Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Reservoir Logs - May round-up

      The once-familiar sound of a calling Cuckoo returned to the reservoirs pic @birdingprof

   May saw a return to normal after the spectacular run of rarities the reservoirs have delivered so far this year. It also brought confirmation that migration pretty well peters out by the beginning of the month. But May did see a two-day calling Cuckoo along with much briefer appearances by Grasshopper Warbler and Marsh Harrier in the first couple of days while the more expected Whimbrel and Sanderling were also added to the year. It takes the number of species seen this year on the reservoirs to 131 - three more than last year - with Gargeney, Turnstone and Spotted Flycatcher perhaps the most glaring omissions from the list.

   The new reed beds seem to have persuaded more ducks to stay over the summer with as many as nine Gadwall still in residence at the end of the month. Increasing numbers of Pochard are also remaining to breed, with three broods counted on the 30th. Red-crested Pochard continue making trips from the London parks with three on the 1st,  one remaining next day, two on the 4th and 10th, six on the 11th and a single on the 19th. Four drake Shoveler were seen until mid-month but the most unusual sighting was a likely Teal X Gadwall cross seen on the 1st and then irregularly afterwards. If this is what it proves to be - and all the signs are it is - it is a pretty rare hybrid.

    An elusive Tedwall - a potential hybrid Teal and Gadwall was seen intermittently pic @jarpartridge

   A male Marsh Harrier, spotted by JP, which flew east over Lockwood early on the 1st was the stand-out bird of prey of the month. Single Red Kites were seen on the 3rd, 15th and 23rd with Buzzards on the 8th, 18th, 22nd and 26th.

   May is generally a good month for waders and nine species - largely on the partially drained East Warwick - were seen. Oystercatchers seem to be getting more regular over the last couple of years with two on the 7th and singles on the 18th and 20th. In contrast, Little Ringed Plover records were down on what might be expected with just single birds on the 2nd and 19th while there were also two records of  Lapwings on the 7th and 11th.  Sanderling are just about annual at the reservoirs so a lovely summer-plumaged bird on the East Warwick island on the 22nd was a good find by DW.  It was accompanied by a Dunlin which were also seen on the 12th and 26th.

            A lovely summer-plumaged Sanderling graced East Warwick pic@lolbodini

                              ...... as did an equally splendid Dunlin pic @Tony Gorst

   There were fears that the Spring might slip passed without a Whimbrel this year but the first was seen flying over Lockwood by MM on the 8th. More unusual were three found resting by CF on the bank between Nos 4 and 5 two days later which stayed for a couple of hours. A Redshank was seen on the 27th and a Greenshank on East Warwick on the 5th.  Common Sandpipers were recorded in small numbers throughout the month until the last on the 27th with a peak count of six on the 25th.

           Whimbrel on the ground is unusual, three together a real rarity pic @Chris Farthing
                  The gravelly edge to East Warwick also attracted a Greenshank - pic @Graham Howie

     Despite Black Terns turning up across London including at KGV, none disappointingly were seen at Walthamstow. Rain did, however, drop around eight Arctic Terns onto No 5 on the 2nd in company with a similar number of Commons. The unfortunate loss of the old nesting platform on Lockwood meant that, by the end of the month, no Commons were attempting to breed and only a couple of birds were being seen.

   Even as late as the 90s, Cuckoos were regular breeders at Walthamstow but in common with the rest of  England, they have become much scarcer in recent years. The last record for the reservoirs was in 2016 and the gap since there was a calling bird is even longer. So the male found by JP on May 1st and which stayed until next day around No 2 and 3 was a highlight of the month.  Swifts seem to have arrived in good numbers but House & Sand Martins seemed scarcer. We'll have to wait until a count of the usually large House Martin colony at the Filter Beds to find out if the reduction is real. The bad weather at the end of April meant there were still up to 40  Swallows at the reservoirs early in the month and the regular records of one or two later may suggest that they could be nesting again in the marsh.

                              The last Yellow Wagtail of the Spring was a tame bird on Lockwood

   Yellow Wagtails  continued their good showing with a single on the 2nd, two on the 7th and a very late bird on the 30th. The highest count of Wheatear was 11 on the 1st with the last bird seen on 22nd. The reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler was picked up by JP from the top of Lockwood on the 1st but was never seen and soon moved on. Reed & Sedge Warblers, Common Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps all seem to be breeding and a Lesser Whitethroat sang throughout the month from the Coppermill by the hide on East Warwick.  With such a high number of Reed Bunting wintering, it was always likely that more pairs would stay to breed and they seem well scattered around the reservoirs. A few Linnets were also still resident while there was a report of a male Brambling on the 22nd not far from where the small flock was reported last month.

