Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Visitor photos!

The flat garage roof that is overlooked by my flat has a patch of standing water that attracts a few visitors from time to time. The most recent was this male Chaffinch, who was obliging enough to stick around for the time it took me to find my wife’s SLR camera and attach the zoom lens. This is in fact the first time I’ve seen a Chaffinch from my flat window! Now, if there was only a way to tell him about the unvisited suction-cup feeder a matter of yards away…

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Winter wish-list

As the so-called ‘Indian Summer’ we’ve been having has finally come to an end and winter is fast approaching, I have compiled a list of the five winter visitors that I’d love to see over the coming months.

Originally, Redwing had been on this list but as I saw two of those a couple of weeks ago they can already be ticked off. A good start!

Waxwing – last winter was a good time for seeing Waxwings in London. Last December, I had my birding experience of the year when I saw three of them outside my office during my lunch break – the first time I had ever seen these very distinctive birds. Higher numbers of these can be found in towns during harsh winters as they come in from the countryside to look for food. At present I have no idea what sort of a winter we’re in for. But seeing Waxwings again would be great.

Brambling – these winter visitors can often be seen with flocks of other finches, according to my field guide. In the vicinity of where I live, Coldfall Wood is therefore a possibility due to the numbers of Chaffinches that I have seen ground-feeding there on occasions. It’ll take a bit of skill to identify them in such circumstances, but I’m feeling confident.

Fieldfare – one to look out for in parks. Not that I’ve ever seen one of these within the M25 before as, like the Waxwings, they only really come into the towns during harsh winters. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve not been looking hard enough!

Smew – a very distinctive wintering duck in South-East England, which I might get a chance to see at Brent Reservoir or Rainham Marshes. As anything may turn up at any time (the Waxwing sighting last year was proof of that!), I’m staying optimistic.

Goldeneye – as with the Snew, a distinctive wintering duck that can be seen on lakes throughout the country during the winter months. Maybe a long shot in the South-East, but I shall be keeping an eye out for it when I’m near water!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Chance encounters in the park

A chance decision to go through Regent’s Park while walking between appointments in Central London with my wife at around lunchtime yielded some rich pickings in terms of water-based birds. The birds all seemed to be very used to human contact, with the pigeons, Black-headed Gulls, Canada Geese and Grey Herons all loitering on the path and barely moving out of the way as we walked past. I can’t say I am surprised by the first three species I mentioned there, as they do seem unafraid of people in public parks, but I couldn’t believe I was so closed to more than one Grey Heron.

The most intriguing sighting of the day had to be the Egyptian Geese. I had no idea that these could be seen in Central London, but as the entry for this species on the RSPB’s website states that it is ‘seen frequently on ornamental ponds where it was originally brought’, then I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

to a website on birding in Regent’s Park that I have found, over 200 species have been seen there, so it would appear that what we saw on our impromptu lunchtime stroll was merely the tip of the iceberg!

Birds seen in Regent’s Park, London c. 1:00-1:30pm
Weather overcast with moderate wind and a hint of drizzle

Black-headed Gull x100s
Canada Goose x50
Grey Heron x6
Greylag Goose x20
Coot x50
Moorhen x20
Feral Pigeon x100s
Tufted Duck x12
Pochard x1 (m)
Mallard x20
Mute Swan x2
Egyptian Goose x10
Herring Gull x2 (both juv)
Carrion Crow x10
Cormorant x1

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The sound of birdsong in the morning

A morning’s birdwatching in Coldfall Wood started, as walks in Coldfall Wood often do, with my hearing much but seeing little. My knowledge of birdsong is getting better as I was able to recognise the call of a Wren. Small bird, big voice. Blue Tits and Blackbirds – two calls that I have no problems recognising – could also be heard, along with a Green Woodpecker (often heard but never seen!) and lots of Carrion Crows. The Ring-necked Parakeets, meanwhile, were by far the loudest!

I was soon rewarded with some sightings, with Blackbirds flitting across the path and Ring-necked Parakeets in the trees, along with many Carrion Crows circling overhead. I found the smaller birds more rewarding though – a Robin skulking near ground level, a female Chaffinch, some Great Tits and a couple of Blue Tits. Then a quick, blink-and-you’ll miss it sighting of a Wren that I just about managed to focus on with the binoculars before it flew off. Further on, I spotted two Jays on the ground looking for acorns.

The continually circling crows were explained, I think, by the fact that the playing fields beyond the wood were being used for Sunday morning football matches. The crows can often be seen on the fields in large groups and they appeared to be waiting for the footballers to finish and leave so they could have their fields back! This did not deter a crowd of Black-headed Gulls from gathering on the ground though.

And finally – back into the wood, and to a clearing where, if you wait for a while, you’ll see the birds flying across. Along with the Ring-necked Parakeets I saw what at first glance appeared to be two more Great Tits, but on closer inspection with the bins turned out to be Nuthatches feeding in the trees. All in all, a rewarding morning.

Carrion Crow x 30
Woodpigeon x4
Blackbird x7 (2m, 5f)
Ring-necked Parakeet x10
Blue Tit x2
Great Tit x5
Jay x2
Chaffinch x1 (f)
Black-headed Gull x40
Feral Pigeon x50
Nuthatch x2