Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Reservoir Logs - February 2023

                                                     Barnacle Geese were regular visitors pic @AMP

      Highlight of the month - and of the year so far - was a flying visit by the the reservoirs' second ever Iceland Gull. February also saw Barnacle Goose, Oystercatcher, Common Snipe, Red Kite, Coal Tit, Blackcap and Siskin added to the year list while the drake Scaup and Great White Egret - two genuine London scarcities - remained in residence. The eight additions take the Wetlands' year list so far to 81, three ahead of last year but two behind 2021.     

                 Great Egret getting to know its neighbours on East Warwick pic @magnusphotog 

       Despite the cold weather at the month's end, the Wetlands saw welcome signs that Spring is on the way with the first Grey Heron chicks, Black-headed Gulls massing around their nesting raft on Lockwood and passages of both Stonechats and Pied Wagtails.    

                      The Lea Valley Barnacle flock spent the month at the Wetlands pic @rudraksh9

        Barnacle Geese, which bred for the first time last year, are no longer rare visitors to the reservoirs as the feral population in the UK increases. The first record for the year came when a flock flew in on the 3rd just in time to mark World Wetlands Day. As many as 21, along with the hybrid, were then regularly found on No 5 and the neighbouring playing fields for much of the month. There was no sign of any on the 27th with the all birds having presumably returned to their home base at Holyfield Farm at Cheshunt.   

                   The drake Scaup remained faithful to No 4 pic @ AMP
       The drake Scaup remained all month on No 4 which was also favoured, along with No 5, Lockwood and High Maynard by wintering Goldeneye with six still present on the 25th. Goosander were seen slightly more regularly than in January with records on six days but never more than two. One that got away was an intriguing report of a White-headed or Ruddy Duck on High Maynard on the 15th which disappeared before its identity could be confirmed. 

                                    A Goldeneye pair showing how they got their name pic @ Elliott81758817        
       Four species of wader were seen in February with the first Oystercatcher of the year on Lockwood on the 13th, almost a month earlier than last year. Frost saw single Common Snipe pushed off the marsh onto the reservoirs on the 14th and 27th. January's run of Green Sandpipers continued with one on the 1st while Lapwing were seen on four days with three on the 13th the highest total. Water Rails are more often heard than seen at the Wetlands but they did perform occasionally on the Coppermill stream and more regularly - for those with permits - on West Warwick. 

                                             Water Rail making a dash for cover along the Coppermill pic @MLP

       Iceland Gull is a truly rare bird at the Wetlands with the only previous record an adult seen in the distance from Lockwood in 2012. So MM's find of a juvenile on the 20th is the first actually over the reservoirs themselves and seems almost certain to have been the similarly plumaged bird seen on the Thames two days before and in Edmonton in January. It circled over No 4 slowly enough to clinch identification before heading west. By the end of February, the Great White Egret had been resident at the Wetlands for 99 days and could usually be found around the beached raft on.East Warwick.

                                     Formation flying from the first two Red Kites of the year  @magnusphotog

       Common Buzzards were seen on the 13th & 19th while the first two Red Kite of the year passed low over No 4 on the 23rd with another five days later.  Coal Tit remain a rarity at the Wetlands - despite the impression given by eBird lists for the site - with just one certain record in each of the last two years. Both of those were in June so the bird MH heard on the 6th was well ahead of schedule.  

                                                            Meadow Pipit numbers began to build @AMP

            The first Blackcap of the year was also early with one seen in a tit flock on the 24th. Small numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare continued around the Wetlands, often at the Engine House. The end of the month saw Stonechats moving through with at least six seen on the 23rd with the number of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail also building up. Siskins have become much less common at the Wetlands in recent years but five were seen on the 27th in the alders by the Coppermill Tower which used to be a regular haunt.  

