Wheatears & Runners

A couple of weeks ago I did something I don’t do often: I went out birding without my camera. I use primarily a big, heavy 500mm prime lens, and being a small chap it takes its toll on my arms and shoulders, so Jem and I went back to Kensington Gardens a couple of Saturdays ago so that I could show her the Tawny Owls whilst giving my arms a rest. We started along the southern path along Flower Walk and were surprised to see a brown bird come flying out of the trees, circle just inside the boundaries and then go back into the park. Luckily I had my binoculars already in my hands and was able to identify it as a Woodcock – the first one I’ve seen in the UK. No sign of any owls, so we carried on to the end and saw a nice Coal Tit in a conifer. We then noticed three more birders close to where I’d seen the adult Tawny Owl the previous week, and we not only found at least one of the owlets high up in the branches, but also a beautiful male Common Redstart a few yards away checking out a patch of soil. This was only my second Common Redstart ever, and the first that I’d managed to get a really good look at. It was around this time that I began to regret not bringing my camera… The Serpentine brought us a male Red-crested Pochard and a nice Grey Wagtail, some nearby Pied Wagtails and Mistle Thrushes, but as the rains began to fall we weren’t surprised to see that the Little Owls were staying indoors.

Sunday was sunny, so we decided to make our first trip to Wormwood Scrubs. Being David Lindo‘s favourite patch we were expecting to find lots of good species, maybe even finally my first Ring Ouzel. Sadly for us it was also windy, and this seemed to limit what was around.  A nice Greenfinch posed for us – at least until I’d got my camera focused – and there were plenty more in the bordering hedges, a singing Chiffchaff up in the trees, a Wren, and the highlight of the trip, a brief glimpse of a Whitethroat, was pretty much our lot. In the end I didn’t take a single photo all weekend, but it was good to finally get to the Scrubs for a look around.

So that brings me on to last weekend. The sun was out again and I arranged to meet Jem at Kensington Gardens again as I’d heard that Wheatears had been seen again during the week. I walked across from High Street Kensington, up to Lancaster Gate, and then across to the Parade Grounds, with no luck apart from the usual Mistle Thrushes in good view and a solitary Pied Wagtail. The Parade Grounds were being worked on and various tractors and trucks trundled around, which I assume was what was keeping the birds away. I was just on my way back across towards Lancaster Gate again to meet Jem when I saw a Robin-sized bird in the middle of the new turf, accompanying a Wagtail. I knew straight away it was a Wheatear and tried to get a few shots of it. After meeting Jem we came back over and luckily it was still there. One problem with the warm weather was that there was a lot of heat haze rising from the ground, and this made sure my photos were only going to be record shots at best. We got further nice views of the pair of Red-crested Pochards, Coal Tits, a Nuthatch and a soaring Common Buzzard overhead, before finishing up with very nice views of one of the adult Tawny Owls staring at us from amongst the leaves.


Mistle Thrush




Red-crested Pochard


Tawny Owl



Sunday was London Marathon day and Jem’s dad, Gary, was in the Elite Men’s Wheelchair race. We got to Canary Wharf nice and early so as to get a good view at the oncoming runners and I made sure I got several of Gary as he flew past on his way to an incredible time of 2 hours and 49 minutes. It was inspiring stuff, and I’d like to have a go at it one day myself, but my bad knee may well have put paid to any ideas of running in the near future at least. One of the photos has been put up on the Ilford Recorder website, which was an added bonus for me. After that we met up with Jem’s mum nearby and after watching a bit more of the race we headed back to Kensington Gardens to show her the owls. The male Little Owl was very active, leaving the nesting hole several times for a bit of quick perching in the sun, and then we found what we think was one of the Tawny Owlets in the usual tree, although it seems to have lost almost all of its down already. One of the adults was just about visible in a nearby tree, but it wasn’t showing well. A close-by singing Dunnock finished the weekend off nicely.


Gary in action

About hootbot

Professional design agency photographer and amateur birder.
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