Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Garganey, Lee Valley

An afternoon visit to the Lee Valley in search of the reported Garganey proved successful when it was found busily feeding in the corner of Hall Marsh Scrape. Although it remained distant I grabbed a photo with my phone handheld to the scope. Luckily the hide was empty allowing time to scan the scrape for anything else that may be present and was rewarded with a single Little Ringed Plover.


A couple of hours birding added five additions to the year list. Garganey, Little Ringed Plover, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, and a pair of Kingfishers were all seen in the immediate area of the scrape.

Monday, 12 April 2021

White-throated Sparrow, Barcombe Cross

It's been almost six months since my last twitch,  a Masked Shrike at Shuart in Kent. Today I cracked and at 4.45am this morning headed for Barcombe Cross in East Sussex. A White-throated Sparrow had been in the area since February but due to covid guidelines and the fact that it was frequenting a private garden news was understandingly suppressed. When the bird moved to an open recreation area near an allotment news and location were made available.

It's been over a year since we shared a car with Brian and as he had made the trip on Saturday he was able to provide detailed travel and on-site directions. Arriving at 6.30 it was over an hour before the Sparrow appeared. That anxious nervous wait of not knowing if the bird had decided to move on overnight or not was over. A brief appearance in the tree by the picnic table was followed by several trips to the table and the decking where small amounts of seed had been placed.

White-throated Sparrow

A Little Bunting had been present at Warnham Local Nature Reserve since early March and had already been reported today while I was watching the Sparrow. The reserve was on the same route as the return journey home and a quick visit was rewarded with superb views of the bird.

Little bunting

Warnham Reserve Centre and hide

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Iceland Gull, Wanstead

On Tuesday the 23rd an Iceland Gull had been reported at Wanstead. Thinking it would be a very brief visit, I thought my chance of seeing it had gone. But it was again reported the next morning and Brian managed a quick visit and added it to his year list. 

I had recently spent four days in Wanstead hospital and was due a follow-up appointment today, so my thinking was if the bird was again present I would try to see it before or after my check-up. An early check on the news services and the gull was again being reported on Alexandra Lake. The lake is right next to the car park and thus would involve no walking. Dad and I arrived as the gates to the car park were being opened and I scanned the lake from the car while waiting. The Iceland Gull was the first bird I saw! 

Iceland Gull

It was soon flushed but flew out over the football pitches and eventually landed among the Black-headed Gulls.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Two Lockdown surprises within a week

The last week has produced two major surprises on the birding front. With Covid restrictions still very much in place, I was sitting at home wondering what to do when news broke of three Velvet Scoters present at King George reservoir! Within minutes I was unlocking the reservoir gates and heading up the ramp. Several scans later and two of the Scoters were found. They were at the North end of the South basin and always remained distant. I managed to grab a distant record shot with my phone held to the scope.

Two of the three Velvet Scoter

On the walk back to the car park the third Velvet Scoter was found along with a smart-looking male Scaup.


This morning a text from Brian alerted me to the presence of a Great White Egret at the Gunpowder Park. Walking along the footpath one of the Short-eared Owls was spotted and after reaching the second bridge the Great White Egret was quickly located among the reeds.

Great White Egret

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Ring-necked Duck, Lee Valley

Prior to 2010, I did the majority of my birding within the Lee Valley and surrounding areas, and now with the lockdown restrictions still very much in place, I have again found myself spending a lot of time birding the lee Valley and particularly the Fishers Green area with early morning visits preferable. 

A visit on Sunday morning at first light failed to find the reported female Ring-necked Duck, but I did manage to add Red-legged Partridge, Grey Wagtail, and Chiffchaff to the year list. Today the Ring-necked Duck was reported again and my daily exercise was spent trying to locate it. Scanning the far bank the Ring-necked Duck came into view. It remained distant among a small group of Tufted Ducks during the visit.

Ring-necked Duck

Since 2012 I've managed to see 11 Ring-necked Ducks, but this was only my second female Ring-necked Duck sighting within that time. The first being back in 2013 at Chigborough Lakes in Essex. 

The year list now stands at 100 

Monday, 18 January 2021

Local Birding Highlights

Daily exercise always involves birding. Several daily walks along the River Roding had produced very little in terms of new additions to the year list. But each walk along the river would see the water levels rising and the surrounding fields getting more and more flooded. 

I've been trying to limit my daily exercise/birding walks with times of the day that would limit the number of people encountered, which has worked well so far. 

A visit to Snaresbrook and Eagle Pond at first light saw me connect with the Caspian Gull before I had crossed the road. Leaving plenty of time to visit Wanstead park before the masses appeared. 

Caspian Gull

After a brief walk around Jubilee Pond, I managed to locate the 1st winter Mediterranean Gull among the numerous Black-headed Gulls. The area surrounding Centre road car park produced two more year ticks with two Lesser Redpoll and a Little owl.

1st winter Mediterranean Gull

After returning home a Sparrowhawk appeared in the garden causing panic among the feeding birds and providing another welcome year tick.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Local Birding for the New Year

Day 1

The new year started with lockdown restrictions still in place. So the usual new year's day trip to Norfolk was well off-limits. With that in mind, It was an early morning visit to my former patch of Fisher's Green in the Lee Valley. I wasn't expecting a big total but after a casual walk around Hooks marsh, Seventy Acres, and the farms I ended the morning with 61 species. A Cattle Egret among the cows at Hall Marsh Scrape, A flock of White-fronted Geese in fields bordering the farms, and a redhead Smew on Seventy Acres Lake were the pick of the species seen.

In the afternoon I returned to Lee Valley hoping the Short-eared Owls that had been on site for a while were still present. Luckily one was showing well when I arrived.

Day 2

There were a few glaring omissions from my first day's birding and with that in mind I visited KGV Reservoir. A quick scan of the south basin produced a female Goosander and several Goldeneye to complete the three winter duck species. The North basin was scanned for any sign of the Red-Crested Pochard pair from yesterday but I failed to find them. Two drake Scaup were found asleep among the Tufted Ducks which was a nice addition to the year list along with two Black Redstarts which were found along the fence line on the opposite side of the causeway. My first record of this species here for several years.

Day 3

A very brief visit to Epping Forest added Mandarin Duck and Nuthatch to the year list. Before spending the morning at Rainham Marshes. I began with a scan from the Serin Mound which added Barnacle Goose, Ruff, Dunlin, Redshank, Shelduck, and Curlew. Aveley Bay had  30+ Avocet feeding along the shoreline and a walk along the path alongside the reserve added the hoped for Water and Rock Pipits. A final scan of the reserve from the sea wall added Snipe, Pintail, and a flyover Rook and a Marsh Harrier drifted across the reserve as I was walking back towards the car park.

My year list after three short days birding stood at 87.