Sunday, 26 June 2011

Midday Sun

Mad Dogs 0

Englishmen 1

It was not quite midday, more like 14:00, but it was a touch warm this afternoon, still, undeterred I went out.

There were 704* people on the marsh this afternoon and I saw most of them, it was , however, relatively peaceful. Maybe the heat sapped the energy of the other marsh users, it pretty much sapped mine. I am not sure what I expected to see (no Crossbills as it happens, one day, one day) but I concentrated my efforts on the smaller creatures of the marsh.

A Large Skipper was my first for the year, other Butterflies were thin on the ground with a few Whites, both Large and Small a couple of Commas and a few Small Tortoiseshells. Dragonflies were not exactly plentiful either but a few Emperors showed well, including a rare perched up view of this usually constantly patrolling Insect. The only others were some Azure/Common Damselflies which I have both forgotten how and lost interest in trying to identify.

New for me on the marsh was a Leech in one of the ditches, Brown and about 75mm in length, not sure what species this is most likely to be. There were also, surprisingly, a number of Birds still singing in the heat of the day including Song Thrush and Lesser Whitethroat.

The most interesting Bird behaviour was a gathering of Swifts and Sand Martins over the Lea, behind the Ice Skating Rink, coming down to have a drink. The water was fairly undisturbed but still a supreme piece of precision flying to just dip the lower mandible of your bill in the water at 50 kph knowing that if you get it wrong you will not be flying again.

My thirst slaking took place at home later and was a much more sedate affair.


*actual number undetermined.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Gulls ruled Offside

There are 704 Geese on Walthamstow reservoirs, and today I saw most of them, it’s not what I was hoping for. Pete counted them in the week and, despite such thoroughness failed to turn up the Red-crested Pochard, so maybe it has moved on.

I spent a considerable time up on the Lockwood, hoping for a wandering flock of Crossbill to cross my path, but the best on offer was two fluffy Black-headed Gulls on one of the rafts. At the North end three Common Sandpipers together were probably Southbound returning migrants.

When I returned to the Southern end I spent a bit of time building watching (you can tell its Summer can’t you). There are one or two spots around the reservoir from which you can see the top of the Emirates stadium, Tottenham’s ground of course it right next to the Lockwood and Orient is fairly obvious but I tried in vain to get a sight of West Ham’s ground. I was going to start a thread on the Londonbirders group about which patch has views of the most premiership grounds but I don’t think we would win with just two so I will drop that one. The top of St. Paul’s Cathedral was showing well, as it probably has done for many a year and the world’s ugliest new sculpture is growing steadily on the Olympic site, I will grace you with a picture when it’s finished.

My attention was dragged back to the reservoir, however, by quite a racket coming from the Tern raft, the adults seemed to be mobbing something on the raft, I was puzzled because all I could see were Terns, young and old. The mystery was solved when two very large ‘Tern’ chicks were unceremoniously herded into the water and swam back to the Black-headed Gull raft. The answer to the question “how good is a young Black-headed Gull’s sense of homing?” is, not particularly good, they had obviously gone for a swim and climbed aboard the wrong raft.

Still missing Yellow-legged Gull for my patch year list I thought I would check out the pre-roost gathering of Gulls on the filter beds off Coppermill Lane. It’s early days, the Summer only just having started and the day was still fairly young but there were a few Gulls building up including at least 5 Greater Black-backed Gulls and a second summer Herring Gull which was ringed with a metal ring on the left leg and a white Darvic ring on the right, too far away to be read and the CR-Ringing website seems to have been altered so I couldn’t look up it’s likely origin but I have a feeling it is somewhere ‘mundane’ like Pitsea rather than Arctic Russia or another exotic locale.


Monday, 20 June 2011

Red Letter (Shank, Crest and Eye) Day

A rare Monday off had me arrange to meet Lol up on the Lockwood early morning, early morning became mid-morning and the Lockwood was blown out when Lol phoned to say he had just seen some yoofs coming from there and they would probably have flushed any lurking Waders. Hey-ho!

We proceeded over to the South side of the reservoirs and bumped into a nice little flock of assorted Warblers in the Lea-side Willows North of the East Warwick; A couple of Lesser Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, lots of Whitethroats and a few Chiffchaffs and Great Tits thrown in for good measure.

On the East Warwick itself Lol spotted a Summer-plumaged Redshank, (a day earlier than last year’s first) perhaps the yoofs had sent it our way. So although it is technically the last day of Spring it means that in reality it is now Autumn.

