Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Reservoir Logs - May round-up

         Heavy rain saw two stunning Black Terns on East Warwick pic@EugeneDH_Bass

   May saw breeding well under way at the Wetlands but in terms of migration it was lacklustre, confirming again that Spring passage is pretty well over by the end of April. But the month did add Black Tern to the year list as well as the more expected Garden Warbler and Hobby. It also saw a steady passage of waders although without Sanderling or Turnstone which would have taken the total for the year beyond the current 116 - a figure well behind 2018's 131 and 2017's 128.

    Three Shoveler unusually stayed until at least the 4th on East Warwick where a drake Garganey, perhaps the bird which visited the reservoirs twice in April, turned up on the 14th. Two very late Goldeneye were on West Warwick on the 7th, more than three weeks after the last wintering birds had departed. Water Rails continued to be heard in the No 1 reedbed in the early days of the month.

                    Ringed Plover on a very wet East Warwick pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   The second Ringed Plover of the year was found by EDH and PG on East Warwick on the 8th, part of their reward for not being put off by torrential rain. It is unfortunate that the best chance of seeing an unusual wader at the Wetlands seems to be when the place fully lives up to its name. Little Ringed Plovers continued to be seen intermittently on East Warwick throughout the month. The last Common Sandpipers were on the 17th when five were seen while a Redshank was recorded on the 14th. Dunlin, which had been scarce this year, were seen on 8th, 10th and 12th.

                              Dunlin coming into summer plumage pic @sjnewton
   The ethical dilemma of whether five Black Terns distantly seen by PL and LB feeding over Banbury from Lockwood on the 7th could be counted on the reservoirs' year list was fortunately solved when two superb full summer birds were found by our soaked heroes EDH and PG next day. They departed as soon as the rain stopped. Arctic Terns continued to pass through with one on the 4th and two next day.

   Common Tern numbers dwindled throughout the month and sadly it seems as if this year may be the first for many when they don't breed on the reservoirs. As recently as 2010, Walthamstow had 40 pairs, the largest colony in London. But as rafts have floated to the shore, become overgrown or been taken over by large gulls, numbers have declined so drastically that only one pair bred last year. The good news is the London Wildlife Trust and Thames Water have plans to build new rafts and re-float existing ones in plenty of time for next breeding season.

                     Peregrine with an unfortunate Ring-necked Parakeet   pic@sjnewton
   Red Kites were seen on the 21st and 27th. Peregrines continued to be seen around the reservoirs with hopes high of breeding again nearby. That does not seem to be case with Hobby, as it can be in some years, with the only record being one on the 9th.  Jackdaws were seen on the 2nd with three on the 29th.

     The first Garden Warbler was on the 7th with one singing in the same area on the 23rd, again giving hope that they might be nesting. There was plenty of breeding activity from Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Reed Warblers while Common & Lesser Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers were singing on site.

   The final Wheatear of the Spring was seen on the 11th while Yellow Wagtails continued their good year with five on the 4th and singles on the 2nd, 8th and 11th with the last on the 19th.  After several years when Greenfinches have been scarce, numbers seem to have bounced back - as they have with Song Thrushes - with family parties seen regularly in the bushes around the Engine House as well as elsewhere on the reservoirs.

DB @porthkillier

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Reservoir Logs - April round-up

    The rarest - and perhaps smartest - April bird was this Blue-headed Wagtail pic @jrmjones

   After a slow start to the year, the Wetlands bounced back to form in April. It may not have been the rarity-fest of 2018, but there was plenty of variety to see and enjoy. In one superb 15 minute period, a Blue-headed Wagtail, Osprey and 25 Little Gulls were seen within a couple of hundred metres of each other.

       A stunning pair of full summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebes graced No 4 for a day

   The month saw the first Black-necked Grebes and Garganey for two years which both performed well to their admirers and a male Common Redstart which was the definition of elusive. Among other highlights were no less than three Short-eared Owls, a party of three Sandwich Terns, another Avocet as well as Cuckoo and Bar-tailed Godwit.

