Thursday, 28 July 2011

Oystercatcher Remains Uncaught

A, for me, reasonably early jaunt up to the Lockwood revealed that I was clearly the first person up there as I got the privilege of flushing everything. Sadly everything did not include the Oystercatcher. I thought I heard one call on the South side about ten days ago but try as I might I didn’t hear it call again so shrugged it off as aural mis-perception. Well over the last ten days one has been seen a number of times around the Lockwood and the Maynards but not today.

I had left my hat in the car but didn’t bother going back for it, it was cloudy and my eyes would soon grow accustomed to the glare, I thought. A half an hour later the Sun came out, oh well. The Tern rafts were largely deserted, most of the young now well fledged but half way up the East bank of the Lockwood I came under sustained attack by Common Terns, one individual was especially persistent diving to within inches, where’s that hat when you need it. I carried my scope and tripod aloft to protect my head. It was enough to drive me off the bank and they kept it up for quite a while, it made Canada Geese with downy young seem pretty friendly.

There were about 10 Common Sandpipers along the edge; I flushed a party of five when I got up the courage to walk along the bank again. In the North-west corner was a roosting group of Cormorants, 151 of them, it looked like a casting call for Hithcock’s ‘The Birds’. I walked along the bottom of the bank to avoid disturbing them (plus I saw a couple of Common Terns roosting along the edge too!) It gave me the opportunity to check the minor Lea-side Trees for Flycatchers and the like. A couple of calling Kingfishers was the highlight.

I spotted a visiting Birder lying in the Sun with a cap over his face, classic technique for finding Crossbills; it enables you to focus every ounce of energy into listening for their calls as they go over.

A glutton for punishment I decided to walk around the High Maynard (if the Oystercatcher wasn’t going to come to me I would have to come to it) unfortunately I had forgotten about the Common Terns, they had clearly not forgotten about me, I hurried past!

The Maynards gave up no Oystercatchers but Pochard numbers are building up now, I started to count them but decided better of it. We probably have about 0.5% of the wintering population (UK 3,800) here, perhaps more, perhaps one day I will find out. Ever more desperate I forced myself to check the East Warwick but still no Oystercatcher. Last year I bumped into our visiting pair often, whereas Lol always kept missing them, I think the tables have been turned. A Common Sandpiper flying round No.2 was a strange sight, there is virtually no clear edge, it must have been flushed off No.4.

I had a couple of Gatekeepers and a Common Blue and there were a few Red Admirals around but nowhere near the numbers of the last week or so, it really seems to be their year. A couple of Brown Hawkers and a Banded Demoiselle just about wrapped up the morning.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Channel Island Cream

Not much about today really, but a few nice things here and there. I've attached a few crappy photos taken on my little digital, however i digi-binned the Dunlin and it looks not bad I think! There were a lot of Whitethroats, young and old everywhere, and a few Lessers too. I had the Dunlin, as well as at least 8 Common Sandpipers on the Lockwood.

There was an Oystercatcher on the banks of the High Maynard, the bird did a circuit and then landed on the roof of a nearby building. A single Meadow pipit was flushed from the banks of the High Maynard also and lots of Hirundines including a few Swallows over South.

I found a Jersey Tiger near No.5.

Jamie Partridge

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Hip Hip Hip.....Hooray!

Summer has arrived and the Sun has well and truly got his hat on. The weather looks like it is about to settle down. Let's face it the rainy period didn't do us any favours so it can't be any worse by being pleasant, can it?

This is the view towards the WNW from my house, the reservoirs and marshes are just over the horizon, from where many a Bird has added itself to my House, if not patch list.

I have just heard that the LNHS records committee has accepted my, very brief, Hooded Crow from last year, it was sat on the Conifer on the Right of the new blog title picture. It's been a bit slow this year for new house ticks, so far, maybe they will come in the second half of the year.


Friday, 22 July 2011

Out for the Count

Next year remind not to visit the patch after about February! Certainly not in June or July....dull, dull, dull. Why do I do it? Probably for the extremely unlikely possibility of a patch tick and, at this time of the year if it were to happen it would likely be a real goody.

Goodies of any sort were hard to come by on Wednesday (though I did once bump into Bill Oddie on the patch) I noticed that Pete L had counted Tufted Ducks on the Southern section on Tuesday (1060) this, and desperation, made me decide to count them on the Northern section. 697. There was precious little else on the Lockwood, the Common Terns had calmed down a bit, the chicks really should be able to look after themselves now. Common Sandpipers were down to 8 and the juvenile Little Ringed Plover had swapped itself for an adult, oh, and there was a battalion of grass cutters trimming the banks to oblivion.

I decided that counting Ducks was about as interesting as it was going to get and decided to do the Southern section too. As I got back to the car park to get some sustenance a Hobby flew over from the direction of Tottenham Marsh and started to hunt over No.1.

After a quick lunch I made a start on the Tufties of the South. 1224. So 1921 for the whole complex, though I didn’t do the West Warwick or the Banbury and there would probably be a few hundred on them. Quite impessive if you like moulting Ducks. The whole British Winter population is 110,000 so we must account for about 2% of the total, which makes Walthamstow a significant Wildfowl site.

