Thursday, 7 March 2019

Jan & Feb on Walthamstow Marshes SSSI and the WaterWorks NR

January and February saw Walthamstow Marshes SSSI and the WaterWorks NR add 6 new birds to the Walthamstow patch year list.

On the 2nd of January three Lesser Redpoll were roaming the waterworks.

A Firecrest was seen near the raptor view point bench of the marshes on the 7th of January.

A Red Kite made its way over the waterworks on Jan the 8th.

On the 11th of Feb a Nuthatch was seen and heard from the bridge near the horseshoe thicket of the marshes.

A Siskin went north over the marshes on the 25th of Feb.

A Woodcock was flushed from the horseshoe thicket of the marshes - also on the 25th of Feb.

Other sightings of note were:

7 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares on the marshes
3 Stonechats on the marshes and 1 on the waterworks
2 Jackdaws on the houses by the marshes
2 Water Rails in bed 18 and 13 of waterworks
2 Shovelers on the waterworks

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Reservoir Logs - winter round-up

      A confiding Avocet spent the morning on High Maynard pic @lolcumming 

    The generally mild weather helps explain why the winter was pretty dull at the Wetlands. No new birds were added to the 2018 year list in December which remained on 143, two more than the previous year. The only highlights of the month were the return of the drake Scaup to No 4 for its fifth winter and the discovery of a Reed Warbler, only the second record for London in December.

   January was even duller but February did see some early returning waders with both Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet. The 76 species seen so far in 2019 on the reservoirs is well down on the exceptional 90 already seen by the same time last year. But the Little Bunting saw more far extensive coverage early in 2018 while five more species have been seen this year within a couple of hundred yards of the reservoirs' boundary without yet making it on the annual list.

   Shelduck numbers began to build with 11 in December and 14 at end of February. PL counted 53 Gadwall and 74 Teal in January while up to 50 Shoveler could be seen with numbers falling fast from mid-February. The cold snap in December displaced six Wigeon onto Lockwood with two remaining until the 16th.  

    Up to 50 Shoveler spent the winter, largely, on East Warwick pic @sjnewton

   Just three days later than last year, the drake Scaup returned to its favourite corner of No 4 on December 6th for its fifth winter. Unusually, it went missing for four weeks from the middle of January - perhaps to KGV reservoirs where a drake turned up around the same time - before coming back on February 9th and staying throughout the month. It was much more active than in the past and was often found feeding in the south-east of the reservoir. 

       The drake Scaup spent more time feeding rather than sleeping this winter

     Up to twelve Goldeneye have been scattered across the reservoirs this winter with at least seven birds remaining until the end of February. It has been slightly easier to catch up with Goosander this year with a relatively tame pair regularly on Lockwood in the morning and another pair joining them occasionally.

      Goosander on Lockwood were less skittish than usual pic @sjnewton

   A Red-legged Partridge seen on the side of Lockwood on February 28th was the first on the reservoirs since 2017. The first young Great Crested Grebe of the year was seen on January 20 on No 3. Grey Herons, too, wasted no time in breeding with four nests having young by the end of February. No large birds of prey were seen but the pair of Peregrines regularly surveyed the Wetlands from the favourite pylons. 
                   Peregrine looking for some tasty parakeets pic @wheeler_jo 

   An Avocet found by RE on February 24th means the wader has now turned up for three successive years after a three year period with no records at all. It was a surprisingly tame individual which remained most of the morning on High Maynard, enabling LC finally to add it to his patch list after 55 years of birding at the reservoirs.   

All the Avocets in the last three years have taken to the water pic @lolcumming 

   The Black-tailed Godwit found on TG's birdwalk on East Warwick island on February 14th, which remained until next day, was also tame but this was likely because of injury either from flying into a wire or a Peregrine attack. A sharp frost on January 29th saw a high count of six Common Snipe on the banks of the reservoirs, presumably displaced from Walthamstow Marsh.

       A blood-stained Black-tailed Godwit spent two days on East Warwick 

     For the first time for several years, no Common Sandpipers have wintered on the reservoirs. But Green Sandpipers were seen occasionally, usually in the overflow channel, with a maximum count of five on January 2nd. The temporary absence of some of the reservoirs' gull enthusiasts helps explain the paucity of records this winter. But even without their expertise, Yellow-legged Gulls were found on the filter beds on January 11th with a 3CY bird on Lockwood on February 14th and February 21st. 

   Skylarks were seen on January 23rd with two on February 24th. Meadow Pipits continue to be scarce with just one or two occasionally around Lockwood. Stonechat numbers were also low with a maximum of two seen.  Fieldfare were by far the commonest of the winter thrushes with 20 in December and up to 50 by the end of February in contrast with just the odd individual Redwing.

