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, 15 May 2013

Knee-high to a grasshopper warbler

Dear God. Could you please refrain from making early spring mornings less dewy. My boots, socks and fetching cargo pants got rather wet at the weekend as I crawled through scrub grass at Thistly marsh in a quest to capture a Grasshopper Warbler. Picture the scene; I’m crawling through wet grass at 6am, trying to un-snare my telescope’s tripod legs from a resistant bramble tentacle whist attempting to not collapse on my backside which would rightly raise a few questions from passers-by later on.

I could hear that tinnitus-like reeling or playing cards in the bike spoke sound of the Grasshopper Warbler a few metres away but couldn’t see anything – this is normal. I caught a glimpse of the joker as it moved from one small straggly bush to another. It was keeping low and unhelpful. This too is normal.

Finally, it blinked first and sat up in a Hawthorn bush and sang it’s little heart out. I still had to manoeuvre myself and my kit to a view where I could get a shot. Normally a bird flies the perch just as I’m about to press the camera button but as with many warblers at the moment, if they settle on a perch and start singing, this generally means they will stay for a bit – but don’t quote me.

Grasshopper Warbler
It had taken me 2 hours to get this shot and, although not perfect or in focus, it was worth the wet legs and dodgy grass stains on my knees. Now I could move on to more obliging birds in the park. Star performer is without doubt the Sedge Warbler. When it’s in the mood, it likes nothing more than to find a nice perch (in the open) and sing. A digi-scoping dream if you ask me.

Sedge Warbler
Luckily, the sun was coming out and warming my damp pegs and drying my strides. I didn’t feel such an idiot now and could confidently converse with other people in the park without them staring at my legs. Now I was 'less noticeable', something else wasn’t. All along the paths from Bowyer’s Water to Fishers Green, Garden Warbler song filled the air. last week there may have been one or two but this time there could easily have been 15 - 20 birds.

Garden Warbler

Monday, 6 May 2013

Softly, softly, catchee migrants

What chance have I got? I mean, I would quite like to hit the 200 species mark this year and my chances are looking rather Dodo like. I know there’s no prize for reaching this total or I’m not doing a patch race etc... but I like to have a target because it motivates me to get out early or go a bit further to see more. This is the problem though, I haven’t gone that bit further. I do get up early but I have realised I haven’t been that far from home this year with Thetford in Norfolk being the only trip I have made outside Essex/London.

Having said that, the species are ticking over slowly. Obviously I would like to bag at least 20 new species a month to realistically reach that score and the arrival of spring has helped boost my total. Just by snatching a couple of hours here and there, before work, after work, en route to somewhere and by just looking up sometimes has got me the majority of the common spring migrants. At Wanstead Flats a Wheatear and a Whinchat. Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Blackcap at Lee Valley and Lesser Whitethroat, Swallow and Common Terns at Gunners Park, near Southend.

There are also quite a few Swifts, Sand Martins and House Martins in the area now along with at least six difficult-to-see Nightingales in the Lee Valley Park at Fishers Green.

Female Wheatear at Wanstead Flats

Male Whinchat also at Wanstead Flats
Common Whitethroat at Gunners Park
Corn Bunting at South Fambridge

Apart from the excitement of the incoming migrants, I had some anxiety about some of the common species that seemed to have eluded me this year. The most startling has been the Green Woodpecker which I have heard on many occasions but have failed to locate and see. It has now been added to the seen list with much relief this weekend and the point is, be patient. The common species always get seen eventually, it’s the stop-off species that need the most planning. So now I must start thinking about Kent, Suffolk, Surrey and Norfolk more seriously if the 200 is to be achieved.

Green Woodpecker, Lee Valley

Nightingale at Lee Valley