Saturday, 8 May 2021

Reservoir Logs - April 21 round-up

   In a good month for Yellow Wagtail, this fine male was particularly showy pic @sjnewton

   April more than lived up to its reputation as the best birding month of the year at the Wetlands. There may have been no out-and-out rarity but four Little Terns - the first for four years - along with three Kittiwakes were good records for London let alone Walthamstow. The largely clear skies and north-east airflow also meant birds dropped in throughout the day so there was a chance of finding something no matter what time a visit. 

   With no access restrictions - unlike last April - coverage was excellent which helped produce a total of 105 species seen across the month. They included 25 new for the year - nine more than were added last year and one more than in 2019.  The additions take the year list to 120 which compares to 109 last year, 113 in 2019 and not far too behind the 126 of 2018. 

   Among other highlights in April were the first Garganey for 18 months, good numbers of Little Gulls, both Redstarts,  two Short-eared Owls and yet another Great Egret as well as high numbers of both Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears. In general, summer visitors seemed to arrive early and, even better, the numbers looking as if they will stay to breed seemed to be up on recent years.  
        The third White-front of the winter stayed for one day pic @IvorHewstone

   This winter had one last goose surprise when another White-front was discovered on No 5 on the 6th. The extent of the barring shows it was not the fugitive from Wanstead which spent January and February at the Wetlands. CF closed the biggest gap in the year list when he found a drake Wigeon on East Warwick on the 21st. Two Teal hung on to the last day of the month and a drake Shoveler was still around on the 29th.  
        The first Garganey since Sept 2019 pic @Chris_Farthing finally settled down....... 

 ...but this was a more typical view as it moved between reservoirs pic @Callahanbirding

   Garganey was not seen at all last year, perhaps partly because of Covid access restrictions last April. So the lovely drake found by DC on the 17th was much appreciated although its flighty behaviour tested fitness levels. Five Goldeneye stayed until the 13th with a single female remaining until the 19th - three days later than in 2019 and two weeks later than last year.  

       The Red-legged Partridge, a scarce bird here, gave many the run-around pic @OwlTurbot- 

   March's Red-legged Partridge continued to show intermittently until at least the 13th by which time it had mastered the knack of running through the rail tunnel to move between the Warwicks. CF picked up the fourth Great Egret of 2021 - unimaginable just a few years ago - flying north east on the 24th.

        The fourth Great Egret of the year was identifiable even at range pic@Chris_Farthing

   Single Red Kites were seen on 10th, 13th 15th & 19th with Buzzards on nine days and a maximum count of five on the 19th. PA had the first Hobby on the 27th - two days earlier than last year.    

      Little Ringed Plover were seen more regularly towards the month-end pic @OwlTurbot

     It wasn't a great month for waders with the clear skies giving little reason for birds to pause their migration north but, by the end, most of the expected species - except for Godwits - had been recorded. The first and only Oystercatcher of the year so far was seen on the 1st and the sole Lapwing of the month on the 12th. Little Ringed Plovers were late with the first on the 2nd - around two weeks behind the previous two years - with others seen on the 3rd, 13th with two on the 14th. A pair were seen intermittently at the end of the month on the north side, suggesting they may be trying to breed somewhere close to the Wetlands. 

      This Whimbrel stayed for two days on Walthamstow Marsh pic @samuel_ei_jones 

          but regularly flew to the Wetlands when the dogs got too close pic @OwlTurbot

   The first Whimbrel was found by QG from his flat balcony overlooking East Warwick on the 24th before going north. Another surprisingly tame bird settled on Walthamstow Marsh on the 28th and 29th but flew over the fence to the Wetlands occasionally when flushed. 

         A Common Snipe played hide and seek in the No 1 reed bed pic @OwlTurbot

    A single Snipe was seen occasionally in the No 1 reed-bed until mid-month with late migrants on the 28th and 30th.  Passage Green Sandpipers were seen almost daily from the 23rd with three on the 24th. Common Sandpiper numbers were low but built to five on the 26th and nine on the 30th. The first Common Redshank of the year was on the 12th while LB found a Greenshank on Lockwood on the 26th and the same - or perhaps a second - was on the south side in the evening. 

