Wednesday, 28 December 2011

If You Have Been....

All posts backwards from here are atom restored posts from the previous incarnation of the present blog (previously called 'Walthamstow Birding' - the pics seem to have been lost though).

....Thanks for Reading.

Especial thanks to Mark Pearson who set the blog up and encouraged us/me to run it. Thanks to the other (somewhat occasional, it must be said, but nevertheless much appreciated) contributors and photographers, who made this a more rounded out experience. Thanks to the Followers and those who have posted links elsewhere and to the celebrity endorsers (thanks for sharing your feelings too)

A special mention too for the hardworking patchers who have found and shared their Birds. Last, but by no means least, thanks to the readers, many of whom have offered help and encouragement over the months.

I have no doubt that the blog will one day rise again, I will do my best to get it adopted by the Country Park people when they move in, unless of course they have their own, or perhaps a new generation of Birders will take it on when the place is gentrified.

Finally a message to our sponsors, where were you?


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Listing to One Side

Followers of the blog will have noticed the cumulative patch year list which previously adorned the Right hand side of the page; it grew steadily, if erratically through the year. The grand sum of 90 was reached before the Winter was out and a single Summer migrant was recorded. We got to 100 before the end of March but, once the passage migrants were all in it took the last six months of the year to add just 16 species to bring the total to 148.

Last year with slightly less eyes on the patch and a good deal less hours spent we reached 149, it was a good year. So 150 will probably be reached one year but it will be down to someone else to keep count.

Personally I managed 128, slightly short of my best effort, 130 in 2010, despite a great deal more effort being expended. My game plan will be vastly different next year and I expect my yearlist will be somewhat smaller, hopefully though, if anyone should be kind enough to let me know about them, I will add a couple more patch ticks. This year Marsh Harrier and White-fronted Goose were added, Kittiwake or Ring-necked Duck would be nice for 2012 though in truth I will be pretty happy with whatever comes my way.

So that is it, time to set the year list to one side (I’ll stick it at the end of the blog entry for posterity; for comparison with last year see 31st December 2010 page) if anything does get added before the weekend I will update but I suspect, like me, most locals have run out of enthusiasm for this year and might well not visit the old place before January 1st.

It is funny what’s in a date, today no one would glance twice at a Cormorant (though I have noticed that many have been in breeding plumage for a couple of weeks now) but come January 1stthey will be eagerly ticked off. It always used to be House Sparrows that were used as the exemplar of this phenomenon but of course they are so rare now that they always get a second look.

A quiet day in for me today, the only sightings worthy of note was a prolonged Dog-fight between a Crow and a Sparrowhawk variously taking turns in being the aggressor and defender (still not a shadow of the scrap I watched yesterday between a Peregrine with prey and a Rough-legged Buzzard, I suspect the latter had been robbed by the former and was not in a mood to surrender its lunch without a fight, needless to say this was not at Walthamstow but only an hours’ drive away and I did see a few Hen Harriers, a Marsh Harrier, a couple of Common Buzzards and even found a second Rough-legged Buzzard not to mention all the other stuff....Twitching, you’ve got to love it!) and a Ring-necked Parakeet perched in a Willow outside my back window; it thereby gets itself off the house ‘flyover’ list and onto the ‘seen on the deck’ list, to think up till a couple of weeks ago it was merely on the ‘heard only’ list...Listing, you’ve got to love it!

I also spotted this book at home today but found it strangely disappointing, if not downright misleading!

 Walthamstow 2011 Year List

148.Black-necked Grebe, 147.Brambling, 146.Merlin, 145.Golden Plover, 144.Knot, 143.Little Gull, 142.Snow Bunting, 141.Lapland Bunting, 140.White-fronted Goose, 139.Water Pipit, 138.Black Redstart, 137.Great Northern Diver, 136.Crossbill, 135.Sandwich Tern, 134.Spotted Flycatcher, 133.Redstart, 132.Turtle Dove, 131.Red-crested Pochard, 130.Gannet, 129.Cuckoo, 128.Oystercatcher, 127.Ringed Plover, 126.Black Tern, 125.House Martin, 124a.White Wagtail, 124.Whinchat, 123.Turnstone, 122.Arctic Tern, 121.Hobby, 120.Whimbrel, 119.Grasshopper Warbler, 118.Swift, 117.Garden Warbler, 116.Greenshank, 115.Goshawk, 114.Mandarin , 113.Red-legged Partridge, 112.Reed Warbler, 111.Yellow Wagtail, 110.Lesser Whitethroat, 109.Whitethroat, 108.Little Ringed Plover, 107.Common Tern, 106.Marsh Harrier, 105.Short-eared Owl, 104.Osprey, 103.Sedge Warbler, 102.Willow Warbler, 101.Swallow, 100.Red Kite, 99.Stonechat, 98.Bar-tailed Godwit, 97.Rock Pipit (Scandinavian), 96.Buzzard, 95.Common Scoter, 94.Lesser Redpoll, 93.Sand Martin, 92.Blackcap, 91.Wheatear, 90.Cetti's Warbler, 89.Waxwing, 88.Mediterranean Gull, 87.Dunlin, 86.Snipe, 85.Little Owl, 84.Woodcock, 83.Eider, 82.Yellow-legged Gull, 81.Barnacle Goose, 80.Red-breasted Merganser, 79.Scaup, 78.Peregrine, 77.Black-tailed Godwit, 76.Lapwing, 75.Sparrowhawk, 74.Ring-necked Parakeet, 73.Siskin, 72.Curlew, 71.Redshank, 70.Skylark, 69.Reed Bunting, 68.Bullfinch, 67.Linnet, 66.Goldfinch, 65.Greenfinch, 64.Chaffinch, 63.Meadow Pipit, 62.Pied Wagtail, 61.Grey Wagtail, 60.House Sparrow, 59.Dunnock, 58.Robin, 57.Mistle Thrush, 56.Redwing, 55.Song Thrush, 54.Fieldfare, 53.Blackbird, 52.Starling, 51.Wren, 50.Chiffchaff, 49.Long-tailed Tit, 48.Great Tit, 47.Blue Tit, 46.Goldcrest, 45.Carrion Crow, 44.Jackdaw, 43.Jay, 42.Magpie, 41.Great Spotted Woodpecker, 40.Green Woodpecker, 39.Kingfisher, 38.Collared Dove, 37.Woodpigeon, 36.Stock Dove, 35.Rock Dove, 34.Herring Gull, 33.Lesser Black-backed Gull, 32.Common Gull, 31.Black-headed Gull, 30.Green Sandpiper, 29.Common Sandpiper, 28.Coot, 27.Moorhen, 26.Water Rail, 25.Kestrel, 24.Great Crested Grebe, 23.Little Grebe, 22.Grey Heron, 21.Little Egret, 20.Cormorant, 19.Pheasant, 18.Ruddy Duck, 17.Goosander, 16.Smew, 15.Goldeneye, 14.Tufted Duck, 13.Pochard, 12.Shoveler, 11.Pintail, 10.Mallard, 9.Teal, 8.Gadwall, 7.Wigeon, 6.Shelduck, 5.Egyptian Goose, 4.Canada Goose, 3.Greylag Goose, 2.Great Black-backed Gull, 1.Mute Swan.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sanity Clause