   In all, 24 new species were added to the year list - four more than the same month in 2018 - although the 113 total still lags well behind last year's incredible 126 at this stage. The only let down was that April did not produce an out-and-out rarity although it seems very likely that the big bird for the month - in all senses - passed over unseen.

   While April as a whole lived up to its traditional reputation as the best month for birding at the reservoirs, annual patch day on the 27th was a big disappointment. Gale-force winds stopped migration dead in its tracks and made finding any birds which had arrived very difficult. The result was that only 68 species were recorded across the greater patch, the lowest total in the seven years the counting has taken place and easily beating the previous worst performance of 74 in 2014.

      A drake Garganey liked No 4 so much it made two visits this month pic @jarpartridge 

   The drake Garganey which turned up on No 4 was the first for two years as 2018 was a rare blank year for this species. It was found on the 16th, went missing on the 17th, but commuted between No 4 and No 3 on the next two days. It clearly took a liking to the Wetlands because it turned up again in the same corner of No 4 on the 30th.

         Garganey flushed from No 4 by a jogger just as @sjnewton was about to photograph it 

   The cold winds which held up summer migrants may also have held back wintering birds from departing. The last Shoveler normally leaves just before patch day but this year six remained until the 28th with two until the end of the month. The wintering drake Scaup stayed almost as long with the last sighting on the 23rd - almost a month longer than its previous latest departure day. Let's hope it has a good summer wherever it goes and returns as usual in early December for its sixth winter. The last Goldeneye left on 16th, again three days later than last year.

    Like Garganey, Black-necked Grebes are pretty much annual so their absence last year was a surprise. It made a confiding pair in full-summer plumage on No 4 on the 24th all the more appreciated. For the second month on the run, however, it seems likely that a good bird was missed despite being looked for.  This time it was a White Stork seen over Wanstead on the 16th and then half an hour later over Alexandra Palace which means it must have been visible from the reservoirs if not actually above them.

                            A very low and clearly rung Osprey over East Warwick pic @jrmjones      

   Little Egrets, however, can't be missed and there was very good news about breeding with a visit to the islands discovering 37 nests on No 1 & 2. Grey Heron pairs  are holding steady with 44 nests - with 30 pairs on No 1 - but it seems only a matter of time that they are overtaken by Egrets. April is the best month to hope to see a passing Osprey with one so low over East Warwick on the 8th that photographs showed not only that it was rung but enough of the ring to suggest it was likely to be a Scottish-born bird. Two Buzzards were seen on the 3rd with singles on the 10th, 17th, 20th, 25th & 30th with Red Kites also on the 3rd, 10th and 16th.

                A rather tatty if still graceful Red Kite over Lockwood pic @Chris_Farthing

      A second Avocet for the year turned up on No 4 on the 9th. A day earlier, the same murky conditions saw two Ringed Plover fly north low over Lockwood in the company of two Dunlin, both the first records for the year.

           The second Avocet of the year spent the day on No 4 pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   Little Ringed Plover were seen so regularly on East Warwick during the month that it is suspected they must be holding territory nearby, perhaps on the filter beds. The first Whimbrel of the year were two which dropped onto East Warwick island on the 23rd, with another on the 25th and two more on 28th.

                       The two Whimbrel departing East Warwick calling pic Ivor Hewstone

  The third Black-tailed Godwit of the year - another confiding bird - was found on East Warwick on the 6th. Much less common at the reservoirs are Bar-tailed Godwits so the one picked up high over No 4 on the 30th by JP could easily be the only record of the year.

               A close Black-tailed and a very distant Bar-tailed Godwit pics @jarpartridge

   The only Redshank of the month was a single on the 1st, the sole Oystercatcher was on the 22nd while late Snipe were recorded on East Warwick on the 16th & 18th. Good money could have been won on a bet that Common Sandpiper was going to be the last of the common waders to be seen in 2019. But with no wintering birds this year, the first was not seen until the 15th - a week later than what was thought to be the first migrant last year. The maximum count was eight on the 24th with none being recorded on the last few days of the month. A passage Green Sandpiper was on East Warwick on the 25th.
     Common Sandpipers got more attention than normal this month pic @Chris_Farthing

   The persistent north easterly wind and cloudy conditions saw remarkable numbers of Little Gulls pass through London this Spring. Walthamstow got its share with a single on the 6th, then at least 27 including a flock of 25 on the 8th, 11 more on Lockwood next day and a final individual on the 25th. For context, the large flock is about five times as many Little Gulls as I have seen in total in 30 years of watching the reservoirs.