   Small numbers of Chiffchaff winter at the reservoirs and the warm weather at the end of February saw at least four in song. The last Reed Warblers, however, should leave in October at the latest so the bird found by JW on December 10th & 11th on No 3 was an exceptional record. It seems to be only the second Reed Warbler seen in London in December with the first in nearby Leyton in 2013.

                     London's second December Reed Warbler pic @wheeler_jo   

   Late winter and early spring are the best time to see scarcer corvids at the reservoirs so the first Jackdaw on February 14 was again right on schedule and started a mini-run of records in the month. It is a mystery why such a common bird nearby turns up so infrequently at the Wetlands. Compared to last winter when c80 Linnets and a dozen Reed Buntings could be seen around the flower meadow, numbers of both species seemed far lower this year. The largest flock of Linnets was 35 while Reed Buntings were largely restricted to the No 1 reed bed with a maximum of six seen in a day.

  DB @porthkillier  

Monday, 11 February 2019

Nuthatch from Walthamstow Marshes

The Nuthatch is back near the Horseshoe Thicket Bridge (probably never left). 

It roams the southern areas of Springfield Park, sometimes making short forays over to the trees in the thicket of the marshes. I viewed it and listened to it call and sing from the marshes thicket bridge at midday for around 20 minutes.  

Strain your ears and you can hear it!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2nd January 2019

 Walthamstow Marshes SSSI & WaterWorks NR

50 species combined

Male and Female Stonechat on marshes boardwalk.

ebird numbers for Marshes:

Goldcrest in Horseshoe Thicket

ebird numbers for WaterWorks:


Shoveler in WaterWorks

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Patch on eBird (& Why do so few birders use eBird?)

Why do so few birders use eBird?

What is eBird?

eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world.

With a few minutes spent on the mobile phone app, birders can record their sightings and their data would contribute to this. Many birders spend time blogging or tweeting about their latest escapades in the field, so why not put the sightings to conservation use on eBird?

Walthamstow on eBird

eBird is a useful tool.

To give eBird a patch watching context, Walthamstow Reservoirs is the 3rd top London ‘Hotspot’ for number of species recorded and Walthamstow Marshes is the 9th.

The WaterWorks NR appears in the top 30 under the guise of ‘Leyton Marsh & WaterWorks.’ But then Leyton Marsh is part of Walthamstow Marshes, so that’s a bit messy. The WaterWorks NR itself comes in at London number 34:

Bird blogging or tweeting, at its best, informs another birder or wildlife enthusiast of wildlife news or shares where and when to view wildlife; at its worst, it is someone’s holiday photos or latest tick (somewhere in between does a bird blog or tweet lay).

With eBird, there is no question of its usefulness. An eBird report can contribute to graphs, data and trends for the patchworker or conservationist. For example:

January to December Observations of Waterfowl on Walthamstow Marshes 1900 - 2018

Northern Wheatear Observations on Walthamstow Marshes 1900 - 2018

This is a link to London's eBird data (find your patch from here):

So, why do so few birders use eBird?

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Reservoir Logs - November round-up

       The first Black-throated Diver for 22 years visited Lockwood for two days  pic@lolbodini
   After a blank month in October, the reservoirs returned to form with four new species for the year. They included the first Black-throated Diver since 1996 along with Slavonian Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser and Avocet. November also brought another Common Scoter, Ring Ousel and Rock Pipits together with news of where some of our wintering birds breed. The four additions take the year list to 143, two more than 2017's total as well as taking the wider patch total to 150.

  The first pair of Shelduck, after the post-breeding moult in the North Sea, returned to the reservoirs on the 21st.  Pintail are unusual so two records - a female on the 10th and a pair on the 19th - was exceptional. Mid-month also saw Wigeon take up residence with two on the 17th, three next day and singles on the 19th & 20th. Shoveler numbers remained high with 98 on the 4th but had decreased to 40 by the end of the month. 

   News came through this month that a Tufted Duck with the nasal band DN3 on Lockwood in September was ringed in Ampoigne, north-west France in June 2016 and had been seen the following February in the less exotic surroundings of Crowthorne, Bucks.

             A female Scoter found company feeding and resting with the Tufted Ducks on Lockwood

   The second record of Scoter this year was a tame female type on Lockwood on the 6th. Red-breasted Mergansers are not annual on the reservoirs - with no records for either 2015 and 2016 - so the two females found by RE on No 5 on the 17th were an excellent addition to the year list. Goldeneye numbers increased throughout the month and had reached eight by the 25th.

                           The first Slavonian Grebe since 2013 was on Lockwood

   The month's stand-out bird was the Black-throated Diver found by LB on Lockwood on the 24th. It is the first record since February 1996 and the first diver of any kind on the reservoirs since a Great Northern in 2013. It stayed all day, with a brief trip to Banbury, and overnight until seen flying off south early on the 25th. It may be that this was also the unidentified diver seen briefly on No 5 on the 27th although it could have been a Great Northern with an influx of up to four at nearby King George V. In an exceptional month for Lockwood, it also attracted a winter-plumaged Slavonian Grebe on the 10th, the first on the reservoirs for five years.

            The Avocet on East Warwick spent most of its time swimming in the reservoir pic @lolbodini

   In what has been a poor autumn for waders, the discovery of an Avocet on East Warwick by TR on the 19th was a treat - particularly as it has been a bogey bird for many of the local birders and stayed long enough to be added to lists. It spend much of its time swimming with the ducks. Until a party of five on Lockwood, which were also seen swimming, last year, there had not been an Avocet at the reservoirs since 2013.

   An Oystercatcher was on No 5 on the 25th with  single Lapwings on the 4th and 9th and two on the 26th and a Common Snipe on the 10th. A maximum of four Green Sandpipers were seen on the 25th although they often go missing from the overflow channel while again no Common Sandpiper was recorded.

   A Black-headed Gull with the white colour band TRUL by Low Maynard in early November turned out to be over eleven years old and very well travelled. It had been rung as an adult in Hamburg in March 2010 and has spent the last two summers at least breeding in Poland close to Russian border.

                      One of up to three Stonechats seen on the reservoirs this month

     Viz mig continued to be very light with very few finches or thrushes seen overhead. The only Skylark was on the 10th around Lockwood which was also where three much scarcer Rock Pipits were found by LB on the 1st. Up to three Stonechats regularly visited the reservoirs from their wintering quarters on Walthamstow Marsh. The second Ring Ousel of the year was a late male which flew past RT south when he was fishing on No 5 on the 8th while small numbers of Fieldfare continued to be seen early in the month. Three Chiffchaffs were seen on the 25th and another Siskin flew over on the 4th.

DB @porthkillier

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Reservoir Logs - October round-up

             The second Barn Owl of the year got a very hostile reception from the resident crows

   October was, depressingly, the first month  in 2018 in which a new bird was not added to the reservoirs' year list. While last October's seven additions were exceptional, it does demonstrate what a lacklustre Autumn it has been so far. This includes visible migration, for which October is usually the best month, but was very slow right across the city. The sole highlight was the second Barn Owl of the year. It leaves the annual total stuck on 139 which is now, despite such a fantastic Spring, just two above last year's figure.

   Shoveler numbers remained high with 100 on the 15th with East Warwick again being the favourite haunt. A drake Wigeon was seen on the 2nd and females on the 22nd and 29th. The first Goosander of the autumn was a red-head on the 14th, a fortnight earlier than in 2016, and the first Goldeneye were a pair on Lockwood on the 28th, just one day earlier. 

  Waders were scarce throughout the month with no Common Sandpipers, which have wintered for several years, seen so far.  There were two Lapwings on the 17th & 19th and a Common Snipe on the 15th with two on the 30th. Green Sandpipers were, however, seen regularly - usually on the overflow channel - with a maximum count of three on the 28th.

   Barn Owls are scarce birds on the patch with just two records in the last seven years. So two in 2018 is highly unusual. After one was flushed from the top of Lockwood in March, a second came out of the trees along the Lea on the 23rd where it was pursued by crows until doubling back and landing on Tottenham Marsh. Presumably the same bird  was reported two days later on the south side of the reservoirs.

   Skylarks were seen or heard on the 21st, 29th and 30th. The last Swallows of the Autumn were two on the 6th. Blackcaps are rarely seen in winter on the reservoirs so the male on the 15th may be the last until the Spring. Visible migration was slim but 80 Fieldfare went into roost over Lockwood on the 25th, ten moved west on the 28th and 100 next day. The 28th also saw the largest movement of Redwing with 200 while PL heard both Siskin and Redpoll on the 21st.

   Up the three Stonechats were seen throughout the month while a tardy Wheatear spent a fortnight around Lockwood and was last seen on the 15th.  The grassy sides of Lockwood used to attract regularly parties of 15 or more Meadow Pipits but numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years with a maximum of two seen during the month.

  Fortunately, it is already clear that November is going to be a better month........

DB @porthkillier