Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Three Ring Circus

You have to have a plan. Mine was the marsh for Passerines this morning and then the reservoirs. Somehow I found myself at the reservoirs first. You have to be flexible.

The good news was that the Mandarin found by Pete L on Monday had been written in the Bird log for yesterday and in the same place, so I walked between No. 1 and No. 2, which I seldom do, to get a look at the West side of the island on No.2 where the Mandarin was supposed to be, it was not there. I walked around to view the South side of the island, it was not there either. Just as I was considering my next move it flew in (117 for the year) from behind me and scooted under the branches of the island, judging by the bright bill and greeny-blue trailing edge of the wing I think it is most likely an eclipse male and therefore possibly the same as the Bird that has been giving me the run around on the Lea for nearly a year. (This was only my second ever, the first a male on 15th November 1989) The trouble with having a Chinese Duck for a patch year tick is you want another one half an hour later.

Further down the track between No. 1 and No. 2 I came across a large Warbler and Tit flock which included singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. At the bottom of No.3 I came across Kevin M who had just seen the Whinchat which Pete L had found on Monday. He walked back round with me to the West side of the East Warwick where the Whinchat was feeding from low vegetation and on the deck at close range. 118 (who you gonna call?) for the year. A Yellow Wagtail was calling from the West Warwick but didn’t fly. A Greenshank was calling from the North somewhere but also could not be seen.

My plan of the doing the marsh was scrapped as the weather was now warming up, slightly, and with very light winds the prospect of a Raptor or two made the bottom of the Lockwood seem a good bet. A couple of Jackdaws feeding on the East bank was unusual for this time of the year, 6-7 Common Sandpipers was most definitely not unusual, I think they are just going to stay until Winter now, albeit in diminishing numbers.

My reckoning was that the Raptors, if they were to appear, would come from the South-east so I walked half way up the East bank so as to have a good view to the South, Kevin stayed put at the South end reckoning they would come from the North. After nearly an hour I was about ready to give up and go so walked back down to the South, we chatted for a bit when suddenly Kevin shouted “what’s that? It’s a Raptor; it’s a Harrier, Marsh Harrier!” It had come from behind us, the South-east and was going away, I got onto it shortly after and could see a large Raptor flapping with heavy strokes on wings held flat, I could see it was not a Buzzard of any flavour and wasn’t a Kite, but as we were only getting one angle on it I was reluctant to call it a Marsh Harrier especially as I need it for my patch list and also as the wings were quite broad and I had ruled out everything else I felt it was going to be an Osprey. It carried on without turning and I was now beginning to fear that it would remain, for me, unidentified, I was willing it to do something, anything, and then it did, it turned sideways, started to circle and showed itself to be a female Marsh Harrier (slight inner primary moult on the Left wing suggested an adult rather than juvenile). Good old Kevin, he was right all along and he had found me a patch tick, 119 for the year but better still, 188 for the patch. Just then another Birder, Terry from Tottenham, who we had spotted coming along the bank earlier, had got within calling range and got to see it too.

I had swapped from scope to bins at this point and in trying to relocate the Bird clapped eyes on what to me looked like a Sparrowhawk, mainly because it was, and was confused when Kevin said he had got two Harriers, ‘no’ I said, the other one is a Sparrowhawk, he said they are both together, I looked again and there were three Birds in a spiral, my Sparrowhawk but above them the first Marsh Harrier with, yes, another Harrier! They all circled round lazily over Tottenham marsh for a while before heading off North-west. Terry cursing he was not on his patch, Tottenham marsh, me, slightly cursing that I was not at home, they would have come right over my house and Kevin muttering something about how glad he was to have found Marsh Harrier on his new patch which was probably the best attitude. As if this was not excitement enough less than five minutes later Kevin picked up another adult female Marsh Harrier coming in from the same direction, this one was lower and closer than the first two, it was also in wing moult on the Left wing but more so. It too got over Tottenham marsh gained height and went off North-west. A Hobby going South hardly got a look in.

It’s not every day you get a new patch Bird, especially the one at the top of your wanted list, having looked for one so long it made me think, what now was at the top of the wanted list? Red-backed Shrike I decided. Friday on the marsh would be ideal! Now there's a plan.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bank Holiday Bonanza

Mandarin on No. 2 reservoir and Whinchat on East Warwick.

