Friday, 24 March 2017


To say that this week was frustrating was an understatement, sweating over spreadsheets when the patch was buzzing with new birds was not my idea of fun. Kittiwake would have been a new patch bird for me, I’ve only seen Ruff once and that not for many a year, Red-crested Pochard, Redshank etc., etc., blah, blah!

Today was my big chance. Anticipation was high, expectation was moderate, and hope was low…

On the basis that a lot of the recent action centred on the East Warwick Island, I started there. Unfortunately there were quite a few Fisherman lining the reservoir banks, and an equal and opposite number of Waders on the island. No.5 had nothing to add and all that No.4 could offer was the Wintering Common Sandpiper. I should probably mention singing Chiffchaffs, Cetti’s Warblers and sitting Little Egrets but they didn’t seem to offer much compensation. Still there was the Lockwood…

There were so many possibilities and all of them didn’t fail to disappoint. As I walked down the track at the Southern end of the Lockwood I was mentally preparing a desultory tweet, when what should stroll casually out of the Warbler bushes by the defunct toilet block but a Red-legged Partridge. I froze, hoping to get a photograph, but it strolled back into cover. I made a quick call to Lol, who was the only local likely to be able to make it to the site quickly and set myself up to get a shot if it re-appeared. Patience won out and it moved out of cover and fed quite calmly allowing me the luxury of composed pictures.

Lol arrived and got to see it too. It was still in the area in the evening. What’s the big deal, I hear you say. Well, this is Urban Birding baby! Red-legged Partridge is not a particularly urban bird, though they breed about 10 km up the valley their wanderings are a bit random and casual. They do seem to appear about every two years and early Spring is probably your best bet but they are seldom twitchable on the patch. The last patch record was in 2015 between No.1 and the East Warwick for about 2 minutes, before that one hung around in the Waterworks NR for a few days in 2011 (I actually ran for that one! To be fair not far, but actual running. Obviously I am well past that now).

2015 bird
Buoyed up by my Gamebird success, I decided to have another round of the Southern section, with, other than a lingering Buzzard found by Lol, predictably little result. I had thought I would go through the middle of Nos. 1, 2 & 3 but didn’t have the time. Davey L (nice to meet you at last, and sorry to lose you to the KGV shortly) did have the time and saw the Red-crested Pochards! There is always tomorrow.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Ingratitude of Waders

                                         An empty No 4 - of both water and waders

                  It is not since East Warwick was drained over 30 years ago that the reservoirs have put out such a welcome mat for waders. As this event resulted in the Prof seeing 11 species of waders while the reservoir was down, hopes are high now that both No 4 and 5 are showing extensive mud-flats.  - the more so as the latest information is that this might continue well into the Spring. But while the habitat looks fantastic, no one had yet told the shorebirds.....
                  It is not as if we did not have waders over the weekend. It is just that No 4 and 5 were very much no-go areas for them. The highlight was a party of five Avocets which SF found on the north end of Lockwood on Saturday which clearly must have flown over our new wader scrape first. Even when they flew off the bank, they preferred to settle on the water for a couple of minutes  - which is where I was lucky enough to see them - before disappearing. They are the first Avocets on the reservoirs since 2013 and my first here.  A Dunlin which dropped in a little later also preferred the small rocky edge on Lockwood rather than the mudflats on the other side of the road before it, too, departed.

                                                     Dunlin avoiding the mud

         We thought our luck had changed today when we heard and glimpsed a Ring Plover flying around No 4 and 5 which appeared to land on No 4. But when we got round there, it was nowhere to be seen and we later learnt had almost certainly headed north past Pete L on the Lockwood. The only other waders were the wintering Common Sandpipers which were on No 4 and 5 even when there was no mud and three Green Sandpipers today on the overflow channel.
                                   Not enough mud on No 5 for a single Ring Plover

                But the mud, potential and the beginning of migration did prompt a very good turn-out from birders over the weekend. And the many hours spent collectively did result in some other good birds. SF also saw a party of three or four adult Little Gulls on Saturday which dropped in briefly onto Lockwood while Lol B found a Rock Pipit early afternoon there today - both of which I managed to miss. Pete L also discovered the first Wheatear of the year, a spanking male, at the top end of Lockwood which stayed around until the afternoon while three Sand Martins headed north in the drizzle. With or without the mud. the next two months are the best time of the year on the reservoirs......

Today's 'litoralis' Rock Pipit in the drizzle (Lol B)

DB @porthkillier

Friday, 10 March 2017

Reservoir Logs - February update

First Caspian Gull of the year found by JP who has spent all of the year so far looking at them.  
                                                    pic @birdingprof
February lived up to its birders' reputation as a pretty drab month between the somewhat artificial excitement of new year listing in January and the real joy of the return of the summer migrants in March. Indeed, but for a flurry at the end of the month which included an obliging Siberian Chiffchaff, the first Curlew since 2014, Wigeon, and Caspian Gull, it would have been dreadful with the only other new birds for the year being Skylark and Red-crested Pochard.

