Not to be confused with a damp squid, which is generally their preferred state. Is it possible for a drought to make something damp? In this case, I think yes. The lack of rain in these parts has doused all expectations of migrant excitement in this most exciting of migrant months; May. Our parade of vagrants has been well and truly rained on or, in this case, not. I think I am glad it’s nearly over. It means we can get started on June, which of course is expected to be poor and therefore by the rule of Murphy will spill forth all sorts of Birdy goodness.
I went out this morning for my last hurrah of the Spring, as it turned out it wasn’t so bad. First up was a flock of 6 Jackdaws flying East over the North end of the Lockwood. I stared at the Southern edge of Epping Forest (Chingford) willing a Buzzard out of the woods, as I usually do at the top end of the Lockwood, only for some strange reason this time it worked!
When looking for Raptors it is often good to let the other Birds find them for you, a couple of Crows and a Lesser Black-backed Gull did the honours for me and drew attention to, what I assume was a Southbound migrant. It took an age to get overhead in the brisk Southerly wind and finally move off towards Leyton.
There were plenty of young birds about this morning, some of them about to be fed to other young birds it would seem. A Sparrowhawk with prey headed toward Tottenham Marsh, followed later by a Kestrel also with prey. I saw what I initially took to be a Peregrine seemingly about to stoop on a Lesser Black-backed Gull but as the attacker drew close I realised that the protagonist was a Kestrel, it puzzled me for a moment before I realised it was not hunting but seeing off a nest raid. At the South end of the Lockwood another party of 3 Jackdaws flew East.
On the Southern Reservoirs a family party of Shelducks looked really cute. Really cute and apparently tasty as a few minutes later I saw a Peregrine circling above with what to all intents and purposes looked like a baby Shelduck, it attracted the attentions of an irate territorial Common Tern but eventually soared high enough to lose it. I was quite interested to see what direction it headed off in as we don’t really know which Peregrines hunt over Walthamstow. It chose South-west towards the City. All of a sudden it lost its grip and dropped the poor unfortunate creature and I thought I was going to see a spectacular stoop as it retrieved its lunch, unfortunately a Lesser Black-backed Gull beat it to it and the Peregrine drifted off South. It’s the second hunting failure I have witnessed in the last couple of weeks so perhaps this is not so much a breeding Bird but a non-breeding immature. It seems to be able to catch food, let’s hope it gets a bit better at holding onto it.
I checked the Shelducks and counted 9 young, shame I didn’t count them before the incident to see whether it really was one of their Ducklings (Shel-Ducklings?) that was nabbed. The whole family were keeping quite close together on No.3, the adults shadowing the young as they swam up and down at the North end, feeding. What I found intriguing was that the young were constantly diving! To my knowledge this is never used as a feeding technique by adults, when do they stop doing this and start grazing/dabbling like their parents?
The island on No.2 held at least 20 Little Egrets and, continuing the White theme a family of Mute Swans walked the edge of No.4 looking for a way up onto the bank.
On this date: 30 05 83 Walthamstow 16:15-18:45 Sunny intervals, warm; A female Pochard with Ducklings also 3 pairs of Common Tern on eggs on small island of gravel. Also with chicks, Canada & Greylag Geese, Coot and Reed Bunting. Many Reed and Sedge Warblers, 2 Cuckoos on West Warwick and Walthamstow Marsh. A drake Wood Duck on the reservoirs.
p.s. As I write this it is pouring down and I know Waders are dropping into the Reservoirs!