         One or perhaps two Greenshank graced the Wetlands on the 26th pic @sjnewton

   If waders were so-so, gulls and terns were remarkable. Kittiwake - at least until the last six months - is a real rarity at the Wetlands. But after two in the autumn, three were seen this month with an adult and 2cy bird being found by RE on the 7th. Both stayed until next day with the immature hanging around until the 13th. A second adult dropped onto Lockwood for a sleep briefly on the 8th (when the other adult was still being watched) before flying north.   

        These two Kittiwakes gave exceptional views during their stay pic @OwlTurbot....

The 2cy bird stayed for a week pic @Chris_Farthing

          while this lovely adult stayed for two days pic @sjnewton and below @OwlTurbot

        ....while the third record for the month spent just 10 minutes sleeping pic @porthkillier   

   For the third year running, the Wetlands hosted good numbers of Little Gull in the Spring. The first three were found on the 16th with another on the 22nd. They were followed by a remarkable 32 on the  24th. A 2cy bird on West Warwick was briefly joined by a flock of 26 - largely adults - before all departed high north. Another five were seen later high heading west. The last record was an adult with a pink flush which dropped in briefly on the 29th. 

         Immature Little Gull above @Chris_Farthing and adult below pic @OwlTurbot

      This flock of Little Gulls dropped in for five minutes before continuing pic @ AMP.......
                        The final lone adult even had a pink flush pic @IvorHewstone  
   The first Common Tern passed through on the 4th - two weeks ahead of the first last year but what hopefully are our breeding pairs arrived on the 19th. They were joined on the 23rd by four Arctic and two Little Terns found by AD mid-morning. They are the first Little Terns since 2017 and only the third record in the last decade. Amazingly, two more were found by PA on the 27th which stayed for about 20 minutes. For context, up to this month I had seen only one Little Tern at Walthamstow in 40 years of visiting only to see four in a week....  
   Common Terns arrived back mid-month and look as if they will stay to breed pic @OwlTurbot

                  Arctic Tern in the front with two Common Terns pic @OwlTurbot

         One of four Little Terns which visited the Wetlands this month pic @OwlTurbot

   A Short-eared Owl flew close-by SN on the 1st going north over Lockwood and a second gained height before drifting east on the 9th. The first Swift of the year was on the 23rd, ten days behind the earliest bird last year but two days ahead of 2019. Numbers built up quickly with 80 by the 26th and hundreds by the 28th. In a good year for Rooks, CF had four fly north on the 15th. 

       April is a good month for Short-eared Owls but they rarely come this close pic @sjnewton  

   Swallows passed north in small numbers throughout the month but around 50 were seen on the 28th and 30 next day as they fed low over the reservoirs in the gloom and strong northerly wind. The first House Martin was watched in a snow shower on the 5th with only one or two seen daily until the 29th when local birds seemed to arrive.  

 Sedge & Reed Warblers along with Common Whitethroats returned in good numbers pics AMP

    In general, arrival dates for warblers were early this year. After the first Willow Warbler in March,  small numbers continued to be seen - or more often heard - until the last few days of the month with eight on the 15th the highest daily total. An early Sedge Warbler was on the 2nd, well ahead of arrivals over the last three years. By the end of the month, singing birds were close to double figures, certainly more than the last two years. The first Reed Warbler was on the 7th on the No 1 reed bed which again was five days before 2020 and seven days before both 2019 & 2018. 

     There seemed to be more Whitethroats on territory than in recent years pic @rudraksh9        
   Common Whitethroat was first heard on the 5th, eight days ahead of last year with good numbers singing by the end of the month,. A Garden Warbler arrived on the 18th six days before the first record last year and over two weeks before the first in 2019.  The exception to early arrivals were Lesser Whitethroats with the first record on the 24th, ten days later than in 2020. By the end of the month, however, there seemed to be three to four birds in song across the reservoirs. 