DB @porthkillier

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Reeves' Muntjac

A new and first taxonomic species for the patch is always enjoyed and appreciated. 
But a new and first taxonomic order - now that's SPECIAL!

That Walthamstow record goes to Sue Huckle, 
with her 2 male REEVES' MUNTJAC at the WaterWorks NR.

Walthamstow Mammal #28: Reeves' Muntjac (species) - Artiodactyla (order)

 pic from video @suzehu

Sue's first sighting was on the 1st of April and her photos were not an April fool.

April 1st @suzehu
Sue's second sightings, a day later, left no doubt.

April 2nd @suzehu
And her videos of two different males sealed the deal!

To give the discovery some context, take a look at where 'order' is in relation to 'species' here:

Related image

Very well done, Sue!

The Walthamstow Mammal List can be found here: 


Friday, 4 May 2018

Reservoir logs - April round-up

                     Walthamstow's first ever Black Kite pictured - and identified - by @jarpartridge

    The reservoirs' extraordinary run of rarities continued this month with the first ever Black Kite and the first Hoopoe for 25 years. Neither were as obliging as some of the other good birds this year but there was plenty more to see. April also brought a very obliging Ring Ousel, two Ospreys, a flock of Brambling, at least one Sandwich Tern and eight Scoter as well as the arrival of pretty well all the expected summer migrants.

       A remarkably confiding Ring Ousel graced the reservoirs for five days pic@owlturbot

    In all, 19 species were added to the reservoirs' year list to take it to 126, five ahead of this time in 2017. As well as those species already mentioned, April saw Sedge Warbler, Swallow, Reed Warbler, House Martin, Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Greenshank, Lesser Whitethroat, Arctic Tern, Common Whitethroat, Whinchat, Swift and Hobby recorded for the first time this yearThe only disappointment was that poor weather for passage on the 28th kept the annual patch day list low with just 78 species recorded, one short of last year's already below-average total.

    Even for a month renowned for its mix of weather, the conditions this month were very varied. It included a heat-wave with the highest April temperature for 70 years in London and a wet, windy and cold end of the month which saw migration halted and hundreds of hirundines frantically trying to feed over the reservoirs.

                                 Brent Goose resting on Lockwood pic@lolbodini

    The second Brent Goose record of the year was a bird found by LB which dropped in briefly onto Lockwood on the 11th before carrying on its migration. Shelduck numbers continued to build up during the month with a top count of 31 on the 24th. As many as seven Shoveler remained in the week leading up to the patch day but, as usual disappeared, for the count itself. A drake Wigeon appeared at the same time as the Brent Goose on the 11th while up to six Red-crested Pochards were seen early in the month.

                 The advance party of the eight Scoter later seen on Lockwood by TR in a downpour

    Overnight sound recording has revealed that Common Scoter migrate overland in good numbers so it is no surprise that bad weather brings down birds on inland reservoirs and lakes. London had a very high number this month and Walthamstow did not miss out. DDL found two on East Warwick in heavy rain on the 8th, giving QG a surprise house tick. The duo were presumably the same birds on Lockwood next morning and grew to eight by lunchtime before departing when the rain stopped. Goldeneye stayed until at least the 13th when three were seen while the last Goosander was a female on the 5th.

    Spring is the best time for Red Kite on the reservoirs so records on at least five days with two on the 11th, 16th and 22nd were not unexpected. What was a complete surprise - including to those watching it at the time over East Warwick - was that a bird early on the 24th was Walthamstow's first ever Black Kite. JP deserves real credit for taking a whole series of shots and then following up his nagging doubts about the bird with a forensic investigation. Amazingly, it was the second Black Kite he had found within a week and was seen across London as the morning went on. A more detailed account and photographs of the kite - and other Walthamstow birds - on

Walthamstow's Black Kite before its tour of central London pic @jarpartridge

  As expected, Buzzards - either passage birds or wanderers from Epping Forest - were recorded regularly throughout the month with eight on the 5th the highest count. Ospreys are far rarer but are now annual with PW finding a distant bird on the 2nd and PR a second on the 13th. The first Hobby of the year was seen on the 23rd. A Water Rail was still around the No 1 reed bed on the 11th.  

