Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bandits at ten o'clock

I was browsing through my new copy of Collins Bird Guide yesterday and came across the illustration of juvenile Long-tailed Tit, quite a distinct looking plumage, I didn’t remember seeing it depicted ever before, and if I’m honest I don’t recall seeing it in the field, it’s one of those birds that I often look through I am sorry to say. I actually quite like Long-tailed Tits and can still remember the excitement of seeing my first in Epping Forest; probably 40 years ago, however I digress. Today a small party of Long-tailed Tits was working its way along the Lea on the West side of the Lockwood and wouldn’t you know it some of them were juvenile and had a really cute bandit masked look, just as it showed in the book. I tried for a photo with no joy but later another party came through and I got a halfway decent shot (I am talking by my standards). When I got home I had a look in my other field guide, HBI, which I have had for some years and guess what, it was depicted in there too. Just shows that you should look at common birds, and field guides, more closely I suppose.

There were plenty of singing Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps too today but not really much else to write home about, though I did see a few newly fledged Little Egrets (‘Egrets.....I’ve had a few’ was going to be the alternative title to this post but I spared you.) and lots of young Grey Herons.

Just to stay in keeping with the blog theme of Wildlife at Walthamstow I will share a picture of a gorgeous Banded Demoiselle, surely the best of Walthamstow's Odanata.


Friday, 28 May 2010


It was fairly quiet over the reservoirs today, possibly to be expected at the end of May. But with yesterday’s crop of Red-footed Falcons, Bee-eaters, White-winged Black Terns, not to mention White-tailed Plover arriving in the U.K. there was a certain lightness in our steps as Lol and I sauntered around the Lockwood. The usual Peregrine was in the usual place but sadly nothing unusual was in any place.

A Sedge Warbler was doing a passable Common Tern impersonation, the Common Terns were doing....well, Common Tern. I spoke to Mark at Stoke Newington, telling him we were up at the Reservoirs and could he please let us know what was flying our way, only to find he was in South London! This was serious, there was nothing for it....we would have to find our own birds!

There was some fluffy young Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks being eyed protectively by their parents on the island on the East Warwick, either that or they were fluffy young Herring Gull chicks being eyed hungrily by the Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Song Thrush sang, Kingfishers called and flashed by, I paid little heed and stoically watched the sky for the inevitable big bird that was going to cruise through.

As I momentarily stopped my near constant sky vigil, Lol found an Osprey. I was pleased and not amused all at once. It should have been mine. However Lol had seen one earlier this Spring and so it was a nice patch grip back for me. It circled the filter beds for a bit but soon gained the attention of some Gulls and Crows and left, exit stage West, where it was picked up over Clapton by another birder shortly after. Lol informed me that I now owed him a Turtle Dove, a quid pro quo thing I was assured, I offered a Red Kite as I was not confident of ever seeing a Turtle Dove on Walthamstow again, well not for a long time anyway.

Forty minutes later I was able to discharge my debt as a Red Kite, with attached Crow, came in from the South and moved steadily off West. Birders are never satisfied and always want one last good bird so we searched (in vain as it turned out) for a Hobby and a Buzzard to try and make it a seven Raptor day at Walthamstow but none of the Sparrowhawks and Kestrels could be transformed and so we left it at that.


Saturday, 22 May 2010

Tell them about the Honey, mummy!

With 9 sightings of Honey Buzzard in the last 4 days in London I thought a vigil at the Southern end of the Lockwood was in order. One had no doubt flown over an hour before I arrived, as one had flew East over Ally Pally.

Did I see one......what do you think?

Jono texted me to say he had had 2 Common Buzzards over Wanstead, apparently a Common Buzzard had also flown over the Waterworks N.R a couple of hours earlier, I was getting hotter and still no Honey Buzzards, then I remembered I didn’t actually need it for the patch, other than for a year tick, but I did still need Marsh Harrier, so decided I would look for one of those instead.

Did I see one.....what do you think?


Saturday, 15 May 2010

3 Oystercatchers

No not the elusive birds but a team ( The London Wildlife Trust All-Stars) racing in TfL's Oystercatcher Bird Race 2010. The competition, organised by Natural England and Transport for London (TfL), has teams travel to different wildlife sites and green spaces within the Capital using only public transport, while spotting as many bird species as possible. Last years winning team scored heavily at Walthamstow, this year teams were permitted to travel further afield as Oystercards are now valid for overground trains. Obviously the lure of Rainham was great but it was nice to see that the team comprising John Archer, David Callahan and Mark Pearson chose to finish up with Walthamstow as their last site. We didn't disappoint them and came up with 8 additional ticks to bring their total to 90 for the day. (Peregrine, Lesser Whitethroat, Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail and Sparrowhawk,as you ask.)

