Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Caspian update....

Another fairly disapointing photo from the other day, Same bird, same day... I jus thought the scope photos were blank, but this one almost worked, you can see the bill fialry well, and shawl and leggyness. Just thought i'd add it

I've been down almost everyday since and havent seen the same number of gulls and there doesnt seem to be a pattern in when they arive so, but i will keep going over the next month i suppose.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015


With recent sightings of caspian gulls up in the pre roost gathering at amwell and a single bird at Wanstead as well and many being found in the Thames area in general I've turned my attention to gulls for the last few visits to the patch.

Today was Leyton tip, a difficult place to view, with much of the feeding area obscured, however there were probably a couple of hundred large gulls present today, on the tip and on the few surrounding rooves, this is , i reckon the best site locally in my opinion. Double figures of Great Black Backs and around ten or so 'Argentatus' herring gulls were the first birds of note, also at least 4 Jackdaws were present.

When scanning through gulls in winter I'm always on the look out for white headed birds of any age, often 1st winter great black backs catch your eye, in flight or whilst scanning through resting birds, with their contrasting black and white tail, dark tertials and White head...  however I picked this bird up in flight, it showed the clean white upper tail and contrasting black band and white head, exaggerated by the head streaking being mainly in the hind neck, which is the shawl thing people talk about. I could see dark tertials and clean whiteish under wing. The bird then landed on a roof and stood obscured by other gulls and the roof itself.  knowing from flight views that i had a good caspian candidate at least, I fumbled some photos through my scope and through my camera whilst the bird bickered with surrounding herring gulls, (of course not diagnostic behaviour but a good sign)

The bird then came to the front of the roof and through my scope I was able to check the following features;

A number of pale grey scapulars, with white fringes, 
Dark centered greater wing coverts giving a scaley appearance to the mid closed wing,
Solid dark brown, unnotchced tertials with a pale tip to them, (look very close at the photo, you can see these last three features...well the tip of the tertials..)
Legs long and pale
Long, black parallel sided bill, as well as the shawl mention before, and an overall jizz of casp, im ded happy with the I.D .

It was a nice, constrasty bird, the blacks were black and the whites were frosty white , just the kind of 1st winter you want to come across.

The bird flew onto a lmp post and faced me for a while but i still wasnt able to get a shot of the back end stuff... then it flew the rubbish tip itself , i think  had it in flight brielfy after that but it wasnt seen again.

My apologies for the photos, much of my desription, isnt on view here and it doesn't show much beyond pale head, a 'kink' in the kneck, which i read somewhere is a caspy thing, you can just about see the top of the tertials and  the bird spent most time obscured and when did show i wasn't quick enough to phone scope it, ill be going down tomorrow so hoping its there again and photos to follow... 

Of course any comments welcome, and any thing I miss out/overlook I'm keen to hear, it's a bird I've found before amoungst 'real gull people' and on my own, but finding one on the patch was challenge and I'm willing to stick my neck out and claim it


Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Scaupmeister does it again

We had an excellent last winter for Scaup with, I think, five birds in total but one of the most remarkable features was that all were found by Pete L. It became such an embarrassment that when Graham and I were searching through the Tufted flocks yesterday, we joked that there was no point bothering as he was not with us.
    Sure enough, Pete sent out a message this morning saying he had found a drake Scaup on No 4. I scooted up and there is was in pretty much the same place as the first drake bird had been found last winter on the slightly later date of December 11. It spent, as usual, most of its time asleep but did wake up enough to show its bill which looked fine for a pure bird and, despite my pics, the head did have a nice green tinge. A low flying helicopter spooked the flock off No 4 later with some seemingly flying to the Warwicks but I could not find it - or anything else - with the Tufties when I walked round them so it may have returned. Pete earlier had a Common Sandpiper and two Goldeneye on No 4 as well as the Barnacle Goose.

DB @porthkiller

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Is it Winter yet?

A briefly sunny, then windy, then chilly, then drizzly walk around the reservoirs with D. Bradshaw today produced:

1 Female Goldeneye on Lockwood.
3 Goosander and 3 Common Sandpiper around High Maynard.
1 Barnacle Goose on football pitch by #4 res.

Common Sandpiper

It seems that #3 reservoir is where Salix are desilting and using the sediment to create reedbeds on the same reservoir. There seemed to be three areas where reedbeds might be created. One in front of the dilapidated hide - suggesting that might get a makeover too. There were also orangey-red tipped posts all over the reservoir?

#3 reservoir
#3 reservoir
#3 reservoir posts?
#3 reservoir
G. Howie

@leevalleybirder & @porthkillier

Monday, 16 November 2015

You Can Run But You Can't Hide

11:00 After being banished from ‘The Patch’ Pete L finds the dastardly ‘Mandarin’ tucked in on the Lea to the South-west of the Lockwood. 1:0

11:10 Pete L texts out the gen.

11:11 Text is re-tweeted to the selfless group known only as ‘The Patchmen’, dedicated to making sure that no bird escapes being seen on ‘The Patch’.