DB @porthkillier


Sunday, 19 February 2023

Reservoir Logs - January 2023

                            No 4 reservoir played host again to a wintering drake Scaup Pic @OwlTurbot
      January's highlights in what was otherwise a dull month were a drake Scaup back on No 4 and a Barn Owl as well as the long-staying Great White Egret. Collective efforts on New Year's Day saw 64 species recorded which was one below last year. With the weather relatively mild, only eight  more species were added across the rest of the month with the 72 total one less than last year. It is also two down on the year before and three below 2020 so let's hope we can buck the trend next year. 

Late News: It turns out the month  was not so dull after all with AW having a Little Owl on the side of No 4 on January 23. It may be the first record this century although they are seen regularly - if with difficulty - further south down the Lea Valley. It means the total was 73. 

                                  The visiting Barn Owl received the traditional Wetlands' welcome @MLP

       The Wetlands used to be one of the capital's most regular sites for Scaup with a drake wintering for five years from 2014. In recent times, any appearances at Walthamstow have been both sporadic and brief. But the smart drake found by PL on No 4 on the 5th remained throughout the month to raise hopes that it will again be a familiar sight. 

                                        The drake Scaup and friends keeping a wary eye on @rudraksh9

          Compared to last year when up to three birds were regularly seen, Goosander have been scarce this winter with a maximum count of two and records on only a couple of days in January. Up to seven Goldeneye are wintering although counting is difficult as they appear to be moving between reservoirs more this year.  

                            Two  Green Sandpiper were seen regularly mid-month pic @Chris_Farthing

           January is rarely a good month for waders but the colder weather mid-month saw a small movement of Lapwing with five on the 13th & 21st and nine two days later. Singles were also seen on the 3rd, 19th and 25th. The first Green Sandpiper of the year was seen on the 18th with two seen next day and until the 25th.   

                         The Great White Egret made itself very much at home pic @Elliott81758817
           November's Great White Egret continues to find the Wetlands to its liking. It was seen throughout the month, often on the islands of No 3 reservoir or East Warwick. The first Buzzard of the year was seen on 21st with a second on the 23rd. Barn Owl, although still rare, appears to becoming slightly more regular at the Wetlands. The bird found by MLP flying over East Warwick - with the usual welcoming committee of crows - is the fourth record in less than 12 months.  Kingfishers continued to put on a good show with pairs on both the north and south sides. 
                           Both Redwing (below) and Fieldfare fed by the Engine House pic @AMP

         The berries around the the Sensory Garden attracted small numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare. Despite the removal of so much of the bramble from the sides of East and West Warwick - which is sadly going to have an impact on the numbers of Whitethroat and Sedge Warblers this summer -  at least one pair of Stonechats fed on the stubble.                      

                                 Female Stonechat looking for its bramble patch pic  @Chris_Farthing  

DB @porthkillier


Sunday, 1 January 2023

Reservoir Logs - December 2022

                                 Jack Snipe gave wonderful views during the freeze pic @OwlTurbot

       December turned out to be exceptional with heavy and prolonged snow adding new waders to the year list on four consecutive days. They included multiple Jack Snipes - the first on the reservoirs since 2014 - and Golden Plovers as well as the first Grey Plover since the last deep freeze in 2018. Woodcock was also new in a month which saw big flocks of Skylarks, another nice selection of gulls, an unprecedented December Wheatear and the continued long-stay by the Great White Egret

                             The first Grey Plover for four years stayed for a couple of hours pic @OwlTurbot

       The four additions take the year list to 142 - only one behind last year's total (and that of 2018) which was difficult to imagine at the end of September when the gap was 12 species. It is also above 2017 (141) and 2019 (133) but four below the record 146 in 2020. Among the birds which are missing from the list were Red-crested Pochard (8 years since previous absence), Brambling (6 years), Sandwich Tern (4) and Pintail & Common Scoter (2) while Osprey was missing for the second consecutive year.  

