Tag Archives: black

Gull on black

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;*

Well, I wouldn’t describe the ice as ‘stone’-like exactly, more like a brittle glaze in these climate-warmed times. A wafer-like shelf that could never carry the weight of a man (certainly not a man of my current girth), but, while it lasted, has served as a temporary gull magnet.

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Eagle Pond, Snaresbrook

In the fading light, the diminished promontory of ice blurred the horizons between water in its liquid and solid states, and also between the ‘elements’ (archaic, not chemic) of water and air. As I stood on a pavement (yes, pavement) with the drizzle distorting my binocular’d view, everything took on a one-dimensional blackness. A void only punctuated by the white and grey of gulls with the odd smudge from a brownish juvenile.

One of the punctuation marks in the photo above is an Eastern visitor, a 3rd-winter Caspian Gull. First spotted by Stuart Fisher on ‘Eagle Pond’, and now much photographed by the London gull specialists, including our very own Patch Cowboy. I found out after the fact that the crisp shots taken by these guys – showing every mid-moult feather in all its glory – owe something to cheap bread being used as a lure. All’s fair in birding, love, and war I suppose.

When I saw the Casp, it was not yawning down bread, but rather gnawing on a bone on top of the ice on the other side of the lake. The grainy, cropped, resulting pictures attest… but it is still the closest I have seen this species to my Patch, having missed a younger bird last year.

The Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook is a frontier on a neighbouring patch to ours; the Leyton Flats.

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Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

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This Casp is not the only sub-adult gull I have snapped recently. My micro-patch water gauge yielded a new tick for me the other week in the brief spell of snow that we had; a Herring Gull (now the fourth gull to have graced the post for me, found in the same order as how common they are on the Patch: BHG, Common, LBBG, Herring…).

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2nd-Winter Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

With the snow and drizzle, the seemingly constant water level on Jubilee Pond has finally started to creep up.

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Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

*In the bleak midwinter, Christina Rossetti

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Wanstead Patchwork: Part IX (If you go down to the woods at night…)

Blackbird has spoken
On Friday night, I had an hour or so to kill between getting home from work and going out to meet friends. I decided to take a stroll in Bush Wood to see if I could hear or see a Tawny Owl.

As I walked on to the Flats at dusk, I was struck by the amount of bird song. Robins, wrens, thrushes, and dunnocks are all in full song now, and as the light faded they all seemed desperate to belt out their tunes before night properly fell. That evening I heard my first proper Blackbird song of the year:

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)

The Blackbird is one of the UK’s commonest birds. In winter their numbers can swell from winter migrants to 10-15 million birds. But now, about 5 million breeding birds will have been left behind. Birds which we have become used to squawking out their alarm calls and nothing else, now perch proudly and sing one of the most popular and widely recognised songs of the British countryside.

After watching this Blackbird and a Song Thrush seem to compete for some time I headed deeper into the woods. And it became darker.

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Bush Wood

I walked around listening for owls. At one point I thought I heard one in the distance, but cursed myself for not being sure whether it was really an owl or just a distant human voice shouting. Eventually it became so dark that I realised I should head back.

But I had become hopelessly lost in the dark forest… mwuhahahahaha!

I didn’t really, although I did trip a couple of times and cut myself on brambles. Bush Wood is not a massive forest and street and car lights are quickly visible – including some street lamps lighting a path that bisects this part of the Flats and wood:

Wood lights

Lights in the sky
As I left the wood, I looked up at the stars. The two brightest bodies in the sky – the moon was nowhere to be seen last night – were Jupiter and Venus – so I took their photographs:

Jupiter and Venus

As well as celestial bodies puncturing the darkness, the night was also diluted (or polluted) by the lights of our wonderful city. I stood for some time gazing over the darkness of the flats to the light of London beyond, including my office in Canary Wharf visible a few miles away in the distant glow:

London light