Courtesy of Pete L.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Grand(ish) Day Out

The day dawned and the game was engaged. Earlier in the week Andrew S had emailed the Londonbirders site that the Brent Birders were doing a big day today, I volunteered the Walthamstow Birders to do likewise, then realised that half the possible ‘volunteers’ were out of town, never mind we managed to field a crew, much thanks to Ian W, Kevin McM and Mike M.

Kevin and Ian were up on the reservoirs first thing whilst I did the early morning shift on the marshes and Mike did the mid-morning. Mike and I later whizzed round the reservoirs in the afternoon.

Highs and lows: The Black Terns were still on the Lockwood, dropping from 5 to 3 during the day. A Dunlin dropped in after the rain and a Jackdaw flew over in the morning. On the marsh a couple of Egyptian Geese dropped into the back paddock and 4 Yellow Wagtails flew South early on but Little Owl, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush couldn’t be raised.

The feral Barnacle Goose was on No.5 (with it’s escaped Red-breasted Goose mate). A Pheasant calling on the marsh was less usual, though there has been one intermittently down there this Summer, also a latish Sedge Warbler showed well. A Hobby was a nice final addition in the early evening.

Pending any late news from Kevin, we finished on 70 species for the team (when last heard Brent was on 69) including the Barnacle Goose, which may not be to everyone’s liking. Maybe it’s best to call it an honourable draw. It was more fun than exciting, to tell the truth but, as is usually the case with these things the Birds need to cooperate. Perhaps a mid-winter challenge could be in the offing.

The species:

Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Greater Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Ruddy Duck, Common Pheasant, Great Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Hobby, Common Moorhen, Common Coot, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Common Swift, Common Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Eurasian Jay, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Winter Wren, Common Starling, Blackbird, Robin, Northern Wheatear, Hedge Accentor, House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.

On this date: 27 08 83 Wind NW1 calm and hot: 1 juvenile Little Grebe on High Maynard also a Kingfisher seen twice. A juvenile Cuckoo on the Lockwood, 1 Greenshank heard flying South there and a Snipe on No.3. Many Yellow Wagtails and a few Common Sandpipers.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Gluten for Punishment

Despite having a less than stable stomach (my wife reckons Wheat intolerance) I could not resist the pull of the patch in the grotty weather. Surely there would be grounded Waders.....yeah right!

The plan was a quick whizz around the Lockwood and then on to the marsh as the weather brightened for all the grounded Passerines.....yeah right!

The visibility was none so good, which was good. Kevin, who was staked out on the Southern end, as is his wont, had already had 5 Wheatears on the East bank of the Lockwood but nothing much else. I had barely gone a couple of hundred metres when I picked up a Black Tern, I checked it out and realised there were two, possibly three. It was very difficult in the whirling mass of Terns to keep an eye on individuals and I thought I was seeing the odd Arctic Tern amongst them too.

There were a lot, 30-40 or so, of Swifts, and hundreds of Sand Martins with a handful of Swallows. Probably half a dozen Common Sandpipers dotted around and increasing numbers of Pied Wagtails, with a few Grey Wagtails were the only other things of note. I saw three or four Wheatears and the Red-breasted Goose flew South, on its own.

When I got back to the Southern end I tried counting the Black Terns and made it three, then none, then four, then one. I was confused until I noticed that they were going up high with the Swifts. Eventually I managed a definite six Birds at any one time.

By now I had spent too long for a trip onto the marsh so went home. At about 13:00 I did spot a large Raptor heading West, probably over the marsh, I called Lol who was on the East Warwick but it was too high for him and I lost sight of it too, another one that got away. A probable Hobby went West just after. Maybe there will be more Raptors now the weather has broken, but not for me.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Billy, Don't be a Hero!

I was spurred on by the report of a Wryneck at Alexandra Palace yesterday and took the opportunity of an early start to go and find something on the marsh. First up was the Waterworks, I think I was the first person on there this morning so my optimism rose. There were a dozen or so Magpies going mental, that’s the technical Birding term, and I felt sure they had got some roosting Raptor pinned down but as they kept moving around and didn’t focus their attention anywhere in particular that hope faded. I saw a large adult Dog Fox sniffing around so maybe that’s what got them exercised.

