Tag Archives: Chaffinch

October 2018: Review

Patch Summary:

I made 8 patch visits during October and recorded a total of 70 species of birds. After a disappointing September, the quality in October shone through with some real star birds: I added four birds to my patch year list and three of those were brand new patch lifers (the most successful month for patch life ticks for a few years for me).

Highlights were:

  • Nick’s Rustic Bunting – a true patch ‘mega’ that stayed for a few days (17 October to 21 October), occasionally showing exceptionally well.
  • Tony’s Barn Owl may have been outshone as it showed on a day (20 October)  when the Rustic Bunting was still an attraction, but it was almost as unexpected, locally. A true patch mega.
  • Completing the set as third patch life tick was a flyover Yellowhammer on a day (27 October) when I saw it fly back and forth (or as separate birds) three times in a morning. As Richard and I discussed, it is extraordinary to think that I had seen Rustic Bunting and Ortolan Bunting on the Patch before Yellowhammer.
  • My first prolonged views of Snipe on the Patch with a pair of birds feeding regularly on Shoulder of Mutton and probably more views of them flushed from the Brooms than any other single month.
  • I broke the record with largest patch Teal count with 57 birds, mostly on Heronry, on 6 October, although this was then broken again a few days later.
  • More records were broken with early and late migrants in October. Several of us had Redwing over on 6 October (the patch earliest for returning birds) and a Redstart on 7 October was only a day off our latest, and was also a highlight for me as only the second one for me this year.
  • Having missed out entirely on Ring Ouzel in 2017 and missed several Spring birds, I was pleased to find a first winter bird in the Enclosure on 13 October and an adult male flew low over my head in the Brooms on 20 October.
  • I have enjoyed the October visible migration with thousands of Wood Pigeon seen, hundreds of winter thrushes and plenty of finches including Chaffinch, Brambling, and Common Redpoll.
  • Getting a garden tick of Lapwing with a flock of 29 on 28 October which I watched fly in over the Western Flats and then fly south from my garden.

Lowlights were:

  • Hearing a single Yellow-browed Warbler call by Alex but then questioning my sanity when it didn’t call again, and so not ticking it (this followed chasing after a tantalisingly small, silent warbler on the day Tony had YBW). No year tick there.
  • Not really birding anywhere other than the Patch and one trip to Rainham. I like to mix it up occasionally.

Highlights from elsewhere were:

  • Finally getting Cattle Egret on my London list. I stood in the rain at Rainham on 6 October and watched one hop up and down off a cow’s back. Excellent!
  • I also watched a Common Scoter float down the Thames on the same day; a year tick for me.

My birding month in five pictures:

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Rustic Bunting – surely one of the best birds ever found on the Patch

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Who are all these people on our Patch? The Rustic Bunting twitch

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Snipe on settled on the ground is an unusual patch sighting

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Just occasionally a crow will let you take its portrait

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Nick Croft – the bird-finder general – legend!

Rustic Bunting: Part II

Many people will have woken up early full of nervous anticipation about whether the Wanstead Rustic Bunting will have stayed for the weekend; that nervous energy exemplified by a guy who dropped to his knees when he finally saw it (I’m not scoffing, I remember how I felt on Thursday when I saw the bird).

My early morning was rather more leisurely. I wanted a better photograph opportunity, but I wasn’t going to bust a gut and so enjoyed the misty morning and the ‘VisMig’ (visible passage Autumn migration).

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Coronation Copse

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SSSI

The VisMig was truly excellent with a Ring Ouzel (my second for the year) chattering away as a it flew slowly and low over my head, a couple of Brambling, and Redpoll, lots of Chaffinch, and hundreds of Jackdaw and Wood Pigeon amongst other things.

My focus on the VisMig nearly cost me dearly though. Tony had a brief glimpse of what he thought might be a Short-eared Owl and so he and Jono set off in the hope of a better look while I took a different route to cover another angle. With my mind still geared towards VisMig I noticed a finch flying high over my head and at the same time I heard Tony shout at me. I thought he was shouting at me to get an ID on the finch so I strained my eyes and ears but it flew over silently and too high to pick out features.

When I caught up with the guys, they asked if I had seen the Barn Owl? “The WHAAT?!” The last time Barn Owl was seen on the Patch, I was 12 years old! Whilst it used to be resident decades ago, it is the kind of bird you can imagine never returning to be seen again – it just wasn’t even on my radar of the possible. I think Rustic Bunting was less of a surprise.

What followed wasn’t a particularly edifying train of actions on my part, but it involved running around a lot, staring at every crow in case it was chasing something, hearing that half of London’s birders had seen it while I was off looking in a different direction, quite of lot of swearing and self pity, and I even considered climbing a tree at one point, which would have undoubtedly been a very stupid decision. Eventually, after a call from Nick, I caught a glimpse of it as it sailed behind Long Wood with a retinue of crows.

Barn Owl was my 9th patch tick this year (last year I got 5) and my 125th bird species seen overall on the patch. Bob managed to get some incredible photos of it as it flew over the Brooms.

I could now focus back on the Rustic Bunting which was being watched closely by up to 70 twitchers at any one time.