Update: They won by four over the nearest rivals, Dave Lindo and the Beddington boys.....Walthamstow rocks. :-) Congratulations lads!

Full winners and losers accounts here:


Friday, 14 May 2010

Up to the highest height!

A lot of sky was watched today, and I am not talking satellite, there were plenty of big puffy clouds and it was a tad warmer than of late so I thought there could be Raptors on the cards, especially given some local sightings in recent days.

A quick check of the island on the East Warwick revealed no Raptors, probably to be expected, and no Waders, probably also to be expected really, but you never know. So up to the Lockwood and scan.... There were a few Little Egrets commuting backwards and forwards to the Heronry islands on the Southern section, scads of Cormorants doing the same. Swifts were down in numbers, perhaps just London breeding birds now.

Then out of nowhere a large, no doubt female, Peregrine glided (glid?) steadily South, I watched it for quite a while as I haven’t seen one on patch for a bit, I know Lol has been seeing one or two recently and yesterday he visited a suspected breeding site. There was evidence of Peregrine activity but no actual breeding; I think some arrangements might be made for the site to be made more attractive for 2011, unless, of course, the Peregrines sort their housing problems out on their own. I watched as the Peregrine circled round up high and then made her way back North till nearly directly overhead then, Hello!...A Red Kite was drifting West much higher up and in a very bright patch of cloud, if I had not been watching the Peregrine I would never have seen it. It was in wing moult with a few inner primaries or outer secondaries missing on both wings, it didn’t do much other than keep on going towards Alexandra Palace.

A welcome patch year tick, now expected annually, I am surprised it has taken me this long to get one. Later a Hobby and a Sparrowhawk were both seen over Walthamstow but I couldn’t get a Buzzard despite wishing one out of the distant Forest, nor did I see a Kestrel, perhaps they were even higher up?

I did try to get a photo through the bins but only managed sky, so you will have to look at this displaying Common Tern instead.


(On this date: 14 05 09 A ‘hepatic’ Cuckoo seen on the Waterworks N.R. this morning. On the Lockwood a summer plumaged Dunlin and a Ringed Plover, making 9 species of Wader on Walthamstow in two days. Also there a roosting m Garganey. Two Arctic Terns North and later 4 Sandwich Terns dropped in to the East Warwick bathed and then moved on. A Hobby over No. 5. On the Waterworks in the afternoon the Cetti’s Warbler singing quite extensively. 75 species on Walthamstow today.)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

...and another

Decided to pop in to the Lockwood res this evening on a hunch that the recent showers interspersed with sunny periods - and a backdrop of dramatic cloud formations & continued chilly Northerly breeze - might have tempted in another interesting avian visitor, and very glad I did.
Walking along the East bank, which appears to be favoured of late, there were a couple of Common Sands scurrying along at the water's edge, then further up with a few Starlings I noticed a small wader with bright orange-yellow legs which I thought might be another Ringed plover (it was distant at this point and facing away). Soon after heard a strangely familiar wader-like call and picked up on a splendid summer-plumaged TURNSTONE which took off from the bank, flew right past me and (fortunately) landed again a short distance away & continued to feed.
Cant remember the last record here for this species, but I doubt whether they're even seen annually. I let a few locals know, but it was only Paul that got down to join me, sacrificing his dinner in the process (that's dedication for you), and taking the accompanying record shot. This was a patch first for both of us, another welcome addition to the year list and my 110th species - only 8 below last year's tally...keep 'em coming!
Lol Bodini

Monday, 10 May 2010

Another wader pays a visit

Following on from Paul's last post, it was just a tad disappointing to have missed yesterday's Turtle Dove - which would've been a patch first for me and must at best be a once-a-year type species here (if that) - particularly as I had gotten up especially early yesterday morning to do some loft-watching over the res and had spent 2 hours up there, the only notable bird being a low flying Hobby directly over my house.
So a lunchtime text today from Dan Barrett (cheers Dan) about a Ringed Plover on the East bank of the Lockwood would be a welcome consolation prize - if I could get there before it departed.
Took me a couple of hours to get onto the res on my way to the tube station at Tottenham Hale, so only time for a brief visit. Still quite a chill in the air with a NE breeze, but fortunately the bird was still skulking in the SE corner, perfectly camouflaged & almost invisible without a 'scope against the bleached concrete of the exposed bank. No pics on this occasion (must get in the habit of taking the camera as often as poss, to at least get some record shots as PW has been doing).
Ringed Plover is also a very scarce annual visitor to the site, and only my 2nd here if memory serves...& still no LRPs on the Lockwood compared with the half dozen or more we had at this time last year! There's still time mind...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Double flush