Speaking of Winter Wildfowl; Lol had a Goldeneye yesterday, what next Smew?

As I got back to the car I am sure I caught a glimpse of the Hobby going back towards Tottenham, a bit of a daytripper like me. They have been mighty scarce this year so far, perhaps now the Swifts and Hirundines are starting to move through we will get to see some more of them. I'm off to Kent today to see some real Birds but It’s nearly August and hopefully time for Walthamstow to get some proper birds.

As Arnie says “I’ll be back”


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Reservoir Pods

I was watching the rain this afternoon, watching for it to stop that is, eventually about 17:00 it looked like there was a big enough break that I wouldn’t get soaked to the skin and forth I sallied.

I spotted the pods of the millennium eye from the top of the Lockwood, yes it was that riveting a walk. I had seen them before from the Banbury, which is just a bit higher than the other reservoirs but I hadn’t realised that they could be seen from the Lockwood. You have to stand in just the right spot, about halfway along the North bank and there they are. Also visible, just, is the cross atop St. Paul’s Cathedral. It really goes to show why the patch is so good/useless (delete one, according to mood) we are surprisingly close to the city centre.

The LNHS (London Natural History Society) recording area is a circle with a twenty mile radius, centred on St. Paul’s. We are stacks closer to the hub than we are to the rim, check it out.

Whilst admiring the scenery I did stop momentarily to check the reservoir edge, there was a juvenile Little Ringed Plover, nice, and, a conservative count, of 14 Common Sandpipers. Someone please swap one of these for a Wood Sandpiper. No Green Sandpipers yet and also no Common Gulls in yet, they are arriving back in London at the moment so any day.

I risked life and limb by walking past the Tern rafts at the Southern end, the young are quite well grown now but the adults are still very defensive and fly the couple of hundred metres to the bank to dive at any passersby, perhaps this is the secret to why the young are quite well grown, good for them.


Friday, 15 July 2011

The Kite Runner

23rd April 1993 I am sitting in Nancy’s Cafe, Cley; the pager goes off ....BLACK KITE Cley, going West, whoa! Jump in the car and head, hell for leather along the coast road. Long story short we get to Holme before the bird, unfortunately the bird has gone inland before it gets to Holme!

30th August 2003 I am sitting at home; the pager goes off....BLACK KITE over Barne Elms going North-east, hmmm. The pager goes off again a short while later....BLACK KITE over Regents Park, HMMMM! A map is whipped out, a line is drawn between the two and then extended. Whoa! This is going to cross the Lea Valley just North of the Banbury! A very short while later I am standing just North of the Banbury. The bird has decided on a different route presumably.

15th July 2011 it being a weekday I decided that the Waterworks would be suitably quiet for a visit. I have recently realised that the weekends are just too busy over there for any meaningful birding. I think I am beginning to realise that it is never quiet on the patch! The Heathrow bound jets roared overhead; the City airport planes screeched past, there was the constant hum of the A12 and the Lea Bridge Road. On the working waterboard site next door the stone crushing machine was so loud it almost drowned out the noise of the metal grinding machine. The pile driving equipment was pounding out and the trains and emergency vehicles came and went. Still no screaming kids, so not a total loss.

I was keeping one eye to the skies, which looked lovely with big puffy clouds, just right for some goody to fly over, and one eye to the ground checking for Butterflies and Dragonflies. It’s a good trick if you can manage it.

In the skies there was a fairly steady trickle of returning, mostly adult, Black-headed Gulls. A hunting Peregrine livened things up but drifted off toward Hackney. After a Cornetto and bottle of water from the Waterworks cafe I was ready to take on the Golf Course and the marsh. Brown Hawkers are out now and I saw a, presumably, Common Darter. A couple of Holly Blues were evidence of a second emergence, I guess.
I kept one of my eyes skyward and this was joined by both of my ears as I listened, in vain it turned out, for Crossbills. I was mentally compiling the blog title for when I finally get some of these flying over...Do you want chips with that? Hello Mr. Chips. Chips with everything. Etc. etc.

I had just about reached the Northern edge of the marsh when the pager went off; BLACK KITE....Beddington, flew North, an email to the same effect arrived soon after complete with web link to photos of the beast. Hmm, North eh? The wind was South-west and if it had not flown into the wind my guess was that it would go with the wind, which would take it to.....ME! This time I am ahead of the game.

I hurried round to the small mound at the back of the filter beds, which gives a pretty good panorama for skywatching, and scanned. In between scanning I checked the wind direction, compass bearing, distance from Beddington, variations for if it really did go North (I would still pick it up over the City) or if it went more North-east (I could still pick it up over Docklands or Stratford) I calculated flight speed with and without a tail wind and compensated for it meandering en route. This was surely as good as in the bag! To see pictures of the Kite that didn’t fly over Walthamstow have a look here:

Future date t.b.a; I am on the patch and look up....a Black Kite flies over.


