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

Saturday, 25 January 2020

When is a Rook, not a Rook?

The top of photo is an adult Carrion Crow, the bottom photo is a juvenile Rook - or is it?

The culmen shape and length look good for Rook but surely if it was a Rook (now into its 2nd calendar year) then you would expect to see the greyish-white starting to appear around the base of the bill (at least a little bit) instead of an all black bill the same as a Carrion Crow. The rounded head and lack of noticeable peaked crown also points towards Carrion Crow. So...if it's not a Rook, then is it just an aberrant Carrion Crow with a rather straight and pointy culmen?

Carrion Crow
Juvenile Rook?

Monday, 20 January 2020

'Quasimodo' The Caspian Gull

I've given the omnipresent 2nd-winter Caspian Gull on Wanstead Flats a nickname - is that PC? I just don't know anymore...anyway, rightly or wrongly I've called it Quasimodo! This is due to the odd lower neck/upper mantle lump it appears to have recently acquired. I'm not sure if this is an injury or some kind of growth, as it wasn't there last weekend - all the same it should make the bird a bit easier to identify for any non-larophiles as it's an obvious feature to pick out in the field.

So next time you see a hunchbacked Caspian Gull it might just be 'Quasimodo' The Hunchback of Wanstead!

Wanstead, London

Wanstead, London

Wanstead, London

Wanstead, London

Flight, Wing Pattern

Flight, Wing Pattern

Saturday, 11 January 2020

New Year, Same Old Caspian Gull

I've made three short visits to the patch since the 1st of January so my Wanstead year list is up and running (It's 50 something or other) I just haven't got round to updating the blog with any details...that's if I update it at all, I might just give the list a miss this year and concentrate on something different - maybe I'll buy a moth trap...will see!

Anyway...January has continued where November and December left off...same old birds with very little winter movement, so not a great deal to report other than this 2nd-winter Caspian Gull on Jubilee Pond. It's the same bird I saw on the on Alexandra Lake (7th December) and then again on Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook (15th December) so It's doing the rounds locally and is the only notable bird on the new (non-existent) patch list...Spring can't come soon enough.

3CY, London

Sunday, 5 January 2020

2019 - My Birding Year at Wanstead

2019 at Wanstead will be remembered for...well, not a lot really! Let's just say it was fairly unmemorable.

I'm probably being a little bit harsh on the old patch - it did after all deliver 5 patch ticks and there were moments of joy to be had throughout the year; two 1st-winter Caspian Gulls together on Alexandra lake needed to celebrated, a Spring male Garganey on Jubilee pond (of all places), a singing Spring Wood Warbler in Long Wood, the excellent autumn passage of Tree Pipit and Pied Flycatcher, a long staying Greenshank in Wanstead Park and both Osprey and Marsh Harrier on consecutive autumn weekends, but despite these sightings I can't help feeling 2019 just didn't live up to my expectation, especially when I think about how much time and effort goes into working the patch over a long 12 months.

I do know what the problem was...Wanstead over delivered the year before (Rustic Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler etc) and 2019 was never going to match those heady heights but apart from the lack of quality, something else was missing? There was many an occasion when working the patch felt just too much of a routine and I'd often returned home wishing I hadn't bothered. These kind of thoughts I suppose are natural for any patch working birder who has a quiet year and maybe the key here is to mix things up a bit, so in 2020 my plan is to make a bit more of an effort to step away from Wanstead and go birding else where (like I use to). I'm still very much time restricted due in part to having two football mad sons who train and play matches at weekends but for my own sanity I need to give it a go and as the saying goes "A break is as good as a rest". I'm hoping this might pay dividends and visiting Wanstead will become more of an enjoyable experience instead of the repetitive chore it has sadly recently become.

I finished 2019 on 107 for the Year which was a tad disappointing as I was hoping to hit 110. I failed to connect with seven annual regulars Redpoll, Brambling, Shelduck, Lapwing, Common Tern, Tawny Owl and Mediterranean Gull - the Med Gull really hurts, I can't tell you how many thousands of Gulls I've sifted through over the year and I just couldn't find a bloody Med Gull (deep breath)! There was also an autumn flyover Pipit that 'squeaked' three times as it called overhead which was most likely a Water/Rock Pipit (a full fat patch tick) but I couldn't find it again, so it failed to make the grade for the patch list.

On the plus side these are my 5 patch ticks.

  1. Garganey - 31st March
  2. Mandarin Duck - 6th April
  3. Greenshank - 5th September
  4. Osprey - 28th September
  5. Marsh Harrier - 5th October

Here's a selection of photos from Wanstead 2019 and best wishes and good birding to all for 2020.

Wanstead, London

Wanstead, London
Caspian Gulls are scare visitors to Wanstead, so to see two together was a bit special.
Spring, Wanstead, London
A cracking Spring male Garganey on the dump that is Jubilee Pond.
Male, Wanstead, London
It might have been a bit plastic but I was having it! Just for insurance purposes I also saw a female Mandarin Duck on Jubilee Pond which wasn't as fond of bread.
Spring, Singing, London
Terrible photo - But hey! It's a singing Spring Wood Warbler only my second on the patch.
Wanstead, London
I don't take many photos of Stock doves and I like this one so I thought I'd add it.
I just love those big doughy eyes!
Wanstead, London
Greenshank could have been bird of the year but it overstayed its welcome - still, any wader at Wanstead is always cherished.
Wanstead, London
It was a poor year for Wheatear on the Flats and this was one of the few photographs I took in 2019 - here's hoping it's a better year in 2020 for these harbingers of Spring.
Wanstead, London
I've photographed a lot of Stonechat's over the years, but this has to be my best and favourite photo ever of these charismatic birds.
Wanstead, London
It's always great to see a Jack Snipe at Wanstead, a bird often spooked from under your feet so I was pleased to get this record shot as it flew away.
Wanstead, London
An exceptional autumn for Pied Fly at Wanstead and also a good year for Silver Birch - that's why the tree is in focus and not the bird!