Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Reservoir Logs - February round-up

  Still conditions were as rare as the stunning male Bearded Tit pic Rudraksha Chodankar  

   Strong winds and heavy rain not only made birding unpleasant and difficult throughout much of February but also led to the Wetlands unusually being closed for several days because of the danger posed by falling trees. The risk was not overdone with three large trees coming down during the month. But despite the storms - and the usual February lull unless there is a cold spell - the month offered good birding with January's Bearded Tits, Firecrests and Black Redstart remaining and six new species added to the year list

   Snipe, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Jackdaw and Buzzard were expected additions in the Winter/early Spring period  but the adult Mediterranean Gull found on the 18th has become a scarce bird at the reservoirs. It takes the total number of species seen at the Wetlands by the end of February to 81 - five more than last year but nine behind 2018.

     This pair of Wigeon were welcome refugees from Springfield Park pic @ Chris_Farthing

   The first Wigeon of the year were found on the 10th and seen on-and-off for the rest of the month. They are thought to be the pair which had been wintering in nearby Springfield Park before being disturbed by renovation work. Up to nine Goldeneye were recorded on several days with as many as three Goosander including two drakes making occasional visits to Lockwood, No 4 & No 5. Counts for Teal and particularly Shoveler are down on last year with hardly a Shoveler seen although, despite appearances, the surveys show Tufted Duck and Pochard numbers are pretty constant.

  It continues to be a poor winter for waders. By the end of last February, both Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit had made their first appearance but the best wader record this month was an Oystercatcher on the 20th. Two Snipe were seen on the 3rd with another on the 10th to close a surprising gap in the year list. Presumably the wet winter means there is abundant feeding elsewhere. The wintering Common Sandpiper was seen throughout the month and was joined by a second bird on the 12th but the high level of the flood relief channel meant the only record of Green Sandpiper was on No 4 on the 13th.

     The Mediterranean Gull resting after its long journey from Edmonton @ Chris_Farthing
   Despite an explosion in UK breeding numbers in recent years, Mediterranean Gulls seem if anything to be scarcer at the reservoirs. The smart adult found by CF on Lockwood on the 18th is the first record since last July. From its rings, it was identified as the wintering individual from Pymmes Park in exotic Edmonton. Late winter and early Spring are among the best times for passage raptors and scarcer crows over the Wetlands so the Common Buzzard on the 27th and two Jackdaws on the 19th - five days later than the first last year - were pretty much on schedule. Red Kite, Osprey and, if  really lucky, Rook should follow in the next few weeks.

CF was rewarded for putting grit down to attract the Bearded Tits when this male appeared 

   Up to 30 Fieldfare continued to be seen around the reservoirs with the odd Redwing while two Stonechats were also near-resident. Given that not much new arrived, it was fortunate that the 'stars' from January remained throughout February although the gale-force winds often made seeing them even more difficult. In particular, the pair of Bearded Tits continued to be elusive and remarkably silent with days going by without any sighting at all.

       At least one Firecrest remained until the end of the month pic Rudraksha Chodankar  

   The Firecrests were a little more reliable with two seen together on the 7th and at least one seen - and occasionally heard singing - throughout the month. The male Black Redstart was also elusive and seemed to have departed altogether around the middle of the month only to re-appear from the the 25th at its favourite southern end of Lockwood when it, too, was heard to sing.

    The Black Redstart adding yet another dash of colour at the Wetlands  pic OwlTurbot 

DB @porthkillier

Monday, 10 February 2020

Reservoir logs- January 2020 round-up

      The male Bearded Tit giving a rare good view during its month-long stay pic @ topbud00

   After a lacklustre 2019, the New Year began in much more promising style with a series of good, long-staying if often elusive birds. A pair of Bearded Tits - the first since 2013 - discovered on the 1st and which remained all month got the year off to a brilliant  start.  A stunning male Black Redstart found on the 12th also stayed into February.   Add in only the second Water Pipit since 2013, the first Brent Goose since 2018 and the continuing Firecrests and it was not surprising that the Wetlands was again attracting a steady stream of birders......