I have just finished reading this month’s Birdwatch magazine, soon to fall victim to budget cuts I fear, mine that is not theirs; which had an interesting, and balanced, article by Andy Stoddart, extolling the virtue of doing a local patch. He mentions that there are many ways to enjoy Birding, something the mono-focussed twitcher bashing brigade on Bird Forum would do well to recognize. I really don’t understand why they feel the need to post on the Rare Bird thread; do they join Philately Forums and run down Stamp Collectors?

Any hoo, I appreciated only too well what Andy said about most patches producing little in the way of glamorous rarities and how this can be remedied with a quick fix of twitching. After this year’s abysmal personal year list, (only one year in the last 30 was lower) I will definitely be indulging in some therapeutic twitching in 2012  Birds notwithstanding. The perfect balance of character building, grounded patch work combined with the occasional twitch should keep (make?) me sane.

This afternoon I had to have a camera shoved up my nose (don’t bother googling You Tube it’s not on there) which meant I had a bit of time to do the Southern end of the patch. The footpath to nowhere is taking shape in the South-east corner of Marsh Lane fields, there were quite a lot of Birds along the previously hard to access Dagenham Brook but I suspect they will be soon driven away if the footpath gets much traffic.

I was concentrating on the scrubby edges of the patch today with Bullfinch and Redpolls in mind; naturally that’s where they stayed, in mind. As I approached the top field I heard the yapping of a yappy Dog, it and its owner and child had walked along the whole length of scrubby bushes, I didn’t bother! I headed round the field and decided to look at the roosting Gulls on the Football pitches, the Dog family changed course and headed for me, I doubled back and outflanked them at which point they outsmarted me and headed straight for the Gulls....D’oh. I thought I could beat them to it but they cleverly sent the Dog on ahead and he flushed the lot, just to make sure they stayed away they all walked over to where they had settled....

Time to give up and check the Lea by the Golf Course. There were quite a few Duck loafing including 20+ Teal and a few Gadwall. One of the Teal had neither a vertical nor horizontal White flank bar; I was just thinking what it should be called....No-winged Teal? When it flew off...perhaps just Winged Teal. I don’t know what made me check the Owl Tree, habit? You’ll never guess what I saw...told you you’d never guess, the Little Owl was in there, well a bit of its wing was. Given how it filled the hole the other day and how much room there clearly is in there, such that it can get really tucked away, I’m thinking there must have been two of them in there before. Still pretty hard to see though. Follow directions as before but see photo for actual hole.

A Kingfisher called from the Lea but must have flown in the opposite direction. Near to the Red Bridge 2-3 Goldcrests were loosely associating with some Long-tailed Tits but unusually no Chiffchaffs in what is normally a good spot for them.

On the Waterworks a showy Water Rail in bed 17 toyed with me, giving me enough time to get glasses, bins and cameraphone lined up before disappearing and then doing the same all over again a couple of minutes later.

A few months ago I promised a picture of the finished sculpture in the Olympic Park which is prominently visible from much of the patch, conveniently they seem to have finished it just before the blogs demise, I say ‘seem’ as it’s hard to tell really, at least we won’t have to put up with it for too long, it must be a honeypot for metal thieves. Not the best photo but I could have given you nostrils.

Nothing much else in the Waterworks, no Snipe or Green Sandpipers though both have been seen recently and no Bullfinches or Redpolls, again both have been seen nearby in the last couple of weeks. Winter officially starts tomorrow but somehow I don’t think we are going to notice, we have virtually no Winter specialities around. Looks like the blog is not the only thing going out with a fizzle.

On this date: 21 12 1989 At Walthamstow the Red-necked Grebe was on No.4 reservoir and a Common Sandpiper was on the Lockwood. On the Marsh a Long-tailed Tit and a Stonechat, possibly a Chiffchaff heard in the distance.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

BLOGOFF (nearly)

An (the) adult Mediterranean Gull was seen again this morning flying South-east over my house, which means it has been seen more often here than anywhere else on the patch, unless of course we have more than one Bird locally. I still think it is probably the Wanstead Bird but what do I know.