A few Warblers were moving through, including a nice Lesser Whitethroat. At least 1 Yellow Wagtail was heard flying South but I couldn’t get a visual on it. A probable Teal flushed from one of the beds as I lifted the hide flap, if so it would have been my first of the Autumn. A Moorhen clambering around up some Reeds reminded me that I had two ticks yesterday, from the comfort of my armchair. I just read that the AOU have split Common Gallinule from Moorhen (the other was Snowy Plover split from Kentish Plover) I wonder who will make a name for themselves by finding one of these on this side of the pond? Probably someone bored witless on a rainy day in Scilly; I don’t think I will be checking all the Moorhens on the patch for one that laughs! (Diagnostic call apparently).

Next up was my assault on the marsh but just at that point the pager confirmed the continuing presence of Ally Pally’s Wryneck. What the heck? Why flog the marsh looking for Wryneck when you can drive 5.5 miles and actually see one for real? I got there in just over twenty minutes and had seen the Bird after probably another twenty’ve got to love it! I also heard Nuthatch whilst I was there. You can actually see the patch from the palace, and vice versa, yet Nuthatch is a patch mega, I’ve never even come close to one, and Wryneck has never occurred according to the patch definition on the blog though I know Lol found one on his ‘Tottenham extension’.

My heroic attempts at finding a patch year tick were not quite over as you can easily swing back round from the Palace and find yourself on the Lockwood, as indeed I did. At the Southern end Kevin was prone on his back closely checking the inside of his cap for migrants. I decided on the ‘upright looking through the telescope’ method; though for all the good it did me I could have snoozed too. After checking the whole edge (to be honest you really need to walk round as anything smaller than a Redshank would be difficult to pick up if it were on the North bank) I coughed, which brought Kevin back to consciousness and to his feet. He had seen yesterdays Greenshank, which was a patch tick for him, but there was no sign of it today. The two Wheatears had been reported by Scottish George again and Kevin had had a flyover Green Sandpiper and a couple of Hobbys but that was about it, certainly no repeat of the Buzzard extravaganza of the other day.

Sometime later Kevin decided he was going to lie down again (he does get on the patch shortly after 06:00) I decided this was a good move as every time he sat down on Friday Buzzards appeared. Suddenly he said ‘Did you hear that? It sounded like Greenshank.’ I didn’t, but we both scanned around for a few moments. Then I saw a Bird lift off from the edge of the reservoir only about 200m from where we were standing, before I could get the words out the one became a small flock, 7 Greenshanks, and all now in flight and heading South. I lost them to sight over No.4 but they evidently turned West at that point and Pete L picked them up, calling over his head, on the East Warwick. I think they must have landed when Kevin heard the call, not realising that we were standing nearby.

I would categorise Greenshank as the most common, of the less common Waders we get on Walthamstow, if you get my meaning. My previous highest count was a flock of 5 on the 13th August 1984, usually just singles are the norm. About time we had one of the less common of the most common Waders or better still just an out and out rarity.


Friday, 19 August 2011

First XV

As I arrived at the Lockwood this morning, I bumped into our newest recruit to the Walthamstow patch, the silver-tongued Kevin M. He has recently moved to the right side of the River and is now busy attempting to find some London ticks by getting up at the crack of dawn and ‘grinding and slogging’ away at the patch. I hope for his sake that he finds some, and for my sake that they stick.

He informed me that the Lockwood held 2 Wheatears and a Teal; I decided to walk around the whole thing just in case....for some reason I walked clockwise which is not usually my wont. To be honest I hardly looked at the reservoir all the way up as my attention was drawn to the Lea-side bushes which were heaving with Warblers and Tits, mostly Chiffchaffs but also including Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap. Kingfishers were again prominent. I later bumped into George who confirmed what I had been pondering; Kingfishers can be triple-brooded.

I never did see the lone Teal but there were a couple of Shoveler at the North end. A water bailiff was walking along the bank towards me and I was just rehearsing the response to his inevitable question, ‘have you seen anything?’ with ‘no it’s total rubbish, I don’t know why I bother’ when I suddenly heard a Yellow Wagtail call, spinning round I caught sight of it flying South over my head, then I caught sight of its 6 mates, nice. I also caught up with the 2 Wheatears on the East bank and around 30 Pied Wagtails; I really expected them to be harbouring some Yellow Wags too but no joy. Waders were represented by 7 Common Sandpipers. To quote Kevin ‘I’m $*#*& fed up with @+*^$ Common Sands, can’t we @?^%~ have some %$*~? different &@?#* Waders?’ I agreed with his sentiment if nothing else!

