Saturday, 4 December 2010

Big Freeze (part 2)

I had been itching to get out all week but had been stuck in work, there was clearly lots of stuff on the move, what must be going on on the patch? Lol texted me about his sightings of yestreday which just made things worse! I had a pretty full day but with a bit of judicous planning I managed to clear some time for birding.

A climb into to the Lockwood was required due to the gate to the Northern reservoirs being closed because of the snow. The rewards were a Curlew, 1 Redshank, 2 Lapwings and a Snipe all on the North bank, the first named bird surprisingly rare on Walthamstow, I can’t find any mention in my notes since one I saw in July 1984 when the East Warwick was drained. There were quite a few Teal and some Gadwall also a female Goldeneye and redhead Goosander but sadly no sign of yesterday’s Scaup (5) or Wigeon (37) seen by Lol.

The Curlew flew South but it or another was seen later on the Banbury. The Redshank flew North but, again, it or another was seen in the overflow channel to the South of the Lockwood. Also on the Banbury there was another Lapwing and a small party of Meadow Pipits in some weedy grass and a (Scandinavian) Rock Pipit was flushed from the water’s edge and flew away to the West, nearby there were 2 Green Sandpipers in the overflow channel. 2 sets of two male Goosanders flew South.

On the Southern reservoirs there was a handful more Lapwings and many Snipe including at least 22 on the West Warwick alone, most feeding on the west bank probing in the snow. A party of 12 Egyptian Geese was an unusually large gathering for here. Passerines were thin on the ground, in fact hardly any of them were actually on the ground, a couple of Reed Buntings, a Skylark and a Chiffchaff were the best. The most common Passerine was Goldfinch with a few medium sized flocks seen, and checked, in case they held a Siskin or Redpoll, which they didn’t.

We received a text from a certain Stoke Newington birder spying on Walthamstow, probably enviously, from his tower block Crow’s nest, excited about the decades fourth Goldeneye for the site, it’s actually not that uncommon on Walthamstow, though not as common as it once was. We offered to swap our current singleton for one of his Red-crested Pochards. It is strange how regular they are at Stoke Newington but rarely stray barely a mile to Walthamstow. Equally odd is the dearth of such birds as Nuthatch, Redpoll, Coal Tit and Treecreeper. All apparently on the up as close as Leyton Flats. Location, location, location as they say.

Late on a flock of 18 Golden Plover flew low to the West, making it a six Wader day at Walthamstow which is a very rare event. I reckoned Duck numbers were down, moved out ahead of the cold, Passerines very sparsely represented so it was a surprise to tot up 62 species for the afternoon and that was without really trying, I think with a couple more hours and a bit more effort we could have easily cracked the 70 mark, impressive for mid-winter in London.

The best and at the same time most frustrating sighting came as we were about to leave, I picked up 5 birds flying toward us which I thought looked like chunky Finches, I raised my bins and quickly realised they were not Finches, neither were they Thrushes or Starlings, by this time they were high overhead and the penny dropped, I said to Lol I think these are Waxwings but sadly he had not seen them and couldn’t get on to them as they flew away to the East. I hoped they would call, land, turn around anything - but they just kept straight on. A welcome patch tick, but a disappointing one. So a patch tick and four patch year ticks not bad for a big freeze.


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