A Big Birding Year: Part XXIV (Welcome to Wanstead)

We have moved home. I have coincidentally bought a house just a stone’s throw from one of London’s best birding sites: The Wanstead Flats. Wanstead Flats This morning, as with last Sunday (just after we had moved in), I went out on the Flats shortly after dawn to discover what I hope to be my new ‘patch’. I have to admit that I felt a little bit like I was trespassing as the area is well covered by some very dedicated and experienced birders (many of whom I bumped into on my first Sunday walk last weekend) such as Jonathan Lethbridge aka the Wanstead Birder (whose photos simply blow me away) and Nick Croft aka “Wanstead Birding” and a gentleman named Dan who kindly helped me locate and photograph my 96th bird species of the year [warning: distant dawn-light blurry record-only shot coming up]:

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)

Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)

If that bird looks like a Herring Gull but with yellow legs, that’s … er… because it is a Herring Gull with yellow legs. It was designated a separate species about 20 years ago. The UK gets around 1000 YLGs visiting us during the winter. As the name would suggest, we get far more Common Gull (Mew Gull if you are reading this from across the pond) than YLG. However, despite their name, they are not actually all that common. In fact I have failed to photograph a Common Gull so far this year. Wanstead quickly allowed me to rectify that as there are more than you could shake a big camera lens at… my 97th species of the year:

Common Gull (Larus canus)

Common Gull (Larus canus)

Wanstead Flats may be the beginning of Epping Forest, but there are not all that many trees, and the Flats are generally typified by long grass and bushes… Flats … perfect territory for Stonechats …

European Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

European Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

… and Skylarks. Several months ago I snapped a Skylark doing its thing – singing away as it rose vertically up into the air – and then stupidly accidentally deleted my photos of the dot in the air. Today I did not delete the photos of the dot, but can now share with you all and insist you believe me when I say that it is a Skylark (and therefore my 98th species photographed this year in the UK):

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

The Skylarks were not the only silhouettes in the sky above the grasses. A hunter also hung in the air last Sunday and was in almost the identical place this morning as well…

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Aside from the fauna, and resident birders, I was also quite impressed with the fungi on my new patch…

Shaggy Parasol? (Macrolepiota rhacodes)

Shaggy Parasol? (Macrolepiota rhacodes)

… and I almost squealed with delight like a little girl when I saw Fly Agaric or Fly Amanita

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

… and no, I did not lick it.

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4 thoughts on “A Big Birding Year: Part XXIV (Welcome to Wanstead)

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