            Two of the unprecedented passage of Little Gulls this month pic @jarpartridge

   Three Sandwich Terns, having missed CF when they flew over his daily haunt of Woodberry Wetlands on the 5th, kindly carried on to find him on Lockwood 10 minutes later.  The first Common Terns of the year were on the 8th with passage birds throughout the month. Among the peak count of 27 seen in gloomy conditions on Lockwood on the 27th were our breeding birds which arrived back noisily five days earlier. Three Arctic Terns went through Lockwood on the 29th with one lingering next day.

          Record shot of one of the three Sandwich Terns over Lockwood pic Chris_Farthing

                            Arctic Tern feeding over Lockwood pic @jarpartridge

      After the welcome return of a calling male Cuckoo for a couple of days in early May last year, DC had a silent bird fly over East Warwick on the 20th. The reservoirs might expect two Short-eared Owls a year so three in a month was unexpected. One flew around the south side on the 3rd with  records also on the 15th and the 23rd. Two days later than last year, the first Swifts were seen on the 25th with a big arrival on the last day of the month. Migrant Jays were clearly passing through the reservoirs mid-month with one party of 11 recorded.

       The first Swallows and House Martins were seen on the 2nd, slightly ahead of last year. Singing Willow Warblers continued to be heard in small numbers with five on the 10th the maximum but they had pretty much dried up by the final days of the month. The first Sedge Warblers arrived on the 9th  - five days earlier than last year - with three singing birds while the first Reed Warbler was on the 14th, exactly the same date as 2018. Lesser Whitethroat was a week later with the first not until the 23rd (although they were back earlier on the marsh) and Common Whitethroat was also behind schedule with the first on the 18th compared to the 14th again last year.

   Small numbers of Fieldfare remained at the reservoirs until the 17th while migrant Redwing, which had been missing for most of the winter, arrived mid-month with 10 on the 10th and the last bird seen flying north on the 24th. A cracking male Common Redstart, a species which is scarcely annual at the Wetlands, was a good find by PG on the 12th. It stayed around for a couple of days but required persistence and luck to see.

            The Redstart giving one of its characteristic glimpses during its stay pic @jrmjones

  The first Whinchats of the year were two birds on the 24th, four days later than the only one of the Spring last year. Wheatears continued to be seen in small numbers with records on 11 days with a maximum count of five, which all dropped into East Warwick in the afternoon, on the 18th.

 Whinchat was another of the stunning birds at the Wetlands this month pic @Chris_Farthing  
   House Sparrows have not featured in this round-up before. For the last few years, they have been restricted to the extreme north and south of the complex but this month for the first time they could be seen collecting nesting material in several new places on the Wetlands including around the Engine House. 

             Yellow Wagtails were recorded on ten days in unusually high numbers this year

   Yellow Wagtails had a very good showing this month. The first two were seen on the 7th, exactly the same initial date as in 2018, with records on nine other days. These included a remarkably high count of  20, presumably brought down low by the gloomy weather and strong NE wind, on the 8th which contained groups of up to seven landing and then flying on. A party of three that fed briefly on the side of East Warwick included the super-smart Blue-headed form, a very unusual visitor to the reservoirs.