        The adult dark-bellied Brent Goose seemed to think it was a Canada pic @jrmjones

   Brent Goose has been recorded in half of the last ten years so, with a blank in 2019, it might have been expected to be seen in 2020. What was more unexpected was that it would fly over the shoulder of PW, making a rare return visit, and land among a close flock of Canada Geese on No 4. It stayed for a couple of hours and seemed settled before being flushed by a trespassing drunk.....

  There was no recovery in Shoveler numbers following the disturbance on East Warwick with just  five birds seen early in the month which had all departed by the end. Tufted Duck numbers also seem low which may explain why our regular wintering drake Scaup has pretty much deserted the reservoirs. It did return to its favourite No 4 reservoir on the 9th but had disappeared again by next morning. As it also came back for a day in December after its initial stay, it clearly has not moved far. With a second drake now being seen on KGV, it may have set up home a few miles north. It will be interesting to see if it comes back at all in December for its seventh year.

                          Goldeneye revealing how they got their name pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   Goosander were seen regularly throughout the month but in very small numbers.  The maximum count was four on the 6th while up to eight Goldeneye could be seen scattered across the reservoirs. Water Rails are not uncommon at the Wetlands but more often heard rather than seen. But one at the south end of No 3 had clearly not read the memo and showed throughout the month, often just below the Woolley Hide and occasionally with a second bird.

       In a month of elusive birds, this Water Rail was a welcome exception pic Ivor Hewstone      

   It was a disappointing month for waders with, amazingly, no Common Snipe recorded at all after the exceptional numbers in December. The only Lapwings were four seen early on the 1st while the heavy rain meant the water levels in the overflow were usually too high for Green Sandpipers with only a couple of sightings including two on the 2nd. The Common Sandpiper, however, continued to winter with a second bird joining it on the 1st.

                   The Bearded Tits on Jan 1st before they disappeared for 18 days pic @sjnewton

   The highlight of the month was the pair of Bearded Tits found and photographed by SN on the 1st to the delight all those gathered to start off their year lists. They took such a liking to the new No 1 reed bed that they stayed all month - a real reward for the Wetland's project and evidence again that 'build it and they will come'.

  They are the first since one over East Warwick in October 2013. But after showing reasonably well on the first day, they kept so low that they were not seen again until the 18th and continued to show only irregularly throughout the month. Still, sunny conditions are best when the Reed Buntings are feeding high in the reeds but even then, it takes luck and patience.

        At least two Firecrests continued to be seen throughout the month pic @EugeneDH_Bass 

   The mild winter has led to Chiffchaffs wintering in large numbers with counts of double figures at times. It is estimated that there might be as many as 20 across the site. Of the Wetlands star attractions in January, Firecrests performed the best with one or two being seen on most days of the month around the car park area and Engine House.  

               The first wintering Black Redstart at the Wetlands since 2017 pic @sjnewton

  Very few Redwing were seen in January but flocks of up to 40 Fieldfare were seen around the complex both at the beginning and end of the month. A pair of Stonechats appear to be wintering. A stunning male Black Redstart - found again by SN - appeared at the south end of Lockwood on the 12th and remained all month. It is the first wintering bird on the reservoirs since 2017 which also turned up on January 12th. In the first few days of its stay, it fed regularly on the reservoir bank and towers but seemed to spend far more time out of sight on the nearby building site as the month wore on.

  It was waiting for the Black Redstart to appear that LB saw the final good bird of the month when a Water Pipit flew low over him on the 18th. It is the first at the reservoirs since October 2017 when one took up residence for three days on East Warwick. Meadow Pipit numbers were low with five on the 1st the highest total.  The Linnet flock reached 60 at times but on other days were completely missing. The same was true of the Reed Buntings in No 1 reed bed which could be as elusive as the Bearded Tits but when conditions were right, up to five could be seen feeding high up.

  In all 75 species were seen at the Wetlands in January with Snipe the only obvious omission. The total is four more than last year but five less than our fabulous 2018. Skylark and Red Kite - both seen by this time last year - along with Buzzard and Snipe are perhaps the likeliest candidates to add to the year list in February.