     A Garden Warbler arrived mid-month but then promptly disappeared pic @sjnewton      
    A flighty male Ring Ousel was found by CF on the 27th but only allowed itself to be glimpsed twice. Fieldfare did linger with up to four around the reservoirs until the 16th with the final Redwing on the 2nd.  

    Common Redstart is just about annual in April but rarely as co-operative pic @sjnewton   

   A cracking male Common Redstart was found by CN on the 10th only, as often is the case at the Wetlands, to disappear. Fortunately, it or a second male was a lot more accommodating in the same general area two days later. The Black Redstart seen by RE on the 14th, however, didn't give anyone a second chance to get it on the annual list. It was a good month for Wheatear after the usual lull from the early birds in March. Three were seen on the 9th with records on 13 following days. There was a clear peak mid-month with seven on the 20th and eight next day.  

        Wheatears passed through in little groups throughout the month pic @porthkillier

   Yellow Wagtail numbers were also high after the first two were seen by GW on the 1st - a week earlier than the last three years. The next records did not come until the 9th and 13th but they were seen pretty well every day from the 21st and often showed well. There were seven on the 27th, eight next day but the peak count was a flock of 15 together on the ground on the 26th.   

          A flock of 15 Yellow Wagtails brightened up Lockwood pics (above and below) AMP
   Greenfinches seem to have made a real recovery with plenty of pairs around the Wetlands. Linnets, too, were more obvious than in recent years with pairs widely scattered around the reservoirs. 

              Linnets could often been seen feeding along the main path  pic @rudraksh9     

   Red-crested Pochard and Black-tailed Godwits are now the most obvious omissions from the annual list while it looks like we will have to wait until the autumn for our hoped-for Osprey and Black-necked Grebe. 

DB @porthkillier


Saturday, 17 April 2021

Reservoir Logs - March 2021 round-up

      Seeing a Woodcock at the Wetlands is hard enough but photographing it...pic @OwlTurbot

    Woodcock, Avocet and Rock Pipit were among the highlights of March which saw lockdown restrictions continue severely to limit access to the Wetlands for all but the last three days. The month saw the goose-fest continue with flocks of Brent, White-front and the first Barnacles as well an a exceptionally early Sand Martin. There was nothing completely unexpected but Pintail, Siskin, Blackcap, Red-legged Partridge, Wheatear, Swallow,  Willow Warbler and Rook were also added to the year list.  

  The 13 additions takes the total so far to 95, two above last year's figure (when restrictions were only introduced mid-March) and six above 2019. But to guard against complacency, 2021 still remains well behind the previous two years when 107 species were recorded. 

Brent Geese kindly doing a lap of Lockwood before departing pic @LolBodini....

....while another spent time between the reservoirs and playing fields pic @IvorHewstone 

     It was an exceptional month for geese at the Wetlands.  LB found 13 Brent Geese resting on Banbury on the 1st which flew over Lockwood before departing. It is the biggest flock anyone can remember. A more usual record was the single bird on No 5 found by DC through the fence on the 6th which stayed around until at least the 12th. It shared its time between the reservoirs and the nearby playing fields and was sometimes accompanied by the long-staying White-fronted Goose which was seen intermittently until at least the 16th. In an unprecedented winter for the species in London and the south-east, LB had 25 more White-fronts high over Lockwood on the 19th. 

                The pure(-ish) Barnacles are towards the front of this motley crew pic @ LolBodini     

   LB, whose loft window overlooks the north end of Lockwood, also found a 30-strong flock of small geese resting on the water on the 7th. Forensic examination of long-range photographs suggests that they were a mix of Canada, Barnacles and hybrids probably from a population on the Essex coast. But three of them looked pure enough to put Barnacle Goose on the reservoir list for the year. They make up for missing the four seen on Walthamstow Marsh on the 2nd.   

         A smart drake Scaup back on the familiar haunt of No 4 pic @Chris_Farthing.....

