Sunday, 5 September 2021

Reservoir Logs - August 21 round-up

           The first ever Grasshopper Warbler to be seen at the Wetlands was caught pic@AMP

      After a dismal first half of the month, August sprang to life with a series of good birds including the first Grasshopper Warbler to be seen at the Wetlands. August also brought the fourth ever record of Cattle Egret along with the first Marsh Harrier and Curlew of 2021. Black Tern and Spotted Flycatchers closed the final gaps of the species seen every year over the last decade. 

 Black Tern pic @OwlTurbot and Spotted Flycatcher pic @rudraksh9 were both new for the year

    The second half of the month, also brought a steady trickle of migrants including Whinchat and Yellow Wagtails along with scarcer waders including a mass arrival of Greenshank. The six additions take the year list so far to 138, eight more than in 2020 and 12 more than in 2019. 

    In a great month for Greenshank, this roosting bird on No 3 showed best pic @rom_london 

    A touch of northerly on the 23rd saw early flocks of nine Wigeon and 35 Teal arrive at the reservoirs with five more Wigeon on the 27th and three on the 30th. The first Wigeon were not seen until mid-September last year. Shoveler numbers also built up quicker with around 50 by the month's end although they were more scattered across the site than recent autumns. An all-site count mid-month found 2564 Tufted Ducks had gathered at the Wetlands for their post-breeding moult which is a higher number than recent years. As the largely male flock was loafing, females were still raising young with perhaps as many as 40 pairs breeding this summer. 

      Both Shoveler (pic @IvorHewstone) and Wigeon arrived early pic @Chris_Farthing

    A drop in the water level saw a count of 55 Little Egrets feeding around the edges of the northern reservoirs on the 18th. The 29th was a red-letter day for rarer herons when first three Great Egrets went high north followed later by a flock of smaller herons which included at least one Cattle Egret. Examination of the photographs taken by CF at Woodberry of the same flock showed not just the adult  but also a black-billed juvenile. It is only the fourth time Cattle Egret has been recorded at the Wetlands but it is a sign of their UK expansion that three of these occurrences have been in the last two years. Another Great Egret - again seen first at Woodberry and again becoming commoner - landed briefly on Lockwood before continuing north. 

    Great Egret (pic @IvorHewstone) and Hobby were seen over Lockwood (pic @Rudraksh9) 

    The stand-out bird of prey was a female-type Marsh Harrier on the 26th which was seen by Earl and RT while they were fly-fishing. The only Red Kite was on the 23rd and the sole record of Buzzard - which have been perplexingly scarce this year - was on the 30th. Hobby flashed through on at least eight days while Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and particularly Peregrine were seen more regularly.

      Oystercatcher was one of 12 wader species seen and easily the noisiest pic @Rudraksh9 

     Twelve species of waders - one more than last year - were recorded in August. The only Oystercatcher was a very noisy individual on the 21st. Single Lapwing were seen on the 3rd & 23rd while the third and fourth Ringed Plovers of the year were on Lockwood on the 19th & 31st. Little Ringed Plover had been scarce over the summer but a juvenile took up residence on Lockwood on the 24th staying until the last day of the month when it was joined by two more. 

Little Ringed Plover top (pic @rom_london) and Ringed Plover (pic @porthkillier) on Lockwood


    Two Curlew rested on Lockwood on the 29th - one of three new species for the year recorded that day - before heading off north. Four Black-tailed Godwit went high in the opposite direction on the 28th. After three single Dunlin in July, the only record in August was on the last day of the month. The first Snipe of the autumn was seen on the 19th, two days later than last year. 

    Unusually approachable Redshank (pic AMP) and Common Sandpiper (pic @Chris_Farthing) 

      Common Sandpipers were seen throughout August with a maximum of ten on the 4th, around half the peak count in the last two years. Green Sandpipers were recorded on four days with two on the 3rd while Redshank were seen on the 3rd & 27th. 

                         A trio of Greenshank spent four days at the Wetlands pic @AMP

     The wader event of the month was an influx of Greenshank with perhaps as many as eight including a probable six on one day. The first was found late on 18th by QG with three next day which stayed around Lockwood until the 22nd. While they were still in the overflow channel on the 21st, two more were seen heading off east high with another confiding bird roosting on No 3 reservoir in the afternoon. A single bird was briefly on Lockwood on the 23rd with the final record one heading west on the 30th.  