The nights are drawing in; thank goodness it’s only 4 days till the shortest day. But that also means it’s only 14 days till the end of the blog, (unless someone else wants to carry it on? And if they do I would like to know where they were for the last two years?) or at least my blogging. It is nearly three years since Mark Pearson set the thing up, though it never got used until March 2010. It has been an interesting experiment in compiling it and I hope it proves to be useful to new local Birders. The site guide is complete from top to bottom, well actually from bottom to top, and should give first time visitors an idea of what to expect and what the layout of the site looks like.

The weekly (or often more frequent) journal entries should give an idea of the ebb and flow of Birds on the patch, at least for the last 22 months. The highs and, mostly, lows of patch work are recorded for posterity. The year lists are remarkably similar for the last two years, I guess it’s not too surprising how predictable most of the species are, though it also gives one a rough idea of some of the more exciting visitors to occur and, of course, just how rare rarities are.

I will leave all the blog entries and year lists intact for future generations of Walthamstow Birders, you never know, once the place is turned into a Country Park, the habitat is vastly improved; it starts to attract scores of regular Birders, loads of rarities start getting found and Petrol hits £2/litre someone may want to resurrect the thing.

Meanwhile, in case you get withdrawal symptoms; a handy cut out and keep guide to blogging Walthamstow Birding style:

1)   A play on words with the title never goes amiss.

2)   A bit of dithering as to whether to bother visiting the patch.

3)   A bit more dithering as to which bit of the patch to check, the North reservoirs, South reservoirs or marsh.

4)   A moan about picking the wrong one in retrospect.

5)   Some speculation/wishful thinking as to what might be found (this can be made to look more scientific by checking other local sites and websites for current occurrences on the migration front.)

6)   At this point inject a bit of nostalgia of how it used to be in the good old days.

7)   Probably best to insert some blurry photo about now to break up the dry text.

8)   Probably best to insert an apology about now for the blurry photo.

9)   Now a description of the visit itself, this can be long and rambling or more concise according to taste, yours of course, not the poor readers.

10)  Some sort of conclusion, possibly tying all the disparate elements of the blog entry together, is usually best left to the end.

11)  Another dose of nostalgia, if available, preferably gripping readers     off with something really good that was seen aeons ago.

And there you have it. Simples.

Maybe a couple of blog entries left till the end of the year, I might even follow the template.

On this date: 17 12 1996 The Dartford Warbler soon seen on Walthamstow Marsh in loose association with 3 Stonechats, also 2 Chiffchaffs nearby.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

And we are still suffering the fallout....

Apparently in 894, a force of Danes sailed up the River Lea to Hertford, and the following year they built a fortified camp in the higher reaches of the Lea, about 32 km north of London.

(Dirty) Old Man River

For the second time this week the patch makes BBC local news, though not sure either story puts us in a good light. Looking on the bright side, maybe the pollution will kill off the Shark/Crocodile/Alien Creature that lies below.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Site #9 Banbury reservoir & the Wild Marsh

We have reached the top of the patch, North of the Lockwood reservoir is the Wild Marsh East, sometimes viewed as part of Tottenham marshes it is actually firmly in Essex and therefore part of the Walthamstow patch. Formerly a grazing field it has hosted such delights as Yellowhammer and Great Grey Shrike and when waterlogged Redshank, now it is a bit more manicured and has much more extensively wooded edges. It still has its specialities though and is the best area on patch for Garden Warbler, Bullfinch and Firecrest, the last two still quite rare. This year it held a summering Grasshopper Warbler and Pheasants are frequently heard, and occasionally seen on here. Access is from Sinnott Rd and Sandpiper Close E17 or from Tottenham marshes via a footbridge over the Lea.

To the East are some allotments and a new housing estate, previously the site of breeding Grey Partridges, sadly now very unlikely to reoccur on patch. Pheasants are often seen here and it was also the site of the Dusky Warbler of 2010 which also got alongside the overflow channel which runs North. The channel is a reliable site for Green Sandpipers and occasionally other Waders. Further North the channel becomes deeper and sometimes holds Goosander in Winter, though these tend to be mobile getting anywhere between the Southern reservoirs and right up to Chingford.

The Banbury is the Northernmost of the Walthamstow complex, the William Girling and King George V being North of the North Circular and therefore in Chingford. Access is nowadays restricted to keyholding WEBS counters but much of the reservoir can be seen from Banbury Rd. Anything large should be seen with patience. Previous scarcities include Common Scoter, Sabine’s Gull, Brent Goose, Little Tern etc. in fact this is the most favoured reservoir of the group for Sea Duck and other Sea Birds.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Cinch You've Been Gone

Today was meant to be the triumphant reveal, as I said last blog: “Now we know where it sleeps it should be a cinch whenever we want to see a Little Owl”. Lol wanted to see a Little Owl.

We walked across the Golf course, I pointed out the Tree.

 “See that dead stump, see those Woodpecker holes, just behind and down there’s a horizontal branch, there’s the hole it’s.......”

Lol was very understanding and even suggested that we check all the other Trees along the River bank, we did with much the same result.

By the Friends Bridge a wintering Chiffchaff put in an appearance but stayed resolutely out of a nearby Tit flock. The marsh was decidedly Bird less; a few Meadow Pipits were all we could muster. On the back paddock were three Mistle Thrushes a Song Thrush and some Blackbirds, proper Winter Thrushes were conspicuous by their absence, though I did see a handful of Fieldfares this morning over Leytonstone.

Face was slightly saved by seeing the more regular Little Owl at the Southern end of the paddock.

We met Jamie P on the Waterworks N.R. he told us that he too had not seen the Golf course Owl a few days ago....did I hear someone say cinch?