      ......... which hung around long enough for @OwlTurbot to take this stunning dusk shot

   In contrast, lack of access certainly had an impact on duck records with Wigeon still a striking omission from the year list. PL found the first Pintail with three on the 7th with a female staying until next day. When the Wetlands opened up fully, CF found an obliging drake Scaup on No 4 on the 30th which raised questions about how long it had been there and whether the resident winterer had returned. Up to five Goldeneye were still around into April while the odd Goosander continued to be seen until mid-month. 

        A drake Goosander making a typically flying visit to the Wetlands pic @OwlTurbot

   TR found a Red-legged Partridge, which are just about annual at the reservoirs, on the 25th in a period when there seemed to have been an influx - presumably from some rearing shed - into north London. During a session to ring young, 31 Grey Herons were found to be nesting on No 1 and No 2 islands, slightly down on the last two years. 

   February's Great Egret continued to make regular visits to Lockwood until at least the 5th while DW, just before he departed for Alderney for the year, had two flying over on the 27th. Two Spoonbills seen on Walthamstow Marsh early on the 4th seem to have departed west without crossing Wetlands' airspace. 

               Red Kites were recorded on at least seven days in March pic @OwlTurbot

   March is traditionally a good month for raptors and there were happily no restrictions at looking up at the sky. Single Red Kites were seen on at least seven days with three Common Buzzards on the 9th and singles on 19th, 27th and 30th.  With most of their favourite reservoirs out of bounds, waders were always likely to be under-recorded. The only Lapwing was seen on the 3rd but LB's loft again enabled him to see two Avocets flying north early on the 24th, ten days after he found the first one last year. 

   In a remarkable co-incidence, the first Woodcock was also found by the same observer two years running with PA photographing one on the 8th over the Maynards, 12 days before he saw last year's bird. The easing of restrictions from the 29th showed the Common Sandpiper had continued to winter out of sight on No 4 while a Snipe was still found in the No 1 reed-bed on the 30th. 

     The Common Sandpiper showed itself when lockdown restrictions eased pic @OwlTurbot 

   Early Spring is the best time to see Rook, a scarce bird at the reservoirs. Even so four records in a month is unusual. The first was seen on the 29th by PA with three individuals - or one doing interval training over the Wetlands - next day. Three Jackdaws on the 28th were more normal.  

  The main reason March is one of the favourite birding months is the return of the summer visitors. They were in a hurry to get here with the first Sand Martin of the year - and the first in London - seen by RT on the 3rd. Not only was it 13 days earlier than last year but may be the earliest record at the reservoirs since 1992. Another was seen on the 5th and 7th but it wasn't until the 25th that more than odd birds were noted with 90 going through on the 29th. Swallows, with two on the 29th, were also earlier than in 2020 when the first did not arrive until April. 

   The first Blackcap was heard on the late date of the 20th but by the 29th, eight were singing across the site. The 29th also saw the first Willow Warbler, again several days before last year, and 13 singing Chiffchaffs.      

      Wheatears were late to arrive but made up with good views and numbers pic AMP....

  ........with small parties of mainly males seen both north and south side pic@Callahanbirder

   Wheatears were, however, late this year which may be partly explained by some of their favourite areas being out of bounds. QG won this year's prize by finding the first on the 28th - 12 days later than last year - but they made up for their tardiness by arriving en masse next day. With large numbers seen across London, 11 were counted, a high total now for the reservoirs any time of the year.  The lifting of access restrictions also showed there were still a few winter thrushes around the reservoirs with two  Fieldfare and a Redwing seen on the 31st. 
           An early Rock Pipit was one of the star birds of the month pic @Chris_Farthing

   Early Spring or late Autumn are the best time for Rock Pipit at the reservoirs but in the last two years it has not been seen until October. CF broke the trend when he found one on Lockwood on the 18th. A second or perhaps a Water Pipit flew over on the 27th. For the first time in several years, no Brambling were recorded but the first Siskin of the year was seen by PL on the 14th.  

