Friday, 28 November 2014

Long Time No See!

I always suspected that the winding down of the old Walthamstow Birding blog would not be a permanent thing, and here we are, the Phoenix has risen from the ashes and rides again, to mix a metaphor or two.
With OCD itching in my brain I somehow feel obliged to inflict upon you three years (yes it’s that long) of blog entries just to catch you all up on Walthamstow Birding at its best and worst. So get yourself a mug of Cocoa, slip on that onesie and get comfortable, I’ll have you off to sleep in no time....
Early Winter 2012 (and 2013) saw a Ruddy Duck overwintering, a sight very unlikely to occur again, though never say never. Another oddity was a Wintering Whitethroat by the Lockwood, not surprisingly a first for the patch but also for the London area and possibly for Britain as a whole. Whitehroats have gone on to be seen in Winter 2013/14 and seem set to do it again this Winter, at the very bottom of the patch.
Feb 8th2012 saw a small party of Bullfinches on the marsh, a Scaup and Grey Plover on West and East Warwick respectively and a confiding Bittern in the Coppermill stream, the latter species putting in an appearance for the 4thWinter running, another (or the same?) seen 2012/13 but not yet yet in 2014; there’s time...

The regularly returning female Red-breasted Merganser put in its seventh and last Winter with us 2012/13. We also had a Wintering Black-necked Grebe, which considering the regular occurrence well into double figures just to the North of us on the William Girling Res. remains a strangely scarce, but nearly annual visitor.
Mar 22nd 2012 was a red-letter day not just for the Bearded Tit seen by three observers flying up from the West Warwick and away South over the marsh but even more notably for a new patch addition in the shape of two Twite seen briefly but photographed (photos here) on the Lockwood. You don’t get many of those to the pound missus! The Bearded Tit was the first on patch for probably near on 40 years, when a party Wintered on the marsh. Ironically enough some were heard flying South over the East Warwick on Oct 24th 2013, maybe we won’t have to wait so long for the next?
Some birds have been lost to the patch, at least for the time being, our sole Barnacle Goose (hopefully from a feral population nearby) finally succumbed sometime in 2013. The Little Owls by the riding stables were not seen after Spring 2012, though the pair by the pitch’n’putt lasted till the following Spring when their Tree was chopped down by Hackney Council. Could be a bit of a wait till some more move down the valley, the nearest breeders (2-3 pairs?) are in Chingford.
The Cormorant colony continues its slight decline, perhaps settling down to a more sustainable level after its meteoric rise, a phenomena mirrored across the country apparently, it's probably not a bad thing.

Spring 2012 saw a non-singing Nightingale on the marsh; Spring 2014 produced another, this time for a few days and singing, nice if they could be more regular. Continuing with Summer-visitors; Garganey put in a brief appearance.
 A two day Gannet on the East Warwick was a welcome patch tick for almost everyone in June 2012. Another good sign was the attempt by Peregrines to nest again, though technically that years nest site was just outside the patch. They had tried before but it was not going to be until Summer 2014 that they would prove successful, with 2 young being seen. Goldcrest were noted breeding on the patch too in 2014, this meant 64 species breeding on the patch by my calculation, not bad for an urban wasteland!
Crossbill was a notable flyover in the Summer of 2012 but it was Waders that stole the show; more often than not it is the same old same old in that department, with one or two relatively nice exceptions each year, but Autumn 2012 saw Wood Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and Knot all on the Lockwood within the space of 3 weeks, a Purple patch indeed.

The end of 2012 saw a short visit from a Shag, never a common bird on the patch though they do turn up from time to time. Firecrest started Wintering from the 2012/13 Winter and have been regular since, though sometimes we have to steal them from the Middlesex Filter Beds. Another welcome addition for many patchlisters was the drake Long-tailed Duck found in January 2013, remarkably once the Duck was broken, so as to speak, a second appeared in October of the same year, this time a female. The vocal flock of 21 Bewick’s Swans flying North out of the murk in Mid-Jan 2013 as I was leaving the reservoirs took me by surprise but fortunately they were seen, and photographed, further up the valley some 30 minutes later. Jack Snipe were a feature of the Winter along the Dagenham brook with up to three on occasion.