DB @porthkillier


Sunday, 5 January 2020

Third Time Lucky?

In 2013 the rangers of Hackney Parks and Green Spaces pollarded a tree in which had a Little Owl occupying one of its hollow branches. The Little Owl could be regularly viewed from the WaterWorks NR Pitch & Putt.

A year 2 child’s dad (in the class I was teaching at the time) worked for HPGS and after I had mentioned what had happened, HPGS had me design a nest box which they put it up in the pollarded tree. 

The nest box was mostly occupied by squirrels and stock doves for 6 years. But yesterday, Eugene Dillon-Hooper tweeted (with photos ) that he had spotted a Little Owl on the platform of the nest box. Eugene later confirmed that Mike Messenger spotted the Little Owl earlier on New Years Day.

Fantastic and well done Mike and Eugene!

I paid a visit to the WaterWorks NR today and after a bit of searching the nest box tree (whilst 3 Treecreepers creeped, sang and called around the trees near me), a Little Owl was found in the pollarded tree to the left of the nest box tree. It called several times. The HPGS nest box was placed facing south. However, the original branch and its hole in which a Little Owl used to look out of, faced north. And today, a Little Owl was in a natural tree hollow, facing north. Maybe it doesn’t like the box or prefers facing north or is keeping an eye on the banks of the old river lee for small mammals?

On the same Feb 2013 day, before watching my last WaterWorks NR Little Owl, I also had a Bittern in the WaterWorks NR:

Fingers crossed!

PS. A Little Owl tree had also been pollarded on the Walthamstow Marshes SSSI paddocks a few years prior to the WaterWorks NR pollarding. Lets hope at a third time of asking, a Little Owl can get a few good years of solid me time in its desired tree (however, there are a lot more parakeets around the waterworks these days and a 'doggy beach swimming club' very near the Little Owl tree:

Pics, Vidz and eBird links from today:

Little Owl


WaterWorks NR eBird numbers:


Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Reservoir Logs - November & December round-up

           The first Firecrests for over a decade appear to be wintering pic @OwlTurbot

   A drab and wet final two months of the year was enlivened by the discovery of Firecrests - regular  winter visitors nearby but so rare on the reservoirs that it seems the last record may have been eleven years ago.  November also added Mandarin to the year list and saw the early return of the drake Scaup for its sixth winter.

   Even with the two late additions, the annual total for the reservoirs' this year was a modest 133. It was never likely that the Wetlands could see a repeat of 2018's once-in-a-generation run of rare birds which saw 143 species recorded but the total was also down on 2017's 141. Among the omissions was Turnstone which had been annual since 2010 but has now not been seen for the last two years.

      Distant record shot of the four Mandarin who dropped onto the overflow pic @sjnewton

    The first Shelduck of the autumn were seen on Nov 8th - 13 days earlier than last year. SN got reward for going out in a downpour on Nov 2nd with two pairs of Mandarin briefly on the overflow channel at the top of High Maynard. They were the first record for the year of a species which remains puzzling scarce at the Wetlands.

   Shoveler numbers have failed to recover from the work on East Warwick with no more than three around the reservoirs compared to around 50 in 2018. Let's hope they return now the disturbance is over. Single Wigeon were seen on Nov 15th & Dec 28th with three next day on Lockwood.

   Our drake Scaup returned for its sixth winter on Nov 21st, well ahead of schedule. All its previous arrival dates have been between Dec 1st and 11th. But as if to make up, it seems to have departed with a large number of Tufted Ducks which left overnight of Dec 8/9th. It has only been seen again on Dec 18th which suggests it may not be too far away. The first Goosander of the year was seen on Nov 19th  - a month later than last year - with one or two birds seen irregularly until the end of the year. With the weather so mild, Goldeneye numbers have yet to reach double figures with seven the highest count.