There were precious few Birds in any of the beds, no Snipe, Green Sandpipers or Water Rail and the Pigs have gone too (fattened up for the festivities maybe? Will they ever be seen again?). The only things of note were a couple more Chiffchaffs, some Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Ducks, one of the latter was sitting still on the first bed and virtually glowing in the low sunlight, I couldn’t resist a picture, The Duck though got fed up with my fiddling about and decided to go into a diving frenzy, hence the Shoveler photo, it stood still.

Lol, who had confused the terms naturalist and naturist today, needed to warm up so we burned precious light at the Cafe with a Coffee. Suitably thawed we hatched a plan to check the Gulls on the filter beds down Coppermill Lane.

There were plenty of Gulls and we gave those close enough a reasonable grilling, Lol turned his attention to the No.5 reservoir behind, which I had given a cursory glance a few minutes earlier, and immediately pronounced that he had a small black and white Grebe. This was good news as either would be an addition to the cumulative patch year list. It proved to be a Black-necked Grebe.

As keen blogwatchers will appreciate this is species No.148 for the patch this year, at the end of last year I set a few targets, one was to get to 100 species before the end of March which we did, another was to get a total of 150 species for the year and another to get a new species for the Walthamstow list. We’ve got 21 days left....should be a cinch.

On this date: 10 12 90 The Mediterranean Gull still present on the filter beds at Walthamstow also a 1st winter male Smew on the High Maynard and a Common Sandpiper on the Lockwood.


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Owls of Delight

The decision before me today, having been on my feet all morning was, sit at home and do Jack, which would probably have led to me sampling the bottle of Jack (Daniels) in the kitchen way too early in the day, or get on the patch. No contest. I still went on the patch though!

Marsh Lane fields were fairly Birdy, though nothing of any great consequence, I was hoping for scarce Passerines today given the ongoing mildness of the Winter, relatively speaking of course. (I still haven’t put the heating on at home, obviously we can no longer fill the car up, eat AND be warm, something had to go, mind you the natives are not restless yet so it must still be ok.) Perhaps the problem now is it is too warm and we need that cold snap to push the Winter goodies our way. Talking of which I noticed someone is laying a footpath down the hitherto overgrown and pretty impassable East side of the Dagnam Brook, it might be a nice little walk when it is finished but it will pass right by where the Snipe used to hang out in the last cold snap, so I guess that’s them finished.

Over the footbridge and on to the Pitch’n’Putt and down to the River Lea which was fairly Birdless in contrast. I thought, as is my wont, that I would check the ‘Little Owl Tree’, in fact I checked all the big Trees on the Hackney side of the Lea on the South side of the Golf Course for possible roosting Little Owls. I have done this every time I have walked this way for most of the year, since I heard that one had been seen down here, naturally I have never connected.

The ‘Little Owl Tree’ is in fact a half dead Black Poplar about 100m SSW of Tee 8 on the South side of the Lea, I call it that because Mike M told me he saw one sitting on the obvious curved thick branch on the right. I checked the Tree carefully noticing some obvious Woodpecker holes on a thick trunk on the right hand side that ends abruptly where the top has snapped off, I was just wondering whether a Little Owl could get into such a small hole, when I spied a larger, natural hole behind, above and to the left which appeared to be filled with a shape that strongly resembled a sleeping Little Owl. My scope soon proved that the sleeping Little Owl shape was in fact constructed of a sleeping Little Owl. Result! Now we know where it sleeps it should be a cinch whenever we want to see a Little Owl. How it has escaped detection for so long is a mystery, might it be connected with the presence of leaves? We will never know (until Spring).

I wanted to do the Waterworks but also wanted to do the marsh and thought I would have time to do both, which I didn't. A walk up the side of the Horse fields revealed a handful of Chaffinches, a few Mistle Thrushes and about 15 Linnets. Upon reaching the Coppermill stream by the Horshoe Thicket and the Marina I thought I heard a brief ‘pik’ of a Water Rail, I gave it a quick burst of the iphone and lo and behold one called back, though not from where I had heard it, it then proceeded to come out in the open, walk along the edge, swim across the Stream and interact with the original Bird I had heard. I was so gobsmacked to see one out in the open I didn’t think to take a picture until it was too late, nonetheless I will share the result. (If you squint you can see the buffy backside of the Bird walking away just to the right of the blue bottle)

The Horshoe Thicket was birdless but by now it was getting late, I hurried on back to the Horse fields, via the bomb crater field, which I had a quick walk around trying to spot a Stonechat or flush a Snipe (or better still Jack Snipe) but that particular cupboard was bare. At the Horse field a Little Owl was in the usual Tree. So two pairs on the patch perhaps, but they don’t give themselves up easily, unlike the Jack Daniels which is giving itself up very easily as I type.


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Fisherman Fiend

It’s been a couple of weeks since I visited the patch proper and I was looking forward to it, I’m glad to say, less is definitely more. Was it to be the reservoirs or the marsh though? If I say it should have been the marsh you will know that I choose the reservoirs!

I noticed that Pete had written in the log that he had seen a ‘small Falcon, not a Kestrel’ a couple of times on Sunday, I think his natural caution has been further tempered by the fact that Merlin would be a patch tick (if he keeps one) for him. I also heard from Kevin, who suddenly appeared behind me on the Lockwood, that Pete had seen the Mediterranean Gull on factory roofs by the Banbury recently, so both those species are using the full length of the patch it would seem, certainly they are hit and miss in their appearances.

The Lockwood is still very low but pumping has begun to fill it so the edge won’t last long, not that it’s pulling in much.

Winter Duck are in short supply, in fact wintering Duck are in fairly short supply compared to a few weeks ago when we had vast flocks of moulting Aythyas, they must have all dispersed or headed back North in the mild weather. I did see a female Goldeneye on No.1 and couple of newly returned Shelduck on No.5, back from their moulting grounds off Germany. Possibly from Germany, though we will never know, were another couple of red colour-ringed Gulls, a Common Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull both on the bank of the Lockwood but waaay to far away to read any numbers.