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I am used to walking bumping into two or three birders on the Patch

To be honest, the crowds probably meant I couldn’t quite get the dream photo I was hoping for, but I was relatively happy with a couple of snaps I managed when, by luck, it happened to perch or feed near where I was standing.

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Rustic Bunting (Emberiza rustica)

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Feeding on some of the seed the guys have put out for it

Yet again, Wanstead Flats proves that almost anything can turn up at any point. And it seems, that, over time, it does!

 

A Big British Birding Year: Part XI (other creatures of the wing)

As I had already called Spring before its official arrival, I felt vindicated last Sunday walking around Walthamstow Marshes in blazing sunshine.

I had heard tales that butterflies had already taken wing and felt a pang of envy that I had not seen any yet this year. I rectified this quickly on the marshes, and within an hour I had seen:

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

European Peacock (Inachis io)

European Peacock (Inachis io)

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Small White (Pieris rapae)

Small White (Pieris rapae)

I also photographed my second species of bee of the year:

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

… As well as my first Bee mimic of the year:

Common Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)

Common Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)

The Walthamstow Marshes also provided my 73rd species of bird for the year so far:

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

I then walked up to the Walthamstow Reservoirs, the largest collection of still water in London, and peered through the fence at the famous Cormorant nesting island on the imaginatively named, Reservoir number 5:

Cormorants

I got a couple of character portraits of:

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

I then turned south and stared through the even more imposing fence protecting the Coppermill Lane waterworks. This is a known spot for roosting gulls and delivered my 74th species of the year:

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)

From there, I walked back to the old Victorian water filter station that is now the Waterworks nature reserve where I finished my day by voyeuristically snapping this blended series of a mating pair of Pochards:

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

A Big British Birding Year: Part IV (Big Garden Birdwatch)

This weekend, tens of thousands of people will have spent an hour counting the birds in their gardens for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I joined them, as indeed I did last year .

I also got to tick one more bird off my year list to take me to a grand total of 49. The 49th species I photographed is one of the most hated birds in the UK: the Feral Pigeon:

Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)

Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)

Many people refer to the feral pigeon as a rat with wings. I don’t completely disagree with the comparison, as, like the rat, the feral pigeon has thrived in a world dominated by humans (let us not forget that humans do incomparably greater damage to this planet than all the so called ‘vermin’ put together). A few other things about feral pigeons that you may or may not know:

  • Feral pigeons are effectively domestic pigeons that have returned to the wild and bred.
  • Domestic pigeons were the first birds in the world to be domesticated (between 5-10,000 years ago) from the handsome wild version of the species, the Rock Dove.
  • Domestic pigeons, often bred as homing or racing pigeons, are able to navigate back to their home roost up to a 1000 miles away if they are released from a strange place.
  • Despite their reputation, and unlike humans, feral pigeons are immune to, and incapable of carrying, the deadly H5N1 ‘bird flu’ virus.
  • Feral pigeons are monogamous and mate for life. When you see a male puffing up his neck and chasing a female whilst cooing – he is courting a female that he will then stay faithful to for the rest of his life (something that many human males seem to find difficult).

Anyway, there ends my lesson, but as you can see, I don’t believe we should hate these natural survivors as much as we often do. Now, back to the listing…

I counted 3 feral pigeons together at one time in the garden – according to the RSPB rules – to count them for today’s birdwatch which I submitted online to feed into the organisation’s enormous database. This was one down on last year.

I counted two Blackbirds – a male and female – which is the same as last year:

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Two Robins (one more than last year):

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

At least two Great Tits (also one more than last year):

Great Tit (Parula major)

Great Tit (Parula major)

Two Blue Tits (same as 2013):

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

One Wood Pigeon (down from three last year):

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

One Carrion Crow (I didn’t see any this time last year):

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Strangely, I only saw one of the normally highly gregarious Long-tailed Tit (two this time last year):

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

At least one Chaffinch (one less than last year):

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

One Wren (which was missing from my hour last year):

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

And, finally six Starling (which improved on the solitary one I saw last year – although the photo is significantly worse!):

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

To summarise, I saw 11 species in my garden (in zone 1 in London) which was one more than last year (two new species, but missing a Magpie from last year). Five of of the species I saw were more numerous or new compared to last year, although five were also less numerous or missing when compared to last year, and two species produced the same number as last year. So overall a pretty even picture when compared against last year, but not bad in such an urbanised area.

Northumberland landscapes

The northernmost English county is a beautiful and wild place.

Northumberland road

Northumberland 1

wall and hill

Stream

We spent time in a remote valley for a wedding, only two weeks after our own (the main reason for Iago80’s recent online silence).

Lily

My wife and I were not really equipped for walking in the hills, but that didn’t stop us.

James

As we walked, I attempted to photograph some of the valley’s avian residents…

A female Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Female Whinchat

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Meadow Pipit

Female Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Chaffinch

And Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) fishing in the streams

Grey Heron

It was also rare to look at the sky and not see (unusually) noisy Buzzards, hovering Kestrels, and circling Ravens (although I didn’t get a good enough shot of any of them to share). Seemingly oblivious of the predators, the sky was also often rich with our summer Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Delichon urbica).

Swallows