   Water Rails have been seen and heard in the reed beds on No 1 & 3 throughout the period. It was not a great two months for waders except for Snipe which took an immediate liking to the 'new' island on East Warwick although they remain almost impossible to see from the shore. But those working on the island disturbed them regularly with a peak count of 20 on Dec 4th. Lapwing were seen on five days with singles on Nov 7th & Dec 27th, two on Nov 21st, three on Dec 28th and seven on Nov 24th.

              Wintering Common Sandpiper on a rare sunny day pic @HarringayBirder   

  Just hours after the last round-up confidently forecast an absence of wintering Common Sandpipers for the second successive year, one was found on Nov 1st and has remained until at least Dec 24th. Green Sandpipers continue to be seen with a very high count of five together on Dec 30th when flood waters in the overflow channel forced them onto the ramp.

  After the remarkable movement of Jackdaws in October, numbers were very much back to normal with just two on Nov 14th. There was only one record of Skylark as well on Nov 17th. There seem to be more wintering Chiffchaffs with daily counts of up to five and Blackcaps were still, unusually, being seen in early December along the stream by the main car park.

  The reason for such interest in an area often overlooked is because it became the regular haunt of what seems to be the first Firecrests on the reservoirs since April 2008 - and the first wintering birds since 1991/92. The first was found by LB on Nov 25th with two being seen next day. But there were only regular sightings of single birds throughout the rest of November and December until two were again seen together on Dec 27th, 28th & 31st. The favourite area remains the trees along the stream next to the car-park and the gorse at the front of the cafĂ© outdoor seating area. The likely Goldcrest/Firecrest hybrid rung earlier in the autumn also seems to be still around to add to the excitement.

        Photo confirmation of two wintering Firecrests along the car-park stream pic @sjnewton

   Only very small numbers of Redwing were seen in November and December with 30 the peak count of Fieldfare on Dec 4th. Meadow Pipit numbers have also been low with seven on Nov 30th the  highest number recorded in a day. Two Stonechats were seen regularly, October's Brambling stayed until Nov 1st and another Siskin was seen on Nov 17th. Bullfinch joined the list of species which were seen within yards of the reservoirs' list with one being agonisingly close in the trees across the Lockwood fence on the East Marsh on Dec 7th with others recorded not too far away on Walthamstow Marsh. Perhaps one for 2020?

   DB @porthkillier

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Reservoir Logs - Autumn round-up

          The first Little Stint for 21 years appeared on East Warwick @EugeneDH_Bass      

   The bird of the autumn - and probably of the year so far - was the Little Stint which dropped all too briefly onto the banks of East Warwick in September. It was the first since November 1998 in an autumn which was overall poor for waders. September also saw the first Great Egrets and Siskins while October delivered the expected Rock Pipit and the more unexpected Barn Owl. The second Common Redstart, a flock of nine Curlew and an unprecedented movement of Jackdaws were among the other highlights. The five additions take the annual total for the reservoirs to a modest 131, eight behind last year's total at this stage. 

   Barnacle Geese are usually seen in singles on the reservoirs so the flock of 13 seen flying over by EDH was very unexpected. It seems likely that the same two young Garganey which had been seen irregularly on Lockwood in August took up residence on the south side in September. They were first seen on No 1 and East Warwick before staying close to the island on No 2 from the 3rd to the 15th. Shoveler numbers built up to 110 by mid-October until the work on East Warwick island scattered and reduced the flock. Eight Wigeon were found on East Warwick on Oct 5th and three on Lockwood on the 21st. Red-crested Pochard have been, for some reason, scarce this year with just one on Oct 3rd. 

 Red-crested Pochard have, for some reason, shunned the Wetlands this year pic Ivor Hewstone 

   Returning Goldeneye have shown a remarkable consistency with the first bird of the autumn on Oct 29th, the same date as in 2017 and just one day later than last year. Goosander, however, are late with no records so far when last year the first bird was seen by mid-October. 

