Monday, 6 November 2017

Reservoir logs - September update

     Juvenile Wheatear on Lockwood - the westerly wind meant numbers were down this year

Disappointing is the word that springs to mind when describing September which should be one of the best and most varied months. Hopes were even higher with Lockwood at a very low level. But the gravel shores clearly held little for passing waders, the frequent storms failed -  unlike at KGV to the north - to produce any seabirds while the persistent westerly air flow meant passerine migration was light. The month did produce only the second Glossy Ibis for the site along with the first Black Terns of the year but both species spent as little time as possible at the reservoirs.

Shoveler numbers built up as usual on East Warwick - one of the reservoirs likely to see most disturbance when the Wetlands opens - to 50 on the 6th. Teal and Gadwall also increased slowly over the month. A high count of 32 Little Egrets on Lockwood on the 3rd may be a sign of breeding success. PW found a Glossy Ibis soaring high overhead on the 16th. It was travelling SW so seems certain to be the same bird found at London Wetland Centre in Barnes next day. The first for the reservoirs was a much more obliging bird in 2015.

                    Little Egret which we found out had been rung as a nestling further up the Lea Valley

The Prof was actually looking at a soaring Buzzard when he saw the Ibis in the same thermal. Buzzards were recorded throughout the month; usually singles but six on the 2nd and ten on the 22nd. A pair of Peregrines continued to be recorded regularly and noisily on the pylons while perhaps the same Hobby was seen on the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th.

Waders were a particular disappointment during the month and especially compared to the remarkable diversity and number of species on the drained southern basin at Staines. The two Spotted Redshank continued on Lockwood until the 9th although they began to spend increasing amounts of time elsewhere - probably on the Banbury reservoir just to the north. A single was seen on the 10th and then there was a five day break until presumably the same bird was found again on the 16th - 22 days since it was first discovered.

Three Ring Plover were seen on the 17th, two Dunlin were recorded from the beginning of the month to the 5th. with four on the 8th and five next day, and the only Greenshank were a pair on the 1st. Common Sandpipers seemed to prefer the concrete rather than the gravel with very small numbers recorded on Lockwood throughout the month except on the 5th when 12 were seen. Green Sandpipers were seen on the 19th and 27th with the first Snipe of the autumn on the 18th.

A young Mediterranean Gull was seen on the 12th and 13th with Yellow-legged Gull recorded on the 4th, 6th and 16th. It looked as is 2017 was going to be the first year in a long while when Black Tern was not recorded until SF found two juveniles on the evening of the 20th. But there was no reprieve for Sandwich Tern, seen for example in both Spring and Autumn last year.
                    1W Mediterranean Gull posing for gull enthusiast @jarpartridge
There were still 25 Swifts on the reservoirs on the 2nd with the final two recorded on the 19th. This autumn did not see any heavy days of hirundine passage with 150 House Martins on the 15th the only high count. The peak count of Swallows was 20 on the 22nd with the last three five days later.

Meadow Pipit numbers built up slowly after the first of the season was seen on the first day of September. A Scandinavian Rock Pipit, an irregular migrant for us, was found by JP on the 15th.  Yellow Wagtails continued to be seen in very small numbers right through the month. Wheatears were also recorded throughout September but again numbers were low with five on the 1st the highest count. A returning Stonechat was on West Warwick on the 20th, the same day as the only Whinchat of the month was recorded.

Continued access problems around Lockwood meant that more time than usual was spent on the southern section of the reservoirs and along the central path. But it did not really pay off in terms of small migrants. The final Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroats of the year were both recorded on the 15th, the last Reed Warbler hung on the 20th while there was a late Common Whitethroat on the 29th. The highest count of Willow Warblers - one of the few species were numbers have been up - was eight on 13th with birds still being seen on the 22nd while a small fall on the 15th saw over 30 Chiffchaffs along the central path along with plenty of Goldcrests and Blackcaps. The final Spotted Flycatcher of the year was seen in the same area on the 25th.

DB @porthkillier  all pics @jarpartridge

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Mammaling and some Birding

An early morning browse along the Walthamstow Marshes ditch produced lots of Water Vole field signs in the shape of droppings and burrows:

There were quite a few burrows (marked as O) and droppings (marked as X) on my scribbled field map.

There was one brief Water Vole sighting here, near the Springfield Park bridge but the wee guy was too fast for my camera.