                                        The snow saw a remarkable influx of Skylark pic @alanrevel

             The cold spell began with a heavy frost on the 9th followed by four inches of snow falling two days later. Temperatures then stayed below freezing for the next week with the snow only beginning to melt late on the 18th. The dangers of frozen reservoirs and slippery paths inevitably led to the Wetlands being closed for a week with only permit holders, who agree to enter at their own risk, allowed access. 

                           This Golden Plover spent a week on Lockwood pic @EugeneDH_Bass
           Surprisingly, the freeze did not displace as many wildfowl as hoped but did force the Lea Valley flock of  Barnacle Geese to make a brief stop. Nineteen birds and the distinctive hybrid dropped in to No 4 on the 13th before being continuing east. Two had been seen from No 5 feeding on the playing fields on the 8th & 9th. Wigeon were also displaced by the snow with 14 in two flocks on the 13th which had dwindled to four by next day. Three had been seen on the 3rd with a drake for three days from the 7th and a female on the 10th. 

                                 Up to seven Goldeneye were seen across the reservoirs pic @rudraksh9

            Goldeneye increased from four in the early part of the month to six on the 12th and seven on the 24th although numbers seemed to fall again towards the year's end. But Goosander remained scarce with what was presumed to be the same drake occasionally dropping onto the Wetlands with sightings on the 8th & 9th, 15th, 17th, 26th & 29th. Four Shelduck had arrived by the 9th but, given the weather to come, must have wondered why they did not stay on the coast longer. 

                                         This superb adult Yellow-legged was found on Lockwood pic @rom_lon  

      It was, however, another excellent month for gulls with the 17th proving a red-letter day for larophiles with an adult Yellow-legged and two Caspian - an adult and a 1W - on the north side. The Yellow-legged Gull was still on Lockwood early next morning with it or another on the 24th while Caspian Gulls including a smaller 1W were also seen on the 19th & 21st.      

                  Adult Caspian Gull (pic @whererhys) and (below) 1W (pic Elliott81758817) were seen on same day  

         If it was good for gulls, it was fantastic for waders. After just one species in November, seven were seen in one week as the snow-free edges of the reservoirs offered a haven for birds struggling to feed. The first sign of what was to come was when visiting birder IR found and photographed a Jack Snipe on the side of High Maynard on the 11th. It appears to be the first record of the species on the reservoirs since 2014 although it is regular, if still scarce, nearby on Walthamstow Marsh. Those who went to look for it were not surprised that it had disappeared given that it was found next to the path on a busy Sunday afternoon. 

      The freeze gave a rare chance to compare Common (left) and Jack Snipe pic @rudraksh9

            But there was no need for disappointment because two were found on 13th and an astonishing four next day, feeding on the side of High Maynard, Lockwood and No 4. At least two and probably more remained until the 17th with the last one on the last day of snow on the 18th. No one can remember an influx like this with the normal skulking species giving superb views. They were often accompanied by Common Snipe which also fed on the reservoir edges to enable comparison. They started being seen with the frost on the 9th with day counts increasing to as many as 20 on the 14th in the snow.

               Unusual numbers of Snipe fed on the reservoir banks pic @AMP
       What made the discovery of the Jack Snipe on the 13th even more special was that it was spotted by birders walking along the path to get better views of a Grey Plover found by LB on Lockwood. The Plover is the first on the reservoirs since 2018 when one flew through in the last freeze.

                                 The Golden Plover largely rested during the day pic @OwlTurbot 

         In a remarkable 30 minute period, LB then went onto find a Golden Plover on the opposite Lockwood bank. It was the second record of the year with six seen flying north the day before. Unlike the Grey Plover which disappeared overnight, the Golden Plover stayed until the 18th. The final new wader of the month was a Woodcock seen by DC to fly over the overflow channel onto Tottenham Marsh East on the 14th.  