  Two Great Egrets were seen by PL going north high on Sept 22nd. The pair, in company with a Little Egret, had first been seen over Wandsworth before being tracked over Woodberry and later KGV.  A count of 29 Little Egrets using the No 2 roost was made at the end of October. The warm weather in September proved attractive for soaring raptors with six Common Buzzards together on the 13th and two on the 17th with singles on four other dates as well as two days in October. Red Kites were recorded on Sept 8th and 17th as well as Oct 16th. There were only three sightings of Hobby with birds on Sept 4th and 15th and a late bird on Oct 8th. 

   Given that Little Stint had not been seen at the reservoirs this century, it was very unfortunate that it choose to arrive late on a sunny Sunday morning on the most crowded part of the site. It was found by DH,  on one of his first visits to the Wetlands, right next to the hide on East Warwick. It was seen only by two other lucky birders before inevitably being flushed to the disappointment of all those rushing to get there from elsewhere on site.  

            Avocets are on the way to becoming regular visitors at the Wetlands pic @porthkillier 

   The other wader highlights were a flock of nine calling Curlew low over No 5 on Sept 9 in the drizzly conditions which are best for shorebirds at the reservoirs and an Avocet resting briefly on Lockwood on Oct 29th. Once a real rarity, this was the third Avocet of the year and the second successive autumn they have been recorded. But, otherwise, waders were very scarce with no records of Dunlin, Redshank or Oystercatcher and only one of Lapwing in September although October was better with two on Oct 7th. a single on the 23rd and three on the 24th, 29th & 30th. 

  Green Sandpipers were also down with just one record in each month while up to three were seen regularly in the last two years in the autumn. It also looks as if for the second year running no Common Sandpipers will be wintering with the last record on Sept 28th. Hopes are high that the promised scrape on the East Warwick island might prove popular with waders next year. 

     Common Tern providing a meal for a resident Peregrine pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   The first returning Common Gull was on Sept 10th while a young Yellow-legged Gull was seen on several days in mid-October. The miserable year for Common Terns - with no pairs breeding - continued with the last bird of the year being seen eaten by a Peregrine on the pylon next to No 2. 

  Barn Owls are becoming more regular in the lower part of the Lea Valley with two daytime records last year at the reservoirs. So it is not surprising that the Wetlands security team have seen birds hunting in the early hours around Lockwood twice in October. It has been a good year for Short-eared Owls with the fourth seen flying north over East Warwick by EDH on October 14th.

            The first Short-eared Owl of autumn but fourth of year pic @EugeneDH_Bass  

   Overall, visible migration so far this autumn was modest apart from unprecedented numbers of Jackdaws - part of a widespread movement across the capital. The usual small numbers were seen in early October before a remarkable count of 350-plus by DC on the 17th which was eclipsed three days later when 830 were seen going SW - largely by PL. Numbers then fell but 130 were still counted passing over on 22nd & 23rd. To give some context, PL has only had movements of over 100 Jackdaws four times - always in Oct -  since 2005 with the highest count of 200 last year while one flock alone had 170 birds on the 20th.  

   Coal Tit has, for some reason, been a rare bird at the Wetlands with less than annual records but it seems that this might be changing. The second of the year was on Sept 2nd and was followed by a run of sightings in October. There was a single on the 1st, one caught and rung on the 5th with two seen on the 15th. Skylarks were seen or heard passing over the reservoirs in small numbers in October with up to six recorded in a day.  

   Swallows can pass over in hundreds, even thousands, in some autumns but numbers remained worryingly low this year. The highest count was 38 on Sept 14th with the last bird on Oct 19th. In contrast, there were good numbers of Sand Martins through most of September while over 80 House Martins remained into October with the last on the 14th. The Wetlands obviously provides good late feeding for Swifts with numbers still high here when they have disappeared from most other London sites. There was still a gathering of 60 on Sept 3rd with numbers dropping gradually until the last bird was seen on the 14th.  

