A bit of a bumper round-up tonight, let’s start with yesterday…
An early morning text from Pete L brought news of a singing Grasshopper Warbler on the Wildmarsh East. Sadly I was heading to Surrey for work but others headed to site only to dip out. Finishing work earlier than I expected (what do you know!) I was tempted to give it a try, @jarpartridge was up for it too.
It didn’t take too long to re-find it about 100m south of where it was originally. It sang brief snatches of song and did a funny call that I have not heard before. Always keeping low in Brambles or short scrub it was tricky to capture on film but showed well and closely in the bins/scope.
Video courtesy of @HarringayBirder
Funnily enough the last one on the patch was also on Wildmarsh East, though at the Southern end, that was in 2011, a year that brought three, possibly four to the patch; one by the Lea south of the pitch’n’putt, another on the South end of Walthamstow marsh by the boardwalk and a possible by the side paddocks. Quite why they are so scarce here is anybody’s guess as we seem to have plenty of suitable habitat. It is still there today apparently.
I started early on the reservoirs this morning hoping to catch up with the Oystercatcher and/or Little Ringed Plover that have been seen recently. I might have guessed that both of them are playing the one in three rule, it’s a little bit like Russian Roulette but with less splatter. The Birds randomly occur at random intervals, but only once in any three day period. Obviously this is arranged to avoid the days that I randomly occur on the patch.
Whilst checking the East Warwick I noted that the ‘intermedius’ Lesser Black-backed Gull that Jamie had seen a while back was back on the island, allowing me a few shots before flying North. The two Barnacle Geese (Bill & Ben) were also on the island before flying strongly South, though they appeared on No.5 later.
A tight party of nine Terns flew in, and around, and then over, to the West Warwick. I thought they warranted a check but didn’t really have the time to walk round there so decided to scope them up from the Southern end of the East Warwick, as I passed the Coppermill building I heard a strange call and made a mental note to check it out on my return. The Terns were Common. As I walked back I thought I heard a sibilant trill. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing but Chaffinches, Wrens, Great Tits and Blackcaps. I racked my brains as to what it was but the only thing I could come up with was Wood Warbler. Preposterous!
I tried to figure out if the Chaffinches were making the noise, the Wrens were certainly trilling but this was different, more liquid, and prettier. I heard it a number of times and still kept coming back to Wood Warbler. If it was Wood Warbler it wasn’t doing the full song, the introductory Peoo, Peoo, Peoo was lacking but I didn’t think that that was a bar to it being one, the only bar was that this is Walthamstow and it couldn’t be a Wood Warbler. Whatever it was, was the other side of a stream, a road and two fences and was up in the leafy canopy giving no views whatsoever.
Having not heard Wood Warbler for five years I was slightly wary of putting the news out without having seen it but I was also wary of giving up on what could be a monster bird for us. I decided to cast around for opinion on what else could possibly be confused with Wood Warbler and so duly sent out a couple of Tweets. No sooner had I done so than it flew across the Coppermill stream and plunked itself in front of me in a leafless Tree. There it was in all its yellow-breasted, white-bellied, green-backed, long-winged loveliness…Wood Warbler. I had palpitations (is that a good thing?).
A rare Bird for London, only five Spring records in 2013, and even rarer Bird for Walthamstow, with, as far as I know, only Pete L having seen one, well two actually, both in 1996; one on Aug 8th, in trees by the channel south of East Warwick (same place as today!) and amazingly another, on Sept 5th, in trees at South end of No 3. So 20 years on we have a third. People arrived after about 20 minutes of the news going out and after about an hour it showed well, singing and calling to all comers and apparently stayed till this evening. At this time I would have called it Bird of the year, certainly the rarest Bird we have had and possibly are going to have in 2016…
Photographs courtesy of @birdbrainuk
Wood Warbler pics and vid - @leevalleybirder
…that was until we heard of Davey Leach’s Raven! I’ll take his account from the London Wiki:
“Tottenham Marshes: 7.30am - Grasshopper Warbler reeling but very elusive in same area as yesterday. 12.30 - 13.30 - Same area - Raven by Chalk Bridge around channel (Monster next to mobbing Magpies!), M Sparrowhawk low over grass, 3+ singing Lesser Whitethroats in area, Pr Kingfisher & Little Egret on River Lea, 4 Swallows, 8 Sand Martins & 12 House Martins by Banbury Reservoir. (Davey Leach) 'Hi Davey, where exactly was the Raven? Which side of the Lea was it, or did you see it from or over the WME?' (Walthamstow Birders) 'It was around the Channel E of the River Lea Canal where they join by the shallow water. It was mobbing the Grey Heron there and after perching for 2 minutes, it flew over the Bank to Banbury Reservoir chased by 2 Magpies'. 'Thanks, long awaited first (#248) for the patch, well done'. ”
The well done was of course meant sincerely, though uttered through gritted teeth, as most of us were desperate to add this little (big) gem to the patch list. We will just have to set our sights on the next prize.