Thursday, 25 October 2018

Reservoir Logs - September update

                Great Egret on East Warwick island with Barnacle Goose preening to the right

   September provided more evidence that the reservoirs generally do better for migrants in Spring than Autumn. But the month did provide the first Wood Sandpipers for six years, the first Barnacle Goose of 2018 and two Great Egrets including one which stayed on the ground long enough to allow it finally to be added to patch lists. The two additions take to 139 the species seen on the reservoirs this year - nine more than at this time in 2017.

              A typically tame Barnacle Goose giving little indication it has recently seen the Arctic

    Barnacle Geese are just about annual visitors with last year three visiting for just one day. This year's singleton, as tame as usual, on the 4th had the good grace to stayed over a week.Three Wigeon, the first of the Autumn, were seen on the 5th, with one or two recorded regularly until the end of the month. Shoveler numbers usually peak in early Autumn and the 56 counted on the 19th suggested they have not been too affected by the extra visitors to their favoured home of East Warwick.

   Despite being seen with greater frequency at the reservoirs, Great Egret has been a bogey species for many of the local birders with almost all past reports just fly-overs. So the bird which dropped onto the East Warwick island on the 4th and stayed for a couple of hours was a real bonus. It remained just long enough before departing high SW for @birdingprof to drive down from his new home in Suffolk to fill the gap on his patch list. More typical was a second bird seen flying over by PL on the 11th.

   Two Buzzards on the 6th and a single on the 26th were the only large birds of prey seen with the sole Hobby on the 21st. But the Peregrines remained a very noisy presence on the pylons throughout the month.

   Waders also continued to be thin on the ground. A Whimbrel flew south on the 15th over Lockwood. The peak count of Common Sandpipers for the Autumn was 13 on the 7th. Green Sandpipers were recorded on the 1st, 6th, 19th with two on the 23rd while there were single Redshanks on the 18th and 23rd.

   The first Snipe of the season was found on the 5th, 13 days earlier than last year. But the highlight of the month were four Wood Sandpipers picked up by JP circling low over No 5 early on the 6th before carrying on south. They are the first at the reservoirs since one on Lockwood which stayed for a few days in early September 2012.  A 1cy Yellow-legged Gull  was seen on Lockwood on the 5th. The late breeding Common Tern family of adults and their two young were last seen on the 3rd.

   The only Skylark was one on the 27th. While last year Swifts lingered on until mid-month, it looks as if none may have been seen this September.  Swallow passage was also very thin with the last record of three on the 23rd typical of the daily count. House and Sand Martins, however, were still plentiful over No 5 early in the month with 400 House Martins counted on the 5th with 30  on the 23rd and one still on the 30th.

   Ten Willow Warblers were seen on the 5th but within days, Chiffchaffs took over as the commonest warblers in the mixed feeding flocks along the central path. These also included Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Reed Warbler early in the month as well as a Garden Warbler on the 7th.

  Spotted Flycatcher was one of the few migrants which seemed commoner than in recent years. The good run at the end of August continued with singles on the 6th and 11th, two on the 10th and the last on the 25th. The only Whinchat was one on the 5th while the first Stonechat of the Autumn was on the 24th, the same day as the first bird turned up at neighbouring Wanstead.

  Wheatears were another species in short supply with three on the 5th and singles on the 11th, 13th, 23rd and 30th. Yellow Wagtails, however, had a good month with birds on at least eight days with two on the 6th and a remarkable ten on the 24th. Grey Wagtails were also widespread throughout the month with a count of 11 together in the overflow channel on the 13th suggesting the hot, dry summer meant a successful breeding season.

   Time is running out to add Garganey and Turnstone to the year list. But the last quarter should still provide the opportunity for Black-necked Grebe, the other unexpected omission so far.

DB @porthkillier

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Pied Flycatchers, Warblers, Raptors, Whinchats, Walthamstow 2018 Year List, Rats and a dry East Warwick island scrape.

Last year on Walthamstow, the first Pied Flycatcher turned up on the 29th of April during the 5th Annual Walthamstow Patch Watch day (a female on the central path of the reservoirs). Then that was it for 2017. 