      This probable Firecrest/ Goldcrest hybrid is, if confirmed, a real rarity pic@whiteleggdan

   It is never as easy keeping track of the last dates for summer migrants as it is for the first but it seems as if the final Garden Warbler was seen on Sept 4th, Common Whitethroat on the 10th, Sedge Warbler on the 16th and Reed Warbler on the 25th. The last Willow Warbler was a bird in song on Oct 17th after small numbers through September. A late Lesser Whitethroat, along with eight Blackcaps and 32 Chiffchaffs, were caught in the ringing display on Oct 5th among a fantastic catch of 209 new birds. The most unusual was what seems likely to be a very rare Firecrest/Goldcrest hybrid. High numbers of ordinary Goldcrests were around the gorse and bushes of the central path in October. 

   The first Fieldfare of the autumn was on Oct 17, with 270 over including a flock of 75, on the 29th. Redwings were  recorded from Oct 4th with a highest count of 80 on the 17th. September saw a big post-breeding flock of Mistle Thrushes at the reservoirs with 24 on the 26th the highest count. Spotted Flycatchers continued to be seen with up to two on nine days in September and a pair remaining until Oct 2nd. Spring's Common Redstart was hard to see and almost impossible to see well but there were no complaints about the stunning male found by LB on Sept 13. It displayed brilliantly for all who could get down to see it.    
          A super-smart and obliging male Common Redstart graced September pic @OwlTurbot
   A Whinchat was a consolation prize for those who came down to find the Redstart had disappeared on Sept 14th It stayed for three days with a late bird on Oct 2nd. The first Stonechat of the autumn was also found on the 14th - the same date as the first returnee at nearby Wanstead - with up to four being seen in October. Wheatear numbers appear to be on a downward path at the reservoirs with a maximum day count of three on Sept 13th. The last sightings were two on Oct 15 which was also the date of the final bird last year. 

       Wheatears seem to be getting scarcer at the reservoirs pic @sjnewton

   Yellow Wagtails continued their good year with records on nine days in September including seven on the 10th with the last two on Oct 3rd. Up to 15 Meadow Pipits were seen daily on the ground or overhead from early Sept while the only Rock Pipit of the year so far was found by LB on Oct 12th. 
An early Brambling was in the big trees around the Engine House on Oct 5th and a remarkably tame individual feeding right next to the main path on the north side on the 30th & 31st. PL heard the first Siskin of the year going over on Sept 29th and saw three more on Oct 13th.  
             Unusual at the Wetlands to have such a confiding Brambling pic@HarringayBirder

DB @porthkillier  

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Reservoir Logs - August round-up

                       An obliging Pied Flycatcher found and photographed by @sjnewton

   The highlight of what was, in truth, a pretty lacklustre August for birds at the Wetlands was a two-day Pied Flycatcher, the first for a couple of years and the only recent bird to stay around to be appreciated. Tree Pipit, another bird which is surprisingly rare at Walthamstow, was also added to the year list. More expected additions were Spotted Flycatcher and Greenshank to take the total at the reservoirs to 126.

   But the month - and year - would have been much better if the Wryneck found by LB on the public footpath on the east of Lockwood on the 28th had been the other side of the overflow channel or made the short flight to feed on the grassy bank of the reservoir. Sadly it disappeared instead into the brambles and could not be re-found despite a thorough search. It remains perhaps the most obvious gap in the reservoirs' list. 

                     Two juvenile Garganey fed irregularly on Lockwood pic @jarpartridge

 A count of 2246 Tufted Ducks by SH on the 5th was up on last year's total of 1979. Garganey seem to be trying to make up for the unusual blank year in 2018. The two - probably juveniles - found late on the 14th by RE on Lockwood are the fourth and fifth records so far. They continued to show irregularly until at least the 20th. Both Teal and Shoveler returned in small numbers by the end of the month. 

Redshank have been scarce this year pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   It was a very poor month for waders with the wide beach around Lockwood proving particularly unattractive.  We seem to have had no records at all of Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover or Lapwing and just one Redshank on East Warwick on the 1st. The only Greenshank so far this year was found by CF on the Lockwood channel on 21st It remained until early the next morning. The same patches of mud also attracted the first Green Sandpiper of the autumn on 29th. 