As I got to the bottom of the Lockwood Kevin was returning from a fairly fruitless jog around the Southern complex. We both agreed that conditions looked good for big Birds in general and Raptors specifically. Between 10:00-14:00 is usually (but not exclusively) the best time for Raptors on the patch and I said 11:40 was a good time, thinking back to last week’s Buzzard.

11:40 came and went; we scanned the skies, 12:40 passed just as quickly, we scanned on. Kevin sat down, I thought about leaving. For some strange reason I looked directly up and lo! A fact two...three, I was just about to lift my bins when I realised that there were more Birds in the kettle, I counted them quickly before checking what they all were....Ten!

They were all Common Buzzards, but I mean...Ten!

How they got directly over us without us picking them up coming in I don’t know. One or two split off and went South-west, into the light breeze but probably came back as shortly after all 10 were thermalling around over our heads. I quickly phoned slugabed Lol who amazingly was not only awake but in his back garden, he looked up and got on at least 6 without his bins. Probably about 25 minutes later I spotted another Buzzard, one in extreme tail and wing moult and not one of the original 10, it was soon joined by another 3 which we assumed were also new Birds, 15 minutes later Kevin picked up a singleton. The previous largest flock over the patch was 5 over my house in March this year, as with those some of these were seen talon grappling, leading me to think they are relatively local, and somewhat territorial, Birds having a wander. Not bad fifteen Common Buzzards in under an hour.

Shortly after this news arrived of a Marsh Harrier going North-west from Beddington (ironically just what Kevin has done this year) but unfortunately it didn’t quite get in range of my bins. The best of the rest was a reasonable trickle of Swifts, probably close to twenty Birds over a few hours.

For those of a numeric bent Pete has been continuing to count Tufted Ducks and is currently up to 2,589 for the whole patch, if he sees 107,411 more, then that is the entire UK wintering population, here’s hoping.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011

South of the Border

Not quite Mexico way but Hackney. I walked up the River Lea on the Hackney side to see if I could find the Mandarin, normally I prefer my Ducks Kosher but I was prepared to have this one Poached but as is becoming clear with this Bird, whenever I enter the restaurant it is off the menu. Enough metaphors already.

The Eastern side of the River, once you reach Spitalfields market, is on the patch so I had to hope that whatever I saw had the decency to be on the correct side, unlike me. When I got to the overflow channel South of the golf course I noticed someone had painted a large Kingfisher on the wall, optimistic I thought, until seconds later a Kingfisher called and flew onto the bank with a Fish. I tried for a photo but the Bird moved on. Last week I got some (distant) pictures of one on the High Maynard but Lol banned me from posting them! Something about the Bird needing to be made up of more than 10 pixels, the cheek! It is really nice to see Kingfishers again after last Winter and early Spring when they were almost non-existent. This bit of River used to be good for them and looks like it is again. Later I had one, or the same, on the Waterworks N.R. They are being seen all over the reservoir complex too, it must have been a very good breeding season.

Other Birds of note here were an adult Little Egret, feeding in the River, and what sounded like a Little Owl calling twice. This is the area they have been seen in before so it is quite possible, but unfortunately there were no more calls.

Coincidentally I heard one from the house, calling in the early hours this morning, certainly not from here though it could well be the same Bird having a wander. Having strayed off the patch, and knowing that Jamie P was abroad, I decided to trespass some more and do the Middlesex N.R. but he had obviously taken all the Birds with him. These Jays were sitting close together, presumably recently fledged, on the Leyton side of the River.

Next up was the marsh, still no sign of any Whinchats but there were at least 5 Kestrels in the field most favoured by them, you would have to be one brave Chat to sit there for long.

A couple of Reed Buntings were on the first bit of Walthamstow marsh. Better looks at the ‘freshwater Limpets’ showed that I was looking at them upside down (them, that is, not me) and what I was taking as a flat shell is in fact the foot. New best guess identification is some sort of Radix.

Thence over to the Waterworks, best Bird was a lone Swift, not many days left for these fellows, especially as news this week is that the first wintering Birds have arrived in Tanzania. The activity in the new ‘Human Habitation Zone’ seems to indicate a successful breeding season.