12:15 First on the scene are the ‘Silversurfers’, Killierman & Profman but it looks like our foe has given them the slip. 1:1

12:45 Profman has other fish to fry but Killierman is not going to let this one go and pursues the quarry (whisper it) off Patch and into Mad Max Land (brave lad), and is almost thwarted when the supervillain tries to give him the slip and flies off toward the Lockwood, a classic mistake allowing Killierman to add this elusive tick to his Walthamstow list. 2:1

12:46 Killierman has the news on Twitter before you can say ‘I flushed it!’

12:47 AMWman & LVman aka ‘The Yoof’ arrive to provide backup though it’s not looking good, the bird has flown.

12:48 All is not lost, it would appear. Mike M & JWDman spot our adversary trying to slip into the Waterworks unnoticed, and, despite certain technological challenges, the news is out, Profman is soon on the scene and the bird is in the bag. 5:1

13:50 ‘The Yoof’ pitch up and our boy is nailed good and proper. 7:1

So ‘Mandarin’, it looks like the tables were turned this time. We know you’ll be back sometime but be warned, wherever scarce birds turn up on ‘The Patch’ the ‘Patchmen’ will be waiting…

In other news a Mandarin Duck was found on the reservoirs late this morning before re-locating to the Waterworks. It is the first on the patch since the eclipse drake that turned up in August 2011, leaving around a month later in its full breeding finery.

PW @birdingprof

Sunday, 8 November 2015


2 Firecrests in WaterWorks NR today

These things never stop moving and are so hard to photograph!
Firecrests in 'ere
GH - @leevalleybirder

Short-eared Owl


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

I started something I couldn't finish

Typical me.  So, things are looking up.... which is what I generally tend to do when I head over to the Waterworks.  Standing in the central area by the hides in what I call 'The Circle' (primarily owing to its circular arrangement)  I stand, staring into the ether looking hopelessly deranged in the hope of some interesting flyovers.

It's generally been quite good recently, a max count of 28 Lapwing on the 27th October was interesting, and today had a promising feel to things.

It started with the Firecrest, present now for a couple of days, and seen early doors by @jarpartridge.  It then politely emerged from the bushes by the main path allowing an attempt at a video grab that I inexplicably stopped as it appeared out in the open.  Very sloppy.  Half a dozen Goldcrest were also present.

From the hides, three Snipe were typically secluded within the reeds of Bed 16, but the Cetti's Warbler there had other ideas.  This bird was evidently a little bonkers, chacking away and uncharacteristically showing itself off.  It's a tidy bird when you actually get to see it.

And so to the circle, and the roll call of avian activity is as follows;

A total of nine Siskin and three Redpoll were flyovers.  Two Peregrine each flew onto separate pylons ( you take that one, I'll take this one).  A murderous group of 13 Jackdaw was definitely a personal record count.  There were actually a lot of corvids around with over 50 Carrion Crow counted.

In addition, a single Reed Bunting, four Mistle Thrush, two Common Gull, two Little Egret, three Grey Wagtail, and two Meadow Pipit were flyovers.

Also conspicuous was Woodpigeon movement with a combined total of over 1000 birds seen flying through during the course of the morning.

Also seen by @jarpartridge were a Water Rail and Skylark completing a decent selection of birds for a November morning.


Sunday, 1 November 2015


With Dense fog and plans to go to the coast quashed, I headed to the patch after a lazy morning.
Hoping that something lost in the fog would get found, by me.

Visibility was very bad up on the Lockwood, but i noticed a small goose standing on the east bank, scoped it and saw it was a barnacle. As my presence led to the flushing of ducks and gulls around the bird it too flew up to the grass top of the bank and then ran/flew down to the new path and joined some Canada Geese.

I 've seen a feral Baracle on the patch before but not for a few years, its abit annoying that it was a Brent or something thats likely to be wild but it will do.  With Feral populations dotted about the south east and a single bird, im not feeling confident that its wild of course, but you never know...

I put the news out but it had vanished by the time paul had arrived. However we continued up to the top of the Lockwood and luckily heard a coal tit that ended up in the ashes on the Lockwood side of the channel. Views were fleeting and hard to see if the bird was a continental 'Ater' type or not for sure but most likely. A real rare bird on the patch.

Two skylarks north and three lapwing flew over south, plenty of goldcrests about too. and three Cettis warblers.


Pete Lambert refound the barnie on no 4 so might be here to stay 

Belated news: I found a Firecrest on the waterworks in the rain the other day. Just goes to show that birding in bad weather pays off.


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Gloss Finish

I have been having a few nagging patch feelings of late. I had been picking up and ticking on other patcher’s finds for a while, but feelings of not contributing significantly to the patch year list have been building.


