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


  1. Postscript: Nick Tanner found two Jack Snipe at BCEP in the late afternoon.
    Also, 6 probable Scaup were seen heading east distantly along the Thames from Battersea Power Station about an hour earlier ( see )

  2. This is ace! When did this start?! Though I no longer bird the dock, am reading it all the way through. Highlight so far is the Greenshank at East India Sock Basin...