The last bit of the patch to be checked was the filter beds, for the mid-afternoon Gull build up, I think it was cancelled and no one told me.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

Mr. Plover Lover

The Banbury yielded a strange fellow walking around the shoreline, someone else camping on the bank and 5 Common Sandpipers, disappointing on all three counts, especially given that the next reservoir North of here, the William Girling, held 19 Common Sandpipers, 15 Green Sandpipers a Turnstone and a Greenshank as well as a possible Temminck’s Stint and 38 Black-necked Grebes yesterday!

The High Maynard was our next stop and that had 4 Common Sandpipers. The Lockwood another seven or eight. It was probably around this point that I whined to Lol something like ‘can we not have something different for a change?’ Suddenly a Wader called, I said what’s that and Lol (My official ears for the day) replied, 'Ringed Plover', it called again, sounding like it had moved a bit further South but try as we might neither of us could pick it up in flight. We weren’t going to do the whole circuit but now felt obliged to do so if only to connect with the Plover.

Despite the water level being low and the West side having a lot of edge we couldn’t turn it, or anything else up. Lol had seen one earlier in the Spring but it was a welcome patch year tick for me, and not one I see annually. I have now reached the dizzy heights of 116 for the year, (2010; 130, 2009; 115) it is interesting to compare even just this small series of data, it makes me appreciate how good 2010 must have been as I can’t see me adding another 14 species during the rest of this year.

About 40 Common Terns on the Low Maynard and another 10 or so on the Lockwood are getting late and will be off pretty soon, the semi-dependent young are still begging Fish but at least the adults have given up trying to kill me. A handful of Swifts were evidence of another soon to be gone Summer visitor. A few Chiffchaffs were calling, one even singing and we managed to get a calling Willow Warbler in scrub near the Banbury.

When over on the marsh a couple of days ago I was struck by the complete absence of Blackberries, in recent years they have been ‘harvested’ on an almost industrial scale, I don’t object to people picking them, even Lol had a few today despite my warning him that Starlings have probably wee’d on them, but it would be nice if folk could leave a few for the wildlife. The other Berry bearing bushes were holding up much better, Sloe, Rosehip and Haw being especially abundant.

On this date: 14 08 1989 3 Whimbrel flew South over the Lockwood and 10 Yellow Wagtails on the filter beds.


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Right Time, Right Place

Even the stork in the sky
Knows her seasons;
And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush
Observe the time of their migration;
But My people do not know
The ordinance of the LORD. Jer 8:7 North American Standard Bible

I dithered about going up to the Lockwood, I do that you know. The dithering led to indecision, indecision led to lethargy and finally inaction. Fortunately the inaction took place whilst staring out of my back window, even more fortunately that coincided with a Turtle Dove flying West. It’s the second year running that I have seen one on the patch, what’s worse is I think I am the only one who ever sees them on the patch. Years ago you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at seeing them, they used to breed even. Nowadays they are next to invisible, I really hope the decline can be halted as they are a cracking little bird. I hope I am actually with someone when I see one next year or I can see a certain dodgy reputation developing!

I also saw 4 Swifts going West shortly after. This morning a Mistle Thrush flew over so that just leaves the Stork....I’m watching and waiting.

As for the ordinance of the Lord, people just don’t get it, they will.


Friday, 12 August 2011

It's too Quiet...Thwump!

This morning I was wondering what was wrong; do we have too much habitat? Is it the wrong habitat? Is it in the wrong place? Am I just unable to find any Birds? The phone rang at that moment, it was Andy T calling from Rainham with the answer, there are just no Birds! The Londonbirders email site is quiet, the Wiki doesn’t have a lot of migrants on it despite plenty of saddo patchers flogging away (I count myself amongst them lest anyone should take that pejoratively).

Now if I remember the Cowboy films of my youth whenever someone said ‘It’s quiet, too quiet’ that was usually followed swiftly by the thwump of an arrow in his back. Therefore I PREDICT A RIOT of Birds. It can only be a matter of days now before the torrent, nay avalanche, of scarce and rare hit the capital.*

Back to this morning, I worked the Waterworks N.R. very thoroughly, trading off the possibility of Waders on the Lockwood for the prospect of Passerine action on the marsh. There was a itinerant Warbler flock working its way through the bushes, mostly Whitethroats with the odd Lesser Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. A lone Swift worked the skies. Two or three newly fledged Sparrowhawks called incessantly from one of the wooded beds and I flushed an adult male along the boardwalk. Jays and Acorns were much in evidence too, the former flying to and fro with the latter.

