Monday 21 August 2023

Tis the season

August is upon us, indeed you could say that it is nearly done. Migration is in full swing, and things are getting interesting again. What this also means is that the patch is crawling with birders every minute of every day, I simply cannot keep up. I can compete though, and via a few early morning forays this weekend and an opportune evening session I have managed to boost my year list and see a few good birds to boot.

Last week looked like this: On Monday I was in Scotland, so unable to go birding in Wanstead. Entirely reasonable. I did have an amazing viz-mig session at North Queensferry on Monday morning though during which Graham (whose watchpoint it is) and I recorded 334 Tree Pipit heading south west over the Firth of Forth. 334! This is a UK day record and it was very exciting to be part of. For a long while we didn't think we would make it, but gradually we overhauled the third best day count of 275 (also at this location), and then a late flurry of birds blitzed through 312 and 319 to claim top spot. They were still going over when we had to leave to start work.

Mrs L and I drove back to London overnight on Monday, arriving home at 3.30am. This precluded any early morning birding and so the first opportunity I had was instead Wednesday. To my chagrin I did not take it and slept in instead. On Wednesday evening I went to a wine-tasting which meant that Thursday morning was a write off thanks to many excellent Tuscan and Piedmontese reds. Really I should have tried to power through it as James basically completed autumn in one session with Pied and Spotted FlycatchersTree PipitRedstartWhinchat and Wheatear. I made a half-hearted attempt a little later but everything had already disappeared. Where these birds go I have no idea, they just melt away. 

Friday however and I was back on form, hitting the patch first thing and scoring Tree Pipit almost instantly, my ear being very much "in" after Fife. That evening after work I came home via Wanstead Flats and mopped up a few Spotted Flycatchers. Autumn had started!

Saturday and I was pumped, especially after evening reports from Spurn of millions of migrants. Wanstead wasn't quite like that but we collectively managed over 50 species including some dispersing Crossbill which were a tick for almost everyone present. Again I had my ear in after Scotland, and when I spotted six chunky finches heading our way and heard a call I instantly pronounced that these were likely Crossbill. And so they were. I was so astonished that this had actually happened that I didn't even think to pick up my camera which was enjoying its first patch outing for many months. They're somewhat less than annual, although nearly always at this time of year, and it was interesting to see that several other London patches recorded the species on the same day.

I did manage to get my photographic act together the following morning, Sunday, when some Yellow Wagtails made the unusual step of landing on the patch. Probably just a mistake as mostly of course they just fly straight over, generally invisibly. So to have three pottering around on the short grass was really quite unusual and not to be missed. I took about fifty frames, of which fewer than five are remotely in focus. Clearly I need to get my eye in again, pretty pathetic. They didn't stay long, two more birds passing overhead attracted them back to the skies again and all continued south. I've got a few more days on the patch before another period of protracted travel, so the next few days need to be good as I'm probably going to miss most of whatever happens in the next couple of weeks.


  1. sounds great! I managed 2 chiffs, a willow warbler and a blackcap this am here - alas not quite as impressive as Wanstead!

    1. It has been decent, but without that special bird. And you get the sense that most of the migrants are hanging around rather than there being daily churn.