Today I had an induction/shadowing morning at Rye Meads RSPB, as myself and another person are due to become once-a-month leaders in their 'Messy Welly' pre-school group. (thanks Sue)

As there have been a few interesting London birds around lately I took my birding gear, I thought that on my way back down to Hackney Downs I’d jump off the train at Tottenham Hale and scoot round to the Lockwood and see what the rain might have brought in.

I almost went straight on to Hackney, but I didn’t, and jumped out at Tottenham. I had my bike, so I figured a quick dash along the road to see nothing and dash back couldn’t hurt.

I saw that the last sighting in the log book was on the 18th. That spurred me on a little. The place hadn’t been checked over for a few days and, with the weather, something could be waiting to be seen.

As I approached the southern tip of Lockwood I could see that the water level of the reservoir was at the lowest I had ever seen and that the edges all around were very busy with birds. There was exposed mud at nearly all the edges which are normally submerged.

I immediately saw a Little Egret feeding along the southern edge and thought that a bit unusual. So I took a snap, thinking that that might be the most interesting bit of my visit.

But then, I looked at the Egret again and worked backwards to find...a GLOSSY IBIS doing a similar bit of feeding.

photo 1

I snapped two photos through the rain and then watched it as it took flight northwards and seemed to settle halfway up the east side of Lockwood.

photo 2

I tweeted out the two pics to #londonbirds and @WildWalthamstow. I couldn’t call any of the patchers as I had lost my phone recently and my new phone had no numbers in it.

I sat down behind the southern Lockwood tower and wondered what to do next...when @birdingprof called...then @LolBodini called...next thing we were all walking up the west side of Lockwood, scanning the east side, @StuartFisher16 joined us.

There was no sign of the bird but fortunately, a short while later the GLOSSY IBIS was relocated in the drainage channel just north of Lockwood. @JW_Davies soon joined us along with Lol C. and I passed Mike M on my way out. 

Happy Days!

I duly recorded the sighting in the reservoir log book.

After scribbling the sighting down, the Thames water guys told me that they were locking up, I sheepishly informed them that there were a number of birders quite far up on the site checking out a rare bird. They had to give me their emergency number to text on to the people left up on Lockwood. I saw a few make it out. But there might be a few left up there...

GH - @leevalleybirder


This is the first new addition to the patchlist #247 since 22nd Mar 2012, long expected, but all credit to Graham for plugging away and getting it, and getting the news out too! Some of my dodgy shots below. PW

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Birder. He wrote.

As most of the locals are working/sickening/Scillying etc. I guess it behoves me to keep the blog alive, at least for this week, after that I’m off to Scilly myself and what do I care:-)

I’ve strategically taken off days throughout September and October in order to whizz off and see the fabulous Birds being found during the autumn. Unfortunately the Birds had a slightly different strategy and apart from a certain Phalarope my days off have coincided with nothing, nada, nil. We don’t talk about the Acadian Flycatcher, which due to a disastrous mix up arrived a day too early. Today was one of those days that was supposed to see me gadding off to Norfolk for a haul of Rare, or at least a large haul of Scarce, but again the Birds were seemingly not copied in to the memo.

So Reservoirs it was then. (I shan’t bore you with the ‘overnight rain, strong winds, must be dripping in Waders’ nonsense, so let’s move swiftly on) I thought I would check the log book in the Fisherman’s permit room in case there was anything new recorded and was delighted to find this well considered observation; I later bumped into the Community Engagement Officer for the Walthamstow Wetlands project, I wonder if she will take the suggestions on-board.

Thanks Mr. Miluck (is that rhyming slang?)

Stepping past the untidy gateway, and making sure I didn’t ingest any of the clearly dangerous water, I proceeded towards the Lockwood to see what the Wild Trust had released into the aviary today.

A 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull on the weir by the Low Maynard is what, and amazingly it didn’t flush on first sighting me, like everything usually does from here, oh no, it waited until I had set up tripod, scope, phone adaptor, glasses and started to focus, then it did the off:-(

A Skylark flew over the Lockwood and a there was a fine 1st winter male Wheatear along the East side. A passing Lol joined himself to me and we continued on to the South side.

Lol hadn’t seen the Black-necked Grebe and I was happy to see if I could improve my picture of it from Sunday, it was still there, but the light did not lend itself to successful photography.


A Water Rail was calling from the Northern Reedbed, I had a, presumably different, Bird in the Southern Reedbed on Sunday. The Stonechats also seen on Sunday had now split up with 1 still on the West Warwick and 2 on the East Warwick.

Having a chat
Singing Cetti’s Warblers were on No’s. 1 & 2. A dozen House Martins, possibly locals, were around the Filter Beds and the female Goosander was still on No.4. I think it is oiled as, it is constantly preening and, it’s stayed on the same reservoir for days, they are normally so flighty. Siskins and Goldcrests were much in evidence, the former as flyovers and the latter invisible but vocal in various corners of the patch.

Goosander (or as it's a female should that be Goosegoose)

Nothing to set the notebook alight but 63 species was not bad and would have made a great set of padders if only we had had the big one for which to pad.