A Chiffchaff and perhaps two Kingfishers were calling from the Lea by the Ferry Boat Inn but none of them gave themselves up for scrutiny.

On the Southern section the only action of any consequence involved screeching Ring-necked Parakeets, some seemingly paired up and prospecting nest holes, presumably for next year, it’s not that mild!

I checked the Coppermill stream edge for any Water Rail, a few of which are now on site, though not on this occasion in sight, wintering Bitterns, too mild yet? And roosting Long-eared Owls, just a fantasy really. A look on the East Warwick revealed a Fisherman walking through the small Reed bed in the South-west corner, if he flushed a Bittern I might have looked on this act more kindly but he didn’t so I think it was very irresponsible. One of his brethren on No.4 decided that he would cast his Fly just as I got behind him; I kindly requested that he look first before he had someone’s eye out, he laughed! At least we don’t have Dog walkers over here....yet.


Sunday, 27 November 2011


It was the normal tale of a Sunday afternoon, the spirit was willing(ish) but the flesh was definitely weak. I really had intended to go out on the patch (after deciding not to go looking for a Rose-coloured Starling for the Essex list I am not really keeping) but it has been a hectic week and after being out all morning some food was the first priority, second priority was just a few minutes of folding the arms and shutting the eyes, third priority didn’t really stand a chance after that.

I couldn’t make my mind up anyway whether it should have been the reservoirs to have a chance on the Merlin or the marsh to find some trickle down ‘sibes’. As ever my indecision led to no decision.

So there I was staring out of the back window, whilst finishing off the last series of 24, as if it is not exciting enough! Checking the Gulls mostly moving North to the Chingford reservoir roost, trying to check the occasional non-Starling Passerine zipping by, which are usually Chaffinches apart from the ones that look really interesting but are moving too fast or are too far away to identify, when out of the blue a small whippy-winged Falcon appears from the North-west, the direction of the marsh/reservoirs and flies straight through, giving me enough time to get the bins on it and then run to the front of the house to see it carry straight down the valley and on towards the Olympic Park.

Not my first Merlin on the patch, I had a female whizz past me near No.1 reservoir on 2nd Dec ember 1988 and a, probable male, blast North viewed from the house on 23rd September 2005, but certainly the most prolonged views. I guess it was the male that has been seen a couple of times recently on the filter beds and the Lockwood.

It didn’t seem to be hunting but looked rather purposeful in it’s flight and, being 15:30, I suspect it could have been on its way to roost somewhere to the South, worth keeping an eye out further down the valley East India Dock Basin maybe? Assuming there is just one Bird locally (they are pretty scarce in the Lea Valley) then it certainly has quite a range.

Certainly a magic sighting. (sorry, I could have said it cast a spell over me)

On this date:

27 11 1982 13:30-16:00 Bright, calm and cold; 150 Shoveler on the Lower Maynard. 6-8 Short-eared Owls along natural bank of the Lockwood including 2 together, 1 buzzing a Redshank on horse field. Seen hunting, roosting in bush and on ground, yellow eyes noted. Also on the Lockwood a female Goldeneye.  On No.5 a Black-necked Grebe, showing yellowy eyes, presumably a juvenile, also a party of 5 Little Grebes and a Ring-necked Parakeet over, high. 1 Kingfisher on the stream by the Coppermill. Another Short-eared Owl on the Marsh.

27 11 1989 1 Common Sandpiper still on the East Warwick.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Site #8 Northern Section Walthamstow Reservoirs

Access to the Northern Section of the reservoirs is via the gate opposite the car park by the Fishermans Lodge in Ferry Lane. The code to the gate is by the permit desk, don’t worry you won’t get locked in!

The Ferry Boat pub is next to the gate and has a reasonable selection of Beers, the food is middling which is more than one could say about the service, though it seems to be under new management and the staff certainly seemed much more with it on my last visit than previously, maybe the food has improved too, it has a nice Beer garden overlooking the reservoirs and is quite a pleasant extension to a Summer visit if you have the time. (just checked some recent reviews...oh dear!)

As you enter the Northern complex the River Lea or one of its components flows South along your Left hand side. The Scrub and Bushes along its edges can often hold Warblers and even occasionally a Flycatcher or Chat. Small Red-eyed Damselflies have recently been found on the floating Weed. Immediately to the North is a Weir which is the haunt of many Moorhens and sometimes a pair of Egyptian Geese, Little Egrets roost in the dead Tree opposite on occasion.

The reservoir on your Right is the Low Maynard and behind that is the High Maynard, which is higher and has a couple of islands. There is a Tern raft on the former. The Low Maynard has natural banks and overhanging Trees under which such things as Smew and Kingfishers have been known to skulk. The High Maynard is concrete sided and is more likely to hold the odd Wader.

The factories to the East used to hold breeding Black Redstarts, many years ago, they occasionally still turn up but seldom linger long. The overflow channel which forms the Eastern boundary to the site is best when nearly empty and can hold feeding Little Egrets and Waders, the latter especially in cold weather.

The Lockwood is reached by walking North and climbing the stairs. It is the biggest and possibly the best reservoir on site. Its Banks are concrete, apart from the West bank, which is natural. If you are going to find Waders this is the most likely reservoir, the Northern end is most favoured as it is seldom disturbed, Fisherman prefer the other reservoirs it seems. You really need to walk the whole thing as scoping will not reveal anything small at the furthest reaches. There is a Tern raft on here too, in 2011 Black-headed Gulls bred for the first time. Winter Duck and Grebes often favour this reservoir.