Fast forward to Autumn 2018 and we’ve had a definite 5 (possibly 7 but could be same birds) all in the same spot - the front paddocks of the Lee Valley Riding Centre.

On the 13th of August, J-P Elmes, Matt Cunningham, Sue and Mark observed at least 3 separate birds on the front paddocks. 

And, on the 3rd of September Mark and Lol observed at least 2 separate birds on the front paddocks.

Also on the southern side the patch were Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler in the WaterWorks Nature Reserve.


As was a juvenile rat.


On the marshes, a 4 raptor day was fun.

And the Whinchats have been daily on the Bomb Crater Field.

With an eye on the patch year list, we’re currently on 146. Better than 2016 (143), 2015 (141) and 2014 (139). Our patch average is 146.6, so we just need to find two fifths or 40% of a FOY bird to beat the average before the year is out.

Black-necked Grebe?

Short-eared Owl?

Also, on the reservoirs, the East Warwick island was inspected and it was quite disappointingly not scrape like (thanks to DW for pics).

Walthamstow Birders

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Reservoir Logs - August round-up

         At least four Spotted Flycatchers could be found late in the month pic@owlturbot

      August - not for the first time - was a pretty hum-drum month on the reservoirs. But it finished on a high with the discovery of six Black Terns on the last day. Spotted Flycatcher, a regular passage migrant in August, was also added to the year list which now stands at 137. There was also late news of another breeding species with Shelduck raising young on the East Warwick island although, as usual, the young did not last long with so many big gulls around.

     In contrast, both Little and Great Crested Grebes seem to have had a successful breeding season with family parties on many of the reservoirs during the month. The post-breeding flock of Tufted Duck reached 1,979, down on last year's figure of 2,400 but remains of national importance. Mid-month's wildfowl count also found 124 Pochard and 566 Coot.

               One of a good number of Great Crested Grebe families on the reservoirs this month

      The only record of Buzzard were three seen on the 18th and Hobby this summer remained scarce with one on the 22nd and then perhaps the same bird almost daily until the end of the month. But Peregrines could hardly been missed with at least two very noisy young on the pylons or frightening the ducks and gulls as they were taught to hunt by the parents - one of which was seen to grab a Gadwall.

A Hobby seemed to take up residence at the end of month pic @owlturbot

     Wader passage was poor. There was only one Lapwing on  the 31st but for the second time this year, a large - by Walthamstow standards at least - flock of Black-tailed Godwits was seen when P&TR had 12 flying over No 5 on the 2nd. Single Dunlin were recorded on the 5th and 14th. Common Sandpiper numbers remained low with eight on the 1st the highest count while a Green Sandpiper made an appearance on the 3rd. The sole Greenshank was seen low over Lockwood mid-afternoon on the 31st by those watching the Black Terns, giving an indication of what slips through unnoticed.   

     Common Terns successfully fledged their two young and the family remained right through the month. They were joined by other adults and young, presumably from further up the valley, with a maximum of 16 being counted on the 17th. Six Black Terns, including one in near full summer  plumage, were found feeding over Lockwood late morning on the 31st and remained until mid-afternoon when five flew off high SW with the straggler following soon after.  The 19th saw the second Yellow-legged Gull of the autumn.

One of a very mobile flock of Black Terns over Lockwood

   As seems to have been the case elsewhere, Swifts appeared to leave early this year. While in 2017, there were still around 30 over No 5 and the filter beds until the end of August, the local breeders had disappeared by the middle of the month, with eight on the 25th and five next day likely to be passage birds. But there were still plenty of House Martins from the colony at the Filter Beds and dozens of Sand Martins around until the end of the month with a handful of Swallow trickling through. 

     The odd Willow Warbler was also seen early in the month but passage started in earnest with 15 on 21st and 17 on 30th. Garden Warblers, for some reason, continued to be scarce this year on the reservoirs with just a single on 28th but small numbers of Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and plenty of Blackcaps could be found in the tit flocks. Cetti's Warblers, which had been silent for the last few months, again started low-level singing towards the end of the month. 