A Slavonian Grebe popped up in February 2013, mostly on the East Warwick and Waxwings featured this Winter, often tantalisingly close to the patch and occasionally being seen on or from it. March 2013 was notable for seeing 4 Brent Geese fly North over the Lockwood early one evening and then hearing a spontaneously calling Tawny Owl early one morning by the, what is now the ex-pitch’n’putt. A few days after this a couple of Rock Pipits and a Water Pipit were seen on the reservoirs in what was quite a good patch Pipit passage period, the latter having not been seen on the patch by me for many a year.
 June 2013 produced a Summer-plumaged Sanderling on the Lockwood and Little Egrets had another good year.
The Winter of 2013/14 started well with a flock of c.60 Golden Plover flying over the marsh, some Wintering Redpolls on the marsh, if somewhat elusive and a Great Northern Diver on the West Warwick; about time we had a different Diver if you ask me. A Cetti’s Warbler put in an appearance at the end of 2013 but gave me a merry chase for a few months before giving itself up. Always a very hit and miss species on the patch, we seem to get one or two for a year or so and then they get wiped out, only to take another ten years before going through the same rigmarole again. That having been said, as of this writing there are at least two on the reservoirs and possibly as many as four on the Waterworks plus they quite probably bred on the patch this year so we could be set to keep them this time around, here’s hoping.
 After a few really cold Winters (which were good for seeing things like Bittern, Woodcock, Snipe & Jack Snipe etc.) it was nice to have a mild Winter and get back some other Winter treats like Stonechat and Common Sandpiper.
Spring 2014 delivered a pair each of Common Scoter and Garganey to the Lockwood. Other unusual for me migrants included flyover Rook, Tree Pipit, Turtle Dove and a good passage of Whimbrel. Turtle Dove was a previous breeder but this individual was the only bird seen on patch all year, still, better than the non-existent Cuckoo however, which had its first blank year ever!



Summer slowed down as is usual but still c.26 young Little Egret were counted on one visit. A rare June singing Willow Warbler on the Waterworks and pair of Red-crested Pochard on another visit to the East Warwick and an amazingly low and slow moving male Honey Buzzard brightened things up no end. The latter seen after a tip off from @porthkillier that a ‘buzzard’North of the Lockwood was coming my way, nice one.

 Autumn 2014 has been reasonably good too, I found a Pied Flycatcher at the riding stables, only my third on the patch, saw a few Spotted Flycatchers and caught up with Redstart. A Black-necked Grebe was on the West Warwick. Had a cracking Short-eared Owl and a Pintail, found a totally confiding Jack Snipe out in the open on No.5 and added Nuthatch to my patch list after hearing one vocalise a few times on the West Warwick. I also had a flock of Geese flying West over the Jubilee Park which were probably Pink-footed, I’m glad I don’t need them for the patch as they were a bit too distant to call really.

 I should probably mention Ring-necked Parakeet, in 2009 there were none on the patch, none. They sort of crept up on us and at the time of writing the high count stands just short of 1600 coming out of their roost down by the Waterworks, thank goodness Peregrines are partial to them, though that’s a lot of Indian takeaway for just one pair...we need some reinforcements.

So here we are pretty much up to date. Winter 2014/15 has us with Cetti’s aplenty, Wintering Stonechats, a Firecrest in the Waterworks and the bizarre scenario of Whitethroats and a Reed Warbler attempting to Winter on a traffic island under the ‘Leyton’ sign at the bottom of Orient Way.
We have lost one or two patch workers, one permanently sadly, the other permanently hopefully but on the other hand we have added a lot of keen new patch workers who are extremely welcome and will no doubt add their slightly less rambling contributions to this new and improved blog.

I'll see you later.

PW aka @birdingprof

(photographs mine apart from A.Wilson, Bewick's Swans & K. Murray, Reed Warbler, thanks)

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed your entertaining summary, PW - once I'd swallowed my envy over your Pied Fly, H-buzzard & Cetti's!