Sunday, 27 March 2011

Quickly, Quickly Catchee Minkee!

Walthamstow was alive with Birds and Birders today, I mostly saw the latter. The first Swallows of the year passed over the Lockwood with plenty of Sand Martins. A Wheatear was also seen up there. Two single Buzzards headed North, the 2 female Scaup reappeared on the West Warwick and Kingfisher activity was high, a pair were courting at the junction of No.1 and No.3.

I only saw the Kingfishers out of that lot but very entertaining it was, a slight interruption was caused by some very irate Lesser Black-backed Gulls chasing a Carrion Crow from the island on East Warwick with what appeared to be an egg, early I would have thought but what do I know. Also early, but they are, the Egyptian Goose family (8 Goslings) was still all present and correct on the West side of No.5.

As I was watching them I became aware of a bit of a commotion at the bottom of No.3, 10-20 Crows and Magpies were kicking up quite a storm and I began to think they may have found a roosting Owl in the Willow they were all in but, try as I might I couldn’t see it. Then they started moving along the line of trees as if they were following something but I still couldn’t see anything, it was only when I saw Ducks and Coots following them along the reservoir edge that I realised the creature being mobbed was in the water, it was Mink sized, Mink shaped and Mink coloured, something told me it was a Mink.

I quickly phoned Pete, who was a hundred metres away watching the Kingfishers with George, and they hurried round, of course it had disappeared but I pointed out where I had last seen it and they said they would go round and have a look. The next thing I saw was both of them running and pointing a camera, Val who was in the hide behind them was fetched and one of the Water bailiffs also turned up, I thought I had better get round there quick too. What greeted me was a Mink up in a Willow, within a minute it had disappeared round the back of the Tree, probably into a hole.

As far as we know it is new for the patch, though hardly a welcome addition. Pete has just sent me his photos, of the Willow Tree, unfortunately the little Minkee was too quick for him so you will have to just use your imagination as to what it looked like.


Friday, 25 March 2011

Of the People, by the People, for the People

An early (very!) morning trip to the Woodpecker capital of East London saw me safely bag Lesser Spotted Woodpecker for the year and toy with the idea of bringing a large Butterfly net next time. It would sit so nicely on my patch list, there is a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker shaped gap right between Great Spotted Woodpecker and Great Grey Shrike that needs filling.

Whilst there I was telling my native guide how I would later go and add a proper Red Kite milvus milvus, to the Walthamstow patch year list and that the blog title would be as above. As regular reader(s) will know up till now we have only had a briefly counted Red Kite milvus vicarious. But now we have one seen on the patch by a local patch worker for the local patch year list.

I decided that the place to see this creature would be the Waterworks N.R. Mike M had a similar idea but his quarry was Buzzard. I assured him that conditions were perfect and Buzzard would surely be guaranteed (not a guarantee) today, in fact 12:45 would be the E.T.A. whilst we waited he filled me in on lots of interesting news, of which more later.

At around 11:45 I spotted a high flying Raptor which turned out to be a Red Kite, it ploughed on Northwards. I thought I would phone Jono L with news of this small victory for democracy, I knew he would be home as he had told me that the Short-toed Treecreeper at Landguard held no fascination for him, there were lots of other birds he would rather see, he’s not going all that way for a boring brown bird etc. etc. I got through and told him the news but it was a tad difficult to hear his congratulations due to the call of Gulls, the sound of the sea breaking on the shingle and the ships horns blaring in the background. I guess Wanstead is a fair bit closer to the North Sea than here at Walthamstow!


It got to 13:15, and it seemed that Mike’s Buzzard was running late, so we decided to go and check out the Lea, as we did I spotted a Buzzard going North, what did I tell you? Guaranteed. We also had 4 Sand Martins and a number of singing Chiffchaffs, the singing and numbers involved in the last week or two suggest these are proper migrants rather than just the few wintering birds.