The flooded beds by the hide are pretty overgrown and it would have been difficult to have seen anything in them, had there been anything in them. A Gadwall was the best, it had obviously upset one of the Coots because it followed it all the time, persistently harrying it, they are not known for their appetite for Coot chicks so I can’t think what it could have done.

I stocked up with a Mars bar and bottle of water before doing the golf course and marsh and was just thinking it must be time for the Friday Raptor when a host of Crows made a Beeline for, what turned out to be, a Common Buzzard, impeccable timing.

On the River Lea, at the bottom of the golf course, a couple of Common Sandpipers flew onto the stony island, a first for me here, I think, so not quite a complete Wader trade off after all, just as well, as there were no Passerine migrants of any consequence, perhaps the banks of the Lockwood were crawling with Whinchats and Wheatears?

On the marsh the most conspicuous Birds were Kestrels, surely more than one family I would have thought, they were especially prominent over the bomb crater field which not surprisingly held no Whinchats. There were more Warblers and plenty of wheeling House Martins and Sand Martins. Another lone Swift flew North.

In the ditch at the Southern end of Walthamstow marsh there were a large number of weird black Molluscy things, my best guess is some sort of freshwater Limpet but I stand to be corrected.

The only other thing of note was a couple of military Helicopters circling the reservoirs, mopping up the last of the Tottenham rioters or looking for insurgents perhaps?


*Not a guarantee

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Oystercatcher Catchup

Discussion over a drink last night led to the topic of why some stuff is strangely scarce on one patch, say Walthamstow, whilst just a few kilometres away in, Wanstead to use a random comparison, they are common as muck. Of course the opposite is true. My companion bemoaned the lack of Oystercatcher as a typical example, I sympathised as it is my current ‘oiseau insaisissable’ though at least they do turn up on the patch.

We discussed how they must get from A to B somehow and the inevitable wistful hope that one would one day fly over the house in the middle of the night, piping its little head off.

Scroll forward 11 hours, I had decided not to set the alarm this morning and let nature (or my bladder) decide when to wake me, nature won I’m glad to say, no problem in that department (yet). It was a bit later than normal when I walked across the Lammas fields on my way to the bus stop, I usually don’t crank up the Ipod until I am past the park, you never know what you might hear. Usually nothing.


What the....I froze waiting and listening, pretty much like I did three weeks ago on the reservoirs when nothing else happened, only this time it did.


An Oystercatcher was suddenly overhead, about twice Tree height. I wondered what to do next, run back the 300m to the house and try for a house tick, text my drinking companion? The bird made my mind up for me as it flew low South-east destined not to make it onto the house list nor for any early birders at Wanstead to collect. Still a patch year tick is a patch year tick and it made the prospect of work seem not quite so dismal.

I always look down the overflow channel of the River Lea as I go over it on the bus, people say you get Little Egret in there, I usually don’t see any! Today there was a Little Egret in the channel.....maybe I should start a bus list!

On this date: 11 08 84 Wind NW1 sunny; 12 Lapwings, 1 juvenile Common Sandpiper and 1 Snipe. 4 flighty Greenshanks and 1 juvenile Spotted Redshank. 1 Reed Warbler in orchard and 1 Swift seen! 4+ Common Tern.


Saturday, 6 August 2011

Binless Wonder

Not a good day today, it so could have been much better.

I was out locally this morning when I saw a large Raptor circling over my house, it thermalled higher and with each circle I thought it was going to get a bit closer to me, this was going to be essential as I had no optics with me, sadly it never really got close enough, though with bins it would have been a cinch. After it had gained height it glided off North, I made a couple of quick calls but nobody picked it up. The only things I could get was a squared off tail, i.e. not a Kite, broad wings and a couple of deep wing beats, that, and its overall dark appearance leant me toward Honey Buzzard, a couple of which I had seen two weeks ago in the South-east. I don’t think I can really put it on the patch year list at the range I had it without optics, I wonder if it was a Honey?.....the one that got away!

