Tuesday 25 August 2020

A clean sweep

Yesterday I managed to condense autumn into a single day. Over the course of three brief birding sessions I managed to see all the commoner expected migrants. First up an early morning balcony sky-watch, then a mid-morning whistle-stop tour around the brooms on Wanstead Flats, and finally a mid-afternoon dash to the SSSI - there and back in fifteen minutes. My personal totals are a thing of great beauty, and in years to come looking back on August 24th 2020 will always elicit a smile.

3 Whinchat

3 Wheatear

2 Redstart

1 Pied Flycatcher

1 Spotted Flycatcher

1 Tree Pipit

2 Yellow Wagtail

8 Willow Warbler

1 Lesser Whitethroat

Other birders picked up a few more here and there - another Redstart, another Yellow Wag and two more Whinchat and Spotted Flycatchers, but when I look at my list I am once again reminded what an incomparable spot Wanstead Flats can be on a good day. Prof W, now a foreign correspondent, remarked that he too wished he lived by the coast, and he is not wrong. Remember for a minute that Wanstead Flats is not a remote headland or a shingle spit. Instead it straddles zones 2 & 3 of the London tube network, and it has no right to get so many passerine migrants and yet it does. It provokes feelings of jealousy in other London birders who can only marvel at why this should be. I always offer two alternative explanations.

1) The amazing skill, passion, dedication and diligence of all the local birders, by which I mean me.


2) The fact that from the air at night Wanstead Flats must look like a fabulously inviting dark space in the middle of the blazing sea of light that is east London. If you were a bird looking for a spot to dive into as your night flight comes to end where would you head for? This place literally shines out. Or doesn't, if you see what I mean.

Number two strikes me as altogether more likely, although you cannot rule out the fact that the coverage here is excellent, particularly from certain individuals, by which I definitely don't mean me.

So that was my birding day and I am dead chuffed. The longest session was the early morning one, starting at 5.45am out on the balcony. This delivered the (calling) Pipit and the two Wagtails, all of which I also saw. The Chats were all in the brooms, and the Flycatchers and Warblers were all in the SSSI which saw somewhat of an emergency visit later on when I realised that a full house was on the cards. I didn't have a camera for any of it, no time, and the freedom of birding without being fully laden is something I find myself enjoying more and more. But of course all blog posts are enhanced by a photo, so this is the most recent burnt area two weeks after the fire that I wrote about here, and as you can see it is doing quite nicely - the deluge last week has accelerated the recovery to the extent it looks really quite green already. Lovely stuff. And even more lovely was that it contained two of the three Wheatears.



  1. Well, that's more Redstarts and Tree Pipits than I've seen all year! Pretty amazing. 😊👍

    1. The coast isn't all it's cracked up to be. People should stay away from it. Far away. 😊