The reason for checking the Lea was that there is, apparently, a Mandarin living there. Mike has seen it quite a few times near the White House bridge, sadly on the Hackney Lea, but someone recently told him that they had seen it much closer, possibly even on our patch! This bird, a drake, has been around for nearly six months and is presumably the bird seen near Lea Bridge Rd at the end of last year. It is often with Mallard and sounds like it ranges North onto the patch occasionally, not on this occasion though. Until it is confirmed as being on the patch it won't be going on the patch yearlist. We are not desperate you know, well not now....

Other old news is that Mike had a pair of Stonechats on the marsh, in the bomb crater field, in February. This makes them 99 for the year and therefore Red Kite is 100. I thought it would be a tight thing getting to 100 before the end of March but we have done it with 6 days to go. (I’m on 87 for what it’s worth)

Even older news concerns a new species (I think) for the site. Last year I bumped into Mike and we checked out the little wooded glade by the boardwalk in the Waterworks, as we chatted, I think it was Mike that spotted an odd Butterfly and we discussed what it was, both believing we had just seen a Fritillary. I said that the most likely, and in fact what it looked like, was Silver –washed Fritillary, there seems to be a slight range extension going on with these and there had been some reported from London sites at the time. Unfortunately it vanished after a few seconds but shortly we had it coming back into the glade only when we saw it well it was a Comma! We reluctantly convinced ourselves that we must have been mistaken originally. Well, it turns out that a Butterfly bod saw three or four Silver-washed Fritillaries well, just a couple of hundred metres away, on the Middlesex F.B. the same day, so probably not mistaken after all.

Staying with Lepidoptera, Peacock, Green-veined White and Brimstone were all new for the year.


Waxwing lyrical

Another cracking spring day, and I finally got my long-awaited reward in the form of a group of 8 stunning Waxwings, first brought to my attention with their soft trilling contact calls (had the office window open), as they sat in a tree a few gardens down from mine before taking off low over 'my' row of houses & soon after relocated a bit further up the Billet Road feeding on a cherry tree laden with fruit. Typically, they allowed a close approach and I was able to take a few record snaps - they will no doubt be back as there's still a lot of fruit here.
Really delighted to have caught up with these little beauts on the patch at long last, as time must surely be running out before they return to their more northerly breeding grounds. An invasion of this winter's magnitude is a rare event indeed, and we may well have to wait several years before the next one.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Bosphorus Schmosphorus

Backtracking a bit to Sunday, I happened to bump into Pete L coming off the South section of the res’s, where I was headed, he had not seen much but was popping back up to the Lockwood for another look so I joined him as I fancied some Waders. I always fancy Waders but am rarely satiated.

Of Waders there were none but we did have a Rock Pipit, probably one of yesterday’s birds but equally possibly a new bird as Pete had thought one had flown over earlier going North. we also had some more Meadow Pipits, quite a Spring passage of these this year, and a half dozen Sand Martins.

Whilst chatting he told me that he had recently been shown photos of the ‘Black-tailed’ Godwit reported from the early part of the year on the Lockwood – it was clearly a Bar-tailed Godwit. Nice to add that to the patch yearlist but a bit gripping for me as this is still a black hole on my Walthamstow list. The site year list moves on….98.

Moving forward to today; I had been out all morning, incidentally hearing Jackdaws in a couple of places in Lower Walthamstow and Lower Leyton, seemingly upgrading their toehold to now officially a foothold. When I got home I took a look out of the back window, thinking what a splendid day for Raptors it was.

Virtually the first bird I clapped bins on, at about 12:45, was a distant Buzzard, well it started out as a distant Raptor sp, but circled closer and became a Buzzard. I felt rather smug, though to be honest Buzzard in fine weather at the end of March is not the bird it once was. Neither was this the bird it once was, as it soon became 3 Buzzards. Two more came steaming in from the East and started to grapple with it. If only I had paid more attention to the ‘British Birds’ article of a year or two back I could tell you what the interaction meant, suffice it to say it was a territorial dispute, which is interesting because I didn’t know I lived in a Buzzards territory, they probably don’t know they live in mine.

