Monday, 27 April 2015

(Gonna Make it) A Day to Remember

The 3rd Annual Walthamstow Patch Watch has been and gone and so it behoves one of us to give an account. I guess that will be me then! (I’m sure others will add their take, and maybe pictures, on it later...) No time for flowery prose as we were all pretty exhausted after 12 hours on the patch so I’ll just stick to the facts.


Borne out of a day I spent on the patch in 2009 (14th May), which ended with me seeing 75 species on my own, and helping a Public Transport assisted/hampered team of London Birders gain their last 5 ticks of the day to win a bird race. I started to wonder what a group of us might achieve if we combined forces.

AWPW1 took place on 27th April 2013 and recorded 81 species, AWPW2 on 3rd May 2014, a day lacking in migrants, and finished on 75species. You need to give some notice and publicity to these things so can’t really wait for the weather to look right, and even if you did it’s no guarantee of anything, so a decision was made to move it back to the end of April. A pretty wise/lucky decision as it turned out. The weather was just right, nasty enough to drop things in and nice enough to be able to get out and find them.

I have tried orchestrating people and sites in the past, in an effort to get complete coverage, but this year decided to drop the strong arm tactics and let folk do their own thing, which they seemed to do. Though quite a few were settled in their mind where they were going,  there was a lot of last minute planning  with many others, especially when it seemed that overnight and early morning rain might do the business on the larger reservoirs.

I was going to start at the bottom and work my way through the Waterworks, Marsh and onto the reservoirs but the weather turned my mind. Stuart F was first with the news; 2 Ringed Plover on the Lockwood, plus 2 Dunlin, plus 2 Arctic Terns...having woken earlier than planned I quickly texted Jamie P and arranged to get up there asap, we scooted by and rendezvoused with Adam W in Coppermill Lane (quickly adding 2 Goldcrest by Waterside). From Coppermill Lane we could see Terns on No.4, they looked like Arctic’s, on arriving at the reservoirs we forsook the Lockwood and checked them out; they were Arctic’s, 12 of them. Now we were half way round the southern section we just carried on and bagged a few other scarcities, Greater Black-backed Gulls on No.5, Lesser Whitethroat on No.1, Swifts over East Warwick. 

The Waders on the Lockwood had apparently gone but we soldiered on up there anyway. There were more Arctic’s moving through, plenty of Common Sandpipers, possibly 20 across the complex, a 1st summer Yellow-legged Gull loafing on the bank, different to the bird from a couple of weeks back.


(Terrible record shot jp)

 A few Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits flew North, some landing, there were a few Wheatears too, looking bright, maybe bright enough for the Greenlandic race. 



(photos jp)

The weather closed in again and suddenly a flock of 9 summer-plumaged Dunlin flew silently North, gone as quickly as they came.

News came through from Pete L, of an Oystercatcher on the Banbury that had flown North, darn! Though ‘they often come back’ I said. It did, but more of that later. Swifts, swallows and Sand Martins buzzed around or flew over but we couldn’t raise a single House Martin. More news came our way Terry R had found a male Whinchat on Wild Marsh East but try as we might it couldn’t be seen from the banks of the Lockwood, Pete hadn’t seen it earlier and Stuart tried and failed later but we decided a few sets of eyes might have better results but first it was time to hit the southern section again. As we left Lockwood 6 more Dunlin flew in.

(photo GH)

The second time around the southern section was very profitable, adding Reed Bunting on West Warwick, no sooner had we seen that than Graham H phoned with news of an Oystercatcher on the Lockwood but that had flown East. We Whether or not this was the same as the earlier bird we’ll never know but at that moment I picked it/another flying North onto the East Warwick looking like it would land on the island, you’ve not seen grown men run so fast through the tunnel from East to West. It did land but only for a few moments and went off East.

Our attention soon turned to party of 8 Yellow Wagtails on the deck.



 Interesting female type...
(photos jp)

Whilst drooling over them Lol B picked up two brown birds flying in, they landed on a bush by the railway; 'Pipits' he called, ‘Speez’ they called, 'Tree' I called. We found out later that Sue H had, unwittingly, seen and photographed (very well, see below) 2 Tree Pipits on the Waterworks NR just five minutes earlier and they had flown off (1 mile, 5 minutes, you do the maths). 


We carried on round to the track between No.1 & 2 where Jamie spotted a Falcon on a pylon, surely a Peregrine, which up till this time we were lacking for the day, it seemed suspiciously small though and sure enough turned out to be a Hobby (photo courtesy of Paul G, who happened along at the right time). Cetti’s Warbler gave itself up aurally and visually along the bank which is more than the Garden Warbler(s) seen earlier by Stuart and later by Pete did!


Our next move was liquid refreshment and strategizing in the Ferry Boat Inn, we added no extra species by sitting at the end of the garden but did earn the ire of the waitress who had to traipse up with our grub. (the service gets no better there)

Fed and watered it was now up to the Wild Marsh East where the Whinchat gave itself up to our (my) eyes quite readily. What a little beauty! Another Lesser Whitethroat proclaimed its presence and then another Raptor, with prey, flew round and landed, I must admit I mistakenly thought it was a Sparrowhawk but any confusion I had was soon dissipated when a large female appeared and took the prey, maybe they are breeding in the vicinity after all?


It was now time to hit the south for the few species that we were still missing (news from the Waterworks, Pitch’n’Putt and Paddocks was mostly negative but helpful nonetheless for refining our plans) We hit the dump off Orient Way for Gulls, Common Gull in particular and Jackdaw, both had been seen earlier but we drew a blank, however we did score a super bright Willow Warbler which jumped up in front of me and then started to sing.




A blast around the Marsh for another Garden Warbler drew a blank but we did get Green Woodpecker a couple of Cetti’s and 6/7 Wheatear on the back paddocks. Finally the Waterworks gave up our last tick of the day a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Twelve hours in the field and the cumulative patch day list had been broken 82 species. 30 minutes later and i'm at home and Alastair D goes and finds a male Whinchat in the bomb crater field and 5 Red-crested Pochard on the Lea by Walthamstow Marsh and tops the record up to 83.

Seven species were added to the patch yearlist during the day, (finally allowing us to overtake our mortal enemies over in the Doggy Caliphate, who we seem to have been trailing by two species for months). Many participants added patch ticks (if that is their thing) and all of us came away with a few or more patch year ticks, and at least three of us got the new personal best of 78 species in a day on the patch. Overall it was just a thoroughly enjoyable day, though I will be quite happy to have a year’s rest before AWPW4.

Thanks to all Walthamstow Birders and visitors for their finding and sharing.

PW @birdingprof 

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