Friday, 7 August 2015

Three is the Magic Number

A flurry of tweets last night revealed that quite a few locals would be bashing the patch today, clearly the summer-time blues have been banished and enthusiasm for the Autumn is heating up. So, despite death threats from Hoopoe-Boy (aka @jarpartridge) that we should not find anything whilst he was earning an honest crust, plans were hatched.

I started at around 08:30 on the Waterworks, I knew I was the first man in as the place was crawling with Bunnies, they soon disappear when the people arrive. So far so good. There were clearly plenty of Warblers about, I had a number of Blackcaps, Whitethroats and at least 2 Lesser Whitethroats as well as the locally breeding Reed Warblers.

The beds were mostly overgrown though bed 18(?), the one on the left as you enter the hide has a particularly nice edge at the moment, if I were a Spotted Crake I would make straight for it. There were a couple of cute stripey-headed young Little Grebes being fed by their parents but nothing much else.

The first bed on the right (13? One day I will learn the numbers!) had a couple of Teal, the first to arrive back this Autumn. A lone Swift was nice to see, not long now before they are gone.

Later I met up with Lol B and we mooched up to the Lockwood, I was just pointing out where Dave B had been getting his Garden Warblers when what should we see, no, not a Garden Warbler but Dave B relaxing on the bank of the Lockwood checking the Buddleia scrub for Warblers – none. They come and they go, but at the moment they mostly come, Adam W had a decent flock over by the top of No.1 this morning. Worth checking as they can hold all sorts of goodies, to wit Wednesday’s Pied Fly.

After ascertaining that Dave had not yet been up to the Lockwood the three of us legged it up the bank gingerly so as to not flush the hordes of grounded Waders. The first part worked, we didn’t flush anything. The second part involving the hordes of Waders not so much!

We scoped up the edge and could see pretty much nothing, but experience has shown that it’s always worth walking around, so we did. There are still a handful of Common Terns knocking about and we discussed their weird behaviour, they were not mobbing us (no young) but were chasing each other around as if they had just arrived. I wonder if they are frustrated at not being able to breed? It would be worth someone (LWT?) bringing the rafts in after the Winter and not putting them out until the Terns arrive back in the Spring, maybe give them a fighting chance at getting a breeding spot before the ‘Murderous’ Gulls grab them first.

As we walked up the East Bank we accumulated at least 10 Common Sandpipers, see I told you it’s always worth walking around, and then I spotted a hunting Hobby at the North end, it vanished after 30 seconds but we all got good looks. We discussed the merits of not birding alone on the patch…so many sightings are very brief, and if you were alone you could easily miss them. More eyes on the patch certainly leads to more sightings, it makes you wonder what slips through when no one is there or even when someone is there but looking in another direction.

We watched the sky quite a bit too this morning; with the country knee deep in Bee-eaters and Black Storks it is only a matter of time before Walthamstow scores one of those (ed - What are you on?). A large female Peregrine made our Raptor count four for the day (Kestrel and Sparrowhawk being the other two) but nothing bigger hove into view.

At that point I just happened to look at the middle of the reservoir and spotted 3 apparent large Waders flying straight up the centre fairly low from the South. I alerted the others by shouting ‘What’s this?’ but realised exactly ‘what’s this’ was as the words left my mouth. 3 Black-tailed Godwits, that’s what!

They turned and dropped as if they were going to land on the bank but circled around, and up, and off, back South, we watched them for a while but they just kept going. It would not be impossible that a lone birder could have missed them, you really do need a few sets of eyes to increase your chances of connecting with stuff.

To bore you with the stats: my only patch Black-tailed Godwits before this were a flock of 9 summer-plumaged birds that flew South from the reservoirs over my house on July 20th 1998, 17 years is a long time to wait for a repeat! They get reported about every two years from the patch but rarely are they seen on the deck. Lol had seen them before but it was a full-fat patchtick for Mr. B. The smile was something to behold.

I had to depart shortly afterwards, my work being done, but Dave went on to find Wheatear on the East Warwick. Autumn is on.

Northern Wheatear - @randombirder

@birdingprof @porthkillier @lolbodini

postscript: @randombirder had a Lapwing over the East Warwick this afternoon and @stuartfisher16 bumped into a Botanist this afternoon that had two Black-tailed Godwits on the High Maynard that flew towards the Lockwood around 16:00, though they could not be re-found.


  1. Nicely put Prof...our reader will be enthralled ;o)

  2. I am the afore-mentioned botanist! I picked up a birding permit last month and am idling away the odd spare hour updating the reservoirs plant list. I used to bird a lot, so on the off-chance that I see something good when not staring at my feet, would you like me to text someone in your group? I'm afraid I don't use twitter, but drop me an email on amd I'll forwards you my mobile number. No need to keep this comment on your blog.
    All best, Paul

  3. Hi Paul - many thanks for your message and also for your sightings too. Yes please do forward onto us any of your interesting sightings and we will include it in our quirky round-ups. I will send you an email with my details. Cheers Jonathan.