    It was, however, a disappointing month for waders except for a report from an unknown observer of 36 Bar-tailed Godwits going north over Lockwood on 29th. It is a big number for the reservoirs but it was on a day when there were several large flocks seen around the capital. But otherwise there were just  regular appearances from a pair of Oystercatcher, a relatively poor showing from Little Ring Plover with a maximum of two on the 8th,a single Greenshank on the 12th and a Dunlin on the 26th. The first migrant Common Sandpiper appeared on Lockwood on the 8th building up to seven on the 24th while Green Sandpipers seemed to disappear for the summer on the 9th after three had been seen on the first day of the month.

       What was perhaps the same Sandwich Tern was seen on several days pic @jarpartridge

    The first Common Terns of the year were two birds flying fast north on the 5th with what seemed like an early potential breeder arriving and staying on the 20th. Arctic Terns only pass through on their way north with three on the 16th and two on the 28th. Sandwich Tern are much scarcer so a single seen on 9th, 10th and 12th may have been the same bird touring the valley reservoirs.

   The return of the Swifts is as eagerly awaited as the first Wheatear but they kept us waiting this year with 30 arriving in a rush on the 23rd, a week after the first was seen last year. On the 6th, LWT volunteers found an odd-looking bird feeding on the path between No 1 and 3 reservoirs and quickly realised they were watching a Hoopoe. They did not recognise how rare it was as it wasn't until next morning that the news was passed onto regular patch watchers. Fortunately, it was still around the old hide for the  the lucky four who first came to check it out but unfortunately although it seemed to fly back into the same area, it was never seen again. The last Hoopoe at the reservoirs was in October 1993 - also at the bottom of No 3 although there was an equally flighty bird at the Waterworks three years ago, 

       Large numbers of Swallows waited at the reservoirs for better weather pic@lolbodini

    The first Swallow was on the 3rd with small numbers trickling through until the end of the month when the dreadful weather saw hundreds forced to halt their journey north and search for food over the reservoirs. They rested on anything they could find with more than 70 lined up on the concrete bank of High Maynard on the 30th.  A single House Martin was seen on the 5th, eight days ahead of last year but the local breeders, like Sand Martins, did not arrive back until much later in the month. Yellow Wagtails, with the first on the 7th, were five days later than 2017 but they were recorded on at least eight days and often on the ground rather than just flying north.  There was a nice passage of White Wagtails, too, with 14 counted on the 11th.

    A Whinchat was attracted to the new flower meadow on the 20th while Wheatears, at least compared to the dismal Spring showing last year, were much more common. As usual, we had to wait a couple of weeks after the early pioneers but birds, often in small parties,, were seen regularly after the 2nd with the highest count of seven on the 22nd.

              A party of Wheatears enjoy the sunshine on Lockwood pic @owlturbot

    Ring Ousels are supposed to be wary but no one told the male first found by GJ in what is now known as Hoopoe hollow on the 11th. It moved to the busiest section of the reservoirs just south of the engine house where it fed and rested for the next four days, unperturbed by the steady procession of visitors. A tardy Fieldfare was still at the reservoirs on the 17th and two Redwing remained until at least the 10th.

                 The tamest Ring Ousel anyone can remember seeing pic @jarpartridge

   The early warblers seemed to prefer the waterworks rather than the nice new habitat at the reservoirs with the first Reed and Sedge Warblers not being seen until the 14th, days after they had returned to the marshes. It was five days later than the first singing Sedge last year but actually a day earlier than the first singing Reed. The 14th also seen the first Lesser Whitethroat with six being seen on the 19th. This was the same day the first Common Whitethroat arrived but, unlike the last species, these seem scarcer at the reservoirs so far.  Blackcaps, in contrast, seem very common with singing birds widespread after the 5th. Willow Warbler passage seemed slim but at least one could be heard singing most days.

    Rooks at the reservoirs are often singles and usually just flying over as was the case with one on 6th so four resting on the filter beds on the 17th were an uncommon sight. So was a flock of Brambling which was first found by QG near the engine house on the 10th before moving to the trees behind the fishermen's hut on the corner of No 4 and 5. At their maximum, there were at least eight, including a couple of lovely males, with two remaining until the 14th.