      A juvenile Arctic Tern showing off its ID features on Low Maynard pic @IvorHewstone

   Another young Yellow-legged Gull was picked up by RE on the 19th. Common Terns, which stayed until the end of the month last year, left en masse much earlier with the 25-plus seen on the 13th dwindling to three on the 15th with none two days later. Their departure made it easier to pick out a juvenile Arctic Tern on the 24th feeding over the Maynards. Most Arctics seen at the reservoirs are adults in Spring.

           Black Tern is always appreciated and this juvenile showed well pic @OwlTurbot 

    CF picked up a juvenile Black Tern on West Warwick on the 16th which stayed around all day. The species has been seen every year over the last decade at the reservoirs but seems, for some reason, much scarcer and is always a crowd pleaser. One that got away was a probable small skua - either Arctic or Long-tailed - seen by PL going south early on the 22nd in good conditions for inland passage.  

    The exceptional year for Cuckoos continued with juveniles seen on the 17th and 25th. Large numbers of Swifts - with lingering local birds presumably boosted by migrants - could be seen right through August with a flock of 150 feeding over Banbury on the 31st. Both House and Sand Martins also stayed throughout August but Swallows were again scarce with just two on the 16th and four on the 24th. For the first time in several years, Kingfisher successfully bred on the reservoirs on the small No 5 island with the fledged young seen enjoying No 2 & 3 reservoirs.  

     A recently fledged Kingfisher proved breeding at the Wetlands pic@Chris_Farthing 

    Small numbers of Willow Warblers were seen and heard from mid-month with three being caught during the constant effort ringing sessions around the No 1 reed-bed on the 15th. The results of the regular  sessions continue to amaze with an astonishing 228 Reed Warblers rung by the end of the month. Although many will be migrants passing through, it is clear that the Wetlands has a far higher breeding population than anyone ever imagined. 

This Grasshopper Warbler was an unexpected addition to the year list pic @PaulHawky

     There was always the hope that something unusual would be caught and that was the case on the 29th when the first bird in the net before it had even been properly opened was a Grasshopper Warbler. While birds have been heard reeling from the reservoirs before - with the last record in May 2018 - this seems to be the first ever to be seen on the site. Sedge (10) and Garden Warblers (3) along with Lesser Whitethroats (3) have also been caught over the summer with one or two of all three species seen regularly in August. 

      Only three Spotted Flycatchers were seen but this bird at least performed pic @sjnewton

    It was a slightly disappointing month for Spotted Flycatcher with the first not seen until the 20th when LB and SN found different birds. The one in the copse by the Maynard entrance stayed next day but the only other record was on the 29th. But so far there has been no repeat of the Pied Flycatchers of the last two Augusts although one did spend a couple of days over the fence on Tottenham Marsh. Whinchat, another scarce autumn migrant, had a slightly better showing with records on the 17th, 19th and 27th with two on the 22nd. 

Wheatears were scarce with few multiple arrivals pic@AMP 

    Wheatears turned up in modest numbers with the first on the 3rd followed by two on the 12th and records then most days until the end of the month.The peak count was three from the 17th to 19th and on the 26th which is about average in recent years. Three Yellow Wagtails were also recorded on the 25th and 30th with single birds - often fly-overs - on at least four other days. The grass sadly was finally cut around Lockwood but enough was left to continue to attract Linnets with up to 20 seen in the first few days. 

Linnets enjoyed the longer vegetation around Lockwood and became less wary pic @rudraksh9

    September often vies with April as the best month of the year with nine new species added in 2020 so hopes are high. Red-crested Pochard is still the most obvious miss from the year list but it is also getting late for Osprey which has been seen in each of the last five years. 

DB @porthkillier

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Reservoir Logs - Summer 21 round-up


         Three Cuckoos including this juvenile is the best showing for years pic @sjnewton

    A mass arrival of Common Scoter was the highlight of June and July which also saw fly-overs by Spoonbill and Sandwich Tern along with the just about annual occurrence of Coal Tit. More predictable were the July first appearances for the year of Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow-legged Gull and Skylark The seven additions take the year list to 132 which is an impressive nine above last year's figure.  

June saw the biggest flock of Scoter at the Wetlands in recent times pic @Chris_Farthing

    The Godwits were one of a healthy eleven wader species recorded over the two months including the second Common Ringed Plover and Avocets of the year. The summer also saw several sightings  of Mediterranean Gull and Cuckoo as well as ringing records which showed birds travelling to the Wetlands from the Netherlands and Namibia.    

         One of the pair of Barnacle Geese which seemed to have tried to breed pic @AMP

    Barnacle Geese continued to be seen throughout June with a pair displaying breeding behaviour on the big No 5 island. But within a couple of days of the birds watched apparently swapping nest shifts on the 27th, both fed on the reservoir banks which suggests any breeding attempt failed. The pair just as quickly then left the Wetlands to end an unusual summer influx.    

