Monday, 16 September 2019

A sudden rush of blood to the head

Another bad sleep, this time as a result not of excessive wine, but over-enthusiastic gardening. I have had a bamboo plant for over a decade in a large pot, and it has done almost nothing in all of that time. Finally this spring I planted it in the ground whereupon it exploded into growth, shooting up immensely tall culms at a rate of knots. Some cursory research showed that this was only the beginning, and that it would soon overtake Wanstead if left unchecked. So I spent Saturday digging a huge and very deep trench to bury some root barrier around it, and whilst I was at it planted another one. When you get to about 40cm you hit London clay, and the final 20cm are hellish. At one stage Mrs L rushed outside thinking it had killed me, but I was just lying on my stomach with my arm in the pit having a bit of a rest. It is done now, hopefully giving Wanstead a few years before the Pandas arrive en masse, but I have not worked so hard for ages and on Sunday I could barely move. 

I thought I would end up sleeping all day but for some reason I woke up at dawn. Pain I think. Anyway, a quick peruse of twitter and I saw that the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was still at Farlington. I have spent the last few weeks smugly laughing at all those madmen dashing down to Cornwall multiple times to try and see a Brown Booby. Fools! Not for me. Once, granted, but I have grown up now and my twitching days are behind me. Well behind me.

Anyway, it took just over an hour and forty minutes to get down there and the bird showed immediately. It was extremely dude-y I have to say, and I rather let the side down by dressing in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt rather than regulation green and beige. Clearly not a serious twitcher. Talking of which I met Monkey there doing much the same as me, and we established that the last bird we had twitched was nearly two years ago, so actually I have done quite well. I didn't stick around for very long, it looked like it might get a bit crowded and I am not one for crowds these days. And so I was back home before lunch and thus managed to fit in a bit more gardening. Very slow gardening.

Not quite sure what came over me but it certainly made a change from my usual sedate Sunday mornings. Sometimes it is good to do something a little different. You won't find me screaming down to Cornwall any time soon, nor up to Shetland, both of which have been known in the past, but this one was well within range and took less than a morning. And as you can see below, it was a glorious feast of colour.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Wanstead at dawn

I had a very bad sleep on Friday night, probably as a result of the first booze all week Mrs L and I agreed - we are trying to be good. Still, it meant I was out on the patch extremely early and able to enjoy the rising sun. It is at its most beautiful at this time of day, you can't see the rubbish. Alexandra Lake was particularly grim, and is losing water rapidly. Soon it will become the cesspit it has always threatened to be - hopefully Waders will find this more attractive than I do. Needless to say there weren't any, although the Greenshank endures on Heronry for some reason. Best birds were a pair of Stonechat fresh in, the first of the autumn, but mainly the morning was notable for a large clear out of the week's earlier migrants, and between us we couldn't dig out a great deal.


Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Buses in Wanstead are Green

I've lived in Wanstead for nearly fifteen years. My wader list after last year's Black-tailed Godwit, was fourteen, neatly mirroring my time here at that point. Now in my fifteenth year it is only right that I add another wader to my patch list, and so late last week I did exactly that - Greenshank. One was found by Simon and Nick on the deck on Heronry, and even more remarkably was still present when I and the rest of the patch stalwarts got to it after work. It was still there the following morning, and mind-blowingly was also still there on Saturday morning. I toddled over to see it with Tony, noted that it was favouring a narrow channel on the south side and was thus relatively close, toddled back home to fetch the largest camera I could find, and then toddled back to Heronry and papped it. 


The bird was flushed by a water-borne dog and flew east calling, but dropped back in a couple of minutes later. Deciding I'd got as good as I was going to get, I got up to leave and had not walked more than about a hundred yards when Nick sent a message to say he had seen a white-bellied wader flying east over the SSSI. Those of you that know that patch will know that the next bit of water a wader will see on that vector is the Shoulder of Mutton Pond, followed by Heronry, where I just been. I was under trees and had no sky, but it had to be worth a look so I retraced my steps and went to the north side of Heronry where I could see the biggest expanse of water. Scanning the southern edge I nearly dropped my binoculars - there were TWO Greenshank sat side by side in the shallows. After a while they both got up, and calling loudly flew over my head and disappeared over the golf course. Mouth agape, camera uselessly on the ground, I followed them through the bins getting glorious views as they flew against a charcoal grey sky and were lost to view. 

Greedily I went back to the southern channel just to check that the original bird wasn't there, that would have been quite ridiculous. It wasn't, but nonetheless what are the chances? That said I remember when two Golden Plover on Wanstead Flats were joined by a third overnight, so there is at least some precedent but still, it is just extraordinary when you think about it. The photograph of the two together is not very good as I was on the other side of the pond, but it doesn't matter as I doubt this will ever occur again.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Trashing the patch

Trashing. Not thrashing. My guess is that given it is autumn and that Wanstead is drowning in migrants that some of you may have misread the title, and were perhaps expecting another birdy post? No. Trashing. From the verb to trash - to damage or destroy something, either deliberately or because you did not take good care of it. Migrants are not the only thing we are drowning in. I am talking about litter and people's waste. Wanstead is slowly but surely being ruined by selfless littering and tipping.

I don't litter, my children don't litter. I would never dream of dropping something on the ground, the mere thought of it is completely foreign to me. I view littering as one of the lowest things somebody can do, as it just so avoidable. There are bins everywhere, recycling facilities in London abound. How hard can it be to find a bin or take your rubbish home with you? Not hard at all, so when people just chuck whatever it is - normally food and drink containers - on the ground and saunter off, well it just makes my blood boil. I know I am sounding a bit like 'outraged of Tunbridge Wells' here, but it has got to the point where it is an epidemic. 

As well as a few migrants around the patch last week, here is a flavour of what else a visiting birder might have seen.

Nice eh? Almost every corner of the patch that you walk through has something similar. Under bushes and around tree trunks are the most popular spots, although the sides of the lake are also pretty grim. It would be a lot worse were it not for the heroic action of a local volunteer who walks around the patch almost every morning pulling a trolley and picking it all up. He fills several bags a day but cannot keep up with the sheer volume of crap dropped by the selfish and oafish users of the Flats.

Up there with littering is fly-tipping. The Flats sees a lot of this, most often when the fun fair is in town, although there is no direct correlation. Possibly it is because there are more gates open during these periods to allow access, possibly it is because less scrupulous ride operators do a bit of house clearance work on the side. I have nothing but flimsy circumstantial evidence for this of course and I am probably being discriminatory.

All I can say is it becomes a lot easier to become discriminatory and cast aspersions when you step out onto your patch and see this.

And this.

Lovely. Who exactly do the dumpers of this stuff think is going to sort it out? The answer is that they don't care one jot. The physical answer is that it is the hard-working keepers of Epping Forest, who rather than manage the habitat have to instead pick up the contents of a lowlife's uninsured white Ford Transit. We regularly have to direct them to piles of rubbish that some callous arse has tipped out of a van, as if they don't have enough to do already. Prosecutions are rare, though they do sometimes manage to prove it and fine the person concerned - my favourite was someone who had fly-tipped a load of stuff in a massive cardboard box that had their name and address on it....

There is only one acceptable form of dropping something on the ground, and that is when the aim is to feed the birds. Yes, despite the rather ambiguous signage of "Don't feed the birds" around the various ponds on the patch, actually it is quite alright and perfectly acceptable to put a little extra out for our feathered friends. So many people have such little regard for wildlife that I have to say my heart gives a little flutter when I see such acts of human kindness. This is one of the truest expressions of a love of nature.

Look! So thoughtful.