   Meadow Pipits were also seen throughout the month with 40 counted in one flock on the 2nd. For the second successive year, Brambling turned up on the reservoirs on their return migration. The maximum day count was three but it is certain more birds were involved with the last being seen on the 17th.
      One of at least three male Bramblings which fed at the bottom of No 3, pic @OwlTurbot

More bird photographs and news from the Wetlands and further afield on:
   DB @porthkillier 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Reservoir Logs - March round-up

Superb male Brambling behind the Anglers' hut pic © Magnus Andersson @magnusphotog           
   March was never likely to match the Wetlands' extraordinary month in 2018 - particularly as we had no 'Beast from the East' - but the arrival of the first summer migrants always makes it a good time to be birding. The highlights were the first of what we now know was going to be a remarkable passage of Little Gulls.  More expected additions to the year list were Buzzard, Rook, Sand Martin, Red Kite, Redshank, Wheatear, Blackcap, Little Ringed Plover, Brambling, Red-crested Pochard and Wigeon which takes the total of species seen at the reservoirs by the end of March to 89. This compares with 107 in the previous two years which gives an indication of how lacklustre the winter has been.

        Red-crested Pochard resting after their journey from Victoria Park pic Ivor Hewstone

    The first Wigeon of the year was a one-day female on No 5 on the 27th and the first Red-crested Pochard were four on the 26th with three drakes seen intermittently to the end of the month. The drake Scaup is clearly developing a liking for the Wetlands as it is staying later each winter. It remained throughout the month, beating its previous latest departure date of March 26 last year. Up to four Goosander could be found on Lockwood - usually early in the morning - with the last one seen on the 27th. The highest count of Goldeneye was nine on the 18th with six remaining until the 31st.

         Buzzard welcomed by local Peregrines pic © Magnus Andersson @magnusphotog

   One that got away was a Cattle Egret seen by SF going north over Banbury Reservoir early on the 8th which may well have roosted with the other egrets on the Wetlands. It was looked for on subsequent days with no luck. Bang on schedule, the first Buzzards of the year were two on the 4th followed by records on the 8th, 19th, 27th & 28th. The first Red Kite, again as expected, was on the 14th. Both Peregrine and Sparrowhawk were regularly seen displaying and hunting over the Wetlands with Kestrels seen more infrequently.

                                   Overdue but obliging Redshank on No 4 pic Ivor Hewstone

   Waders have been particularly scarce so far this year on the reservoirs. The first Redshank was only seen on the 17th with the second found five days late while there were only single records of Oystercatcher on the 8th and Lapwing on the 28th.

  Despite a good edge to Lockwood, Little Ringed Plover favoured East Warwick pic @lolbodini

    The first Little Ringed Plover was on the 18th, three days later than in 2018, but unlike last year when there was only one in March, they were also recorded next day with two on the 23rd & 29th. For the second time this year, East Warwick hosted a Black-tailed Godwit, a species which is usually only seen flying over.  Snipe and Green Sandpipers continued to be recorded irregularly but there was still no sign of any Common Sandpipers.

    An adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the filter beds on the 21st but the best record of the month were four Little Gulls on the 31st. Not only are Little Gulls just about annual but these were found from the Coppermill Tower by visiting birder MB feeding over West Warwick - the first known record from the viewpoint.
   March is the best month for Rook, which is scarce at the Wetlands despite being common just a few kms north. There was only one record this year with two flying east over Lockwood on 4th, nine days earlier than first last year when birds were also seen on two other dates. Passage Jackdaws were also seen in small numbers.

   The extraordinary warm spell of late February saw the first Sand Martins making it to London exceptionally early but the Wetlands had to wait until the 9th for the first record which was still four days ahead of 2018. The next three were on the 20th with a big arrival on the 31st when 35 were seen.

   The first singing Blackcap was heard on the 22nd, a day earlier than last year with good numbers in full song by the end of the month. No migrant brings more joy than the first Wheatear of the Spring. As usual, the first to arrive was a male on the 18th, two days later than in 2018 and six days later than in 2017. The cold northerly meant it stayed on Lockwood for four days, being joined by a female on the 20th, with another male arriving on the 30th.

     A cracking male Wheatear on Lockwood showing that winter was finally coming to an end 

   Meadow Pipits were seen and heard moving north throughout the month with over a dozen recorded on the 18th.  Good numbers of Fieldfare remained on the Wetlands with high counts of 50 on the 1st and 25 on the 19th. It now seems clear the reservoirs host a small numbers of Brambling as they make their way north in the Spring. The first - a superb male - was found by JD on the 21st with two on the 22nd & 23rd with perhaps the same male on the 26th & 27th.