Not to be forgotten is the prospect for skywatching in season, the best vantage point is halfway up the East bank by the square concrete blockhouse, it gives an elevated 360° view. Don’t forget to look straight up too, it is amazing how constant scanning, even by more than one set of eyes fail to pick up overhead migrants until they are....overhead! Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Buzzard, Osprey are all annual but you have to put the time in. Spring and Autumn are obviously best but really anything can fly over at anytime.

Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrine all breed nearby and are often seen, Hobby is becoming scarcer in recent years but it only takes one pair to breed nearby and they can then be seen daily during the Summer.

The Grassy banks are good for pulling in migrating Passerines, from Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting in the Winter (both rare) to flocks of Yellow Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Wheatears etc on passage. Short-eared Owls have wintered in the past and roosted on the grassy slopes along with Long-eared Owls in the Lea side bushes, the first named is a scarce passage bird and the last named a mere memory though it would be worth checking in Owl years.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls

The Little Gull seems to have gone, after at least 8 days.

The Mediterranean Gull seems to be being seen a bit more often, best bet is the filter beds off Coppermill Lane but in truth it can get anywhere.

And Sundays ringed Herring Gull.....

I Got this reply from Richard Thompson:

"Many Thanks for the sighting of one of my birds. If you don't already know I manage the RSPCA wildlife centre in Fairlight and we release back to the wild previously sick, injured and orphan wildlife, many of which are gulls!/pages/Rspca-Mallydams-Wood-50th-Anniversary/118870988183041

I have released over 3,000 gulls in the last 12 years, most are Herring gulls (Larus argentatus,) but I also ring Lesser Black-backed (Larus fuscus) and Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus). All birds are released from Pett Level, East Sussex 50:55N. 00:42E. I also ring wild birds and many are gull chicks.

White darvic ring A7JR, (metal ring no. GR14048) was ringed as a juvenile on 21st October 2010.

This bird has been seen twice before, once at Pitsea on 29thOctober 2011 and once at Rainham on 12th November 2011.

Many thanks again for reporting this bird to me."

As for the Common Gull, Paul Hawkins kindly did some digging for me and came up with this:

"This is one of Sönke Martens birds. Red ring with white code (Axxx) with Helgoland-metal ring on other leg.
note 1 : used letter is "A" at beginning.
note 2 : examples for used codes are A102, A467, AC99, AE54, A99X, A55N, AN67, A5A4 etc"

Interesting that we are getting Gulls from Pitsea and Rainham, not to mention Helgoland, it really does raise the possibility of almost any Gull species being seen at Walthamstow!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Bird on a Wire

I was a little late meeting up with Lol on the Lockwood, mostly due to the traffic; they’re digging up Ferry Lane, again. Don’t get me started on Clancy Docwra, I thought they had finished digging up the borough a few years ago now they are at it again and it is doing my pressure no good at all, the cold tap is just a trickle of its old self.

I digress, the Lockwood level was as low as last week, (maybe that’s where the pressure drop is coming from) the only bird of note was my first Goldeneye of the Autumn, a female. The 1st winter Little Gull was still on the Low Maynard, as last week, still feeding just as frenetically and still eluding photography.

As we entered the Southern section one of the Water Bailiffs stopped to tell us of an Osprey about two weeks ago, we were just by the bridge that goes across to the track between No.1 & No.2, which is just as well because at that point a Woodcock came out from the bushes there and flew over us toward the Lea, another few moments and we would have missed it. Next up was a male Peregrine flying North and eventually landing on the crane by Tottenham Hale.
I cajoled Lol into walking round the whole of the West Warwick, tempting him with promises of Redpolls in the Alders, as ever I lied. We did get a Water Rail calling from the Coppermill stream at the South-east end of the West Warwick for our troubles and a couple of ringed Gulls, a Herring Gull with a white Darvic reading (as best as we could see) A7JR and a Common Gull reading A45A on a Red Darvic. I will report back if I find out where they have come from but I suspect a nearby tip rather than Vladivostok.

A Green Woodpecker was balancing very well on overhead railway cables, not something I have seen one do before. There was a Wigeon on the East Warwick and a high count of 11 Ring-necked Parakeets over No.5. A very pleasant, if tiring, walk in the fine November weather with a strange absence of any great Passerine activity. Maybe it’s just too mild to move anything down our way yet. Hopefully the current spell will continue and allow some tasty wintering Sibe to come our way.


Friday, 11 November 2011

From Siberia to the Mediterranean

I thought about the patch today, while twitching the Bow Siberian Chiffchaff in fact. I probably may have strolled over there if the little devil hadn’t have given me the run-around for over two hours! It showed well, calling constantly for nigh on half an hour when it deigned to put in an appearance. That left little time for Walthamstow, after the Tesco run.

I was sitting at the back window in the late afternoon gloom, which looked remarkably similar to the midday and morning gloom when I suddenly realised that I had left my Bins in the car, I’ll pop out and get them in a minute, I thought, I won’t be needing them in these conditions, at which point I looked up to see an adult winter-plumaged Mediterranean Gull flying around the factory roof opposite with a few other Gulls, in fact it landed on the roof a couple of times, thus coming off the ‘seen in flight from the house’ list and getting itself straight onto the ‘seen on the deck from the house’ list. It’s the first adult that I have seen from the house the last two being first winters, with another first winter just a couple of hundred meters away in the local park.

This was a Bird I had not quite given up on for the patch this year, as an adult, probably the same one, has been seen by the filter beds and by Ferry lane in the last couple of weeks, in fact it could be the Wanstead Flats Bird too. I have been on the lookout for it and decided I must check the filter beds in the mid-late afternoon in case it is dropping in there for the pre-roost gathering, no need now, I shall have to think of other targets for the year.

After considering this year to be a bit mediocre patch-wise the last few weeks have seen both the patch and me adding a number of species (totals 145/126 respectively) and now we are both only 5 species off last year’s record. Can it be done?