This morning’s foray for Wadery goodness was met with drizzle and therefore a modicum of optimism, this soon dissolved however as a walk around the Lockwood revealed that Common Sandpipers were down from three to two, Greenshanks were totally absent and the only other Waders present were the on/off pair of Oystercatchers. Sometimes they are here, sometimes on the East Warwick, occasionally on No.5 but usually nowhere to be seen. Where else do they go? Will they ever breed?

All was not lost however as I inadvertently flushed a Turtle Dove from the grass bank at the North end of the Lockwood. I didn’t see it until it until it flew and when it did it just kept going in the direction of Higham’s Park till lost to view. Lol, who needs it for the patch, had been loft watching until just before this but decided to have some breakfast as I found out when I called to tell him of my good fortune. The only other birds of note were a couple of single flyover Yellow Wagtails.

I spotted Pete at the South end of the Lockwood as I was preparing to leave, we had a quick phone conversation and as he said it looked good for a Turnstone on the East Warwick I decided to give that a go rather than give up. Though if I am honest I don’t think I really expected to find one. One thing is for sure, if I didn’t look I certainly wouldn’t find one.

Needless to say there was no stone being turned when I traipsed round, but I inadvertently (is this becoming a habit?) flushed a group of 9 Yellow Wagtails out of the Reeds on the Western edge of the reservoir, they flew around for a bit and came down further up the bank, unusually most of them disappeared into the flowers and denser vegetated bit around the edge rather than parade around in front of me on the path. When I did get a decent look though, at least 4 of them were Blue-headed (or hybrid). The best picture is of the worst looking of them, probably a washed out female but a couple were quite smart males, though with perhaps a bit more white on the throat than they should have for pure flava. Can’t say I really know how much white is too much. They certainly didn’t have the pale Lavender head colouring of Channel Wagtail, so perhaps they were within acceptable limits of variation for pure Blue-headed.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

It's more than just a Hobby.....

It’s a Greenshank too!

I forced myself out in the less than Spring-like weather this afternoon in the hopes of a Wader or two on the reservoirs, there had been numerous Whimbrels and the like all over London this morning so expectations were slightly higher than the normal setting...low.

A Common Sandpiper on the Fish cage on No.5 was not totally unexpected and neither were another 3 on the Lockwood, the Greenshank further up the East bank was a welcome patch year tick as was the Hobby sitting on the West bank, brought down by a sharp shower. But that was it, no more Waders, expectations were stood back down to low.

A Yellow Wagtail bathing along the edge of the Lockwood was nice, the first seen on the deck this year. Sand Martins and Swifts were giving good views too in the inclement weather, in fact the sky was heaving with Swifts, it made me happy, and I don’t suppose the Hobby was complaining either.


Friday, 7 May 2010

A Murder of Crows

I was hoping for a patch year tick today so set off around the Pitch’n’Putt course, Walthamstow marsh and the Waterworks N.R looking for a Hobby, Turtle Dove, Whinchat, anything really, but it was not to be.

I started to consider what would be the headline bird for the blog title, would it be the Whitethroat singing 200m from my house (only house record is an autumn juvenile over 10 years ago), the small flock of Stock Doves in the same park, again a very difficult bird to get identifiable views from the house, or would it be the even bigger flock of Stock Doves, 56 in fact, feeding on the Horse field behind the riding stables in Lea Bridge Rd. This build up of numbers seems to be a Spring feature here. The photo is one I took a few days ago on the Reservoirs.

But then I had a what I thought was a singing Willow Warbler at the Waterworks which suddenly finished its song by going chiff-chaff, I listened again to make sure it wasn’t two birds but it did it quite a few times, then it started off with chiff-chaff and finished with Willow Warbler song. I have never, knowingly, heard one of these mixed singers before and assumed it must be a Willow Warbler, as the Willow bit was more convincing than the Chiffchaff bit (I never actually saw the bird in the dense Willow copse) but when I got home and listened to recordings on Xeno-Canto it would appear that it was probably a Chiffchaff with a divergent song. You live and you learn.