Water Voles and Rats and their respective field signs can be very similar and confusing. This guide is very handy with distinguishing them: 

Some Fox poop was left to peruse and a Fox was later seen in the Waterworks.

A Wood Mouse tried its best to be inconspicuous.

As it is National Mammal Week, I thought I’d share a little Mammal Field List I knocked up. It lists all the British mammal species with check boxes and a few other bits. It’s much like the RSPB’s bird watcher’s field list. There didn’t seem to a mammal equivalent, so I made one. My British mammal list is at 26.

You can download it as a Word document here:

On a sad note:

Walthamstow Reservoirs is nowhere near a nature reserve or a wetlands or anything else with the welfare of nature at its core. It is now quite simply, a park. It is a theme park that pretends to have things like Otters and Water Vole, but is primarily motivated to generate money. The London Borough of Waltham Forest has monetised nature for its own benefit. 

There was a Wheatear on the banks of Lockwood when I visited, trying to feed up before a long flight south, but it couldn’t settle for the droves of people playing in the park.

Walthamstow Theme Park visitors are now using the log book which birders record the presence of significant birds present on the reservoirs as a guest book!

On a positive note:

I’m trying to be a positive soul these days and on a more positive note, I’ve spent the last two days on Walthamstow Marshes, just south of Walthamstow Theme Park which has seemed considerably quieter than normal. Maybe the theme park is to thank for that.

A stone chat on the much less theme parky, Walthamstow Marsh:


Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Spot of Patching

On Lockwood reservoir:
Little Egrets and a Grey Heron
The western ‘shore’ of Lockwood
Two snoozing juvenile Spotted Redshanks
Two awake juvenile Spotted Redshanks
Looking south from the northern end of Lockwood
Two Common Sandpipers and a Dunlin
A mini murder of crows
A log
A Devil’s Coach Horse under a log
An adult male Kestrel on Walthamstow Marshes paddock
A first winter Whinchat on the bomb crater field of Walthamstow Marshes

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Reservoir Logs - August

One of the two Spotted Redshanks which graced Lockwood for the last week pic @owlturbot

The long-awaited draining of Lockwood finally started towards the end of August and almost immediately drew in the first 'gettable' Spotted Redshanks on the reservoirs for 30 years. But the continuing construction of the track around Lockwood also restricted access throughout the month to evening and weekends which meant the best vantage point for daytime migration was largely out-of-bounds. Every cloud has a silver lining and the increased focus on the southern reservoirs helped turn up Common Redstart as well as at least a few of London's Spotted Flycatchers.

Walthamstow holds a nationally important count of post-breeding Tufted Ducks and PL recorded 2,400 on the 13th. Gadwall and Shoveler numbers began to build up slowly with nine Gadwall and eight Shoveler by the 16th, largely on East Warwick. The three young Shelduck hung around for much of the month. As Lockwood drained, it became a magnet for Little Egrets with 36 counted on the 27th.

Sparrowhawks were again increasingly obvious after breeding with birds frequently seen hunting or soaring overhead. PL saw one young Kestrel at the traditional usual nest hole which may explain why this species, too, was more often recorded. There was more good news with a pair of Peregrines re-appearing at the reservoirs mid-month which could often be seen and heard on the central pylon. Three Buzzards were seen on the 24th and singles on the 25th and 28th while hunting Hobby were seen on 5th, 27th & 28th.
     Ringed Plover - a new addition to @LolBodini's house list. He left the house to take the picture

Little Ringed Plover were only seen on the 13th and 15th and were unusually matched by Common Ringed Plover records this month. The first was spotted by LB on the side of Lockwood from his loft on the 18th  while a second was flushed by a Sparrowhawk and departed high and in a hurry on the 30th. Lapwing continue to be relatively scarce with just a single on East Warwick on the 5th.  Dunlin records were also fewer than usual probably again because of lack of visits and disturbance on Lockwood. Singles were recorded on the 1st and 31st with three on the 5th while Green Sandpipers, commoner in winter than the autumn, were seen on the 21st and 26th. The highest count of Common Sandpipers was 15 on the 29th. 