         Lapwing were a common sight during the snow pic (above) @AMP and @Callahanbirder

        Lapwing are an expected visitor during a freeze and the cold spell saw flocks moving overhead and resting on the water's edge. A single had been seen on 1st, 2nd and 4th but numbers built up with 20 on the 9th peaking at 65 on the 12th and still 15 - largely on Lockwood - on the 19th. Regular sightings of Green Sandpiper also started before the snow as the level in the flood relief channel dropped with singles on the 8th & 9th. But the freeze saw numbers rise on the reservoirs with two on the 12th and four together on High Maynard on the 15th. The snow on the 12th also saw the only Common Sandpiper of the winter so far pass through. 

                              The Great White Egret remained throughout the month pic @Chris_Farthing

       Throughout all this excitement, the Great White Egret remained at the Wetlands, often being seen on the island on East Warwick and, before the freeze, feeding towards the north end of High Maynard with Little Egrets. Two Buzzards were seen on the 14th and a single Red Kite on the 12th while the snow also brought the third Barn Owl of the year on the 16th and the first one seen on the south side for years. Kingfishers continued to be showy with perhaps three pairs in residence. By the Wooley Hide at the bottom of No 3 and opposite the Ferry Boat pub garden on the north side were favourite sites but they were also being seen regularly near the Engine House. 

                                           At least two Buzzards passed over during the freeze pic  @ MLP

             The Wetlands saw a remarkable movement for the site of Skylarks on the first day of the snow. Thirty seven including flocks of 12 and 24 - double the number usually seen in an entire year - were counted on the 12th with one or two seen regularly until the 17th. 

                 The snow and fog saw two flocks of Skylarks land on Lockwood  pic @Chris_Farthing
         The snow also displaced Redwing with a count of over 200 on the the 14th and small flocks seen most days but Fieldfare numbers remained in single figures. Small flocks of Meadow Pipits were also forced by the snow to hunt for food around the edge of the reservoirs with high counts of 30+ seen during the freeze. 

                 Redwing pic @AMP and Meadow Pipit (below) pic @rudraksh9 were both common

      Two Siskins were seen on the 15th. In any normal year, a December Wheatear would be the highlight of the month. So it is a sign of just how good December was that November's bird staying around Lockwood to the 5th is almost an after-thought.  

                              December's Wheatear wisely departed before the snow pic @Chris_Farthing   

DB @porthkillier                                                                                                                                             


Saturday, 10 December 2022

Reservoir Logs - November 2022


   The first Red-breasted Merganser since 2017 arrived in torrential rain pic @sjnewton

         The first Red-breasted Merganser for five years was the star bird of an excellent month at the Wetlands. November also saw Marsh Harrier and - at last - Great Egret added to the year list as well as very late summer migrants and a nice selection of gulls. The three additions take the annual list to 138, still lagging behind recent years.  

                     Our November Swallow wondering why it had not migrated earlier pic @Chris_Farthing

      November was also the month sadly when Avian Flu took a hold at the reservoirs with dead or dying birds seen pretty much every day. Thanks in part to the swift collection of corpses by the Trust staff, it didn't seem to get worse as the month progressed and has largely been confined to Canada Geese. 

                     The second Great Egret showed well during its unusually long stay pic @Chris_Farthing 

       A single Barnacle Goose appeared for the day on the 24th. Thanks to detective work from CF who found one of our ringed birds and the distinctive hybrid on a visit to Holyfield Farm at Fishers Green, we now have confirmation that our breeding birds come from the near-resident flock up the Lea Valley. The first Shelduck re-appeared on the 21st - five days later than last year but seven days earlier than the year before.  

                      Three Goldeneye including these stunning drakes are wintering pic @MLP

      It was a good month for ducks despite the largely balmy weather. Shoveler numbers fell from their October high but 78 were still around on the 11th although most had departed by the end of the month.  Single Wigeon were recorded on 4th and 13th with four on the 20th. Two drake and an immature Goldeneye are wintering on the reservoirs moving regularly between the north and south side. 

