Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Missing from Wanstead

Another four Ring Ouzels in roughly the same area this morning, perhaps confirming my suspicion yesterday that there were in fact more than two present? I thought I had at least three, but couldn't be sure so only reported two, both of which promptly disappeared by the time Stuart managed to get there only a little later. So it was for me when I popped out mid-morning to have a look for Nick's birds; I could only locate one. I wonder where they go?

Still, with somewhere between four and six birds in just one small area of the Flats, the patch is officially on fire. But is it? Ring Ouzel, dare I say it, is in danger of becoming thought of as regular. It appears to be pretty much nailed on in the last week of September and first week of October. When I had to let a probable go in the Spring, I wasn't too worried; I knew I'd get one in the Autumn.

I've seen seven Ring Ouzels on the patch in the last three years, all of which made the pager. By contrast, I've seen one Treecreeper, which didn't. Which would you say is the rarer bird? Location location location.

I've just been reading Johnny A's Surrey Year-listing blog. The latest post is entitled Twenty Nine Years Later, which is how long he has been birding at Beddington. It is also how long it has taken him to get Treecreeper on his site list. His big bogey bird finally fell on Monday. I remember him telling me about the relative rarity of species at Beddington when I was there to see the Pec Sand a couple of weeks ago. It was something like his fifth Pec Sand at Beddington, yet he hadn't seen a Treecreeper in nearly thirty years of trying. Which got me wondering, what is the equivalent bird in Wanstead? The bird that you would think would be a shoe-in, yet is conspicuous by it's absence? Every site has one, perhaps more, depending on location and habitat.

I don't have twenty-nine years of experience here, it's a fifth of that, but perusing my somewhat paltry list for obvious omissions, there are a few which jump out. These include Cuckoo, Wood Warbler and Yellowhammer, but those have all been seen this year, just not by me. They're all passage birds, and eventually I'll get lucky. No, the bird that strikes me as missing, and for which I am not aware of any historical record, is Pintail.

According to the RSPB, around 30,000 Pintail winter in the UK. That's approximately double the numbers of both wintering Gadwall and Shoveler, yet we get loads of those here. Habitat not suitable? Well, we are always guaranteed Teal, yet I wouldn't say the habitat is any good for them either. Wintering UK Teal outnumber Pintail six to one, yet I've seen twenty-one here, versus zero Pintail. The habitat is no good for Wigeon either, yet I've seen five here. Rainham always get double-figures of Pintail in the winter, and it's only a few miles away. Why don't we get any here?

So is that my official bogey bird? I can't think of any better candidates, though Mandarin, relatively abundant in the northern reaches of Epping Forest, to my knowledge has never made it here either. So, this winter, Pintail is the bird I'll be hunting for. That and Snowy Owl.

Gadwall, 'cos I can't show you a Pintail.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jonathan, Pintail is a different deal to the other dabblers and it doesnt suprise me that it is elusive on your patch. They seem to favour the wider skies of open land such as saltmarshes etc. Up here they are quite scarce even in areas that abound in wildfowl. Wigeon are more liberal in their tastes and while massive flocks congregate at the coast, odd ones drop onto park ponds here...

    Cheers Stewart.