Later I went over to the reservoirs, arriving in the car park I realised I had left my binoculars at home, I was due to meet up with Lol and didn’t have the time or inclination to drive back and get them so decided to make do with my ‘scope. Now I know what it’s like to give up smoking, I didn’t know what to do with my hands and kept reaching down for the non-existent bins.

My plan was to have a look at the West Warwick before Lol arrived but I got sidetracked by an interesting Wader on the East Warwick, it turned out to be one of 3 Common Sandpipers on there, so not so very interesting but at least it was a Wader. It was then that I somehow caught my hand in my tripod, much gushing of blood ensued, could the day get any worse? Lol arrived.

We checked No. 5, dodging a light shower and finding another 3-4 Common Sandpipers. There was a bit of Kingfisher activity around No.3 and a handful of young Shelducks, the rest have now cleared off for their summer holidays in Germany, there’s no accounting for taste.

There was a surprise find amongst the moulting Pochard, but I can’t tell you what or where it was. I can show you a picture though....

On the Lockwood at least a dozen Common Sandpipers were (still) present, it got me wondering if we have had the same Birds now for a few weeks or if they are all new, probably a bit of both. This must be one of the better sites for Common Sand in London I would have thought.

On this date: 06 08 1983 Walthamstow 15:00-18:00 Overcast; 6+ Common Terns and 2 Common Sandpipers. Small party of juvenile Finches and Tree Sparrows. 1 summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe on Lockwood. 1 white Parakeet or Cockatiel flew South, screeching like a Tern. (Presumably Sulphur-crested Cockatoo)


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Pixellated for Posterity

What better to do on a rainy day than post up some photo’s kindly sent to us by Walthamstow ‘old boy’ David Darrell-Lambert.

Blue-winged Teal (record shot), Green-winged Teal, Firecrest, Little Gull, ‘hepatic’ female Cuckoo, Red-necked Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, somewhat tame Lesser White-fronted Goose but still a looker and, not even a Bird, though it looks like a bird has had a bite at its lower wing – Clouded Yellow.

Something to keep you going through the slog of patchwork!

See more of David’s work here:

Bird Brain UK

A few more of David's photo's from the archives:

Smew, White-headed Duck, (probably Walthamstow's rarest vistor so far, assuming WHD's get accepted one day)Turnstone.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Moo! Humbug!

Had an earlyish start on the marsh this morning, hoping for some migrants, Redstart or Whinchat would be nice Red-backed Shrike would be even nicer; the title says it all really! The only migrants were Warblers, quite a few of them really, Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, I wondered if the Cows were going to make a return visit to the marsh, (very useful if we are ever going to get a Cattle Egret) my wondering was halted on arrival at the bomb crater field, there they were, some of them were different to the ones from last year, and there were more of them. So the bait is laid it’s just a matter of time....

The Red-breasted Goose and Barnacle Goose were begging together at the bottom of Coppermill Lane; though we all that know tameness is not a bar to genuine vagrancy...err?

The Tufted Duck numbers seem to have peaked and are starting to drop a bit, or at least that’s my impression, the only other Duck of note was a single Shoveler in flight. Herons were conspicuous on the West bank of the Lockwood, at least 14 with 3 Little Egrets, loafing and fishing. I fushed them as I walked down the bank and one had the misfortune to fly across to the East bank where it was set upon by 50 Common Terns, I have learnt that particular lesson and gave them a wide berth.

I flushed a Common Sandpiper at the Southern end and thought that was it for Waders until I was halfway back down the West side when a flock of ten came off one of the little shingle ‘beaches’.

Best of all was discovering some Small Red-eyed Damselflies on floating sphagnum in the Lea about 200m North of the Ferry Boat Inn, certainly my first on patch, though I have heard that some were seen on the Waterworks, I have never been able to find them, perhaps they are on a private bit. If looking for these beware of Red-eyed Damselfly as they are on the same stretch, the slighter and paler look of the SRED is obvious when seen together but the best feature is the Tomato coloured eye of the SRED compared to the Blood red of the RED. I tried for a picture, I really did, but these things rested just long enough to get the scope on them, in the heat of midday they were definitely not going to wait for me to finish my juggling act with hat, glasses, cameraphone, let alone wait for me to line everything up!

On this day 03 08 1984 15:00-17:00 Wind S2 bright; 12+ Common Sandpipers, 3 summer-plumage Dunlin, 2+ Little Ringed Plover and 16 Lapwing. Of more interest 3 Ringed Plover.