            A few Lesser Whitethroats could be found in the mixed feeding flocks during the month 

     MM found 2018's first Spotted Flycatcher on the reservoirs on the 19th, with another or the same on 21st. This was the start of a nice run with three on the 24th, at least four on the 28th and next day, with one remaining until the 30th. There was no sign, however, of Pied Flycatchers which turned up at many sites across London this year including nearby Woodberry and Walthamstow Marsh and, to add insult to injury, in PL's garden just a few hundred yards from Lockwood. 

   Autumn Wheatear passage began on the 22nd - a week later than last year - when four were seen. The advance guard were followed by singles on the 24th, 27th, 28th and three on the 31st. Whinchat are much more common on the marsh to the south but we had singles on the 22nd and 27th. 

Whinchats are relatively common on the marsh but scarce on the reservoirs pic @owlturbot

Like Spotted Flycatchers, Yellow Wagtails seemed slightly more frequent this year with two on the 15th & 17th and three on the 22nd and a single on the 29th. With the weeds at the top of East Warwick looking even more inviting than last year, a flock of 30 Linnets was  a good sign for the winter.


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Nuthatch and other significant Walthamstow patching.

A patch Nuthatch is rare.

June 26th, meters away from the patch, I heard a Nuthatch call above me in the Springfield Park tree I was under. I used the sound clips on the Collins Bird Guide mobile phone app to lure the bird closer to the patch. I crossed the Horseshoe Bridge and on setting foot on the patch, I heard the Nuthatch and then watched it fly over me into the Horseshoe Thicket. Well and truly patch ticked. I heard it again the next day.

The patch stats have Nuthatch with only one other record since 2010:

And it seems that it may have been there since June, as Stuart F heard it again from the patch on August 5th. So, on August 7th, I went back onto the patch for a bit of a twitch. After half an hour of listening on the Horseshoe Bridge, I heard the Nuthatch. I located its tree in my scope and got some views of it, before some Goldfinches moved it off. 

Like everywhere else, the patch is dry and hot. Bed 18 at the WaterWorks is at the lowest I’ve ever seen it; the Marshes are yellow and the Lockwood Reservoir is low. Even a pit stop in the East Warwick hide was hotter on the inside than on the outside!

There was no real sign of any occupation of the newly installed owl boxes on the Marshes.

On the WaterWorks, a Jersey Tiger moth was great to observe. As were a Holly Blue, a Common Blue and a Green-veined White butterfly.

Common Blue
Green-veined White

Peregrine Falcons are very vocal at this time of year. They can be seen and heard from the Marshes, WaterWorks and the Reservoirs.

Munching on a Parakeet

Common Terns have bred again on the Reservoirs this year, with two chicks. This year their old digs have been replaced with new accommodation courtesy of the LWT.

Familiarity breeds contempt is the phrase that comes to mind when contemplating our Common Sandpipers. When they’re the only wader after a long walk around the Lockwood Reservoir, it’s like they’re rubbing it in; but when they’re not there at all, you miss them.

I often like to torture myself with a big patch day. This usually involves an early rise followed by a 6 hour flogging of the patch from bottom to top, hoping for a treat, but ultimately yielding little or no reward. Lovely. And indeed, if it weren’t for the 15 Mistle/Song Thrush combo right at the start of the day on the ex pitch and putt field or for the Lockwood Dunlin right at the other end of the day, I might have thought it a waste of time. Maybe I should cut this habit out during mid summer.

On July 25th and 27th, two Little Ringed Plovers were welcome visitors to the Lockwood.

Reed Warblers have done extremely well this year. I have never heard and seen them in such numbers across the Marshes and Reservoirs.


Returning back to the WaterWorks:

Sue Huckle (@suzehu) has been patching the WaterWorks like a monster! She and fellow patcher, Mark D observed and recorded the breeding Garden Warbler, Sparrowhawk and Muntjac Deer. The pleasure she draws from watching the natural world is so evident in her images. 

All of the following are Sue’s pics from the WaterWorks Nature Reserve:

The Violet Black-legged Robberfly – a first for the WaterWorks (so probably the patch).

Grass Snake

Garden Warbler

Grey Wagtail -bred in the well head for the 3rd year.

Banded Demoiselle
Smooth Newts
Breeding Sparrowhawk pics:


 Walthamstow Birders