We both noted a chestnut coloured Duck on the bank and (at least my) thoughts turned to Ferruginous Duck, which it wasn’t. Reminiscing on the old days, Ferruginous Duck was seen on quite a few occasions and often on the East Warwick, usually under the trees on the now denuded island, so I speculated that we should be on the lookout for another one of these days.

As if to emphasize the changing of the seasons (Summer does not exist in birding terms, it being subsumed into Spring and Autumn) the first returning drake Teal appeared at the North end and a couple of Gadwall were at the South end. There were large gatherings of non-breeding Tufted Duck and Pochard and great herds of Canada and Greylag Geese. On reaching No.4 reservoir I was stunned to see a moulting adult drake Red-crested Pochard. This is a puzzling species, most originating from the ever expanding feral population but a few genuine migrants certainly occur. It seems to be annual at Stoke Newington and, just a couple of weeks ago, there was one in Clissold Park both just a stone’s throw away, but this was only my second on the patch, the first as long ago as the 7th of November 1989!

The other ‘Red’ creature was a good deal smaller, a Red-eyed Damselfly on the Coppermill stream, there were a few of them plus some Common Damselflies and one of my favourites, Banded Demoiselles. We staked out the island on No.5 hoping for some Kingfisher action but to no avail, perhaps they have fledged. We did see one zip across No.1 earlier.

Talking of fledging Pete has been keeping an eye on the Little Egrets and reports 10 pairs with 32 fledged young, some are now settling down for second broods, wow! Black-headed Gull has bred, probably for the first time. Shelducks have had at least four broods, totalling at least 37 young, which may also be a record. It looks like Little Ringed Plover may be breeding too, as they have been seen quite frequently for over two months now,though we are not sure where. Great Black-backed Gulls seem to be summering now (or should that be Spring-Autumning?), although just a few immature birds this year, could they be the next colonist?


Saturday, 18 June 2011

All the News (That's Fit to Print)

Was admiring Pete L's handwriting in the bird log at the fishing lodge on Tuesday (using an inverted bin technique recently learnt) when in walked the author. He in turn was interested in an entry "No. 4-5 Adult Gannet flying South - Ray T"....when in walked the author. A discussion followed, Pete L commenting that the Gannet should be busy breeding (elsewhere).

Later a group of about 12 people, some with bins including Pete L, were congregated by the entrance. I asked Pete what was happening and he told me it was a meeting to discuss the formation of a wetlands area.

Paul B, News at 5pm, Walthamstow Reservoirs

Meeting was very uninformative; co-ordinator was very vague on what might happen.

Pete (he of the small writing) L, Roving correspondent

I, like Pete L, was a bit incredulous with the Gannet sighting, which is no reflection on Ray T's abilities, just the unlikeliness of the record given the time of the year, weather conditions and lack of supporting cast etc. Today an adult Gannet was seen over in the South-west of London, which could even be the same bird, so on the list it goes. Kudos to Mr T.

Paul (sceptical, who me?) W

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Site #4 Lee Valley Riding Centre

Running North from Lea Bridge Rd we have the stables and paddocks which are set out on Leyton Marsh. A gravel footpath, which used to be an old water channel, goes up the Western side and the Eastern side is bounded by the Lea overflow channel.

The front paddocks often hold Winter Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings well into the Spring. Mistle Thrushes are resident and also get on the back paddock. The side paddocks are good for Wagtails and lately are attracting Jackdaws which have started to colonise lower Walthamstow and Leyton.

The line of Trees that separate the stables from the back paddock are the home of one of the local pairs of Little Owls, though seeing them is a very hit and miss affair. The South side of the third Tree from the East is often favoured but the angle is critical and leaf cover in the Spring/Summer means that it is only really worthwhile looking during the Autumn/Winter. The only place you won’t see them is in the unused nest box especially erected for them!

The back paddock gets the same stuff as the front and sides but with the added prospect of Wintering Finches, it is the best part of the patch for Linnet. Stock Doves often build up on here, with flocks well into double figures possible. Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails appear on passage and almost anything could be possible, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat and even Stone Curlew have occurred.

The path down the West side has most of the breeding Warblers of the patch. The Trees at the Southern end have held Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher in Autumn. The overflow channel sometimes has Green Sandpiper in the Winter, especially at the North end just as it goes underground.

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