As I watched the agro, yet another bird came in from the West, at first it appeared significantly smaller than the other Buzzards but my Father Ted lesson kicked in and I realized that ‘small=far away,’ as it got into the now crowded thermal with the other 3 I realized it was a large Raptor, although it was the smallest of the 4. Given that there has been Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Red Kite and Goshawk seen in London in the last few days it could have been something different but I will stick with 4 Buzzards.

It was then that I picked up a fifth bird going South, this one looked much more rakish and I felt sure it was going to be a Red Kite, unfortunately it did not flap once, just glided steadily South on half closed wings right over the house, I rushed to the front of the house confident that better views would clinch it but was unable to pick it up again. Even if it was another Buzzard that would make it a record ‘flock’ for the house list. Surely this puts Walthamstow onto the same footing as other Raptor migrant hotspots such as Eilat, Hawk Mountain, The Bosphorus, Stoke Newington etc.

On the reservoirs I had the first brood of young goslings; somewhat surprisingly they were Egyptian, and not the more likely Canadian or Greylag. A couple of displaying Kestrels and Sparrowhawks added to the Raptor-fest and there were a couple of Sand Martins prospecting a nest site. New this year too were Small Tortoiseshells and a Small White.


On this date: 23 03 89 3 male Wheatears on East Warwick and 15 Sand Martins over West Warwick, my earliest at the time. 23 03 07 A male Peregrine flew low past the house this afternoon, inducing panic in all the local birds.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Littorali Speechless

I'll let Lol tell the story!


Two's company

A beautiful sunny, still & crisp day merited an afternoon stroll around the Lockwood with my Mum. Seems that PW had exactly the same idea, as he arrived a little later, also with female company (only it wasn't his Mum but wife Janet).
After watching up to 3 distant falcons flying around a church spire in the direction of Stokey (I believe the one where MJP has been observing much Peregrine activity of late), and just before greeting the others, I'd picked up on a couple of pipits feeding along the SE concrete edge. I was pretty sure they were Rock Pipits on account of their 'jizz'; larger & duller than Meadow pipits with rather greyish upperparts and dull geyish leg colour. I was pleased Paul had brought his 'scope to get a better view and, more importantly a second opinion on their ID. He confirmed my suspicions that they were of the Scandinavean race 'littoralis' on account of the rather pale (streaked) breast with slight pinky wash. This last feature together with lack of prominent eye stripe to me ruled out Water pipit (NB this is NOT meant to be a fully blown, scientific description!)...In any case they were another 'long overdue' patch addition for me, and new for this year's list.
Also seen were a handful of Meadow pipits, female Goosander, 6 Shelduck, c20 Teal and a lone Peregrine high overhead.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Whatever! The Weather

I really wanted to do an early stint on the patch, (or even better find an early Stint on the patch) but they said it would rain all morning, so I planned a patch assault for the afternoon and decided to get on with other important stuff during the rain. It was dry when I woke up and remained so for hours, dratted weather forecasters.

That being the case I’ll just have a quick look on the Waterworks now, said I, to no one in particular. As I entered the reserve it started to rain! Dratted weather forecasters!

I moved swiftly to the hide (apparently the second largest in London-where’s the largest?) and checked each of the beds. I gave especial attention to a bunch of Teal in the first bed; one male had a very yellowy horizontal flank stripe...hybrid? Let’s not go there.

In the water of bed 13 is a large Beaver Lodge type pile of branches and twigs, just as I was pondering what it was for and who had made it something caught my eye, swimming through the partially submerged Trees, it was too small for a Beaver, which, to be fair I had already pretty much dismissed as an idea. My initial glimpse gave the impression of something too richly coloured for a Rat. (Of which I have seen a couple locally just in the last week.) As it became less obscured I realized the object of my desire was not Mammalian but Avian, a Water Rail. It’s the first I have seen on the patch for a while, previously only having heard them this year.

