determine the all important date pick order, but unfortunately Mr Packham and Oddie were both busy and late replacement Mr Lindo had to pull out due to a neck injury (something to do with always looking up) so yours truly got the job again.

Here's the date pick order...which I might add was filmed and verified by the whole 'Brown' family (video footage available upon request).

Date pick order

After a lengthy process in which 2 dates were chosen per person as per the date pick order, we have our sweepstake dates. I'd like to give a special mention to Mr Kerrigan who joined us live from Majorca and being number 10 in the running order had to wait until the end before selecting his dates, so can be forgiven for consuming a nice bottle of Spanish Albarino and falling a sleep during the ceremony!

Here are those dates...
Those all important dates - I can feel anticipation

The Rules
  1. Whoever correctly predicts the date of the first sighting of a Wheatear on the patch (Wanstead) wins!
  2. In the event of the 1st sighting being on a date not selected (i.e 1st March) then no contestant will be crowned this years champion and the trophy will be held in safe hands and dusted off again in 2021.
  3. If a visiting birder, dog walker or Sunday league footballer were to claim a Wheatear sighting, then photographic evidence would need to be gathered and verified before announcing a winner.
The 'Golden Wheatear Chalice' Roll of Honour
  • 2018 Winner: Rob Sheldon - Date 16th March - Finder: Rob Sheldon
  • 2019 Winner: James Heal - Date 17th March - Finder: Tony Brown
  • 2020 ???
Who will be the 2020 champion? Looking at the dates selected then surely going on previous years you would say Tim, Jono, Nick, James (current champion) and Simon look to have bagged all the prime dates, but who knows a sub-Saharan southerly breeze at the beginning of March and Rob could be crowned champion again, then again a blast of cold air from the north in mid-March could push the arrival date back and last pick Sean could prosper...only time will tell (keep an eye on those long-range weather forecasts).

After struggling for sponsorship for the last couple of years - I really can't understand why, as this is now Europe's premier Wheatear event, with this blog comfortably hitting 3 figures for page views (mainly from eastern Europe) - what more could Swarovski want? Anyhow, I've dug deep into the kids piggy banks and secured a suitable Trophy for the winner - which won't look out of place in any cabinet, mantle piece or cupboard under the stairs!

Some can only dream of lifting the 'Golden Wheatear Chalice'.
That just leaves me to wish all the contestants the best of luck and I hope to see you all at the prize giving ceremony. One last note, the prize giving won't be in the same Wetherspoons as last year as we're all barred due to Mr Rae getting into a heated row about the location of a Thrush Nightingale.

Check back here for further updates and Sweepstake news...

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Med Gull number 11

Finally...and after a gap of almost 2 years (my last record was 18th March 2018) I've found another Mediterranean Gull on Wanstead Flats. This is my eleventh Med Gull on the patch in almost 10 years which goes to show just how scarce these birds are in this neck of the woods, despite being an increasingly common sight along the UK south coast.

This smart white-winged adult was roosting amongst the Common Gulls on the football pitches and was just rewards for venturing out on a miserable Sunday afternoon, battling the wind and squally showers. It will be interesting to see if this bird sticks around or like most Med Gulls at Wanstead (with the exception of Valentino) quickly move on?

Med Gull, London, Wanstead

Med Gull, London, Wanstead

Med Gull, London, Wanstead

Med Gull, London, Wanstead

Med Gull, London, Wanstead
This is a nice example of how wet I was getting taking this photo, as the heavens opened I had to run for cover!

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Beckton Iceland Gull

Away from the patch and just a short trip down the A406 I enjoyed a good morning session photographing the Beckton juvenile Iceland Gull. I've been meaning to pop over to see this bird for sometime as I haven't seen a London Iceland Gull in almost six years. The views were initially distant as the bird loafed around the roof of the recycling centre on the opposite side of the creek, but then Shaun Harvey rocked up carrying a weeks supply of various kinds of stale bread. This worked an absolute treat as the bird soon joined the melee of gulls fighting over the goodies. Whilst the bread lasted we both enjoyed some great views of a very smart Arctic Gull - just a word of warning for anyone else thinking of doing the same, don't use tortilla wraps! These frisbee shaped flatbreads are great for throwing some distance but the gulls just ignored them.

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Juvenile, White-winger

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Wintering Turtle Dove

It's taken me a couple of attempts but I've finally caught up with the wintering Turtle Dove at Valentines Park, Ilford - and to say I'm chuffed would be an understatement!

We all know just how rare these birds have become but to put it into some kind of personal context this is the first Turtle Dove I've seen in the London recording area for almost 3 years, the last one being in the spring of 2017 at Rainham Marsh, and that was just a brief view as it rapidly flew along the sea wall. I've been birding at Wanstead for almost a decade now and I've never seen one on the patch! Each and every Turtle Dove you see should be cherished as who knows when you'll see another one, so if you haven't made the trip to Ilford yet...then go, I'm so pleased I did.

Wintering, London, UK

Wintering, London, UK

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

'Monster' Yellow-legged Gull

The patch is still as dull as ditchwater but at least the gulls are still keeping me amused as I count down the days until the first Wheatear arrives...

The latest gull of interest is this absolute 'Monster' of a 1st-winter Yellow-legged dwarfs the local band of wintering Herring Gulls on the Flats and is not far short of being Great Black-Backed Gull in size! Apart from its size the other feature of interest is the rather striking but odd pale coloured bill. Although unusual it's not uncommon for large Gulls to have aberrant shaped/coloured bills (an example here of a bird referenced 'Pinky' on the Thames from Dec 2016) but none the less, when you're expecting to see a dark coloured bill and then you're confronted with something not dissimilar to an Albatross pointing in your direction, it's not surprising gull ID can be a bit of a challenge at times.

1st-winter, 2CY, Monster

1st-winter, 2CY

1st-winter, 2CY

1st-winter, 2CY

1st-winter, 2CY

1st-winter, 2CY