Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Reservoir Logs - February round-up

  Still conditions were as rare as the stunning male Bearded Tit pic Rudraksha Chodankar  

   Strong winds and heavy rain not only made birding unpleasant and difficult throughout much of February but also led to the Wetlands unusually being closed for several days because of the danger posed by falling trees. The risk was not overdone with three large trees coming down during the month. But despite the storms - and the usual February lull unless there is a cold spell - the month offered good birding with January's Bearded Tits, Firecrests and Black Redstart remaining and six new species added to the year list

   Snipe, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Jackdaw and Buzzard were expected additions in the Winter/early Spring period  but the adult Mediterranean Gull found on the 18th has become a scarce bird at the reservoirs. It takes the total number of species seen at the Wetlands by the end of February to 81 - five more than last year but nine behind 2018.

     This pair of Wigeon were welcome refugees from Springfield Park pic @ Chris_Farthing

   The first Wigeon of the year were found on the 10th and seen on-and-off for the rest of the month. They are thought to be the pair which had been wintering in nearby Springfield Park before being disturbed by renovation work. Up to nine Goldeneye were recorded on several days with as many as three Goosander including two drakes making occasional visits to Lockwood, No 4 & No 5. Counts for Teal and particularly Shoveler are down on last year with hardly a Shoveler seen although, despite appearances, the surveys show Tufted Duck and Pochard numbers are pretty constant.

  It continues to be a poor winter for waders. By the end of last February, both Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit had made their first appearance but the best wader record this month was an Oystercatcher on the 20th. Two Snipe were seen on the 3rd with another on the 10th to close a surprising gap in the year list. Presumably the wet winter means there is abundant feeding elsewhere. The wintering Common Sandpiper was seen throughout the month and was joined by a second bird on the 12th but the high level of the flood relief channel meant the only record of Green Sandpiper was on No 4 on the 13th.

     The Mediterranean Gull resting after its long journey from Edmonton @ Chris_Farthing
   Despite an explosion in UK breeding numbers in recent years, Mediterranean Gulls seem if anything to be scarcer at the reservoirs. The smart adult found by CF on Lockwood on the 18th is the first record since last July. From its rings, it was identified as the wintering individual from Pymmes Park in exotic Edmonton. Late winter and early Spring are among the best times for passage raptors and scarcer crows over the Wetlands so the Common Buzzard on the 27th and two Jackdaws on the 19th - five days later than the first last year - were pretty much on schedule. Red Kite, Osprey and, if  really lucky, Rook should follow in the next few weeks.

CF was rewarded for putting grit down to attract the Bearded Tits when this male appeared 

   Up to 30 Fieldfare continued to be seen around the reservoirs with the odd Redwing while two Stonechats were also near-resident. Given that not much new arrived, it was fortunate that the 'stars' from January remained throughout February although the gale-force winds often made seeing them even more difficult. In particular, the pair of Bearded Tits continued to be elusive and remarkably silent with days going by without any sighting at all.

       At least one Firecrest remained until the end of the month pic Rudraksha Chodankar  

   The Firecrests were a little more reliable with two seen together on the 7th and at least one seen - and occasionally heard singing - throughout the month. The male Black Redstart was also elusive and seemed to have departed altogether around the middle of the month only to re-appear from the the 25th at its favourite southern end of Lockwood when it, too, was heard to sing.

    The Black Redstart adding yet another dash of colour at the Wetlands  pic OwlTurbot 

DB @porthkillier

Monday, 10 February 2020

Reservoir logs- January 2020 round-up

      The male Bearded Tit giving a rare good view during its month-long stay pic @ topbud00

   After a lacklustre 2019, the New Year began in much more promising style with a series of good, long-staying if often elusive birds. A pair of Bearded Tits - the first since 2013 - discovered on the 1st and which remained all month got the year off to a brilliant  start.  A stunning male Black Redstart found on the 12th also stayed into February.   Add in only the second Water Pipit since 2013, the first Brent Goose since 2018 and the continuing Firecrests and it was not surprising that the Wetlands was again attracting a steady stream of birders......

        The adult dark-bellied Brent Goose seemed to think it was a Canada pic @jrmjones

   Brent Goose has been recorded in half of the last ten years so, with a blank in 2019, it might have been expected to be seen in 2020. What was more unexpected was that it would fly over the shoulder of PW, making a rare return visit, and land among a close flock of Canada Geese on No 4. It stayed for a couple of hours and seemed settled before being flushed by a trespassing drunk.....

  There was no recovery in Shoveler numbers following the disturbance on East Warwick with just  five birds seen early in the month which had all departed by the end. Tufted Duck numbers also seem low which may explain why our regular wintering drake Scaup has pretty much deserted the reservoirs. It did return to its favourite No 4 reservoir on the 9th but had disappeared again by next morning. As it also came back for a day in December after its initial stay, it clearly has not moved far. With a second drake now being seen on KGV, it may have set up home a few miles north. It will be interesting to see if it comes back at all in December for its seventh year.