A couple of Snipe flushed from one of the other beds as I lifted the flap and promptly disappeared into cover. On the mown grassy area a flock of mixed winter Thrushes looked like opposing Football teams lined up against one another, only the Redwings were cheating with 17 men to the Fieldfares 7, though the latter are bigger I suppose.

The rain continued and intensified, I sloped off and got on with my chores. Later in the afternoon the rain didn’t stop when it was supposed to and as the daylight was running short I decided to try my luck on the Lockwood anyway. There must have been some Waders grounded with the rain, right? Wrong.

There were 7 Sand Martins hawking over the Lockwood and Low Maynard and a number of Pied Wagtails which I sort of herded up as I walked the bank, surely there would be a ‘White Wagtail’ amongst them, right? Wrong. Meadow Pipits built up till there were 7 in the flock but they got fed up with me moving them on all the time and just flew round behind.

The rain did eventually stop and a bright strip appeared above the horizon. Just as I got home the sun came out, dratted weather forecasters!


On this date: 18 03 09 A Jack Snipe obscured in the Reeds of bed 17 at the Waterworks N.R.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Mist Clears

This morning was dreich, and colder than it had a right to be. The only thing that could be mustered on the marsh was a solitary Reed Bunting and the distinctive 'plop' of a Water Vole dropping into a ditch, which sadly remained unseen.

Undeterred, I thought I would give the reservoirs a work over this afternoon. I still have plenty of targets; I was especially hoping for a Wader or two given the conditions and was also particularly keen to get one other species.

Lol sees Pheasants on a near daily basis, flaunting themselves shamelessly at the top end of the Lockwood, and on a near daily (well it feels like it) basis he shamelessly reminds me of the fact. “Don’t worry there are still nine months to get one” he cheerfully tells me. This seemed like rather a long gestation period to me so I was determined to try harder this afternoon.

I took the long way round the Northern sector of the reservoirs, to no avail as it happens, walking around the Eastern edge of the High Maynard. Sometimes there are Waders in the overflow channel; this was not one of those times.

When I reached the Lockwood I carefully peered over the bank hoping not to flush the massed throngs of Waders, I succeeded in not flushing them but due more to their absence than my stealth.

There was a female Goosander hauled out preening and a party of seven Goldeneye, including an adult and immature drake, but precious little else. On the North bank was a Green Sandpiper which eventually flew North, later I saw 4 roosting by the overflow channel.

As I approached the North-west corner of the Lockwood I heard a Pheasant call! I assumed it would be on the bank as I rounded the corner, I was a bit surprised therefore to see, not a Pheasant but a pair of Greylag Geese. “No doubt the Pheasant is hiding in the bushes,” I thought. The Greylag Geese started to make some quiet, Pheasanty ‘gonk’ calls. “I’m sure that was a Pheasant calling,” I thought. The Geese got louder and Pheasantier sounding, my high scruples (well known in local birding circles) got the better of me and I decided I must have been mistaken and walked on sans Pheasant year tick but rather proud of myself. Seconds later a Pheasant called from the bushes! Scruples, pah!

There were a couple of Little Egrets on the breeding island on No.1 just loafing around, they nest quite a bit later than the Grey Herons, but looking rather splendid in their plumery, I know there’s no such word but it seems to fit.

At about 15:00 the sun started to burn through a bit and, within minutes a Sand Martin appeared, 1 became 2, 2 became 4 and, just as quickly as they had appeared they disappeared off to the West. This is my joint earliest date.

Seven Reed Buntings together on the East Warwick tell of a real arrival, as they have been as rare as ‘Hens Teeth’ before this week.


As dictator after dictator is toppled in the mid-east reports are coming in of a rebel success at Walthamstan. Crazed despot Paul Al-W has conceded defeat to the insurgent forces based opposite the Lockwood. These dissenters, believed to be supported by their spiritual leaders in far flung Wanis-tead have extracted a remarkable volte-face over a recent record of a Red Kite which was claimed to have flown over Walthamstan.

The Tyrannical ruler, Paul Al-W is believed to be fleeing to the London Wetland Centre where a blind eye is still turned to such wild assertions. It was thought that the threatened imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ over the patch by the neighbouring emirate of Hacken-i was the last straw.