                                 One of the male Brambling pic@owlturbot

   Two Siskin were seen on 8th and two Redpoll on the 5th. After 77 days and a huge amount of enjoyment to a great many birders, the Little Bunting was last seen on April 6. It may be a long time before we get another but then we said that about our recent run of rarities and the reservoirs keep surprising...

DB @porthkillier

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Reservoir Logs - March

The first Bluethroat for over 80 years pic © Magnus Andersson @magnusphotog

       March is always considered a good month for birding on the reservoirs but this year it was truly spectacular. The highlight was a stunning male White-Spotted Bluethroat, the first at Walthamstow since 1936. With the surprise re-finding of the male Serin and the over-wintering Little Bunting, the reservoirs hosted three London rarities during March. Add in the waders and ducks displaced by the two freezing spells and the reservoirs enjoyed one of its best ever months, perhaps the best, and could rightly claim to be - for one month at least - the capital's prime birding spot. 

       As well as the Bluethroat, 16 more species were added to the reservoirs' year list - Woodcock, Pintail, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Rook, Little Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Bar-tailed Godwit, Barn Owl, Blackcap and Willow Warbler along with Skylark and Siskin already recorded elsewhere on the patch in 2018.  It takes to 107 the species seen this year - two more that at the same time in 2017 when numbers were boosted by the draining of No 4 & 5.   

       Shelduck numbers increased slowly throughout the month with 17 counted on the 26th. The Beast from the East saw an influx of Shoveler with 47 on the 2nd and at least 15 remaining until the end of the month. It also brought in a flock of 14 Wigeon onto No 1 on the 1st with three more scattered around the reservoirs the same day and another drake on the 7th. On the 1st as well, DW found a lovely drake Pintail - by no means an annual visitor - on No 1.  

Pintail are uncommon on the reservoirs so this drake warmed up birders on a very cold day 

        The drake Scaup, after a few days when its presence on No 4 was erratic, finally seems to have departed on the 26th - 15 days later than last year and six weeks later than in in 2016. With luck, it should return for its fifth winter in early December.  Goldeneye numbers remained high with 12 scattered around the reservoirs as late as the 27th while up to three Goosander could occasionally be seen on, or flying over, Lockwood until the 30th at least.  

The drake Scaup was in lovely plumage by the time it departed pic Richard Howard 

       The local Peregrines and Sparrowhawks continued to show well throughout the month with three Sparrowhawks soaring together on the 21st. As expected, March saw larger birds of prey passing over with Red Kites on the 16th, 23rd and 27th and Buzzards on the 5th and 26th with two on the 16th. 

Knot and Redshank  feeding together on Lockwood summed up a good month for waders

        The two freezing spells, added to the usual passage, saw 13 species of waders recorded on the reservoirs which is not far off the annual total in a poor year. No less than seven species - which did not include Common Sandpiper - were seen on the 1st, the first day of the intense cold snap. They included Oystercatcher with singles also on 23rd and 28th and two on 22nd. Lapwing numbers, although nowhere near as high as the 1000+ seen at Wanstead, were good for the reservoirs with  seven on the 4th, three on the 5th, six on the 6th, 35 on the 7th including flocks of 17 and 14, and singles on the 13th and 16th. 

      The first day of the month saw both Grey Plover, seen by DW flying low north, and a Knot found by PW on East Warwick. What may have been a different Knot, discovered by TR, was on Lockwood for two days from the 5th.  The only Little Ringed Plover was at the north end of East Warwick on the 15th - a week earlier than the first migrant in 2017 - while CF had a Ringed Plover on the same reservoir on the 9th in heavy rain. TR earned his reward for braving terrible conditions on the 17th with a Bar-tailed Godwit, not recorded since 2015also on East Warwick, The first Dunlin of the year were two on the 1st but there may have been as many as nine individual birds recorded around the reservoirs during the month. 
      Most Knot are flyovers so two on the deck in one month is very unusual pic @ jarpartridge 

      Freezing temperatures often see Woodcock turn up on the reservoirs but three on the 1st confirmed how tough the conditions were. Five Snipe were also seen on the same day with seven counted on the 21st. Single Redshank were seen on the 4th & 5th and 22nd. Green Sandpiper, whose numbers have been low because of the high water level in the overflow channel, built up from the middle of the month with four recorded on the 15th &16th and three on the 30th. Common Sandpipers clearly wintered but largely out of sight with a single on the 7th and two on the 14th.

