Saturday, 13 November 2010

Owl Zat!

09:07; Roy W phoned from the Reservoirs, he was meeting up for a RSPB walk apparently.

“There’s a Short-eared Owl circling high over the Fishing Lodge car park, looks to be going South or South-east”

“Whaah!...That’s MY direction!...Thanks I’ll have a look from the back window”

09:10 a small flock of Starlings and 2 Carrion Crows found it before I did, but I shan’t complain #103 for the house and a patch year tick to boot (in fact the first on patch for 21 years, I must get out more)

I arranged to meet Lol later for a walk around the marsh, we were after Brambling, Firecrest, Redpoll, Jack Snipe, anything really that would be a patch year tick for either of us. There is just 7 weeks of the year left and both of us are on the best year list we have ever recorded on patch, not difficult for me as the first year list I kept was last year (115 in 2009 against 123 this year so far), I really have little intention of making this a regular thing so it would be nice to get as big a year list as I can before I give it up. Don’t quote this if I end up doing one in 2011.

The marsh was pretty uneventful really; we picked up a few Goldcrests but not the hoped for Firecrest. Only a few Chaffinches and no Bramblings, though Roy had one earlier on the Reservoirs, just Goldfinches in the Alders and no Redpolls, but if you don’t buy the ticket you will never win the lottery.

We didn’t check the centre of the marsh for Stonechat, which as far as we can tell no one has seen on the patch for over 18 months, on the basis that if they do reappear this winter they will be around for months and we will have plenty of time to catch up with them.

We did check the filter beds which I must admit I don’t do as often as I should. It is quite a good spot in late afternoon, for pre-roost Gulls en route to the Chingford reservoirs. We had a nice adult Yellow-legged and half a dozen Great Black-backed Gulls amongst the mostly Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. In its day it has produced Mediterranean, Glaucous and Caspian Gulls. There was a big flock of Pied Wagtails with 1 Meadow Pipit and a few Linnets nearby too. Everything took flight a couple of times but it took us a while to find the culprit, a Sparrowhawk.

A Common Sandpiper was on the South edge of No.5 and the (now too long-staying for comfort) Barnacle Goose.

After that we braved the horrendous Saturday traffic and scooted round to the riding stables and Waterworks N.R. I was wondering if enough leaves had dropped to be in with a chance of seeing Little Owl, the answer was yes, just. You really had to stand in the right spot, after finding one well camouflaged bird I moved a few feet to let Lol have the right spot and saw, another previously invisible individual, just feet from the first one. It will get easier over the next few weeks.

There was nothing on the Horse field as a Mushroom picker had just picked his way across it so we moved on to the Waterworks where there was nothing due to a bunch of screaming children having just marauded through. I thought ‘where are their parents?’ at which point they hove into view, I said I would glare at them but Lol decided education was the best policy and remonstrated with them, quite politely, hopefully they will get the message. Disturbance and noise is a real pain on the marsh. There is the constant drone from traffic, planes, helicopters, factories and other users of the park; it really does make observing wildlife difficult especially given the small scale of the habitat available. Curmudgeonly me?

At the Waterworks we bumped into the new warden of some of the lower Lea Valley sites, Andrew, he seemed like a nice guy and keen to learn of the birdlife of the area. He casually mentioned that someone had seen Nuthatch recently on the reserve, Lol did a double-take and I nearly fell off my bench.....the ‘Holy Grail’ on our patch. I explained the rarity of Nuthatch on the patch (you probably have to kick them off your boots a mile and a half away in the forest) I informed him I had never seen one here in 40 years, he said I didn’t look old enough....I told you he seemed a nice guy. Now we have a new target to put on the radar.

On this day: 13 11 90 1 Common Sandpiper, a pair of Goldeneye and a few Long-tailed Tits at Walthamstow.