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

There’s No Bunting Like Snow Bunting

I knew before I arrived that this morning’s Snow Bunting had done a bunk but decided to have a stroll around the Lockwood anyway, you never know it might return to the scene of the crime. It didn’t, but the good news was that I got a patch year tick nonetheless. Atop the Lockwood I was struck by the light flight of a small Gull-like Bird, that little Gull looks like a Tern, thought I, its November this could be good, it was, but not that good, the little Gull-like Bird was in fact a Little Gull. A first winter Bird, and the first for the patch this year surprisingly, it hawked up and down the Low Maynard for at least a couple of hours.

After upgrading the software on my phone I find that the zoom feature on the, fairly poor, camera is suddenly not available anymore, could be that the quality of my photos will deteriorate from now on (I can hear Lol asking if that’s possible) but here is the best.

The level on the Lockwood was the lowest I can remember, naturally nothing had been attracted to it (since this morning’s brief Snow Bunting) but it may yet come good. There was just 1 Common Sandpiper, soon to be a wintering Common Sandpiper I hope. 2 Green Sandpipers were in the North Channel. Also in the North Channel were 3 Little Egrets a couple of Herons and a bunch of Gulls all standing motionless around an abandoned football, it felt like I had just interrupted some sort of Avian tournament.

There were a couple of dozen Teal at the North end of the Lockwood and as I scoped them they took off, at which point it appeared that one of them, may have had a vertical white flank bar, I watched them fly around for a bit expecting them to land in the middle, which a handful did, the others flew dementedly like each one was being personally pursued by a flock of Peregrines. I gave up watching in the end and decided to catch up with them on the South bound leg of the circuit, needless to say they were nowhere to be found.

The South side of the complex held no surprises though the Duck are looking a bit smarter now, coming out of eclipse. A reasonable number of Shoveler and Gadwall were on the East Warwick. On No.5 there was an interesting hybrid ‘athya’ probably a Ferruginous x Pochard, I tried for a photo but the light was non-existent.

As I passed the island on No.2 somebody let off a large firework in Walthamstow and, despite the distance, everything on the island went up. It was interesting to see how much stuff was roosting on such a small island, hundreds of Woodpigeons, Crows, Gulls, Herons and Egrets, the later calling ‘aarrk’ in annoyance, not a sound I have heard from them before. Eventually most things settled down again but I suspect a disturbed nights sleep will be had on the patch tonight.

On this date:

05 11 1983 Walthamstow 13:30-16:30 Wind NW2, misty; 2 male & 1 female Teal on No.3. 1 Gadwall on High Maynard, 1 male Goldeneye on Lockwood. Adult winter-plumage Dunlin and 1 scandinavian Rock Pipit also on Lockwood. 3 Grey Wagtail.

05 11 1987 Walthamstow; 1 Black-necked Grebe on No.3 reservoir.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

My face feels like someone has been playing Football with it, how do people get addicted to plastic surgery? I think they need their bumps felt, though perhaps that’s what they get out of it. Despite hardly sleeping for the last three nights a bit of viz-migging seemed apt on such a bright clear morning.

It is over 6 years since I added Ring-necked Parakeet to the house list, a heard only Bird. During that time they have gone from strength to strength on the patch but I have never had so much as a glimpse from the house, I knew it would only be a matter of time and today that time came, 4 Ring-necked Parakeets flew low North around 10:00. It will no doubt become a regular sight before long and the novelty will probably wear thin quite quickly but for now...woohoo!

Other highlights were a continuing trickle of Woodpigeons, though not in such numbers as a few days ago, 3 separate Skylarks, a Meadow Pipit, a couple of Mistle Thrushes and a handful of Chaffinches.

It was most pleasant in the sunshine, for the end of October, and I was enjoying the lack of wind and especially the lack of screaming kids from the school over the back until the man with the leaf blower arrived, that was my cue to retreat indoors and play with my new RBA app.

Being an old codger I remember Nancy’s cafe and the constant dialling to get through to someone and then the delicate dance required to get the most up to date news, you couldn’t appear too keen, that wouldn’t be cool and it often took a bit of coaxing to get the ‘gen’ from whoever happened to answer as they too didn’t want to come across as excited by anything and the stock response was ‘nothing about’.

The first automated phone line was a slight improvement as it was available at any time, though it too was often engaged, the main drawback was that it was run by a guy who gave preference to his buddies when it came to the news and you would have to listen to ‘Grey Wagtail, Dipper and Common Sandpiper’ that someone had phoned in from their Welsh holiday before you got to the real rarities.

When the Birdline crew took over it became much more professional but soon became a premium number and hence much more expensive. This was of course before most people had mobile phones and the problem then, if you were on the road as I often was, was trying to find somewhere to park and a working phonebox.

I discussed with Richard Millington the then new technology of pagers, the advantage being that you would get the news as it broke, rather than having to make multiple calls every day, he said it would never catch on as only a few Birders would be paranoid enough to be interested.

About a year later RBA launched their pager service and it slowly became an instant success. I was one of the first twenty or so Birders to get one, in late Autumn 1991. At first if you got 10 messages a day that was good! A few years ago a SMS service was added but it never floated my boat. About a year ago I discussed the possibility of some sort of app, now that pagers are becoming a bit passé, and smart phones a bit smarter. This week the time came and RBA launched ‘Bird Alert Pro’

Last night it took me 5 hours to download the upgrade for the software on my phone to enable me to get the app but now it’s working, (seems fine on 3G too, so hopefully will work in the field OK) and for the first time in 20 years I have switched off the pager (scary!) I wonder what will be the next development.