    It was an even sadder story for Shelduck. None of the young from the three pairs which bred survived very long and all adults, unusually, departed by early July. This compares to five pairs successfully raising 21 young last year when some enjoying the Wetlands so much they stayed well into the autumn. 

  For the second summer in the last three, the Wetlands hosted a Scaup pic@Chris_Farthing

    A drake Scaup, the third record of the year, was found by CF on June 25th. Photographs led to debate over whether it might be a hybrid but those who saw it largely felt it was most likely a Scaup going into eclipse. It is the second year in the last three that a drake has turned up at the Wetlands in June.  It wandered the site until at least July 3rd and, given the huge number of moulting Tufted Duck in which to hide, might have stayed longer.  

This female-type Common Scoter spent five days at the Wetlands pic @rom_london 
    But it was a remarkable movement of Common Scoter which was the duck highlight of the summer. CF - again - earned his reward for visiting in a downpour on June 18th when he found a female on West Warwick. By the time, the rest of us had donned waterproofs to see the first Scoter of the year, he had found a flock of ten males on Lockwood. This is the biggest Scoter flock - part of a widespread movement across the south east - anyone can remember at the Wetlands. The drakes all departed that night but the female stayed until the 23rd. Other duck records included a drake Teal on June 7th and a Shoveler on the 15th  with eight on the 29th.    

        Two stunning summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes were seen pic @rom_london

    Black-necked Grebes gave the Wetlands a miss this Spring. So there was plenty of interest in the first discovered by CF on June 16th and the second - also a superb summer plumaged adult - found by RR on Lockwood on July 17th. Both were just one-day appearances. After a near-miss in the Spring, Spoonbill was also finally added to the Wetland's year list on June 4th when MK saw one fly from West Warwick over Walthamstow Marsh and back before presumably continuing north.   

    Two young were raised by the local Peregrines just off site and could be seen and heard on the Wetlands' pylons throughout July. Four Red Kites were seen together on June 3rd and there were singles on five other days. Hobby records were scarce compared to last year with birds seen only on three days in June and two in July. Two young Kestrels took up residence around the north side in July.    

       A  colour-ringed Oystercatcher turned out to be a visitor from Holland @AMP

    Eleven species of waders - one less than last year - were recorded in June and July. But they seemed to turn up earlier than usual perhaps because the bad weather in the Spring led to failed breeding. That was certainly the case with the Oystercatcher found on June 20th which photographs showed was colour-ringed. It was soon discovered that it had been rung as as an adult near Den Haag in 2018 and had still been in the Netherlands in April. Two very unseasonal Avocets - the second record of the year - were found on Lockwood by CF on June 10th. 

         Two Avocets rested all too briefly on the banks of Lockwood pic @Chris_Farthing 

    Lapwing are more expected summer visitors but there were more regular sightings this year. The first summer record was on June 14th & 15th, with two on the 23rd, 29th and July 19th with singles - perhaps the same young bird - on six other days in July. PR had the second Ringed Plover of the year fly over on an early morning ringing session on July 9th. Little Ringed Plover were scarcer than is often the case but there was one on June 16th & 18th and two on the 17th with the only July record three juveniles on July 8th. 


Five Black-tailed Godwits turned up on Lockwood pic (above) @sjnewton and @porthkillier      


    A Whimbrel flew over calling on July 27th while the biggest gap in the wader list was filled when five Black-tailed Godwits were found on Lockwood on July 10th - six days later than the first record last year. They included a flock of four which soon continued south but the fifth lone bird settled down to feed for much of the morning.A returning  Dunlin was also on Lockwood on July 11th with other equally tame summer-plumaged birds on the 25th & 31st.  

            The three Dunlin seen were all on Lockwood and all very tame pic @sjnewton

   The first Common Sandpiper returned on June 30th - seven days later than last year but exactly the same date as in 2019. They were then seen pretty much every day throughout July with a conservative peak count of 10 on the 23rd. Green Sandpipers were seen on July 18th & 27th with two on the 24th. Redshank, like Lapwing, were surprisingly common with two on June 15th & 17th and July 16th and singles on six other days. This compares to records on just five days last summer.   

                            Redshank were regular visitors in June and July pic @OwlTurbot    

    RE picked out a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull among the local Lesser black-backed and Herring young on Lockwood among on July 25th - 12 days later than the first last year. A near-adult Mediterranean Gull dropped into the thriving Black-headed Gull colony on June 25th and at least two more were seen on July 18th when there was a movement inland.  