Site #5 Walthamstow Marsh

Bordered to the South by the A104 Lea Bridge Rd, the West by the River Lea the North by Walthamstow Reservoirs and to the East by Lea Bridge Riding Centre the marshes can be a productive part of the patch. Though quite dry compared to the even fairly recent past the marsh can be pretty marshy in the winter but numerous routes remain walkable throughout the year.

Around the Ice Skating Centre are a few Birches and taller Trees which have held Redpolls and Spotted Flycatchers over the years, though neither are very regular. The first open space just to the North is actually part of Leyton marsh, it used to host the occasional funfair and circus but they seem to have moved across the Lea to Hackney in recent years. This mown grass field has little of interest but the edges are now left a bit overgrown and can hold Meadow Pipits in the Winter. The scrubby Eastern edge is good for all the locally breeding Warblers.

Beyond a line of tall Trees lays the ‘Bomb Crater Field’ landing site of a World War II V2 rocket, the actual crater is now a Reed filled pond with occasional Reed Buntings in the Summer and even more occasional Stonechats in the Winter. The field itself often contains the Walthamstow Cows and is very tussocky and wet. In Winter there are often Snipe and Meadow Pipits in good numbers but they can be impossible to see without walking through, there are gates at both ends. I have never had any problems with the Cows but best to give them a bit of space. I once flushed a Jack Snipe and I suspect they are fairly regular if you can find them. In the early Autumn Whinchats usually pass through.

There is a wooden boardwalk to the North of the field and to the North of that is another scrubby area which is good for Reed and Sedge Warblers, and this year a Grasshopper Warbler. The large Grassy field at the end of the boardwalk will one day hold a Richard’s Pipit, which is why I call it the Richard’s Pipit field, all that remains is for that day to come.

The next section of marsh is the other side of the railway line. There is access at the East and West sides of the marsh by going under the arches. One of these arches was the workshop of A.V.Roe who built and flew the first British plane right here in 1909, there is a blue plaque commemorating the event. Just under the railway line is a cut-off section of the marsh called the triangle, it is heavily overgrown nowadays and probably does not have much of interest but once held a Dartford Warbler, the only thing to be found there now are lurking men, it is not checked very often.

The next section of the marsh contains a dry Reedbed in one corner and an expanding thicket in the other, between lies a decent bit of marsh which in the Winter can be impassable without boots. A dry footpath follows the Lea for the whole length so it is not necessary to enter it if it looks too wet. Sometimes the Cows are on here. It can be busy on the weekends but mid-week it is fairly quiet. Good birds of the past include Corncrake, Sub-alpine Warbler and another Dartford Warbler. The thicket sometimes has Woodcock in the Winter and Chiffchaff , including a ‘siberian’ one year. I have seen Treecreeper and Marsh Tit in there both once and missed Firecrest a few times.

At the Northern end of this part of the marsh is the Marina and the Coppermill stream which borders the Southern edge of the reservoirs, Kingfisher is sometimes seen around here, Cetti’s Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Siskin, Water Rail and even Long-eared Owl have been seen here.

The last part of the marsh can be reached by going under the ‘Cattle Creep’ a low railway bridge in the North-east corner which in turn leads to Coppermill Lane. The track that runs down from the car park takes you through another small field and around the back of the filter beds. If you go up the small bank behind the filter beds you get a reasonable view of the marsh and this can be a good vantage point for a skywatch. Walking South brings you back to the top end of the Riding Centre.

The marsh holds more than just Birds with resident Water Vole and Weasel amongst the Mammals, and a small selection of the commoner Dragonflies and Butterflies. It is pretty good for Plants too but someone else will have to tell that tale.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Dearth Wader

The Autumn is underway, as was evidenced by my first two returning Shoveler, one on the East Warwick the other on No.3. I was hoping for Waders, I’m always hoping for Waders but Waders there were none. I only did the Southern reservoirs as a couple of folk had been up on the Lockwood and seen Common Sandpipers and an LRP so I knew it would throw my blog title off if I went up there!

There have been Black-tailed Godwits at Amwell, Rainham, Beddington etc. where are ours? Even Wanstead is getting Green Sandpipers!

I diligently checked through Swifts for anything with an Eastern flavour but the numbers were really down on yesterday and I drew a blank. Kingfishers were a bit more obvious than of late, so perhaps we are seeing fledged youngsters in addition to the adults.

As I got up to the North bank of the East Warwick a Fox trotted off with a large Rabbit in its jaws, I tried for a photo but you know the score. When I got to the Southern end of the reservoir I saw the same thing, I thought it strange that it would have carried its prey all the way around the reservoir but on looking closer it was a different Fox (can’t swear it was a different Rabbit, all dead Rabbits look much the same to me) so not a good day for Rabbits.

As I had said to myself earlier in the year that I would check out Gulls a bit more I diligently went round to the filter beds. It was a bit early in the Autumn and the afternoon for much of a build up but I checked them out nonetheless, nada. I had a Yellow-legged Gull over the house yesterday so just about keeping the patch yearlist ticking.

Next stop was the Waterworks which was high on noisy visitors and low on birds, perhaps there is a connection somewhere? Two Swallows going North-west confirmed the earlier Autumnal theme.

Despite this Butterfly being on the old Essex filter beds it was in fact a Small Skipper.