                    The Merganser showed well for those who braved the rain pic @AMP and (below) @ elliott81758817

       The unfortunate - for birders - correlation between bad weather and good birds at the Wetlands was shown again on the 6th when CF found an immature/female Red-breasted Merganser on Lockwood in a biblical downpour. It's the first record of this genuine London scarcity at the reservoirs since 2017 and only the fourth year it has been seen in the last decade. The same rainstorm also dropped a red-headed Goosander on No 1 island which - unlike its rarer counterpart which departed after just one day - stayed until the 19th largely on No 5.  

                          An approachable Goosander took a liking to No 5 reservoir pic @OwlTurbot

       By this time last year, an unprecedented 20 Great Egrets - including a flock of five - had been recorded at the Wetlands, raising hopes that they would follow Little Egrets in becoming regular visitors. But with no records by the end of October, it looked as if last year was a one-off until SO'D saw the first flying west over the reservoirs on the 13th. This was followed by a second on the 21st which, as if to make up for their absence, stayed into December. It often fed on the island on East Warwick and is only the second time the species had made more than a passing visit to the reservoirs.

              The first Great Egret of the year was - like most -  a fly-over pic @elliott81758817
       Marsh Harrier is just about an annual visitor over the Wetlands but this year had been a blank until MK saw one flying north from Walthamstow Marsh on the 25th. A Red Kite was seen on the 19th and a Buzzard on the 22nd and two adult Peregrines were seen regularly including, unusually, sitting on a tree together on the No 1 island. 

                                  A Marsh Harrier passing high over West Warwick  pic @MK

      Waders were very scarce this month with no Snipe or Green Sandpipers seen. It also looks as if this might be the first year since 2019/2020 with no wintering Common Sandpiper. Lapwing, however, passed through in good numbers with singles on 14th and 18th, three on the 12th, eight on the 13th & 19th and 49 including a flock of 45 west on the 30th. 

                        This adult Mediterranean Gull made a brief stop of Lockwood pic @Callahanbirder

      In contrast, November was surprisingly good for gulls with nine species recorded. The second record of Mediterranean Gull for the year was picked out by PL on the 10th with RE finding the second Caspian Gull the next day. His dedicated trawling through the gulls also turned up two Yellow-legged Gulls on the 17th.  SO'D picked up an adult Little Gull - usually a Spring bird at the Wetlands -  flying south towards Lockwood on the 20th. It fed over No 4 and East Warwick before continuing high south-west.        

                                           Caspian Gull loafing on Lockwood pic @wheresrhys           

      Temperatures in November were over 2C higher than normal which might help explain some remarkable late records. A Swallow arrived on the 11th and stayed for 10 days, usually feeding over Lockwood and High Maynard. Even later - and all the more surprising given there were none in October this year - was a Wheatear which appeared on the 30th on Lockwood and stayed into December. It seems to be the latest ever record at the reservoirs.       

                      Swallow (pic @OwlTurbot) and Wheatear (pic @LolBodini) were very late records

       Another sign of the unseasonal temperatures were two Blackcaps, which don't often winter at the Wetlands, on the 20th. The warm weather had the opposite impact on Fieldfare and Redwing with just one or two seen feeding around the reservoirs throughout the month,

                        A smart male Black Redstart appeared intermittently on Lockwood pic @Chris_Farthing

        Another migrant - more regular but very welcome - was the stunning male Black Redstart found by LB on Lockwood on the 21st which also showed well at the south end on the 24th & 25th. The only Skylark records were on the 13th & 30th and while November was a no-show by the hoped-for Brambling, it did provide another Lesser Redpoll on the 9th. 

DB @porthkillier 



Saturday, 19 November 2022

Reservoir Logs - October 2022


            After a blank Spring, Short-eared Owl finally made it to the Wetlands pic @LolBodini 

      A much better month - in terms of quality if not quantity - with six new species for the annual list including a flying visit by the first Yellowhammer for years. While passage was light overall, with summer migrants disappearing early and the weather too warm to encourage the arrival of winter birds, October saw most of the obvious gaps in the year list filled. Black-necked Grebe, Rock Pipit, Caspian Gull, Short-eared Owl and Ring Ousel all were finally recorded.   