        The Wigeon, a species which has become scarcer on the reservoirs, was seen on the 27th flying north off High Maynard while the Red-crested Pochard was another one-day wonder on Lockwood on the  8th. Our resident drake Scaup stayed...well ....resident for the month largely on No 4 where the fast falling water levels inspired a burst of feeding activity in a bird which usually spends all day asleep. Peak counts of Goldeneye were 12 on the 21st with five Goosander on the 8th. A family party of around eight newly hatched Egyptian Geese on the 19th had been reduced to just three two days later.
                                          Goosander in the gloom when No 4 still had water

          Despite the fantastic habitat as water levels on No 4 and No 5 continued to fall, the only wader of note was a Curlew on the 25th and that was flying north. Two Common Sandpipers continued to winter on Nos 4 & 5 where there were two Lapwings on the 16th. Two Snipe were seen on the 24th while the peak count of four Green Sandpipers was on the 1st. A 1st winter Caspian Gull was found on the filter beds on the 26th where there had been an adult Mediterranean Gull five days before. Lockwood also held a 2W Yellow-legged Gull on the 26th. The continued presence of Great Black backed Gulls on the No 5 islands, which last year hosted London;s first successful breeding of the species, suggests there might be more bad news ahead for young Egyptian Geese....

            The only bird of prey of note was a Buzzard on the 21st although.Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk continued to be seen regularly. Passerines, apart from thrushes with up to 40 Fieldfare and Redwing, were thin on the ground. Three Skylarks were seen over Lockwood on the 19th with two more on the 21st.  January's Black Redstart was seen intermittently around the filter beds until the 9th with probably the same bird re-appearing on the 28th. The highlight was a Siberian Chiffchaff found, in the company of up to five Common Chiffchaffs, in the hedges at the NE end of Lockwood on the 27th which had the decency to hang around so most patch birders could catch up with it. Green Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush were easier to see than in some years - particularly in the horse paddock - but Cetti's Warbler were so silent that it was easy to think they had disappeared. The small flock of Meadow Pipits kept faithfully to the banks of Lockwood through the month.

A showy Siberian Chiffchaff (if you waited long enough) pic@jarpartridge

 DB @porthkiller 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Two Water Voles!

This morning, two separate individual Water Voles were seen feeding at the same time, at different locations. 

Vole #1

Vole #2

Thursday, 2 March 2017


A male Stonechat is still around.

After a bit of rain Water Vole burrow entrances and latrines submerge. Do the voles care? – I don’t think so, but it does make recording their latrines and habitual behaviour difficult.

The mink rafts show no sign of minks!

A Water Vole was seen at a new location! A possible second Water Vole!
The northern section of the ditch is looking good! Nice work LVRPA! Hopefully it won't get filled with pizza boxes and beer cans.

A Water Rail showed.

And for every 15 Wood Mouse ...

  ... you get a Bank Vole!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Tristis und I Told Ya


Let’s get the undoubted highlight of Sunday’s visit to the Reservoirs out of the way straight away, after 57 days I finally got Pheasant for the patch year list.

In other news; we celebrated the Return of the Native, Jamie P. He had been MIA for most of the last few months, feared lost to an evil gang of Larophiles but, as sure as winter turns to Spring, he suddenly appeared, and to much rejoicing from the old guard (some older than others).

So it was with keen anticipation that JP, myself, Lol B and Dave B set off for walk around the Lockwood. No sooner had I seen my Pheasant (yawns all round) when we heard a singing Chiffchaff, strangely as Jamie had just been asking if any are singing yet!


‘That Chiffchaff looks rather pale’ quoth he, ‘O no he’s at it already!’ thinks I.  Well I’ll be darned, it was pale, and had a subtle wing-bar, feint rusty ear coverts, barely any olive tones, very dark legs and bill. It really looked the part for Siberian Chiffchaff. We played a bit of song and it reacted quite strongly, unlike the 2 Common Chiffchaffs nearby which carried on their business regardless. To say Jamie is sharp is an understatement, and he’s in his 4th decade (technically), think what would get found if we could get a child prodigy on the patch, (The transfer window is still open, Dante, if you’re reading thisJ ) It is less than a year since he found the last one on patch. (still there on 27th and heard calling ‘iiip’, the whole enchilada)

pic Jamie P
So far our staged intervention was working, but a test lay ahead. Continuing on around the bank, we, alright, mostly me, tried stringing a distant Gull into a Caspian, obviously we had high hopes of finding one given the fact that Jamie’s eye must be well and truly IN, having probably seen more individuals this winter than any other British Birder, I kid you not. I should have known better than to try scamming him, though even he said it could have been a hybrid. A born diplomat.

