Friday, December 30, 2011

Great Expectations

One of the best things about patch birding is the unpredictability, you just never know what maybe around. Of course patch birding can also be very predictable, most birders who have watched and recorded at a patch for a few years will be able to say with some degree of certainty what species will be present before a visit is made. But there is always some hope that in the words of Mr McCawber "that something will turn up". When I visit EIDB I always have some expectation that an unusual bird will be around, but usually it is not forthcoming. Many days at EIDB are utterly predictable and are somewhat mundane and 2011 has been one of those years without many surprises.
Today was mundane and predictable, the usual species in the usual places, I suppose in some respects that is reassuring, because if the usual species were not in their usual places alarm bells would ring. Though variety is the spice of life. Teal numbers were about 180, a decrease, with perhaps some moving north up the Lea to Bromley-By-Bow which has seen an increase in Teal numbers recently. A healthy count of four Common Sandpipers were on Bow Creek with seven Redshanks. No sign of the Pintail or Little Grebes and the only passerines of note were five Linnets. The Thames was still very quiet and produced just a few Gulls. It Looks like 2011 is going to go out with a whimper.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Brown and Mild

After a couple of days when winter threatened to take hold, things have returned back to the mild conditions that have dominated this winter so far. There was a strange brown hue to the area this morning, the rivers Lea and Thames and the dock basin water were all a muddy brown and of course there was the mud itself. The leaves have finally left the trees leaving just brown vegetation, the reeds and most of the birds seen this morning were brown.
There was about 320 teal in the area with 250 on the basin. Redshank numbers have decreased to just 13 in the Bow Creek roost. The Pintail (a brown female) was in its usual area on Bow Creek, but the Little Grebe seems to have vanished. There was very good flock of about 50 Linnets around Orchard Wharf and few other finches.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winter at last

We have waited, and at last winter has arrived. The last two days have seen frosts, frozen puddles, bits of sleet and a few avian arrivals. This morning there were six Shelducks in the area, a very shy Little Grebe, a Kingfisher, 10 Redshanks and a female Pintail on Bow Creek. Which puts us about where we should be at this time of year. The weather has not been severe enough to induce any major bird movements and there wasn't anything unusual in the area. Teal numbers were down, but that maybe down to the state of tide, as the birds were spread out all over the place. A high tide brings them together, and makes them easier to count.
Passerines were represented by a few Finches, mainly Chaffinch and three Reed Buntings feeding on Phragmites seed heads in the Dock. The Thames was quiet with just a few Gulls present though wader numbers are building up further downstream. If this weather continues then I do expect to be reporting some good sightings from the this area.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Where is Winter

Alan Hull who was in the band Lindisfarne wrote one of the best songs about winter, called, Winter Song. It was written over 30 years ago when winters were much colder, though Alan did come from Newcastle in the North East where the climate is generally colder than London. The song for me sums up the feeling and the atmosphere of winter, and at this time of year I often listen to this song. But Winter Song now seems to be depict a time long past, winters are rarely like this now, apart from 2010. I used to love birding in winter, less people about, large flocks of birds and always the chance of something unusual turning up. But so far this winter the birding has been totally uninspiring and predictable. At EIDB a number of species (Little Grebe, Shoveler, Shelduck and Common Snipe being examples) have either failed to show or are scarce. Usually in December you cannot spend more than a few minutes on the pier at EIDB that juts out into the Thames, but today you could have had a picnic. One of the great things about winter birding is the cold weather movements and EIDB's position on the tidal Thames is an ideal place to watch these movements, and the composition of species could change every day.
Today's birding was almost predictable apart from a Kingfisher on the basin, a species that has been a bit scarce this year. The long range weather forecast is still predicting mild condition's so when is winter going to come howling in.