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.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

If you are looking for peace and quiet, don’t volunteer to work in the Lee Valley

It was 6.30am; I was in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t hear myself think.

The birdsong was extraordinary. It was if the birds knew we were on the cusp of BST and they were going to go for it. Wrens with their high velocity, high pitched call attacked me from areas low down among the broken trees of past storms. Above, high above, Chiffchaffs played out their relentless 'chiff-chaff' song as they moved around the bare tops of the trees. Elsewhere you could hear the gurgling of Blackcaps followed by the beautiful flute-like warble that came from somewhere deep in the hawthorn.
A supporting cast of Robin, Chaffinch and Song Thrush all added to the cacophony around me. Made me smile.

Chiffchaff, giving it some.
As is normal with me, I like to have a couple of hours walking around the Lee Valley Park to see what’s around (punters alway ask and we have a sightings board in the info centre that always looks better with something on it). I was surprised to see a 'slow-to-leave' Goosander paddling about in the relief channel. These enigmatic sawbills arrive here at the onset of winter and bearing in mind the mild winter we did have, it’s a little unusual for these ducks to still be here. They must like it too.

Drake Goosander
My volunteer duties require me to be positioned at the Bittern Information Point (BIP). The winter although cold, does bring the star of the show to the park in the Bittern. Theses birds have now left (we think, as they can be very elusive) and we await the arrival of one of the noisiest birds I know, the Common Tern. Until then, there were Water Rail, Cetti’s Warblers, Sparrowhawks and Muntjac to keep us entertained in the warm weather.

Male Sparrowhawk

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Wheatears have returned.

Spent a couple of hours this morning over at Rainham Marshes looking for Wheatears. A few had been seen over the previous couple of days and so I figured there was a reasonable chance I could bag a couple for myself. The Thames river bank by the RSPB reserve is littered with debris, everything you could possible imagine is strewn along the tide line. It is a wonder these beautiful birds want to spend their time in all this mess but clearly it holds a good supply of grubs and caterpillars.
Female Northern Wheatear
There were I estimated, five Northern Wheatears along this stretch of the Thames, three males and two females. On the shore itself, Oystercatchers, Curlews and Redshanks piped in spring. A few Reed Buntings and Linnets made themselves heard while a few Meadow Pipits and Skylarks chased around the more grasser areas of the landscape.
Male Northern Wheatear
I was lucky to get the two shots I did as these wheatear are very flighty right now but in a few weeks, they should settle down and allow longer opportunities to digiscope them.

Speaking of luck, I popped into the reserve itself to look for the Kingfishers that have started to make nest holes at one of the hides. Although they were not showing while I was there, a Raven did and it was being mobbed by Carrion Crows and Lapwings. It occasionally took flight and its wing span was incredible. You could never mistake a Raven in flight. There were also a couple of Little Egrets, a Grey Heron and a few lingering Wigeon on the reserve. Two hours well spent.