An enlightened new rule has been drawn up whereby someone actually has to ‘see’ the bird concerned either from or over the patch.

Paul Al-W issued a parting statement as he left the patch: “They’ll be sorry when a radio-tagged Spotted Eagle goes over...mwahh...hahh...hahh...hahhhh”

(In other words Red Kite is off the yearlist)

Monday, 14 March 2011

A Murky Situation

It was a glorious sunset yesterday evening and, as I popped upstairs for something, I happened to gaze out of the window, I saw 8-9 large, slow flying birds heading North, I just couldn’t get anything on them and thought I would give Lol (about 4km North of me) a call and get him to have a look as/if they came his way. They were surely going to turn out to be Cranes! Or Gulls.

“Sorry mate I’m just on my way back from the Scoter on the Banbury”

“The what? On the where now?!”

“Oh, didn’t you know, I thought you’d know”

Lol was in no way to blame but, as I looked at the now virtually set sun I reckoned that, that was it for the night. An early start was ruled out when the forecast was for morning fog. I would just have to sneak out of work as early as possible and scoot up there Monday evening. At least we are getting decent day lengths now.

The good news came during the day when the pager announced ‘2 Common Scoter Banbury’; they would soon be mine. Later I checked the Londonwiki and noticed that the message originated from Birdguides, (not a huge fan of their news service I’m afraid) I started to wonder if it actually referred to today or was mistakenly picking them up from yesterday, either way, to cut a long story short (that’s assuming you’ve even made it this far!) they were not there.

Two female Goosander and the on/off female Red-breasted Merganser were present, and even they flew North at dusk, but no Scoter.

By the time I left the light was as murky as the news and I would have had trouble picking out some Scooters let alone some Scoter. On the upside there was a Peregrine sitting on the incinerator stack, which was new for me for the year.

There was another addition to the patch yearlist today but it wasn’t seen by anybody. I received a text that a Red Kite was flying East from Stoke Newington reservoirs at c11:00, it must surely enter Walthamstow airspace I hoped, but would anyone be there to record it? Later I heard that, no doubt the same bird, was seen still flying East to the North of Wanstead at 11:25. Therefore it had crossed Walthamstow airspace and is duly on the yearlist. What do you mean; I’m just bending the rules to suit myself? It’s my patch. (I do refrain from adding stuff if it is only seen flying toward, or away, from the patch as a bird could turn at the last minute, murky though they may be, I do have some scruples)

In fact it’s possible that Buzzard also may have been seen on patch today but I am still awaiting confirmation. If so then we are on 97 and still have 17 days to get three more species before the end of March.

On this date:

14 03 90 Three pairs of Goosander and a number of Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall on the Lockwood.

14 03 09 A displaying, and mating, pair of Peregrines on the pylon by the fishing lodge at Walthamstow was quite a sight. Five Green Sandpipers on the High Maynard and later 2, (probably not additional) on the Lockwood also a Common Sandpiper and 4 male Wheatears there.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Right Image

Apparently not a popular turn of phrase in some quarters, but today’s ‘search image’ was for three species, Sand Martin flitting around overhead, Ring Ouzel sitting out in a field and Redpoll (Lesser, Mealy I’m not fussy) calling or maybe even singing from a stream-side tree.

The only things flitting around were Greenfinches, doing their Butterfly display flights. I have been fooled too many times in previous March’s, thinking I have spotted the years first Sand Martin to fall for that one again.

Sadly all of today’s Ouzels were of the strangely common melanistic ‘black-breasted’ variant and no ‘Polls of any sort sang.

What I did see however were Song Thrushes; calling, singing and flitting, even doing all three at once in the case of one bird.

I had quite a number, including 5 territorial males in just a couple of hundred yards in the North-east corner of the marsh, a real turnaround from a few years ago when you could easily not see one on the whole patch in a year.