The drake Scaup is hanging in there, on the ever shrinking water of No.4 reservoir, though numbers of its Tufted Duck comrades are shrinking almost daily. I wonder what it thinks each morning when it wakes up? ‘I could have sworn this reservoir was bigger last night!’ Naturally, given that the levels of Nos. 4 & 5 are about 60% lower than normal our hope for Waders was enormous, our realization of Waders was tiny – 1 Common Sandpiper, and that is one less than we’ve had all Winter. Shorebirds, why do you hate us?

The rest of the morning was a mild disappointment, though that really shouldn’t have come as a surprise given that it is the end of February. We all parted ways but I suggested to Jamie that we check the Filter Beds on the way home as Gull numbers often build up as the day goes on, it was not a hard sell.

Oh yes, it's in there

I set up my scope and started to check the close small Gulls for my hoped for Mediterranean, Jamie stared into the distance and then asked to borrow my scope as he had something ‘Interesting’. It was. Very. A cracking 1st Winter Caspian Gull, no less. As always the viewing is difficult here, looking through a double-mesh fence, with half the Gulls distant and/or hiding behind safety barriers, just imagine what we he could find if we had access…


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Reservoir Logs...January round-up

With the reservoirs soon to become a fully fledged nature reserve, it seems right to try to get a better picture of what's actually seen. So here's the first of what I hope will be a monthly bird round up for the reservoirs pulling together the records from the London wiki site and the log book in the permits' hut as well as our own sightings. Hopefully, I might get February's done slightly quicker....

An excellent start to the year on the reservoirs with the first Glaucous Gull for a couple of decades, the first January Swallow for at least a couple of centuries, along with Jack Snipe, Black-necked Grebe, Scaup and Black Redstart. A total of 80 species were recorded in the month with a pretty impressive 68 seen on January 2 when the reservoirs opened for the first time for 2017,
     The drake Scaup was around for most of January on No 4 although it also visited High Maynard and Lockwood and disappeared for a few days when No 4 largely froze over. The highest count of Goldeneye was 13 on the 9th with a peak of six Goosander on the 2nd with No 4 apparently their favoured reservoir this year. Forty four Little Egrets were seen coming into roost on the 2nd with 38 on the East Warwick island the next day. Two Black-necked Grebes were found on Lockwood on the 4th but soon disappeared. As well as the the regular Sparrowhawks and Peregrines and the rather less regular Kestrel, Buzzards were seen on the 10th & 19th and a Red Kite on the 24th.
      Waders have not yet found the excellent habitat on the partially drained No 4 & 5 with just a single Lapwing on the 14th and four on the 19th & 20. But the new reed bed at the north end of No 1 attracted a Jack Snipe on the 13th and hosted regular Water Rail and Snipe in the latter half of the month. The freeze saw a total of 13 Snipe counted around the reservoirs on the 27th with at least eight flying off the bank of East Warwick into the hidden scrape on the island.  The peak count for Green Sandpipers was five on the 10th but numbers were generally low as the overflow channel was largely full while there seem to be up to two Common Sandpipers wintering on No 4 &5.
                                   Common Sandpiper enjoying the new beach on No 5

      The highlight of the month was the 1W Glaucous Gull found on the filter beds on the 28th by Lol Bodini as he was watching the Swallow and Black Redstart. It seems certain to be the same bird seen at Leyton tip and is thought to be the first since 1994. It stayed until the 30th when it was also seen on one of the islands on No 5. Other gulls of interest were adult Mediterranean Gulls flying over on the 17th and on the ice on West Warwick on the 22nd with several records of Yellow-legged Gulls.
     The Swallow - the first in London since 1809 - found by Dan Barrett on the 25th was last seen on the 29th. Five Chiffchaffs were seen together in the horse field on the 2nd while Cetti's Warblers were nowhere near as obvious as in past years with only a couple of records for the month. Flocks of up to 30 or so Fieldfare and Redwing were resident throughout much of the January but the berries don't seem to have attracted any Waxwings. A confiding Black Redstart on No 5 from the 13th to the 15th was almost certainly the same bird found on the filter beds on the 25th which stayed until the end of the month. It has been a poor year for Stonechats on the reservoirs with a maximum of three on the 8th.  A flock of a dozen Meadow Pipits were faithful to the the grass banks of Lockwood with a few also on No 5 in the first half of the month. With a big rocky beach all around No 4 & 5 along with little islands appearing, the next couple of months when migration gets going could be very interesting....

DB @porthkillier