              The Greenshank on the overflow channel was first of year pic @Chris_Farthing

   Common Sandpipers were seen throughout the month with the main passage in the first few days with a peak count of 22 on the 2nd in heavy rain. Numbers had fallen to low single figures by the end of August. The first returning Snipe were five surprisingly on the edge of Lockwood on the 24th with two there on 26th. Common Terns remained around the Wetlands until at least the 21st with an adult and juvenile fishing on No 3. 

   The second Osprey of the year soared over No 5 on the 19th before flying south east. Details on the much lower bird in April show it was rung in the nest at Beauly, Highland in 2010 so it was nearly nine years old.  A Buzzard was seen on the 23rd and, frustratingly. another distant raptor on the 21st could only be put down as a probable Marsh Harrier. Hobby were seen on 5th, 15th, 21st and 29th. 

  The reservoirs are a big draw for migrating Swifts and often attract good numbers after the local nesting birds disappear towards the end of July. Up to 60 continued to be seen feeding - often over the filter beds - right until the month's end. There were also hundreds-strong flocks of House and Sand Martins but Swallows were very scarce with singles on the 8th and 22nd and two on 27th. 

   Willow Warblers were seen, and often heard singing, throughout August with 10 on both 13th and 20th. One or two Garden Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were seen regularly.  Seven Cetti's Warblers were caught in a short ringing session on the 20th to show just how many there are at the Wetlands.

  The first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn, and year, was found by JW on the 11th. It was eight days earlier than last year's first record. But the real prize was the Pied Flycatcher which SN found in trees along the Lockwood on the right side of the channel on the 25th and which stayed next day. It was part of a large influx of Pied Flycatchers into London.  Although regular at nearby sites in the autumn, they are so elusive at the Wetlands that it was the first seen by one of the locals in over 50 years watching at the reservoirs. 

        Spotted Flycatcher like Pied were seen in good numbers in London pic @porthkillier

  Whinchat is another species far more regular on the marsh where there up to four this month but the only record from the Wetlands was one on the 28th. A Wheatear was seen on the 8th but the main passage started on the 22nd - just as last year - with birds recorded on six more dates with a peak of four on the 29th. Only two Yellow Wagtails were seen on 22nd and 24th. The Wetlands is something of a no-fly zone for Tree Pipit . The bird found on the side of Lockwood by RE on the 20th was the first for at least two years and was even more unsual for being flushed off the ground.  

DB @porthkillier

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Reservoir Logs - Summer update

               @sjnewton's award-winning photograph of breeding Sand Martins             

   Summer this year may not have produced anything as unusual in London terms as 2018's pair of Long-tailed Ducks but it did add a solid six species to the annual list including a genuine mega-rarity for the reservoirs in a Treecreeper.  It seems, astonishingly, that the last known occurrence may be nearly 30 years ago. The other additions were the first Curlew and Mediterranean Gull since 2017, Wood Sandpiper - the first species to join the annual list from sound recordings - along with Coal Tit and Barnacle Goose.  They take the total at the end of July to 122.

   It is breeding birds, of course, which dominate the summer and, leaving aside the sad confirmation that Common Terns failed to nest, it seems to have been a productive season. It looks as if around 10 pairs of Pochard hatched young to continue the increase noted last year while broods of Tufted Ducks, which are late breeders, had already reached a similar total by mid-July. Four pairs of Shelduck also bred with 11 young surviving along with one pair of Gadwall. Sand Martins - for the first time in a few years - bred successfully in a drainage pipe near the Coppermill Tower. 

          A typically wild Barnacle Goose made a typically brief stop in June pic @sjnewton

     Canada, Greylag and Egyptian Geese also seem to have had very good breeding seasons with family parties right across the site. A count in preparation for the ringing round-up of 503 Canada and 130 Greylag was made on June 17th. A Barnacle Goose - whose visits to Walthamstow are usually one-day affairs - stayed barely long enough on East Warwick to be photographed by SN on June 7.