However a ferocious squawking drew my attention to a couple of Crows being attacked by a group of Magpies, on closer inspection I could see that the Crows had actually got a Magpie pinned down and were stabbing it to death. I had my headline. Bit like London gang warfare really, perhaps the Magpie had strayed into the wrong postcode, still as long as no one innocent suffers let them get on with it I say.


Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Easy as 123

A fairly early start this morning soon revealed that the weather was better and the birds worse. The only thing of note was this lone, displaying Blue-bill, it seems to have a damaged wing, maybe DEFRA can offer an explanation! On the Lockwood, not a single Wader today but an invisible Yellow Wagtail flew over calling, heading East.

I had a couple of interesting looking Terns fly North onto the Banbury, I scoped the reservoir and was able to identify obvious Common Terns at that range but felt I had better hold off from positively claiming the other two as Arctic.

Having met Lol over on the Lockwood we decided to go and have a look on Walthamstow marsh for the 3 Whinchats claimed there yesterday, after we had had a quick look on the East Warwick. It didn’t take long to see there was nothing doing on there so we jumped in the car and headed South, simultaneously our phones went off, it was Pete texting to say he had some Arctic Terns on the Banbury if we were interested. We were.

Three minutes later we were watching 4, possibly 6, Arctic Terns hawking around with a few of their commoner cousins. Very smart they were too. Kudos to Pete for picking them up and confirming them without a scope and for letting us know. Whilst up there he told us of his morning and that he had had a few singing Garden Warblers on Tottenham marsh, my ears pricked up when he said one of them was on the Wild marsh East, this is on the (my) patch, Tottenham marsh isn’t. We scooted over there and after a bit of a search turned one up, we also had a Pheasant call, the most reliable area on the patch for them.

Later in the afternoon I checked Walthamstow marsh for the Whinchats but didn’t find any. A Ring-necked Parakeet flew over the Ice-rink, they are slowly spreading across the Lea from Hackney, perhaps they don’t like crossing water, it seems to have held them back for years. I still enjoy seeing them, but I am sure I will feel differently about them in a few years time when we are beating them off with sticks. I have thrown in a photo of an Egyptian Goose I took the other day for no other reason than it is fairly good, by my standards, and it completes the set of introduced birds on the patch today.

Thinking about it I forgot Little Owl, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Canada there anything natural on Walthamstow! Oh yes, the Arctic Terns and Garden Warbler.

It felt like a quiet morning but you can’t really complain about two patch year ticks.

After Pete's Hobbies on Monday, Garden Warbler is patch bird no.123 for the year (and 107 for me).


(On this date: 05 05 06 A Red Kite, in wing moult, flew in from the East and thermalled for a while, seen from the house at about 15:45. My first for the house and the patch, now annual)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Mum's gone to Greenland

I was going to describe the weather as freezing but raw is a better word, I didn't think I would need gloves in May but my metal tripod helped me realize I did.

After the many and varied Waders and Terns passing through London yesterday I thought I would have an early start at Walthamstow and see what had stopped off. I think I should have been here yesterday! The signs looked good, virtually the first bird I saw was a summer-plumaged Dunlin, initially on one of the Tern rafts on the Lockwood, before it was flushed off by a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Unfortunately the rest of the reservoir only held 3 Common Sandpipers and all the Terns were decidedly Common.

There were upward of 500 Swifts around with a handful of Swallows and House Martins but none of them wanted to be anything more exotic.

A pair of Oystercatchers on the island on East Warwick looked very photogenic so I put my reading (photo taking) glasses on, got the camera out, switched it on, zoomed it up, lined it up with the scope.....and off they flew, I remembered why I usually don't bother.

It's funny how whenever people find out you are a birder, the first question they ask is, do you take photographs? I wonder if people ever ask photographers, do you watch birds?

There was a narrow miss when news came out from Alexandra Palace of their first patch record of Marsh Harrier, this is easily visible from the Lockwood, (the Palace not the Harrier) it was low and flew West, perhaps it had flown across Walthamstow earlier, if so it managed to avoid me, and Pete too.

Probably the best bird of the morning was a very orangey female Wheatear on the West bank of the Lockwood, no doubt on her way to Greenland. I bet she felt right at home this morning in Walthamstow. BRRRR!


(On this date: 03 05 97 A Goshawk, soaring over Seymour Park at lunchtime, moved off South. Nothing much at Walthamstow but the Heronry survey revealed a total of 102 nests.)