Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just a quickie

After all the excitement of the Big Freeze I managed an afternoon visit today in almost balmy conditions as the thaw set in; the tide was well in and 32 Redshank were in the roost and a Common Sandpiper flew up the Lea and landed on a riverside ladder by the Blue Bridge, an extensive search of the Eco Park produced no Snipe with the highlights there being six fairly tame Redwing and two Reed Bunting; at least 350 Teal were at EIDB with another 30 or so on the Lea and Thames, 26 Tufted Duck were on the basin along with nine Shelduck with another on the Lea; passerines included a Meadow Pipit on the meadow (natch), a flighty Fieldfare in the old gravel works and singing Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hard weather = good birding

A dawn start at Bow Creek Ecology Park in the hope of adding a patch "shame bird" to my list came up triple trumps with three Common Snipe flushed (along with four Meadow Pipits), and best of all, a Jack Snipe down to about three metres in the feeder stream. It sat hunkered down and very still, until I tried to take a photo with my phone, when it crouched even lower and then flushed to the marshy area. Jacks always seem darker than in the books to me, accentuating their gold braces; perhaps the books all illustrate faded museum specimens rather than the richly dark real deal.

The Redshank roost held 19 birds (with another two on the Lea on the other side of BCEP), but produced the third surprise of the morning in the form of a Lapwing asleep at the southern end of the roost, where I usually find a Common Sandpiper or two.

I met GAJ at the central jewel of this tower block Shangri-La we call our patch (just after a second Lapwing headed north), and he had spotted the Jack Snipe in the same area of BCEP shortly afterwards. My first Redwings of the day went north, then a few more appeared overhead, along with six Fieldfare heading west. Another surprise appeared in the form of an almost spring plumaged Great Crested Grebe, a site rarity in itself, and then a female Wigeon also swam out from the jetty in front of the copse.

A tight flock of six Tufted Duck appeared upriver coming towards us, four drakes and two female/immature-types, and when looked at more closely with bins they had larger rounder heads and bulkier bodies; they swung around following the course of the River Thames, and at least two of the drakes showed pale grey backs - shit: Scaup! Debate ensued between us about whether the entire flock, which passed quite quickly, had been Scaup, but all the birds had exactly the same build and jizz; the browner two lacked obvious white bill bases so may have been first-winters, but we were happy about the ID.

An adult Yellow-legged Gull circled overhead and then went off north-west, and then another (or perhaps the same) appeared again about fifteen minutes later, drifting and circling in the same direction.

It's great when one predicts a good day at a patch and everything falls into place, and I ended up with five (count 'em) patch ticks, which never happens after a consistent two years at a site!

Patch ticks: Common Snipe, Jack Snipe, Lapwing, Eurasian Wigeon, Greater Scaup.

Other counts: 276 Teal, 12 Shelduck, 119 Mallard, 14 Cormorant, 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, 414+ Black-headed Gulls, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls, 23+ Herring Gulls, 30+ LBB Gulls, 33+ Common Gulls, 5 Chaffinches, 6 Long-tailed Tits.
David Callahan

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Snow patrol- slight return

I saw Gary's post on the wiki and dashed down to EIDB where I immediately connected with the two drake Pochards, albeit in a blizzard at around 3pm, the above record shot of this local mega is entirely the fault of the appalling conditions and is in no way a reflection on the skill of the photographer, also present were 11 Canada Geese and a Little Grebe

Snow Patrol- 6th January 2010

Arrived at about 9am to a carpet of untrodden snow. Checked the Basin for Wildfowl, but just a few Teal and 15 Tufted Duck were present. I had come in hope of unusual wildfowl and waders. Scanned the reedbeds and shoreline, but apart from Moorhens all was quiet. Next to the copse, where a single Redwing was feeding on the ground with Blackbirds, also present were Long-tailed Tits and a few Chaffinch. Snow was falling again as I viewed the Thames, the river looked as black as coal against the white background. I did a circuit of Bow Creek counting 2 Redshank, and about 160 Teal, scattered along the shoreline. Three Reed Buntings were in the Reedbed near to the blue bridge. On arriving back to the Dock I had the welcome sighting of 2 drake Pochards with the Tufties. I did not record this species during 2009, and there was only one record all told, seen by Nick on Bow Creek . So my venture in the snow had been rewarded. Checked the copse again, 6 Redwings were feeding and many common species were searching through the leaf litter, but still no Dunnock !.
Gary A James