                          Goldeneye revealing how they got their name pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   Goosander were seen regularly throughout the month but in very small numbers.  The maximum count was four on the 6th while up to eight Goldeneye could be seen scattered across the reservoirs. Water Rails are not uncommon at the Wetlands but more often heard rather than seen. But one at the south end of No 3 had clearly not read the memo and showed throughout the month, often just below the Woolley Hide and occasionally with a second bird.

       In a month of elusive birds, this Water Rail was a welcome exception pic Ivor Hewstone      

   It was a disappointing month for waders with, amazingly, no Common Snipe recorded at all after the exceptional numbers in December. The only Lapwings were four seen early on the 1st while the heavy rain meant the water levels in the overflow were usually too high for Green Sandpipers with only a couple of sightings including two on the 2nd. The Common Sandpiper, however, continued to winter with a second bird joining it on the 1st.

                   The Bearded Tits on Jan 1st before they disappeared for 18 days pic @sjnewton

   The highlight of the month was the pair of Bearded Tits found and photographed by SN on the 1st to the delight all those gathered to start off their year lists. They took such a liking to the new No 1 reed bed that they stayed all month - a real reward for the Wetland's project and evidence again that 'build it and they will come'.

  They are the first since one over East Warwick in October 2013. But after showing reasonably well on the first day, they kept so low that they were not seen again until the 18th and continued to show only irregularly throughout the month. Still, sunny conditions are best when the Reed Buntings are feeding high in the reeds but even then, it takes luck and patience.

        At least two Firecrests continued to be seen throughout the month pic @EugeneDH_Bass 

   The mild winter has led to Chiffchaffs wintering in large numbers with counts of double figures at times. It is estimated that there might be as many as 20 across the site. Of the Wetlands star attractions in January, Firecrests performed the best with one or two being seen on most days of the month around the car park area and Engine House.  

               The first wintering Black Redstart at the Wetlands since 2017 pic @sjnewton

  Very few Redwing were seen in January but flocks of up to 40 Fieldfare were seen around the complex both at the beginning and end of the month. A pair of Stonechats appear to be wintering. A stunning male Black Redstart - found again by SN - appeared at the south end of Lockwood on the 12th and remained all month. It is the first wintering bird on the reservoirs since 2017 which also turned up on January 12th. In the first few days of its stay, it fed regularly on the reservoir bank and towers but seemed to spend far more time out of sight on the nearby building site as the month wore on.

  It was waiting for the Black Redstart to appear that LB saw the final good bird of the month when a Water Pipit flew low over him on the 18th. It is the first at the reservoirs since October 2017 when one took up residence for three days on East Warwick. Meadow Pipit numbers were low with five on the 1st the highest total.  The Linnet flock reached 60 at times but on other days were completely missing. The same was true of the Reed Buntings in No 1 reed bed which could be as elusive as the Bearded Tits but when conditions were right, up to five could be seen feeding high up.

  In all 75 species were seen at the Wetlands in January with Snipe the only obvious omission. The total is four more than last year but five less than our fabulous 2018. Skylark and Red Kite - both seen by this time last year - along with Buzzard and Snipe are perhaps the likeliest candidates to add to the year list in February.

DB @porthkillier


Sunday, 5 January 2020

Third Time Lucky?

In 2013 the rangers of Hackney Parks and Green Spaces pollarded a tree in which had a Little Owl occupying one of its hollow branches. The Little Owl could be regularly viewed from the WaterWorks NR Pitch & Putt.

A year 2 child’s dad (in the class I was teaching at the time) worked for HPGS and after I had mentioned what had happened, HPGS had me design a nest box which they put it up in the pollarded tree. 

The nest box was mostly occupied by squirrels and stock doves for 6 years. But yesterday, Eugene Dillon-Hooper tweeted (with photos ) that he had spotted a Little Owl on the platform of the nest box. Eugene later confirmed that Mike Messenger spotted the Little Owl earlier on New Years Day.

Fantastic and well done Mike and Eugene!

I paid a visit to the WaterWorks NR today and after a bit of searching the nest box tree (whilst 3 Treecreepers creeped, sang and called around the trees near me), a Little Owl was found in the pollarded tree to the left of the nest box tree. It called several times. The HPGS nest box was placed facing south. However, the original branch and its hole in which a Little Owl used to look out of, faced north. And today, a Little Owl was in a natural tree hollow, facing north. Maybe it doesn’t like the box or prefers facing north or is keeping an eye on the banks of the old river lee for small mammals?

On the same Feb 2013 day, before watching my last WaterWorks NR Little Owl, I also had a Bittern in the WaterWorks NR:

Fingers crossed!

PS. A Little Owl tree had also been pollarded on the Walthamstow Marshes SSSI paddocks a few years prior to the WaterWorks NR pollarding. Lets hope at a third time of asking, a Little Owl can get a few good years of solid me time in its desired tree (however, there are a lot more parakeets around the waterworks these days and a 'doggy beach swimming club' very near the Little Owl tree:

Pics, Vidz and eBird links from today:

Little Owl


WaterWorks NR eBird numbers: