Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Reservoir logs - January 2021 round-up

                   The first Caspian Gull for almost four years pic @wheresrhys       

   2021 got off to a great start, just as happened last New Year's Day, with the first Caspian Gull since 2017 and a returning drake Scaup. They were followed within the next few days by a Brent Goose - incredibly on exactly the same date as last year's only record - and an early Mediterranean Gull

   But by the middle of the month, the third Covid lockdown meant tight restrictions on visiting the Wetlands were again in place which severely curtailed coverage. Given the shorter opening hours and, more importantly, that most of the site was totally out-of-bounds to all but 'exercising' anglers, it is remarkable that 74 species were seen in January. That's just one less than the monthly total for 2020 and three more than in 2019. The species added to the year list from the wider patch, however, strongly suggests that additional species went through un-recorded. 

                Wanstead's wintering White-front visited the Wetlands pic @OwlTurbot 

    After November's first White-fronted Goose for three years, January saw a second bird arrive on the 3rd, found by QG. Forensic examination of the amount of barring meant it could be identified not just as different to last year's bird but, most likely, the same as had set up home in Wanstead. Brent Goose is barely annual at the Wetlands so the single bird on East Warwick identified and photographed by 12-year-old LMSB on the 6th was a brilliant find. It moved to Lockwood before departing.

                  A tame Brent Goose enjoying East Warwick pic @wheresrhys

   Even rarer - although not considered a wild species in the UK - was the Black Swan found next day which stayed until at least the 12th. They are native to Australia but small numbers have escaped from wildfowl collections. This is the first seen at the Wetlands since 2008. 

It might not be wild but the Black Swan caused excitement pic @OwlTurbot & @sjnewton

   Last month was the first December for six years that the drake Scaup has not returned to No 4 reservoir. So the discovery by CF of a drake on High Maynard on the 1st led to hopes that the Wetlands would again host a wintering bird. Sadly it disappeared overnight so the evidence is unclear whether it was 'Cyril' making a nostalgic trip home or just another drake prompted by the cold weather to pass through. Up to seven Goldeneye were seen across the site with one or two Goosanders visiting  Lockwood and High Maynard.   

The Wetlands again hosted - if briefly - a drake Scaup pic Chris_Farthing

Goldeneye pic @OwlTurbot and drake Goosander below @sjnewton

     A Lapwing was seen on the 3rd with three on the 7th. The only other waders were wintering  Common and Green Sandpiper which both made the year list on the 1st. Gulls put up a better showing. The 1W Caspian Gull found by RE was a good start to the year and fitting reward for his persistence in examining gulls. It seems to be the first since March 2017. Mediterranean Gull, given the large number of gulls at the Wetlands, is oddly scarce so the discovery of a winter adult by CF on the 11th was an welcome early addition to the year list. 

  Caspian Gull in flight and Mediterranean Gull (below) with Black-head  pics @Chris_Farthing

    Ringed birds give an insight into how far some of the visitors to the Wetlands travel. The Black-headed whose ring CF managed to read on East Warwick in late December turned out to be the first sighting of a bird rung as a nestling at Kretuonas Lake in eastern Lithuania in June 2015 - a journey of 1800kms. 

Fieldfare enjoying the remaining berries pic @OwlTurbot

      An early Red Kite was found by MM on the 11th. At least four Stonechats were seen before access to their favourite areas was stopped. The 5th saw 70 Redwing over No 1 with small numbers of Fieldfare and Meadow Pipits also recorded early in the month. 

DB @porthkillier


Monday, 4 January 2021

Reservoir Logs - December 2020 round-up

     This smart Golden Plover was the final addition to the year list  pic @olistephenson

   December, often a lacklustre monthcarried on the good birding of the year with the first Golden Plover of 2020 as well as continued appearances of White-fronted Goose and Yellow-browed Warbler. Firecrest and yet another Great Egret were also recorded along with good numbers of Lapwing and Green Sandpipers

   This final addition to the year list takes it to a record 146 which, given the heavy restrictions on access in the Spring, is remarkable. In 2019 only 133 species were seen while 143 were counted in both 2018 and 2017. The only regulars missed were Garganey, which could easily have slipped through unseen when parts of the Wetlands were out-of-bounds in Spring, and Barnacle Goose although the White-front was a more than adequate replacement.  

      The White-front continued to put on a good show for its delighted admirers pic @ AMP

          ............ and seemed to get more approachable the longer it stayed pic @sjnewton
   The Russian White-fronted Goose continued its welcome stay at the reservoirs until the 3rd before moving to Walthamstow Marsh. But it returned - presumably when disturbed - on at least the 16th & 19th and was seen to be heading this way on other occasions perhaps to roost. Shelduck numbers  slowly built up with seven on the 17th. 

   A Wigeon was seen on the 4th. Goldeneye numbers increased slowly to six by end of the year with up to four Goosander seen as well. There was sadly, however, no sign of the regular drake Scaup which had returned to No 4 in late November or early December for the last six winters. 

          Among the usually flighty Goosander was this obliging drake pic @Chris_Farthing
  Wader of the month and perhaps year was the amazingly tame Golden Plover found by OS on High Maynard. It is the first at the Wetlands since one flying over in the gloom in 2017 and the first on the ground anyone can remember. November's pulse of Lapwings  continued early in the month with 14 on the 1st, two on East Warwick island on the 7th and a single next day. 

          It has been a very good autumn for Lapwing at the Wetlands pic @Chris_Farthing

  The wintering Common Sandpiper was seen regularly on Nos 4 & 5 while the very high water levels in the overflow channel increased sightings of Green Sandpipers throughout the month with a maximum of five together on the 9th.  The fourth Great Egret of the year - a once rare species being seen with increasingly regularity across London - was found by DW on the 4th. A Buzzard on the 1st got a frosty welcome from the local crows.

    This Buzzard's Wetland visit was not the promised peaceful experience pic @EugeneDH_Bass

   Another Coal Tit sighting on the 7th makes this the best year in recent times for this once-rare visitor to the reservoirs. Much more excitement was generated, however, by the continued presence of the Wetlands' first Yellow-browed Warbler which was seen regularly along the Lea up to the 7th. It was again recorded on the 14th & 17th by when it was spending more time on the other side of Tottenham Marsh where it was being seen occasionally to the end of the year. As often happens, one scarce bird leads to the discovery of another with DC hearing a Firecrest on the 1st as he waited to re-connect with the Yellow-browed.  

                Only a few Fieldfare have so far stopped to enjoy the berries pic @porthkillier

  A last Skylark of the year was seen on the 14th and more Meadow Pipits than in recent years are wintering. But very small numbers of wintering thrushes fed on the reservoirs although there was a movement of 18 Fieldfare and 25 Redwing on the 15th. In contrast, it continues to be an excellent winter for Stonechat with at least five counted on the 11th.  

         Two of five or more Stonechats which graced the Wetlands in December pic @sjnewton

DB @ porthkillier.  



Friday, 4 December 2020

Reservoir Logs - November round-up

 Stunning shot of the Wetlands' first and usually elusive Yellow-browed Warbler pic @OwlTurbot

   November lived up to its reputation as a month when while numbers of birds and species can be  low, it can produce some very good records. To widespread delight, the Yellow-browed Warbler was re-found and eventually stayed faithful enough to a small area to enable it to be added to patch lists. November also saw a second Kittiwake of the year along with Woodcock, Rock Pipit and two Black Redstarts but looked until the last day as if it would be the first month without adding to the annual list. That changed when a White-fronted Goose - the first since 2017 - was found and showed wonderfully well. It takes the year list to a remarkable 145 - more than was seen in each of the last three years. 
    The first White-fronted Goose since 2017 forgot it was supposed to be wary  pic @OwlTurbot                                                                                                                  
       The Russian White-fronted Goose was found by RE around Lockwood early on a very foggy morning and was the first of a remarkable influx which saw birds turning up on parks and playing fields across London. It is thought cold weather forced a movement from Europe with the fog disorientating birds so they landed on the first green space they saw. It is the first at the reservoirs since a one-day bird in March 2017 which apparently associated with Greylags. This bird teamed up instead with Canada Geese and spent the day around Lockwood, gaining courage from the tameness of its new friends.   

          Goldeneye were late returning but four at least were back by month's end pic AMP 

    The long-staying young Shelduck finally departed its No 3 home in early November with the first pair of adults returning after the autumn at the coast on the 26th - later than both last year (8th) and 2018 (21st). It continues to be a good autumn for Wigeon with single birds on the 19th & 26th and four on the 28th. The first wintering Goldeneye turned up on the 3rd with at least four by the end of the month. Goosander were right on schedule with the first on the 17th - two days earlier than last year - and one or two making regular visits from further up the valley towards the end of the month. A Black-necked Grebe re-appeared on Lockwood on the 3rd. 

   Waders put in a better showing than in October, particularly Lapwing with records on nine days with a peak count of nine going south on the 9th. Four Dunlin flew round Lockwood before going east on the 28th while the second Woodcock of the year was seen by PR & TR on the 5th. What may be the same wintering Common Sandpiper returned to No 5 on the 2nd, just one day later than last year. Green Sandpipers were also more regularly seen with singles on the 20th, 27th & 29th with two on the 28th. 

        The second Kittiwake of the year was sadly an injured adult pic @Callahanbirder
   After DC found the first Kittiwake for three years last month, he amazingly found a second - this time an adult - on the 5th on the side of Lockwood. Sadly it was not in a good state with a smashed bill and, though taken into care, died overnight. The only other gull of note was a Yellow-legged on the 27th with a couple of other probables during the month. Buzzards were seen over the Wetlands on the 4th & 5th but what was more unusual was the one that landed, to the consternation of the local crows, on the No 3 island on the 8th.  
   Coal Tit continued their long-anticipated  move from rarity to scarcity status with another on the 4th. Only one Skylark was recorded last November but this year they were seen on at least four days with 12 over on the 5th and six on the 7th.  There was a late Blackcap on the 1st but the star warbler was very much the Yellow-browed which DC - who is on a very good run - re-found and finally saw on the 19th and again on the 27th before it settled down from the 29th into December in the willows along the Lea.  

        A few Fieldfare enjoyed the berry bushes at the Wetlands this month pic @sjnewton

      Redwing were scarce this month with four on the 8th the highest count but Fieldfare, in the reverse of October, were commoner with a maximum daily total of 42 over on the 5th and small numbers feeding at the Wetlands itself. The 5th & 7th saw seven Stonechats again recorded with three still being seen towards the end of the month. There was a better showing from Meadow Pipits than in recent years with birds both passing over and feeding at the Wetlands in small numbers.

                 In a good year for Black Redstart, two were seen this month pic AMP

    There were two more records of Black Redstart - a bird which often turns up only once a year with TR finding one around High Maynard on the 11th and another on the main path south of the Engine House on the 23rd. It has also been a good autumn for Rock Pipit with anotherperhaps the fourth, seen by LB on the 3rd while Siskins kept up their excellent showing with singles on the 1st & 5th and two on the 7th. 

DB @ Porthkillier

Friday, 13 November 2020

Reservoir Logs - October round-up

One of three Scoter recorded in October pic @Chris_Farthing

     Another good month with the highlight being the long-awaited and long-overdue first Yellow-browed Warbler for the reservoirs even if it rather spoilt the historic occasion by keeping resolutely out of sight. October also brought two more excellent additions to the year list in Kittiwake and Crossbill - both extremely rare - as well the more regular Rock Pipit and Short-eared Owl. There were also  several records of fly-over Siskins and Redpoll which, like Crossbill, were seen in unusual numbers in London this autumn as well as late dates for summer migrants. The five additions take the annual total so far to 144 which is not only 13 above last year's figure but also 2018 & 2017's totals. 

          A drake Red-crested Pochard made a typically brief appearance pic @OwlTurbot    

     Ducks continued their good autumn showing. The young Shelduck spent the entire month lounging around the southern end of No 3. Individual Wigeon remained from the September influx until the 17th with ten recorded on the 14th. The second Red-crested Pochard of the year was a smart drake on the 5th. News came through of the origin of another Tufted Duck with a nasal saddle found by CF at the end of September. The saddle does not seem to cause any problems as the drake is at least seven years old having been first caught at Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu near Nantes in western France in November 2013. With a peak count of 1197 Tufted Ducks in early October, it was not short of company... 

        A second French Tufted Duck choose the Wetlands for its moult pic @Chris_Farthing     

     The first Goldeneye of the autumn was a young female-type on the 17th which only stayed until the next day. Our regular birds had still not arrived by the end of the month. Common Scoter is not even annual at the reservoirs with blank years in five of the last ten so two separate records in one month is exceptional. The first were a pair seen by GJ on the 17th arriving from the north on Lockwood before departing south 20 minutes later while CF found a female on West Warwick two days later.  

                     A pair of Scoter departing after a brief rest on Lockwood pic @Chris_Farthing.
     September's two Black-necked Grebes remained on Lockwood until at least the 15th with one being seen up to the 19th. Water Rails were heard and occasionally seen throughout the month across the reservoirs. 

        With the Woolley hide shut, seeing Water Raid is far harder this winter pic@OwlTurbot
      October was, as usual, a poor month for waders with just five species. They included four  Lapwing on the 3rd and another on the 16th & 17th while the only Dunlin on the 18th narrowly escaped a hunting Peregrine.  Small numbers of Snipe were seen while Common Sandpipers were recorded in ones or twos until the 10th. High water levels in the overflow channel again meant Green Sandpipers, too, were scarce with records only on the 3rd & 12th. 

Common Snipe were regularly feeding on the reservoir banks pic @sjnewton

   The Wetlands are, for good reason, rarely considered a sea-bird hotspot. But DC earned his reward for braving torrential rain and gale-force winds on the 3rd when a young Kittiwake - the first for at least three years - went north over Lockwood. This was followed, to his amazement, soon after by the second Gannet of the year going south. Different Yellow-legged Gulls were found on 12th and 15th.  There was more proof that Great Egret are getting commoner when the third record of the year was seen by CF going south very early on the 26th. 

        The third Great Egret of the year flew south with two Little Egrets pic @Chris_Farthing

   Birds of prey, apart from the regular Peregrines and Sparrowhawks and more occasional Kestrel, were restricted to a Buzzard on the 13th. But LB plugged one of the gaps on the year list when he saw a Short-eared Owl over Lockwood on the 23rd. There was no repeat of last year's mass Jackdaw migration except for one flock of around 50 on the 12th.  Coal Tit, while still bewilderingly rare at the Wetlands, appears to be another species getting easier to see with two on the 18th and another on the 26th. Two Skylarks were also seen on flying over on the 18th with a third on the 28th and two more on the 31st. 

   After being scarce throughout the Spring and early Autumn, there was a spate of Swallow records with six on the 2nd, two on the 3rd & 5th and the last on the 12th - seven days earlier than the final sighting in 2019. The last Sand Martin was seen on the 2nd while as many as 60 House Martin were still feeding over the reservoirs on the 7th when most seemed to depart. A very tardy individual was seen on the 28th, two weeks later than the last record in 2019.  

    A late Sedge Warbler was seen on the 1st and an even later Willow Warbler on the 10th. But the warbler of the month - and the year - was a Yellow-browed Warbler which DC heard calling several times just across the Lea in the Ferry Boat Inn car-park. Despite searching thoroughly, it stayed out of sight and presumably vanished with the accompanying tit flock into the Paddock scrub. As Yellow-browed has now been recorded across London, it was inevitable one would eventually turn up at the reservoirs but it just a shame it did not hang around. 

    Redwing were few in number this month but always a treat to see perched pic @OwlTurbot 

    In some Octobers, a westerly passage of winter thrushes as well as Wood Pigeons, Starlings and finches can be a feature of early mornings but not this year. The highest counts of Redwing were 70 on the 12th and 30 on the 15th while Fieldfare were even scarcer. Compared to last year, when 270 were counted on one day, Fieldfare numbers did not reach double figures although the first six on the 12th were five days earlier. 

     This Whinchat stayed eight days later than the 2019's last record  pic @EugeneDH_Bass   
   Stonechats kept up their good showing throughout the month - with highest count of six on the 7th -  as did Whinchat with a late record from the 6th to the 10th. Three Wheatears were also seen on the 6th & 7th with the last one  - earlier than usual - on the 10th. 

                Up to six Stonechats could be seen on the reservoirs this month pic AMP 

         Two of the three Rock Pipits seen during throughout the month pics @Chris-Farthing


    The Wetlands often has to wait until October for the first Rock Pipit of the year. This month there could have been as many as three. The first was found by RE on the 1st which was presumably the same bird seen on the 3rd. Another was found by CF on 14th with records until the 17th while a third was photographed by RS on the 27th. It was also a good month for scarce finches not just at the Wetlands but across London. The highlight was eight Crossbills - a species only recorded on the wider patch in four of the last ten years - seen flying low over No 4 by RE on the 9th. Lesser Redpoll were also seen on four dates with six on the 24th and 27th and eight on 31st while single Siskin were seen on several days with small numbers overflying on the 10th. The list was completed by a Brambling found by AMP on 18th. 

           One of a surprisingly high number of Redpoll seen this month pic @sjnewton

   With so many species already recorded, it is going to be hard work to add more to the year list. But the reservoirs are still waiting on our annual visit from Barnacle Goose. 

       DB @porthkillier                                                 


Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Reservoir Logs - September round-up

     Whinchats - among the smartest of British birds - performed well this month pic @sjnewton

   September kept up the excellent run of recent months with nine species added to the year list including the first Gannet since 2012 and the first Tawny Owl in recent memory. The new additions also included three ducks - Pintail, Mandarin and Red-crested Pochard - as well as a male Ring Ouzel along with fly-over Ringed Plover, Redpoll and Siskin

              Gale-force winds dropped a juvenile Gannet onto Lockwood pic @wheresrhys

    September also saw the second Great Egret of the year, two obliging Black-necked Grebes, an influx of Wigeon and a trickle of Whinchat, Spotted Flycatchers and Yellow Wagtails. The additions take the year list so far to a remarkable 139 - eight more than at the end of October in 2019 and the same total at the end of September as the Wetlands' stellar 2018. It might have been even better if the two Cranes which flew south east from Tyttenhanger to Wanstead and then onto Rainham on the 27th - a route which must have put them close to the reservoirs - had been picked up. 

      A smart Pintail began to reveal itself as a male as the month went on @pic @OwlTurbot

    It was a good month for ducks at the reservoirs. A young Shelduck stayed throughout, preferring the shelter of No 1 reservoir to the North Sea mud-flats. Shoveler numbers peaked at 116 on the 16th, slightly higher than last year's maximum total of 110..The easterly airflow mid-month saw a surprise influx of Wigeon with the first recorded on the 16th, nine next day and at least twelve on the 19th and 20th with birds seen regularly through the rest month. For comparison, none were seen in September  last year.  

        A flock of nine Wigeon was a high number for the Wetlands pic  @Callahanbirder

     A smart Pintail was found by TR on the 2nd on Lockwood with it or another seen on No 1 on the 20th and again on East Warwick on the 24th and 28th. The longer it stayed, the clearer it became that it was a male. London has a large naturalised population of both Mandarin and Red-crested Pochard but, despite the seemingly good habitat, they rarely visit the reservoirs. A duck found by RE hiding on the southern island of High Maynard on the 22nd was, after careful study of photographs, confirmed as a juvenile Mandarin as he suspected. As usual for the species, it soon slipped away unnoticed.  

     A young Mandarin made a typically brief appearance on High Maynard pic @wheresrhys

   The eclipse Red-crested Pochard  found by DC on East Warwick on the 2nd was the first of the year and a month earlier than the first in 2019. Tufted Ducks remained in good numbers with a count of 1218 mid-month. But it is getting now very late for Garganey which may be one of the unexpected misses of 2020 while the Wetlands has yet to have a visit this year by Barnacle Geese. 

           A tame Black-necked Grebe drew plenty of admirers to Lockwood pic @OwlTurbot.....

    ....and was later joined by a second bird until the end of the month pic @Chris_Farthing
         The second record of Black-necked Grebe for the year was found on the 18th on Lockwood and was joined by another on the 25th with both performing well until the end of the month. It was June 2012 when a Gannet - an adult - last turned up at the reservoirs. This time it was a juvenile seen by RE  landing on Lockwood in strong NW winds on the 27th. As it headed south, it collided with power lines but fortunately seemed none the worse as it changed direction and was tracked over KGV and then Hertfordshire. While watching from his loft on the 7th, LB picked up another Great Egret heading north over Lockwood. 

    After two good months for waders, September was poor with just five species recorded. The highlight was a Ringed Plover LB heard over No 5 on the 11th with the only Oystercatcher also a heard-only record the same day. Single Snipe were seen on the 18th, 19th and 29th with three on the 27th. Common Sandpipers were seen until the end of the month with four on the 21st the highest count while three Green Sandpipers were seen on the 20th and two next day.  

 A IY Mediterranean Gull over Lockwood was third of the year pic @Chris_Farthing 

     The first Water Rail of the autumn was heard on the 20th with another found dead on the main road on the same day. Yellow-legged Gulls were seen on the 20th and 27th while a IY Mediterranean Gull was found by PL over the overflow channel and later over Lockwood. Common Terns lingered on with last record of a family of four on the late date of the 9th.

    A Red Kite was recorded on the 22nd with single Buzzards on 5th, 13th, 20th and 21st and 2 on the 10th. Hobby continued to be frequent visitors to the reservoirs with records from at least eight days right up to the 29th with two on the 7th. Last year, there were only two records for the month and just one in 2018. DC was rewarded for an early start on the reservoirs on the 27th when he heard a Tawny Owl hooting from the nearby Paddock. Although it is a species which occurs nearby and must hunt over the reservoirs, this seems to be the first heard or seen from the Wetlands in recent years. 

           Spotted Flycatchers were enjoyed on five days this month pic @OwlTurbot

   The final Swifts of the year were three on the 11th, departing three days earlier than last year. The last Sand Martin was seen on the 25th with a few House Martins, as usual, remaining until the end of the month. Last year's autumn round up commented that ''worryingly low' numbers of Swallows had been seen on passage with a peak count of only 38. This month the total number seen was far below 38 although other sites in the capital don't seem to have seen such a decline. The highest day total was a paltry six  on the 2nd & 20th with the last bird of the month, on a bitingly cold day, on the 27th. 

 It is always much more difficult to be certain of final rather than first dates for summer visitors. But the Sedge Warbler on the 29th was definitely later than last year's 16th as was Common Whitethroat on the 23rd rather than the 10th. The last Lesser Whitethroat of September was seen on the 26th and Reed Warbler on the 22nd but both can turn up in October as the Lesser Whitethroat did last year. Passage of Willow Warblers petered out mid-month with four recorded on the 15th.   

      A male Ring Ousel stopped just long enough for @IvorHewstone to grab these images

    The first Redwing of the autumn were on the early date of the 27th when they were seen across London with seven more next day. Ring Ouzels are usually Spring visitors at the Wetlands so the male which fed briefly on berries early on the 17th before flying onto Tottenham Marsh closed a gap on the year list.   

                                  Whinchats are always photogenic ..........pic AMP

   Two Spotted Flycatchers were seen on the 1st with singles on the 4th & 5th, 7th, 12th and 23rd. It continued to be a good autumn for Whinchat with two on the 10th, four on the 15th and the last on the 16th. The first Stonechats of the autumn were two on the 14th with a peak count of eight on the 28th during a major movement across London. The highest daily total of Wheatear, however, was just two on the 21st compared to three last year with singles seen until the 26th including at least one likely Greenland race bird. 

                            ................... as are Wheatears pic AMP

     Yellow Wagtails were few in number with single birds - almost all fly-overs - on the 1st,15th, 18th, 21st and 27th. The first Meadow Pipit of the autumn were two on the the 4th with passage birds seen either resting or passing over regularly in relatively smallish numbers until the end of the month. 

   It has been a good month for Siskins moving across London and the Wetlands - far from the best place to catch visible migration - did not entirely miss out.  The first record of the year were six seen by PL on the 13th, with three on the 15th, one on the 20th and six more on the 22nd and one on the 26th. On the 22nd, too, NK picked out two Lesser Redpoll - another finch seen migrating in good numbers elsewhere in London but which remains a very scarce visitor to the reservoirs.   

DB @porthkillier