Tag Archives: Leyton Flats

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 VI (Fair in field and red of wing, the winter thrushes are the kings)

This weekend has seen some epic birding – it has worn me out, but luckily I have a week in the office to recover 😉

Seriously though, I spent almost 8 hours out on the patch yesterday and drove down for a day at Dungeness today. More on Dungeness later, but now, I wanted to get up-to-date on patch antics.

I have been complaining how long it has taken me to spot the winter thrushes. Then, like buses, they all come at once.

Nick alerted me to a single Fieldfare which was flitting between tree and grass as a flurry of joggers and dog-walkers disturbed its feeding alongside two Mistle Thrush. As per always, I won’t win any photo prizes for this, but I thought I had better show as well as tell:

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

I also finally saw a Redwing, but was too busy tweeting my delight to get a photograph (if you think that is a bad excuse, wait until you hear my Bittern story from today). Aside from my slight ineptitude, Fieldfare and Redwing really do seem to have been scarce on the Flats this year so far. There certainly seem less of them than there were pre-Christmas, and other birders have confirmed this. Perhaps there are not enough berries. Nevertheless, those winter thrushes have now taken my patch list for the year to 59.

But my long walk around the patch – which included exploring Leyton Flats and the River Roding for the first time – produced more than just thrushes, albeit they were my only birding patch ‘ticks’…

 Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes) - I think

Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes) – I think

River Roding

River Roding

Red Fox  (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Long Wood