                     This male Ring Ousel was as elusive as it was stunning pic @rudraksh9 

      Six additions were five more than last October and push the total to 135. This is still seven behind 2021, nine behind 2020 but four ahead of 2019. Pintail, Red-crested Pochard, Common Scoter, Great Egret and Brambling are perhaps the most obvious hopes to be added in the last two months of the year while Osprey and Sandwich Tern will have to wait until next Spring. 

      The stay of the two Barnacle Geese, along with the hybridcontinued until the 2nd before they departed. Shoveler numbers built to a healthy 145 on the 24th, the highest total for a couple of years. Two Wigeon were seen on the 20th with a single on the 22nd & 23rd. A Goldeneye spent the day on No 4 reservoir on the 24th while the first two Goosander of the autumn appeared on Lockwood on the 26th & 27th with a single still the next day.  

           The only Black-necked Grebe this year so far stayed for four days pic @EugeneDH_Bass

      The first Black-necked Grebe of the year - one of the glaring omissions from the annual list - was found by EDH on the 6th on No 4 and remained until the 9th. An adult Yellow-legged Gull unusually lingered around Lockwood from the 11th to 19th and perhaps the same made a brief visit on the 30th. The adult was joined by two immatures on the 15th. The same day also saw the first Caspian Gull of the year, fitting reward for RE for searching diligently through the gulls all year. Common Gulls began returning in small numbers with double figures counted for the first time since the Spring on the 28th.  

         This adult Yellow-legged Gull spent over a week around Lockwood pic @Chris_Farthing  

      As expected, October was poor for waders with just four species. Single Lapwing were seen on the 19th, 24th and 28th with two on the 20th. The moored raft next to the East Warwick island has ended hopes of seeing any Snipe feeding on the pool but one was seen dropping down on the 3rd. Common Sandpiper passage continued into October with singles on the 3rd, 5th and 7th and the last two on the 10th. There is usually a gap before any wintering birds arrive back in November. Green Sandpipers, which also winter up and down the flood relief channel to KGV, were in view on the 3rd and 11th. 

       Two Buzzards were seen on the 6th with single Red Kites on the 10th and 29th. A late Hobby flashed over on the 2nd. Another gap in the year list was filled when LB photographed a Short-eared Owl over the northern side on the 22nd.  

      Summer migrants seemed, for some reason, to be in a hurry to head south this year with no Wheatears or Swallows recorded this month. The last three House Martins were seen on the 5th and the last Reed Warbler on the 2nd. While Blackcaps are becoming much more regular winter presence in London gardens, they remain very much a summer visitor at the Wetlands so the one seen on the 26th might be the last until March. 

        With the exception of flocks of Wood Pigeons heading west, visible migration was also poor. Four Skylarks were seen on the 6th and a single on the 19th. The only day which saw good numbers of Redwing pass over was on the 19th when more than 450 were counted. Fieldfare passage was non-existent with the only six seen on the 31st. With the Autumn passing, it looked as if this was to be the first year since 2018 without any Ring Ousels seen until RC found a male and female on the side of Lockwood on the 29th. They spent the afternoon in the neighbouring allotments very occasionally showing for those with patience.   

             October is the best month for Rock Pipits with four being found pic @Chris_Farthing  

     October lived up to its reputation as the most reliable month for Rock Pipit. CF found the first of two on Lockwood on the 11th with two more singles on the 16th and 21st. Yellowhammer is a rare bird at the Wetlands although they do turn up slightly more regularly on Walthamstow Marsh. RE found one there on the 14th and CF fortunately arrived just in time to see it fly over West Warwick airspace and onto the reservoirs' year list. A Redpoll fed with the Goldfinches on the 16th, 17th and 25th while single Siskin made typically brief visits on the 16th and 31st. 

DB @porthkillier


Reservoir Logs - February 2023

                                                       Barnacle Geese were regular visitors pic @AMP       Highlight of the month - and of t...