        A IY Yellow-legged Gull was found on the 20th but otherwise gulls were the one family from which expected records were disappointing. MM had to drop his usual refrain of being the reservoirs' unluckiest birder when he flushed a Barn Owl from the side of Lockwood on the 19th. It is the first record from the reservoirs since the same month in 2015 when one spent several days on Tottenham Marsh.There was also a report just off the reservoirs of a calling Tawny Owl, a species which has not been seen or heard for years, across the canal from West Warwick on the 24th.

     March is a good month for passing corvids with four Rooks seen on the 13th and singles on the 16th and 24th. Jackdaws, too, were seen on several dates including two going north on the 6th and four on the 14th. The first Skylark of the year for the reservoirs flew over on the 7th while, also just off the patch, a Woodlark was seen on Walthamstow Marsh on the 17th. Sand Martins returned pretty much on cue with a single on the 13th and two on the 14th, 15th and 17th before the cold snap and northerly winds put an end of passage until three on the 29th and two on the 30th.

        Sand Martin sheltering from the cold north wind on Lockwood pic @jarpartridge

         By the end of the month, Chiffchaffs were singing intermittently around the site but the only Blackcap was heard on the 23rd and the sole Willow Warbler was briefly in song on the 31st. Cetti's Warblers seemed to have survived the freezing spells with perhaps eight birds singing by the end of the month. Small numbers of winter thrushes continued to be seen with 20 Redwing on the 22nd and five Fieldfare on the 28th.

        A Scandinavian Rock Pipit was on Lockwood on the 14th with either this species or a Water Pipit seen in terrible conditions on No 4 on the 29th. The first Wheatear was found on the 16th - four days later than last year - but, as often seems to be the case, there is a long wait for the next with no other records this month. What seems certain to have been a migrant Stonechat was seen at the bottom of Lockwood on the 6th with wintering birds continuing to be seen occasionally on West Warwick. 

       It was a Stonechat I expected to see when a small dark bird  flew up to a low bramble on West Warwick on the 23rd. Even the brief view it gave before it dropped down into the reeds revealed it was unmistakably Walthamstow's second ever Bluethroat. Although flighty at first, it settled down in a small area from mid-afternoon to give, with patience, good views but sadly disappeared overnight. It was one of a small number of the White-Spotted form found in the UK this month after being blown off their normal migration course by the strong easterly winds. But it is only the 21st Bluethroat for London since the first was seen just across the railway line on East Warwick in September 1936. Thanks to Thames Water and London Wildlife Trust for allowing and managing special access for birders to West Warwick to see the bird. 

 Pics by Dante Shepherd (above) and David Darrell-Lambert (below)

      In any ordinary month, the re-discovery of the male Serin by JP on the 6th - more than three weeks and just a few yards since it had first been found - would deservedly have taken top billing. Where it had been is anyone's guess but, with so many eyes looking for the nearby Little Bunting, it seems unlikely it had been overlooked. This time it had the good grace to stay a little longer and was well watched on the 7th and seen briefly next day before disappearing again. 

          The Serin showed well on the 7th feeding with the Linnet flock pic @owlturbot

    It seems likely that the Serin was attracted by the size of the Linnet flock which reached 80 in the aftermath of the freezing spell and remained 25-strong, itself a remarkable figure for the reservoirs in recent years, at the month's end. The first  Siskins of the year on the reservoirs were two seen by DM on the 27th while SH had a male Brambling on the 31st. 

      For a brief magical moment on the 7th, the Serin and the Little Bunting were just 40 yards apart and could be seen from the same spot. But unlike Walthamstow's other rarities, the Little Bunting stayed faithful throughout the month and began to show much more regularly around the seed tray. It is estimated that well over 1,000 birders, from as far afield as Liverpool and Limerick this month, have come to enjoy it over its 70-day stay. The Bunting also had a laugh at the expense of local birders who thought it a dull female by becoming brighter plumaged as the month went on and then beginning to sing to prove it was definitely more a Harold than a Hilda.  


           The Little Bunting became both brighter and more obliging pics @jarpartridge

DB @porthkillier

Friday, 2 March 2018

Reservoir Logs - February

Walthamstow's first ever Serin stayed all too briefly pic by Sarah Morrison

    For the second month running, a new bird was added to the reservoir's all-time list with the discovery of a male Serin. It is an example of what's known in the States as the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect - named after a famous lay-by in SE Arizona - where birders looking for one rare bird find another. It takes the reservoirs' list to an impressive 236.

   Unlike the Little Bunting which remained all month, the Serin was sadly only seen for a few minutes. More predictably those waiting patiently for the bunting also added Red Kite and Red-crested Pochard to the year list while Mediterranean Gull, Bullfinch and Redpoll and two more reservoirs' rarities in Great Egret and Glaucous Gull were seen as well. It was an exceptionally good month and takes the total number of species seen this year already to 90, five more than this time in 2017. 

    RT, who spends most of most days fly-fishing on No 5, always has a good chance of fly-overs and scored again with a Great Egret low towards the egret islands on the 18th. Despite becoming much more common in London, it remains absent from most of the patch regulars' list. Four Red-crested Pochard were seen on the 13th flying towards West Warwick. The drake Scaup remained all month on No 4. It has already stayed longer than it did in 2016 and is coming up fast towards its 2017 departure date. A female Scaup was also seen on East Warwick on the 14th by several birders but, despite being Valentine's Day, did not stay long enough to pair up with our resident male. As many as a dozen Goldeneye, now often in pairs, could be found scattered around the reservoirs while up to three Goosander were seen, usually early, on either High Maynard or No 4 before flying back towards the Banbury. 

    The first Red Kite of the year was seen on the 2nd with the first two Buzzards on the 22nd. The next two months are usually the best for both species. The pair of Peregrines could be seen hunting and displaying regularly over the reservoirs throughout the month.
The reservoirs' male Peregrine having just taken a kill from the female pic by Jo Wheeler
    Despite a good edge around East Warwick, waders remained scarce throughout February. While two Common Sandpipers wintered on the reservoirs - and were seen together on the 14th - they kept out of sight for much of the month. Green Sandpipers were also far less obvious than in previous winters with singles seen on the 8th, 12th, 26th and 27th. Lapwing numbers, however, were good with five on the 20th, eight on the 24th, three on the 26th and a cold weather movement of 47 on the 27th including a flock of 32 as the Beast from the East swept in. A few Snipe were seen as they flew between reed-beds.

    After the Glaucous Gull seen at Leyton tip last month, PW spotted a juvenile flying south close-by over No 4 on the 23rd. It was also reported next day from the filter beds and on the 26th. It means that after a gap of over 20 years on the reservoirs, Glaucous Gulls have now appeared in two successive years. An adult Mediterranean Gull was resting on the filter beds on the 20th.

   Meadow Pipits, for some reason, also continue to be scarce this winter with singles recorded on just three dates. MM, however, had an early Rock Pipit on the 20th on the rocky shore of East Warwick. Fieldfare were resident in good numbers throughout the month with a top count of 70 on the side of No 5 on the 19th. In contrast, only a few Redwing seem to be wintering at the reservoirs. And while some recent winters have seen three Stonechats regularly in the reed beds around the Warwicks, a solitary female was seen on only a handful of dates this month.
                            A tame Fieldfare took up residence around the Engine House

   Cetti's Warblers restrained themselves to short bursts of song this month. Chiffchaffs numbers were again low but could be seen, in the company of Goldcrests, feeding on the southern section of the Coppermill stream. Both were also seen occasionally in the bunting bush. With so many alders, Redpoll should be a more frequent visitor to the reservoirs but the single seen and heard flying over on the 7th by DM was all too typical. Bullfinches are even more scarce so two seen flying over Lockwood from Tottenham Marsh by SF on the 10th may be the only ones recorded this year.

   There is, however, no shortage of Linnets this winter. The flock on the weeds between the Engine House and East Warwick built up steadily throughout the month and hit over 80 on the 28th when presumably the heavy snow prevented birds feeding on the ground. It is a remarkable number for recent years. And it was this flock which apparently help attract the male Serin to the same general area on the 10th.which was found by visiting Herts birder Roy Hargreaves. Its stay was all too short but stayed long enough to pose for a couple of photographs in the hedge around the feeders and even to sing briefly. It remains a rare bird in London with only 21 records up to the end of 2015.