  April is traditionally the best month for birding at the Wetlands which is why it is when the annual patch day takes place. This year - the seventh dawn to dusk recording blitz - is being held on Saturday April 27. Everyone is invited to take part to see if the 88 species seen on the reservoirs and wider patch in 2017 can be beaten. See the next post for more details.....

  DB @ porthkillier



Saturday, 6 April 2019

Seventh Annual Walthamstow Patch Watch (AWPW7)

Annual Walthamstow Patch Watch 7

On the 27th of April, some of the birder’s of Walthamstow will be doing their dawn till dusk 'Annual Walthamstow Patch Watch' day. It’ll be our seventh one.

Anyone is welcome to contribute and get involved. Timely news of birds on the patch will be appreciated by all taking part. Those on Twitter can use the hashtags #AWPW7#walthamstowbirders or the usual #londonbirds to post news of birds on the patch. It all helps the birders on the day connect with birds and not to mention totting up the list at the end of the day. The ‘Latest News’ page on the London Wiki is a good place to put sightings (though not as immediate as Twitter).

As for previous AWPW lists:

As you can see, the average is around 80. Hopefully we can at least match last year’s tally.

This is the patch boundary we will be following on the day:


Anything seen on or from the patch counts.

The patch consists of the Banbury Reservoir, Wild Marsh East, Walthamstow Reservoirs, Coppermill Treatment Works, Low Hall Sports Ground, Walthamstow Marshes, WaterWorks Nature Reserve and Leyton Tip.

For anyone taking part, here is a useful tick list for the day:

All the best on the day

Walthamstow Birders

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Jan & Feb on Walthamstow Marshes SSSI and the WaterWorks NR

January and February saw Walthamstow Marshes SSSI and the WaterWorks NR add 6 new birds to the Walthamstow patch year list.

On the 2nd of January three Lesser Redpoll were roaming the waterworks.

A Firecrest was seen near the raptor view point bench of the marshes on the 7th of January.

A Red Kite made its way over the waterworks on Jan the 8th.

On the 11th of Feb a Nuthatch was seen and heard from the bridge near the horseshoe thicket of the marshes.

A Siskin went north over the marshes on the 25th of Feb.

A Woodcock was flushed from the horseshoe thicket of the marshes - also on the 25th of Feb.

Other sightings of note were:

7 Redwings and 2 Fieldfares on the marshes
3 Stonechats on the marshes and 1 on the waterworks
2 Jackdaws on the houses by the marshes
2 Water Rails in bed 18 and 13 of waterworks
2 Shovelers on the waterworks

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Reservoir Logs - winter round-up

      A confiding Avocet spent the morning on High Maynard pic @lolcumming 

    The generally mild weather helps explain why the winter was pretty dull at the Wetlands. No new birds were added to the 2018 year list in December which remained on 143, two more than the previous year. The only highlights of the month were the return of the drake Scaup to No 4 for its fifth winter and the discovery of a Reed Warbler, only the second record for London in December.

   January was even duller but February did see some early returning waders with both Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet. The 76 species seen so far in 2019 on the reservoirs is well down on the exceptional 90 already seen by the same time last year. But the Little Bunting saw more far extensive coverage early in 2018 while five more species have been seen this year within a couple of hundred yards of the reservoirs' boundary without yet making it on the annual list.

   Shelduck numbers began to build with 11 in December and 14 at end of February. PL counted 53 Gadwall and 74 Teal in January while up to 50 Shoveler could be seen with numbers falling fast from mid-February. The cold snap in December displaced six Wigeon onto Lockwood with two remaining until the 16th.  

    Up to 50 Shoveler spent the winter, largely, on East Warwick pic @sjnewton

   Just three days later than last year, the drake Scaup returned to its favourite corner of No 4 on December 6th for its fifth winter. Unusually, it went missing for four weeks from the middle of January - perhaps to KGV reservoirs where a drake turned up around the same time - before coming back on February 9th and staying throughout the month. It was much more active than in the past and was often found feeding in the south-east of the reservoir. 

