Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Whinchat at weird yet wonderful Wanstead

So there I was with a couple of hours to kill on a day off work and with all my chores ticked off, I quite fancied ticking off a few migrants missing from my year list. To get the most from the time, it had to be somewhere close and Wanstead Flats seemed the best option. The only problems are, a) I don’t have much luck there although it is well birded and always has some tempting birds. And b) it’s a weird place due to some weird folk wandering around and generally seem to be shifty-looking men hanging around with other shifty-looking men or loud dog owners on mobiles who feel the need to follow me and scare the birds out of every tree.

Still, the birds are good Most of the action appeared to be near the main car park with Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and a couple of Wheatears basking in the warm sunshine and liking the worn out tree trunks that litter the place – in a nice way.

Female Wheatear
Another bird flew in close to the Wheatear I was vainly trying to photograph and I assumed it was another Wheatear and carried on happily taking poor digiscoped images for your delight. This bird though didn’t fly up onto the tree trunk as I might have expected so I shifted my scope in it’s general direction and was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a male Whinchat –tickaroo. It wouldn’t play ball and pose on a nice piece of wood, preferring the long grass game. I have no standards so I took a few shots of it anyway.

There then followed a procession of weird people past who unbeknown to them, ruined everything. I retreated to some small pockets of wood and found a Kestrel relaxing in a tree. With a noisy woman with about 5 dogs approaching on her phone doing a brilliant impression of Dom Joly, I quickly shot a couple of pics before the poor Kestrel alighted it’s perch and took to the air. It was probably thinking poor birdwatcher.

Common Kestrel
Well, that was it. A quick look for a Common Redstart in the Long Wood failed to result in another tick for me and with more strange men wandering around, I made a hasty exit. Maybe Wednesday is their special day for wandering around.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Bagging waders and a wheatear at Rainham

The weather warmed up a little at the weekend and as my Saturday didn’t require me to hit my thumb with a hammer, I sneaked off to Rainham while the lady of the house had her back turned. There had been a few sightings of the wonderful Black Redstart and a couple of migrants in the shape of Northern Wheatears. I had highish hopes........

Didn’t bother with the RSPB reserve as the walk along the Thames river path was probably the best route to take to see migrants. Or so I thought. I walked west towards the stone barges and saw, well, nothing. One small bird flew ahead of me and disappeared – think it was a Linnet but couldn’t be sure. On the Thames a pair of Shelduck honked and small parties of Wigeon and Teal were seen. Further along the path there are a number of jetty/pier type things that have seen better days and are now defunct. A pair of Oystercatchers liked them although I think they had had a falling out.

Oystercatchers, not talking
The stone barges are the remains of one of the unused Mulberry Harbours created for the D-Day landings. Today they are a great place to see Water Pipits but you have to look really hard to see one!!.

Water Pipit
Less difficult to see is the waste all of us create and with a strong breeze coming off the landfill site, you get to see these ugly scenes.

Re-use your plastic carrier bags folks.
I went up beyond the Tilda Rice factory towards Ferry lane but there was no sign of any Black Redstarts. Probably going to have to get them at Dungeness now. It was a long walk back to the RSPB reserve. I looked half-heartly for any Caspian Gull among the million gulls on the landfill site but to honest, I’m good at puns but rubbish at finding Caspian Gulls.

Along the foreshore the occasional Common Redshank piped as it flew across the river with my arrival. One bird stayed put though and so with little else to do, I took a shot. While I fiddled with the focus etc... a bird flew into a nearby bush/tree – not sure which as it was small but tree-like. Anyway it was a fine male Northern Wheatear. I took the Redshank and then tried to get in on the wheatear. It wasn’t playing ball. (Normally you can get quite close but not this fellow, oh no.) Anyway here’s a Redshank.

Not a Wheatear

Friday, 5 April 2013

Let’s not forget the little guys

I’m sure I don’t need to say that we have all experienced a rather prolonged and uncomfortable winter and early spring. The weather has affected all of us in some way and it now looks as though it will affect the springtime stirrings of many birds. With invertebrate food in short supply because of the cold climate right now,  the source of nourishment birds need to survive and prepare for raising a family is reliant on the food we put out for them.

At the Bittern Watchpoint, the emphasis is of course on the Bittern and other waterbirds and mammals like Water Rail and Water Vole, but just as important at this time of year are the little guys. We have a regular supply of nuts and seed beside the hide that, when things are quiet, becomes the focus for many visitors to the watchpoint. Chaffinches, Robins, Dunnocks, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Reed Buntings, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Jays and occasionally Lesser Redpolls all enjoy the rich picking the authority supply.



Great Tit


They all queue up in trees next to the feeding station – clearly a pecking order in place – and get what they need. I of course get plenty of photo-opportunities as you can see.

Hopefully the spring we all know and love is just around the corner. I know I need it but probably not as much as the little guys do.