      A female Wigeon was an unexpected and elusive visitor to No 1 in June pic @porthkillier

  The summer brought unseasonal ducks with a female Wigeon on No 1 from June 4th to the 19th and a drake Scaup - a different bird to the regular wintering individual - on East Warwick  on June 3rd and 4th which had probably been present since the beginning of the month. The first returning Teal was seen on July 7th and the last Shelduck seven days later. Tufted Ducks are finding the reservoirs even more attractive than usual with 2105 counted on July 30 - nearly 400 more than the highest total last year.

         Kestrel, Peregrine and Common Buzzard at the Wetlands in June pic by @sjnewton

        Common Buzzards were seen on the 11th and 17th of June. Four Peregrines hatched from a site overlooking the reservoirs, three seem to have fledged and at least two noisy youngsters could be seen and heard on the pylons within the wetlands throughout July. Hobby were recorded on four days with singles on June 13th, July 2nd, 16th and 21st.

Long-distance pic by @lolbodini of first Curlew since 2017 - an addition to his house list

  Curlew and Wood Sandpiper were the two star waders of the summer with nine species in all being seen and heard over the two months - one more than last year.. The Curlew, found on June 25th by LB on Lockwood from his loft window, was only the third record since 2014. It may well have spent the next day on the more secluded surroundings of Banbury as one was seen next evening by LB again from his house going south.

   The Wood Sandpiper, one of a large influx into the country at the time, wasn't seen by anyone but was heard calling on the recordings DDL was making on July 28th for his presentation on nocturnal migration for the Wildlife Festival. It is the second year on the run the species has occurred at the reservoirs with a flock of five seen last year flying over No 5. Among other waders calls captured on the recording were four from Oystercatchers, one from Lapwing and no less than nine from Little Ringed Plover.

   June and July also produced a nice smattering of waders on East Warwick including a remarkable gathering of five Lapwing, a Redshank and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover together on June 27th. The young LRP, along with the recordings and regular sighting over adults over the summer, is evidence that the species may have bred close-by.

   A summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit continued the species' good run pic@porthkillier

  Single Lapwing were also seen on June 13th, two Redshank on June 30th with individuals on July 11th and 20th. Oystercatchers were seen on June 1st and July 26th. The good run of Black-tailed Godwits continued with one south on June 30th and a tame summer-plumaged bird on East Warwick on July 17th. The only Dunlin of the summer was on July 21st while the first returning Common Sandpipers were seen on June 30th - eight days later than last year - with a maximum count of 18 in heavy rain on July 27th.

   Mediterranean Gulls are always scarce on the reservoirs but they were annual until last year's unexpected absence. RE's discovery of a juvenile on No 4 on July 24th means normal service has resumed. An adult Sandwich Tern first picked up by SL going north on July 28th was a surprise record. Although no Common Terns bred,  a couple of pairs - presumably from further up the valley - moved their fledged young to feed up on the reservoirs in July.

  Swifts could be seen feeding in large flocks over the reservoirs but numbers fell sharply towards the end of July, presumably as local birds left. Bad weather can still see migrants arrive at the Wetlands as 220 did on July 31st. A Swallow was seen with the martin flock on June 8 and the first early migrants were five flying south on July 17. Two Jackdaws, surprisingly scarce  at the reservoirs given how many are nearby, went east on June 9th. The same is even truer of Coal Tit with the individual singing near the Engine House on June 30th only the second PL has seen here in decades of birding at the reservoirs.

  A Skylark was seen on June 11th on the side of Lockwood while a Meadow Pipit was among the calls recorded overnight on July 28th.  The first young Willow Warbler of the autumn was on July 5th and the first returning Wheatear turned up on the last day of July.

   If Coal Tit is uncommon, the Treecreeper seen by KM near the new hide on July 28th is, by a long way, the rarest bird at the reservoirs this year. Despite how widespread they are in London - and with the certainty others have been missed - the last known record at the Wetlands appears to be December 1990. Even on the wider patch, there is only one record in 2015 in the last decade. Unfortunately, it immediately disappeared but there are suggestions it may have been around for a couple of weeks so there is hope it will be re-found.

DB @porthkillier