Sunday 11 October 2015

Autumn comes to Wanstead

I've been hitting the Park a lot more recently. Although I much prefer the Flats as a birding experience, at this time of year your chances are better for Tit flocks in the Park, and I've been spending a bit of time trying to track them down in the hope of Firecrest or Treecreeper. I've also had half a mind on Yellow-browed Warbler given the huge numbers that are in the country at the moment, but I didn't really think this would ever come off. I am however the luckiest birder in the entire world, or sometimes it feels like it, as walking around the far side of the Ornamental Waters today after a fruitless half hour in the OSW I heard that magic call again. GET IN!! A patch (144) and a London (252) tick, and to think I very nearly twitched a bird in Regent's Park a few days ago!

It was almost absurdly loud (or perhaps I'm particularly attuned to it at the moment) from across the narrow stretch of water, and called only once. In fact I never saw the bird, and in the time it took me to retrace my steps back around to the other side it had moved on, and despite searching for around an hour and a half with Bob and James (who does a mean whistled version!) we couldn't pick it up again. One call is enough though when it comes to this species, they are very distinctive indeed. Interestingly there are a lot of Sycamores alongside the OW, and in the wood between there and the Plain. They're huge trees in fact, and I'd never even realised they were there - in my mind a Sycamore is a stunted sapling only a few feet high, but I suppose that's the Shetland sub-species! The trouble with the Park is that the habitat is incredibly dense. In contrast to the Flats which has distinct pockets of habitat separated by open space, in the Park the cover stretches for acres without much of a break and it's very difficult to work. As I say, I was very lucky.

We gave up as the light began to fail, picking up a full dozen Wigeon (possibly a patch record) on the Canal, which added to the three I'd had on the Shoulder of Mutton pond earlier is a very healthy number indeed for around here. That's another reason to do the Park more often in winter, there are far more water bodies that are much more suitable for Wildfowl than any of the ponds on the Flats. Pintail remains a much wanted patch tick, and the yearlist is still missing Goldeneye, Smew and all those other tasty things that a cold snap could bring. I am very much looking forward to winter. Today though it was all about autumn.


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