       The drake Scaup spent more time feeding rather than sleeping this winter

     Up to twelve Goldeneye have been scattered across the reservoirs this winter with at least seven birds remaining until the end of February. It has been slightly easier to catch up with Goosander this year with a relatively tame pair regularly on Lockwood in the morning and another pair joining them occasionally.

      Goosander on Lockwood were less skittish than usual pic @sjnewton

   A Red-legged Partridge seen on the side of Lockwood on February 28th was the first on the reservoirs since 2017. The first young Great Crested Grebe of the year was seen on January 20 on No 3. Grey Herons, too, wasted no time in breeding with four nests having young by the end of February. No large birds of prey were seen but the pair of Peregrines regularly surveyed the Wetlands from the favourite pylons. 
                   Peregrine looking for some tasty parakeets pic @wheeler_jo 

   An Avocet found by RE on February 24th means the wader has now turned up for three successive years after a three year period with no records at all. It was a surprisingly tame individual which remained most of the morning on High Maynard, enabling LC finally to add it to his patch list after 55 years of birding at the reservoirs.   

All the Avocets in the last three years have taken to the water pic @lolcumming 

   The Black-tailed Godwit found on TG's birdwalk on East Warwick island on February 14th, which remained until next day, was also tame but this was likely because of injury either from flying into a wire or a Peregrine attack. A sharp frost on January 29th saw a high count of six Common Snipe on the banks of the reservoirs, presumably displaced from Walthamstow Marsh.

       A blood-stained Black-tailed Godwit spent two days on East Warwick 

     For the first time for several years, no Common Sandpipers have wintered on the reservoirs. But Green Sandpipers were seen occasionally, usually in the overflow channel, with a maximum count of five on January 2nd. The temporary absence of some of the reservoirs' gull enthusiasts helps explain the paucity of records this winter. But even without their expertise, Yellow-legged Gulls were found on the filter beds on January 11th with a 3CY bird on Lockwood on February 14th and February 21st. 

   Skylarks were seen on January 23rd with two on February 24th. Meadow Pipits continue to be scarce with just one or two occasionally around Lockwood. Stonechat numbers were also low with a maximum of two seen.  Fieldfare were by far the commonest of the winter thrushes with 20 in December and up to 50 by the end of February in contrast with just the odd individual Redwing.

   Small numbers of Chiffchaff winter at the reservoirs and the warm weather at the end of February saw at least four in song. The last Reed Warblers, however, should leave in October at the latest so the bird found by JW on December 10th & 11th on No 3 was an exceptional record. It seems to be only the second Reed Warbler seen in London in December with the first in nearby Leyton in 2013.

                     London's second December Reed Warbler pic @wheeler_jo   

   Late winter and early spring are the best time to see scarcer corvids at the reservoirs so the first Jackdaw on February 14 was again right on schedule and started a mini-run of records in the month. It is a mystery why such a common bird nearby turns up so infrequently at the Wetlands. Compared to last winter when c80 Linnets and a dozen Reed Buntings could be seen around the flower meadow, numbers of both species seemed far lower this year. The largest flock of Linnets was 35 while Reed Buntings were largely restricted to the No 1 reed bed with a maximum of six seen in a day.

  DB @porthkillier  

Monday, 11 February 2019

Nuthatch from Walthamstow Marshes

The Nuthatch is back near the Horseshoe Thicket Bridge (probably never left). 

It roams the southern areas of Springfield Park, sometimes making short forays over to the trees in the thicket of the marshes. I viewed it and listened to it call and sing from the marshes thicket bridge at midday for around 20 minutes.  

Strain your ears and you can hear it!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

2nd January 2019

 Walthamstow Marshes SSSI & WaterWorks NR

50 species combined

Male and Female Stonechat on marshes boardwalk.

ebird numbers for Marshes:

Goldcrest in Horseshoe Thicket

ebird numbers for WaterWorks:


Shoveler in WaterWorks