On this date: 28 10 1989 1 or 2 Wheatears on the Lockwood also 1 Ruff and 4 Lapwings over.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

...Ate a Hearty Breakfast

....and then went outside for some fresh air, but sadly the new nose is not working (yet). If you’ve wondered what happened to Michael Jackson’s old nose, and surely we all have, I think it has just been grafted onto my face, it’s certainly darker and broader than it used to be, added to that it’s filled with lots of stuff you really don’t want to know about!

The fresh air was not the only thing lacking, no migration was taking place this morning, the sky was as grey and miserable as my face so I packed it in and went upstairs to do some paperwork and window gazing, immediately 4 Mistle Thrushes and a couple of Finches flew past.

If you were worried that the lack of a blog entry yesterday meant I had slipped away under the surgeon’s knife on Tuesday, fear not (and thanks for all the cards, calls and chocolates that I assume are still stuck in the post) it was more to do with adding Shore Lark to my London list which took considerably longer than it ought due to not being able to drive and therefore having to get two lifts, two buses, 2 DLR’s and 2 Tube trains and having to return to site after dipping in the morning. Amazingly I felt fine until I got home to Nurse W’s stern ticking off, something about irresponsibility etc. etc. and the three things I now have to stick up my nose (and finger is not one of them).

I was planning an assault on the patch this afternoon but the assault on my face has put paid to that one today, I think I’ll just go and have some Chicken Soup and carry on looking out of the window.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Condemned Man...

A bit of vis-migging this morning, hoping for Crossbill, as usual, getting none, as usual. Woodpigeons were moving East in flocks of about 50, strangely, I counted about 400. Redwings were going West in smaller flocks, probably c200 in total. A single Mistle Thrush went South and to complete all the points of the compass a Lapwing went North, quite scarce from the house.

I packed it in around 09:45 and went inside to watch the last episode of Spooks on the iplayer, part of it was filmed where the Tilbury Semi-P was, if you're interested. Shortly after it finished I was gazing out of the window and spied a lone Goose heading North. It was not one of the usual suspects (Canada and Greylag, neither of which are that common any more, I think the Canada's have changed their flight path as they used to be quite predictable in the evenings) nor was it one of the local plastic Geese (Barnacle and Red-breasted).

It was clearly smaller than Canada, had a black tail, white rump and vent and as it turned slightly I got a small area of grey on the leading edge of the wing and a bit of orangey pink around the bill area, the general feel was of a dark Goose. A quick check of the Collin's confirmed my suspicion. White-fronted Goose. New for the house and patch.

I'm off to have surgery now so if their are no more posts you can assume I passed away under the anaesthetic. If not see you tomorrow.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Coming up Rosy

My track record on Birds of a reddish hue has not been a good one of late (Rufous, Ruby and Scarlet are all ‘color non gratia’ currently) however today all that changed with a Lesser Redpoll perched up in the Waterworks N.R. it’s a small start but perhaps it bodes well for next week’s American Redstart.

A couple of Snipe were snoozing in one of the beds, a couple of Wigeon and Teal swam in another, some Magpies were trying to murder one of their own on the cobble track and a Vole/Shrew ran across my path, one day one of them will be slow enough to identify. The Rat I saw later posed no such problems.

I later walked around the Pitch’n’Putt and eventually strayed across the Friends Bridge and through the Middlesex Filter Beds. I know it’s not on the patch but hey! That’s the reckless sort of Birder that all my recent twitching has made me. Naturally that’s where my best Birds were, or would have been if I could have clinched them, a silhouetted dark Thrush that could have been a Ring Ouzel and a ‘something’ unseen calling ‘choowee’ in with a Tit flock. That’ll learn me to go off patch.

There was nothing much on the half of the marsh that I did, but on the back paddock there were a couple of White Wagtails, 20+ Linnet and c.10 Mistle Thrushes.


Saturday, 15 October 2011

Patchwork Quit

Not quite. Not yet. In fact not really.

I thought I would work out how many times I have visited the patch over the years, it has of course waxed and waned along with my enthusiasm for local Birding, also my earlier records do not necessarily have a note of all visits, unlike my more recent notes, which almost always do.

The results...TaDa!

You’re impressed, I can tell. It has made me reappraise my quitting patch work, I most definitely won’t but I will be more the Dog and not so much the Tail in future, though the blogging is definitely going.  I reckon, making allowances for gaps in the data, that I had it about right in the 90’s. So about one visit a fortnight is a good balance, probably more so in the Winter and Spring, certainly less so in the Summer and let’s just watch the weather and play it by ear in the Autumn.

Whenever people ask; “Wouldn’t you like a job involving Birding?”  I always answer certainly not! Birding is my escape from day to day living, even the nice bits, it is my way of switching off and relaxing. Lately patch work has become less of the escape and more of the ‘day to day’.....solution? Switch it round. Do less enjoy more. (Maybe that’s where ‘less is more’ comes from)

The only problem of course is that it makes it a bit less likely that I will get so many patch ticks (err, how many did I get this year, with all my hard work, oh yes! 1.) I will have to rely on the generosity of others to a) find them and b) let me know.

Today after being stood down from DEFCON 1 (Rufous-tailed Robin in Norfolk...gone) I decided on a second attempt at Red-flanked Bluetail in Kent, having dipped one yesterday, this too was gone, so plan C it was, I should go and have another look for the Wilsonish Snipe on the Waterworks N.R. naturally this typical indecisiveness, led to sitting at the computer and staring out of the window which, as often as not it seems nowadays, led to me seeing a Buzzard slowly wandering South after a couple of encounters with the local Crows and a Sparrowhawk. Yesterday I had 6-7 Swallows go West and a week ago 17 Redpolls likewise.

Patch work is dead, long live the patch.

On this date: 15 10 20000 25+ alba Wagtails in Seymour Park, quite a few of which were White Wagtails, 20+ Meadow Pipits on Walthamstow Marsh and 3+ Stonechats.