         One of at least three Mediterranean Gulls seen in June and July pic @Chris_Farthing

    The first two Sandwich Terns of the year were seen by LB from his loft window flying north on July 24th. At least 17 Common Tern chicks hatched on Lockwood with fledged birds being fed by the parents on the reservoir banks into August. The astonishing migrations these birds will undertake was brought to life when a CF photograph of an adult allowed the partial reading of a ring. The numbers narrowed it down to one of three birds trapped in Namibia between 2004 and 2006. As it is over 5,000 miles from Walthamstow, it is likely to have flown 150,000 miles in migration since it was rung. 

  Adult Cuckoo (above) pic @IvorHewstone and juvenile (below) pic @sjnewton & @OwlTurbot


    This year has seen the best showing by Cuckoos for a long time with at least three more in June and July. An adult was seen on June 1st and June 5th before a tame juvenile put on a show on July 12th & 13th around the High Maynard entrance. A late adult gave more typically brief views on the south side on the 25th. For the first time in a couple of years, it looks as if Kingfishers have actually bred at the Wetlands with a pair flying into a nest hole on the small No 5 island in July. 

   Swifts continued to use the Wetlands as a feeding station with around 300 birds - almost certainly a mixture of migrants and late local birds - on the last day of July. The same is true of Sand Martins with lingering breeding birds - most of which seem to have left by mid-July - joined by visitors in a flock of around 100 feeding low over No 4 on the 30th. Coal Tit remains a very rare bird at the Wetlands and the two CF found on June 23rd may be the only record of the year. Skylarks regularly turn up in July with singles from the 9th to the 12th and another on the 27th.  

       This June Wheatear was either late going north or early coming south pic @Alex_Aspden

    Migration of smaller birds - probably because the bad weather in May delayed breeding - was later than last year when Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat and multiple returning Willow Warblers were all recorded in July. The first bright juvenile Willow Warbler was only seen on the 31st although there was an earlier adult on July 21st. A female Wheatear got the seasons all wrong when it turned up on Lockwood on June 17th and stayed around to the 21st. It presumably just got fed up waiting for the weather to improve on the breeding grounds and decided to head south., 

    The ringing sessions around the No 1 reed bed continue to astound with a staggering total by the end of July of 120 adult Reed Warblers now rung - many times the number of pairs that were thought to be summer residents. Juvenile Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were also caught on July 18th which suggests they may have bred at the Wetlands. Both species were increasingly seen from mid July while there were also plenty of young Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcaps around

    Family parties of Common Whitethroats could be seen across the Wetlands pic @rudraksh9

    The welcome decision by Thames Water to let the grass grow in June and July around the reservoir banks led to a riot of wild flowers. As well as many butterflies, Goldfinches and Linnets - with over 20 including family parties around Lockwood - enjoyed the unexpected feast.  

       Linnets brought their young to Lockwood to enjoy the seed feast pic @rudraksh9

    August should see the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year as well, if we are lucky, a passing Osprey while the regular visit by Red-crested Pochard is now overdue. 

DB @porthkillier

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Reservoir Logs - May 21 round-up

A tame Turnstone on Lockwood performed for all who braved the weather pic @Chris_Farthing

    May was remarkably cold but the unpleasant conditions may have helped extend migration further into the month than usual and force birds flying over to drop down. Stormy weather saw both Turnstone and Ringed Plover - both uncommon visitors - shelter on Lockwood. Cuckoo and Whinchat were also added to the year list while the northerly airflow helps explain a better than average passage of Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears

                  One of at least two superb Whinchats seen this month pic @OwlTurbot

    The newly started regular ringing sessions have already added to knowledge of the site's birdlife by revealing the incredible number of Reed Warblers passing through the small No 1 reed-bed. The four new additions take the year list to 124 which is 11 more than 2020's lockdown-affected total but also eight more than in 2019 although still behind the previous two years.  Red-crested Pochard - which can turn up any time - along with Black-tailed Godwit and Skylark which often are seen in July are the most obvious gaps in the year list

                Barnacle Goose looking uncharacteristically wary pic @Chris_Farthing

    2021 goose-fest continued with an unexpected influx of Barnacle Geese, which in recent years have usually been fly-overs or one-day birds at the reservoirs. The first was rather oddly on the big wooded island on No 5 on the 13th but, even more strangely, it was joined by four more on the 15th. There were then regular sightings until the end of the month. One very tame individual befriended family parties of Egyptian Geese around the north reservoirs. Another was seemingly keeping guard on No 5 which has led to speculation that it might have a partner on eggs nearby. It will have to go some to beat the Canada Goose pair who produced and raised 18 young - apparently the second year they have successfully look after  huge broods. 