The songs were remarkably variable too with a fair bit of mimicry thrown in. One thing that did surprise me was seeing one individual fly a circuit of about 300-400m whilst singing. Maybe it’s me but I didn’t know they did that. Do I just not see enough Song Thrushes? Is it usual behaviour? Or is it something to do with overcrowding locally?

In other news, Jackdaws have moved in to the Southern part of the patch, I am getting them daily now, and very welcome they are too, unlike their larger cousins. They certainly look keen to breed; I have seen them prospecting likely looking chimney pots nearby.


Friday, 11 March 2011

Moving On

I approached the Waterworks with lightness in my step this morning, optimistically hoping for an early Sand Martin, a passing Buzzard or even a Red Kite, sadly my steps became more leaden as I saw 50 primary school children had arrived in front of me.

I’m all for educating children in the delights of the natural world but Not On My Patch Thank You, (I hope that doesn’t make me the first of the NOMPTY’s!) still, moving on I quickened my pace and reckoned I had just a few minutes before they all arrived in the hides and flushed everything. Would it be possible to check all the beds before they got here? Yes, but only because there was nothing to make me linger!

A lone Snipe and a handful of Duck were all there was to be seen. Then I remembered what my targets for the day were and looked up to the skies. I reckon this is Walthamstow’s best bit of habitat, there is always something flying over. In fact at home it is probably my only bit of habitat. A couple of groups of Gadwall moved North, surely a sign of Spring. A Meadow Pipit followed them but no Hirundines or Raptors hove into view.

Across the road, around the riding stables it would appear that the Fieldfares may have moved on too, just a few Redwings scurried around the paddocks. A lone Little Owl stood vigil outside its roost hole but even that had moved on (or in) a couple of minutes later. They really are hit and miss here.

This afternoon I joined Lol up on the Lockwood but, apart from a couple of Northward bound Meadow Pipits, we had little success. I went on to do the Southern sector and happened on my first patch Reed Buntings of the year, moulting males feeding on the bank of the East Warwick. There was no sign of the Fieldfares at the bottom of No.5, maybe they have moved on as well.

I tried my luck with Wednesdays Cetti’s Warbler, a quick burst of Cetti’s Warbler call from the iphone and it called back straight away, but that was it and nothing more for the next 30 minutes, no wonder it hasn’t been picked up in the first part of the year if that’s all it does.

On this date: 11 03 91 Two female Scaup still on the West Warwick, an almost full summer-plumaged adult Mediterranean Gull on No. 4 and 3 Skylarks over. Also a Goldcrest and a number of Fieldfares & Redwings.


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Gamekeeper turned Poacher

I had been walking across the marsh this morning, not seeing much, but hearing 4 Chiffchaff, when a text came in from Mark P, doyen of Stoke Newington, “Cetti’s Warbler on No.3 reservoir”

I guessed that he had read of Lol and I trying to poach his Peregrines the other day and had decided on this audacious retaliatory strike. Blatantly coming right onto the patch in broad daylight and finding 2011’s first patch Cetti’s Warbler.

I didn’t really have time to pop in and check it out but said I would get over there in the afternoon. Apart from a flyover Siskin and some Winter Thrushes that was my lot for the morning.

I was still pondering getting over to the Reservoirs early afternoon when another text appeared, “Wheatear on the Lockwood” This was getting serious, was there no stopping the man?

I jumped in the car and headed over to Walthamstow only to hear en route that he had found a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper! I told him I would be there in a few moments but Mark said that he was just about to leave. Funnily enough he was crossing Forest Rd just as I turned into the car park, I nearly got him, but these Hackney boys can really get a move on when they want. (See Mark's kindly donated account below)

The Wheatear was still on the bank, a right cracker, and my earliest ever by four days. The Dunlin was still around too and very confiding but sadly the Common Sandpiper and Cetti’s Warbler were no shows.

I had 7 Goldeneye (1 drake) and a Goosander on the Lockwood, 3 Green Sandpipers and the largest yet flock of Ring-necked Parakeets, eight birds, around the fishing hut on Nos.1/2.