                The cause of a mass outbreak of Serin-dip-itty   pic by  Sarah Morrison    

    The Little Bunting was far more obliging and continued to attract birders from as far as Norfolk and Bristol throughout the month. It also took a liking to the seeds put down in front of its favourite bushes where it could be seen in the company of some of the eight-plus Reed Buntings - again a record count in recent years - on the ground for the first time. Even the heavy snowfall at the end of the month had not yet forced it to depart.

                           Little Bunting surrounded by seed pic by @njcroft

                               And surveying the birders from its usual bush - pic by Russ Sherriff

    Despite the snow and freezing conditions at the end of the month, it may be only a matter of days before the first summer migrants arrive. The first Sand Martin was seen last year on the very early date of March 6 and the first Wheatear on the 12th.

DB @ porthkillier

Friday, 2 February 2018

Reservoir Logs - January 18

London's first Little Bunting since 2007 photograph @jarpartridge

   The discovery of  Walthamstow's first ever - and only London's 11th - Little Bunting put the reservoirs on the birders' map this month. It drew a steady stream of admirers who often had to return for views of what could be an elusive bird.  But it also meant that the long-staying Scaup on No 4 got plenty of visitors as did the Wetlands cafe. In all, 80 species -  including the late additions of Coal Tit and Brambling - were recorded this month on the reservoirs (with four more on the larger patch) which was exactly the same figure as last year.

   Two Brent Geese seen by PL flying south over Lockwood on the 10th was a very unexpected record. Shelduck numbers built up slowly throughout the month with a flock of seven on No 5 on the 30th. The first Wigeon of the year were three which arrived with a flock of Teal on No 5 on the 8th with four more seen on East Warwick on the 14th. Shoveler numbers seemed right down on previous years which is a concern. But the drake Scaup continued to enjoy its fourth winter on No 4 and the maximum count of Goldeneye of 12 across the reservoirs on the 28th and Goosander of five on the 11th show only a slight decrease on last year.

                                 Four of a flock of six Goldeneye displaying on No 5

   Last January saw both Red Kite and Buzzard recorded in January but this year the only birds of prey were the resident Peregrines, Sparrowhawks and Kestrel. The Peregrines could be seen displaying together as well as hunting regularly over the reservoirs, giving hope that they might breed in the locality. Among their intended prey on the 8th was an unusually early Oystercatcher which only escaped by landing on the water on East Warwick. The 8th also saw the first Lapwing of the year with two more flying south on the 23rd. Redshank were also not seen until March last year but the increased coverage this month saw one recorded flying south on the 21st by those waiting for the Little Bunting to appear.

   The reed bed at the top of No 1 continues to attract Snipe as does the hidden lagoon on the island of East Warwick were four were seen to fly in on the 24th. At least two Common Sandpipers are wintering on the reservoirs but, largely due to the high water levels in the overflow channel which have displaced them from their favourite areas, the only record of Green Sandpiper was one on No 5 on the 21st.

   A near adult Yellow-legged Gull was seen on High Maynard on the 19th while, outside the reservoirs, the second Glaucous Gull in successive years on the wider patch was found by JP on  Leyton tip on the 28th. Last year's bird, which was also a IY, moved between the tip and the filter beds but there has been no sign so far.
               Juvenile Glaucous Gull on the scenic delight of Leyton Tip pics @jarpartridge

   Meadow Pipits are another bird where the numbers seem well down this year on the reservoirs.  While up to a dozen could be seen on the grass around Lockwood last January, only singles were seen this month. Stonechats have also been scarce this year but a female was on West Warwick on the 28th and 29th.

                                       Female Stonechat on their favourite West Warwick haunt

   For some reason, Chiffchaff, too, seem nowhere near as common this winter on the reservoirs and on nearby Tottenham Marsh with just a couple seen at the top of Lockwood and along the Lea both north and south of the road. Reed Buntings, however, are a real success story with seven seen together in the reeds at the top of No 1 on the 1st, an extraordinary count for recent years. They moved later in the month to feed on the weeds between the Engine House and East Warwick where a nice flock of around 30 Linnets were also in residence.

   It was in this area with its bigger cousins that PW and DB discovered the Little Bunting on the 19th. Although it was faithful to this small area until the end of the month, it stayed hidden in the weeds when feeding and could only be seen when it flew up occasionally into the hedge. As it was only found because it dropped in with a Reed Bunting right next to the path, it could have been there for some time.