     Ringed Plover (pic @Chris_Farthing) and Turnstone (pic AMP) sheltered on Lockwood

    Wader highlights of the month were a superb summer-plumaged Turnstone which sheltered on Lockwood in high winds on the 21st and a Ringed Plover - both found by CF - which turned up in almost the exact same spot and conditions on the 4th. Ringed Plover is annual but Turnstone was absent in two of the last four years. The Ringed Plover was accompanied by two Dunlin to form a rare mixed flock. A single Dunlin was also seen on the 8th. 

     Dunlin (pic @Chris_Farthing) and two with a Ringed Plover pic @porthkiller

    Unlike last year, Little Ringed Plover continued to be seen regularly around Lockwood with records from at least eight days. Oystercatcher, perhaps the birds whose usual breeding spot at Ponders End was flooded, were also frequent visitors - seen on seven days with a pair on the 11th and 17th. There was a good passage of Common Sandpipers with records almost daily until the 17th. There was a maximum count of 10 on the 5th with two late birds on the 23rd. The last record, just as in 2020, was on the 25th.   

   Little Ringed Plover (pic AMP) and Oystercatchers (pic Chris_Farthing) were seen regularly

    After the disaster of 2019 when no Common Terns bred at the reservoirs, it is great to report a strong recovery is underway. This year they abandoned the vegetated raft on East Warwick to the fast-expanding Black-headed Gull colony (which has risen from around a dozen pairs to about 60) and set up home instead on the similar raft on Lockwood. It looks as if 17 pairs - double last year's total - might be breeding on Lockwood with another optimistic pair on the tern rafts on West Warwick. Let's hope the recovery continues and the numbers once again reach the 40 pairs breeding as recently as 2010. The Commons attracted another Artic Tern found by RE on the 9th.  

                Just a section of the Common Tern colony on Lockwood pic AMP
    After a few years when Cuckoo was rare at the Wetlands, it seems happily to be becoming more regular with, as in 2020, birds recorded on four days. QC had the first sighting on the 13th flying north towards the Engine House. Another was seen around No 3 by LMSB on the 18th. The male seen on Tottenham Marsh was heard from Lockwood on the 24th and then presumably the same calling bird was around No 1 two days later. 

    The cold, windy weather was not good for raptor passage but a Buzzard was seen on the 18th. Peregrines nested just off site and are raising two young. If past experience is any guide, they will be a noisy presence around the Wetlands when fledged. Single Hobby were recorded on at least seven days while a pair of Sparrowhawks were often seen with prey going south towards Walthamstow Marsh.  

    A Swallow ended its migration as a meal for  the local Sparrowhawks pic@sjnewton

    Bad weather conditions both held back migration and kept flying insects low so the reservoirs were used as a major feeding station throughout the month. Swifts provided a fantastic spectacle with large numbers feeding low over the Wetlands. Small numbers of Swallows joined the local House and Sand Martins with two still being seen on the last two days of the month. Despite the poor weather, there seem to be more Sand Martins than in recent years feeding over the reservoirs which suggests breeding numbers are up. 

    Higher numbers of Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were singing pics @rudraksh9   

    The same seems true of breeding warblers with more Sedge Warblers and Common and Lesser Whitethroats singing around the site than in recent years. But regular ringing has shown how badly bird numbers can be underestimated. Educated guesses put the number of singing Reed Warblers in the small reed bed at the north end of No 1 at around six or seven. But so far this Spring an extraordinary 78 Reed Warblers have been rung. Some would clearly be late migrants just passing through but it seems certain there must be at least three or four times the breeding pairs than thought. Two Garden Warblers were singing on the 9th and a late Willow Warbler sang on 22nd. 

            The Whinchat on Lockwood teamed up with a late Wheatear pics AMP

     At least two lovely Whinchats graced the Wetlands with the first found by CF on Lockwood on the 1st and a second around East Warwick on the 5th & 6th. Wheatear passage continued strongly with birds regularly until the 13th with a peak count of five on the 9th. There was also a very late record on the 27th - 22 days later than the final record last year (when many of the reservoirs were out-of-bounds) but also 16 days later than in 2019. There was an even stronger showing from Yellow Wagtails with birds seen almost daily until the 13th with a maximum of seven on the 6th. The last record was on the 17th, two days earlier than in 2019.  

It has been an exceptional Spring for Yellow Wagtails pic @OwlTurbot

DB @porthkillier