Could this be the beginning of an early Spring? There have been Little Ringed Plovers and Sand Martins in or near London today, can’t be long before we get them too.


On this date: 09 03 08 6 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper and a Water Rail were all good at Waterworks N.R. 37 Fieldfare and 6 Redwing on Walthamstow marsh.

Happiness is the first trans-Saharan migrant of the spring....

An early start filming with auntie beeb at Walthamstow this morning gave me a good reason to slink a few kilometres away from Stoke Newington (thus easing my guilt of patch unfaithfulness), and as I was there, it seemed a good idea to cover it properly.

Starting at 0730 and staying on the south side, a female Goosander, a Green Sandpiper, three Chiffys and a male Blackcap were all recorded alongside the multitudes of common waterbirds, including Great Crested Grebes (one of the intended Natural World star turns and today's centre of attention), which performed impeccably.

Within a couple of metres of the camera a Cetti's Warbler started up, and continued throughout, apparently the first here this year; ditto at least two Water Rails nearby (all of which are worth listening out for in the background of the film...).

Lunch at the nearby Ferry Boat Inn seemed like a good idea at the time and a bad idea just minutes later, when eight quid's worth of microwaved crap (a.k.a 'Jamaican stew' and the only vegetarian option in an encyclopaedic menu of rot) arrived with a fanfare; for 'great home-cooked food every day', read 'putting the enteritis into Gastro pubs'.

Moving swiftly along, it was time to cover the northern reservoirs in the hope of interesting wildfowl or a stray wader or two. The Maynards held little, and so around the Lockwood, heading anti-clockwise towards the edge of Tottenham Marsh, with a blustery south-westerly and sunny intervals still reguarly breaking through. Nine Goldeneye and another two redhead Goosanders were out on the waves, but no waders lurked along the favoured habitat in the north-east corner.

Continuing round and down along the western bank, walking along the edge itself is often productive, with small, hidden pockets of mud and shingle attracting otherwise unnoticed shorebirds. A group of waders flushed from one such pocket (no more than a couple of metres long and hidden from the main bank), which consisted of six Green Sandpipers, a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.

Content with a good selection of birds and with thoughts directed at kicking back with something edible to hand, a glorious, pin-sharp male Northern Wheatear whipped across the water in front of me and landed on the bank nearby.

The first true southern visitor of the year, the first Oenanthe to make landfall in London in 2011, and an unadulterated joy.

(Courtsey of Mark Pearson)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Like Buses

After nearly three months without so much as a sniff of a Snipe there were 3 on the Waterworks N.R. this afternoon. Large numbers had built up on the patch after the first cold snap of the winter but seemed to have all disappeared during the second cold snap. I was thinking I would have to wait till next Winter to get them on the yearlist but I heard that some, in fact 11, had been seen on the Waterworks earlier in the week so nipped in there at my first opportunity (well after seeing the Connaught Water Green-winged Teal). Perhaps this is a North-ward staging thing, I don’t suppose they will be around for very long as they are no longer a breeding bird on the marsh. Also there was a Green Sandpiper.

As I had determined to look at Gulls a (little) bit more this year I thought I would check out the pre-roost gathering on the filter beds, it was a bit thin on numbers, and quality too, best was an adult Great Black-backed Gull with a large Red colour ring on its Left Tarsus, suggesting it was rung at Landguard, and a probable hybrid Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull which I have seen here before, I couldn't dig up any Yellow-legged Gulls so will have to get that later in the Summer, maybe.

Winter Thrushes are still around, there was a small party of Fieldfares near the bottom of No.5 (where the Eider was noticeable by its abscence, though it does wander) and in the week I had a group of (sub-singing)Redwings near the stables.

Also earlier in the week I had heard a few Chiffchaffs, a couple singing, along the River Lea near the Golf Course and had my first Bee and Butterfly of the year, a Red Admiral. Though it really doesn’t feel like it, it is just a matter of days now till the first migrants arrive. My earliest Wheatear on the patch was the 13th of March, I wonder if this year will see them quite as early?