                             Little Bunting in typical pose hiding in the bush pic@jarpartridge

   It is the rarest bird to be found on the reservoirs since LB's famed Dusky Warbler in February 2010 and, on the wider patch, since the Common Rosefinch in 2016 on Walthamstow Marsh which was also the 11th for London. The last Little Bunting in London was the wintering bird at Amwell in 2007. This was also found in January and stayed until mid-April by which time it was singing. So there may be plenty of time to catch up with it yet.....

* Late additions to the monthly list were Coal Tit, which are surprisingly scarce at the reservoirs, heard by CF on the 1st and two Brambling seen by AW between the Engine House and No 4 on the 20th. 

DB @porthkillier

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Reservoir Logs - December round-up

             Our drake Scaup returned to No 4 for the fourth winter in a row pic @DaveMo57

  December is usually, unless the weather is extreme, a quiet month. But in keeping with a more exciting back-end of 2017 than normal, it delivered the first Whooper Swan since 2010 and the first Golden Plover and pukka Woodcock of the year. It took to 141 the species seen at the reservoirs in 2017, a total particularly notable for the 22 wader species recorded thanks largely to the draining of No 4 and 5 in the Spring and, less so, Lockwood in the Autumn.

                                 A rather startled drake Goldeneye pic @ DaveMo57

  The Whooper Swan was seen by PL flying north early morning over Lockwood where it may have rested overnight. It landed on Banbury where it kindly stayed for an hour to let several patch birders catch up with it before continuing on its journey north. It is the first record since five flew south in January 2010. A rather more familiar bird was the drake Scaup which found its way back to No 4 for the fourth winter on the run. Its arrival date of the 3rd was two days later than last year which, in turn, was two days later than in 2015 but eight days earlier than in 2014. Whenever it gets here, it spends most of its time asleep in the NW corner of No 4 with a small party of equally idle Tufted Ducks. Up to nine Goldeneye, including two drakes, could be found scattered around the reservoirs this month while the maximum count of Goosander was five on High Maynard on the 28th. Single Wigeon were seen on two dates and around 50 Teal were usually around the southern island of High Maynard.

          Goosander are invariably wary on the reservoirs but this drake was only stretching its wings   

  Two large white herons seen flying west over West Warwick on the 2nd by the LNHS walk were almost certainly Great Egrets but just too far to clinch identification definitely. It was a surprisingly good month for waders with more confirmation that a sudden rain shower can bring down birds passing high overhead. Within half an hour of the rain starting on the 3rd, a Curlew was seen by PL going north, a Golden Plover heard calling in the gloom by DB and GG who also saw a Woodcock flying over East Warwick. An exceptional passage of Lapwing took place on the 1st with 90 including a flock of 60 seen over the reservoirs with 16 on the 12th.  A tame bird hung around No 4 and 5 early in the month.  Up to two Common Sandpipers and four Green Sandpipers continued to be seen while a Redshank was on Lockwood  and a Snipe on West Warwick on the 12th.

              A surprisingly tame Lapwing ignored the crowds around No 4 and 5 early in the month

  Kingfishers continued to be very showy, even being seen from the outdoor seating area at the cafe as well as at the bottom of No 3 and the stream next to the Ferry Boat Inn. The pair of Peregrines were also often easy to see either resting on the pylons or hunting over the reservoirs. Two days of snow pushed six Skylark onto the grassy banks of Lockwood on the 12th with two staying until the 17th. Cold weather also saw 80 Redwing move north west on the 2nd with small numbers of both this species and Fieldfare again flying over or feeding on berries on the 12th. Six more Fieldfare were seen on the 16th and 23 Redwing the day before.

  Perhaps as many as five Cetti's Warbler could be heard throughout the month with a similar number of wintering Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests counted on the 3rd. At least one Stonechat continued to be seen on West Warwick. Meadow Pipits were scarce with a maximum count of five around Lockwood and in the overflow channel. Just off the reservoirs was a Hawfinch on Tottenham Marsh from the beginning of the month until the 9th. It was so close to Lockwood that it could easily, in theory, have been seen from the reservoir bank but, in practice, never was.  But the reservoirs did hold a good flock of 30 Linnets, which along with Chaffinches and Goldfinches, fed on the weeds at the top of No 1.

DB @porthkillier