Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Wanstead Rares

Never one to pass up an opportunity to talk patch stats, I thought my lucky readership might be hugely interested in what birds I have not seen many of in Wanstead. Kind of the bottom ten. The great thing about this is that each patch is more or less unique, and what is common in one place would be mega in another. I will never forget birding Girdle Ness with Mark L when three Canadas flew past. Whilst I carried on picking my nose, Mark was jumping up and down and fist-pumping, shouting "Patch Gold!" at the top of his voice. I just love that expression. Anyhow, here, in decreasing order, like "Pick of the Pops", are my personal Wanstead Patch Golds.

Some basic information. I've lived and birded here for eight years. I don't go out every day, but I do go out a lot. All the below relate to individuals, as opposed to occurences. I thought about doing it in terms of 'times seen', but it would have been a bit more difficult. Natch.

10. Firecrest
Exclusively wintering birds in Bush Wood or Reservoir Wood, with up to four seen in a day. Fantastic, we are lucky to have them.

9. Common Tern, Peregrine Falcon
Common Tern are a summer visitor, and one has the distinction of being on the garden list. Peregrine live nearby year round, but are infrequently seen.

8. Tree Pipit
Autumn buzz-overs, and one spring bird. I'm still waiting for one this year. Any day now I expect.

7. Bullfinch
Resident, but shy and retiring, and on the bit of the patch that is furthest from my house.....

6. Golden Plover / Goosander
The Golden Plover were in a single flock this winter, and were visible for approximately ten seconds. Mega. Five of the Goosander were from the same cold snap, with four in one go. Never easy, they don't linger.

5. Red Kite
Five single birds, always flyovers, and always in the latter half of March. The first time I saw one was thanks to Prof W going shopping, and I nearly fell off the roof trying to see it. Definitely on the increase.

4. Shelduck, Pied Flycatcher, Brambling
Shelduck are always flyovers, as are Bramblings. Pied Flycatchers are a difficult passage migrant, but last year I saw two.

3. Woodcock, Med Gull, Sedge Warbler, Nuthatch, Treecreeper
Seen three of each of all of these. Woodcock is a winter visitor and a question of pure luck. Med Gull is very scarce, but they tend to be eminently twitchable, and Nick is responsible for all three. Sedge Warbler is remarkably difficult, and why Nuthatch and Treecreeper should be so mega is anyone's guess - the habitat in the park is ideal.

2. Red-crested Pochard, Mandarin, Garganey, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull, Little Owl, Yellowhammer.
The wildfowl constitute a pair of each, the former being long-stayers and the Garganey being available for one day. I've seen two of each wader, and two Y-L Gulls, all on the Flats. Little Owl was a previous resident, only two indivduals that I know of, and I've had Yellowhammer twice.

1. The creme de la creme, and unsurprisingly the longest list. It's worth going through them one by one, as they're so special.

Osprey - my greatest moment, at 6am one September morning I wondered why every single Woodpigeon in Wanstead was going ballistic.....

Oystercatcher - heard only one foggy morning. A long overdue tick.
Stone Curlew - a gem of find by Nick that somehow stayed for two days
Little Ringed Plover - found this by the Alex, after sticking around to investigate a two-bird theory.
Jack Snipe - One of those "Oh my God" moments as this flew in and skittled around the ice. "Is it?", I asked myself. You know what, I think it is. "JACK SNIPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Dunlin - Amazing, and stayed all day.
Caspian Gull - a short-staying bird on the Flats one day; dog-related departure. May or may not get accepted, this is me we're talking about after all.
Turtle Dove - in Long Wood, purring away merrily. My daughter chose this exact moment to wet herself and so I never saw it.
Dartford Warbler - Stu found a male about 100 yards from where I predicted one would turn up. Well done him!
Rook - a summer garden flyover, never again.
White-fronted Goose - I looked through this bird several times before realising there was something funny about it. Provenance unknown, but it did nothing wrong so I'm having it.
Wryneck - who can forget this one. Stayed a whole week, and was even twitched by Lee. What more could a bird want?
Goldeneye - a long-staying female on Heronry
Smew - another cold-snap gem.
Pheasant - a long-staying male in the SSSI. Disappeared when the fair turned up, I could not possibly comment.

So there you have it, my top ten, or my top 38, depending on how you see it. With fifteen birds appearing only once in eight years, a true top ten would have been slightly difficult to produce, but thanks for reading this far. You'll note that Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Whinchat etc don't feature - far too common you see, we're falling over ourselves most years. Note how nationally common most of the single-record birds are. One Rook and one Pheasant in eight years? Patch Gold.


  1. I'm with Mark L on this one - Canada Goose is 18-carat patch gold round our way (Harrow: body-of-water desert).

  2. That Firecrest shot is a cracker.

  3. Agreed about the firecrest photo. (Love their name too--although come to think of it, our similar kinglets are also well-named.)

    Had to smile at your mention of osprey as I am currently staying on Cape Cod where they are up to their armpits in ospreys. You can't put up a telephone pole here without an osprey building a nest on it. What's that, oh yes, another osprey. Very nice to have them as feel common as rock doves, especially after a couple decades ago when the species was in grave decline.