DB @porthkillier


Thursday, 11 March 2021

Reservoir Logs - February 2021 round-up

   Great White Egret, here with Little Egret, visited Lockwood from Tottenham Marsh pic  AMP

   Rarest bird of a month was undoubtedly Raven, only the second record in recent years.  But it was the Great White Egret on nearby Tottenham Marsh, which finally visited Lockwood, and the re-discovery of January's White-fronted Goose which attracted most attention. The month also saw the first Lesser Redpoll of the year along with the more expected Dunlin, Greenfinch, Jackdaw and Snipe

    The seven additions take the Wetlands' year list to 82 which is one more than last year and six more than in 2019 - remarkable again given that much of the Wetlands remained out-of-bounds for the entire month. The discovery of a Golden Plover resting on Tottenham Marsh and a dead Knot on Walthamstow Marsh during the week-long freezing spell from the 7th strongly suggests that, as last month, some species must have passed through the reservoirs unseen. The 2018 'Beast from the East', for example, saw seven species of wader along with Pintail and a flock of Wigeon on the first day alone.    

The Russian White-fronted Goose in what must be familiar conditions pic AMP

     The adult 
White-fronted Goose, seen in early January, was rediscovered by AMP on the 9th, presumably having been out-of-sight somewhere in the area.  It was seen on and off for the rest of the month around the north reservoirs or on No 5 through the fence at Coppermill Lane. 
      This fine drake was one of eight Goldeneye wintering at the Wetlands pic @ alex_aspden

      Eight Goldeneye and four Goosander were counted on the 11th during the all site survey which was the only time access to Nos 4 &5 and both Warwick reservoirs took place during the month. The survey also found 22 Teal, 77 Gadwall, 323 Tufted Duck and six Shelduck while nine Shoveler were seen on the 16th.  

      A normally skulking Water Rail  showing itself by swimming across the Lea pic @sjnewton
    Although the movement of Lapwings during the freezing spell did not compare to the many hundreds seen over nearby Wanstead, ten were seen resting on Lockwood on the 7th building to a peak of around 150 on, and over, the Wetlands on the 11th - with 40 going east on the 16th after the thaw. 

              Over 200 Lapwing were seen during the freezing spell pic @EugeneDH_Bass 

     A Dunlin  was found on the 11th on East Warwick during the survey which also showed the Common Sandpiper was still wintering on No 5. Ice in the past has seen good numbers of Common Snipe on the reservoirs. But with the most likely spots off-limits, it was only added to the year list on the 26th when one was spotted in the No 1 reed-bed. A 1W Caspian Gull was seen by DH on No 5 through the fence on the 1st. 

              Common Snipe giving itself up by feeding close to the path pic @ Chris_Farthing

   The confiding Great White Egret which took up residence on Tottenham Marsh from the 19th delighted birders if not the fast reducing local rat, vole or fish population. It was finally added to the reservoirs' list when seen by LB resting around Lockwood on the 21st to provide an excuse for these just off-site fantastic photographs. What was once a true rarity - seen only once in five years from 2010 - has now been recorded annually since 2015. The month, however, could have been even better if the White Stork spotted going west over Tottenham Hale on the 23rd by PL had been seen over the reservoirs. 

The Great White Egret enjoying the local wildlife on Tottenham Marsh  pics AMP

          The regular Spring movement of raptors began on the 26th when two Red Kites and a Common Buzzard took advantage of the good conditions. Like both Great White Egrets and White Stork, Raven records in London are increasing rapidly.. But while they have been seen nearby, the only recent record for the reservoirs was in 2016 until one was seen by OS over West Warwick on the 23rd. A pair were also seen on several occasions over Tottenham Marsh with one seen again over the reservoirs on the 27th.  Jackdaw is another species which seems to keep to a rota with the first on the 21st two days later than last year.  

       A  stunning photograph of a Kingfisher coughing up a fish ball pic @OwlTurbot

     The all-site survey found a Stonechat and 16 Meadow Pipits on the 11th with numbers probably boosted by the freezing conditions. Two Lesser Redpoll were seen by JP on the 14th while the first Greenfinch returned on the 18th.  
     Greenfinches, which seem to disappear for the winter began returning this month pic AMP

      DB @ porthkillier