                 The Spot Reds became increasingly flighty during their stay pic @jarpartridge

The highlight of the month - and not just because I found the first - were a pair of Spotted Redshank  on Lockwood from the 26th which stayed, despite all the disturbance, until the end of the month. Four were recorded in 2013 but they only stayed for 20 minutes which explains why they were either new for the patch regulars or the first - in the Prof's case - since East Warwick was drained in 1984. Amazingly, they weren't together initially with the second found by GJ who though he was watching the original bird - only to be told it was actually further up on the other side of the reservoir. While tame and obliging at the start, they became increasingly wary which may have been due to all the flashing lights and machinery they saw. Intriguingly they were apparently joined briefly by a third shank on the 28th. Single Common Redshank were seen on the 1st and 17th with two on the 10th while the only Greenshank recorded were a pair on the 15th.

              A bonus for those coming to see the Spotted Redshanks was the Med Gull @owlturbot

The juvenile Mediterranean Gull which had taken up residence up the valley at KGV kindly made an appearance on Lockwood on 26th for those coming to see the Spotted Redshank. The only Little Gull of the month was seen by MM also on Lockwood on the 12th while the first returning Common Gull was seen next day. Two more Common Terns had fledged from the raft on Lockwood by the 5th with the sixth and last on the 13th. But all the adults and young had disappeared by the 23rd - perhaps encouraged not too hang about as long as usual by the construction work. The only other terns seen were a distant party of seven on the 26th which may have been Arctic.

Right until the 31st, small numbers of Swifts could still be seen with the House Martin flock over No 5 and the filter beds early in the day while the insects were low. In contrast, the resident Sand Martins seem to have moved out by the 13th but small parties could be seen migrating south along with the odd Swallow. Larger numbers - and sometimes very large numbers - of migrant hirundines should be seen in September. Kingfishers, like Grey Wagtails, seem to have had a good breeding season and as many as five birds could be glimpsed on a visit to the reservoirs. With Lockwood out of bounds, few Yellow Wagtails were recorded with a single on the 21st and three on the 27th.

                      My first Common Redstart since 1989 - thanks to @birdingprof who took the pic

Common Redstart is barely annual at the reservoirs and is usually only seen by the finders. It was the same again with the juv/female on the path between No 2 and 3 on the 11th.  The only Whinchats seen were singles on the 10th and 25th while Wheatear numbers were low because of lack of visits to their favourite haunt of Lockwood. The first of the autumn was seen on the 15th with two on 20th and 24th,a single on the 29th and three on 31st.

Willow Warblers could be heard in song throughout the month on return passage

Cetti's Warblers, which had been silent and unrecorded over the summer, began to sing again by mid-month. Regular sightings of three young Sedge Warblers together in the West Warwick reed bed suggested they may have bred locally. The small numbers of Lesser Whitethroats and Garden Warblers seen  may also be local breeders which had moved in to feed on the rich berry crop. Willow Warblers were also recorded throughout the month, often with birds in song, with 20 recorded on the 31st the highest number seen. It seems to have been a good year for passage Spotted Flycatchers in London but it took a lot of hard work to find any on the reservoirs. The first was seen on the 16th, with two on the 20th, singles on the 24th and 30th & 31st.

         One of a handful of Spotted Flycatchers seen and the only showy one pic @jarpartridge

August is usually just a taster for the main autumn migration month of September at the reservoirs. With the track almost finished around Lockwood which should allow access at least to the east side and another two metres of water to be drained out of the reservoir, the next month could be very promising.

DB @porthkillier

Friday, 4 August 2017

Waltham Forest Licensing Application

Last week, a couple of the local birdwatchers and residents noticed these blue signs had been displayed on Walthamstow Marshes and the surrounding area.

It now turns out that Walthamstow Wetlands are applying for a Premises Licence, which will allow Live/Recorded Music until 10pm at night and the consumption of alcoholic drinks until midnight.

Now, at first glance, this looks like a great idea. After all, what could be better than watching nature with a nice glass of beer or wine in hand?

Unfortunately, the associated noise and lighting at such events would cause extensive disturbance to protected, schedule one species of birds and animals under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The wetlands are, of course, nationally and internationally recognised as an important wintering ground for rare and vulnerable birds such as Gadwall and Shoveler. They also provide an important pit-stop for birds migrating to and from their breeding grounds, while over seven different species of bats have been recorded on site.

After writing to the licensing team at Waltham Forest, we were informed that 'in order to be considered relevant, representations [objections] made to applications under the the Licensing Act 2003' must relate to the following four licensing objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • Public safety
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • The protection of children from harm
As such, we have drafted a template letter to ensure that any objections on wildlife grounds meet these four licensing objections, which can be accessed online here.

Please copy and send your representations to the Licensing Team by post by midnight on 14th August.