Thursday, 29 September 2011

Walking and Talking

It’s the name of a new Channel 4 comedy apparently and it was being filmed on the patch today. It’s not the first time the patch has seen celebrity action. A couple of years ago we had Chris Packham and Simon King at an event at the Waterworks.

I even encountered Bill Oddie filming Cormorants on No.5 once, I got chatting to the production team and they asked if I would do a bit to camera, I was a bit reluctant ( still get recognized 25 years after doing a bit about a successful Little Bustard twitch on the BBC Nine O’clock News, the paps are hell!) but said I would do it, funnily enough Bill was even more reluctant, I suppose it was his program after all.

As you might have guessed no Birding for me today and, apart from a nearby Goshawk over Clapton, the patch is pretty quite. It will surely change when the weather breaks down....and I will be ready.

On this date: 29 09 07 A Whinchat in the Cow field on Walthamstow Marsh along with 5 Stonechats, another Stonechat on the North Marsh. 7 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap. A ‘commic’ Tern on No. 5 Reservoir. On the Filter Beds an adult presumed hybrid Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Dull pink legs and a stocky build together with a mantle between Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed in colour.

29 09 09 At 13:15 a Buzzard flew in low from the South at Middlesex Filter Beds and was mobbed mercilessly by Crows, it gained height moving off South but, presumably the same individual, went North at 13:30. A 2nd Buzzard seen going North-west over Walthamstow Marsh at 14:35 also came in from the South. At least 15 Chiffchaffs and a Meadow Pipit across the marsh today.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Blue Skies Smilin' At Me

Nothin' but blue skies do I see.

Well almost nothing. A Buzzard came in from the North-west and headed towards the Lockwood, in doing so it put up scores of roosting Gulls and c.300 Corvids (I didn’t know we had that many in the vicinity!) A few of the latter chased it round and round before it retreated back North.
A large female Peregrine flew in without attracting any attention, perhaps they were all worn out harassing the Buzzard or more likely feared the wrath of a quick Falcon in contrast to the soft target of a slow Buteo. The Peregrine flew up onto one of the Pylons North of the Lockwood for a bit but later went off hunting to the East.

A few sightings of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk didn’t make up for the lack of any large soaring Birds. Later another Buzzard appeared over the ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’ that’s the hideous sculpture by the Olympic stadium if you don’t know. It thermalled about before going off West.

The only things on the deck were a tired Lapwing sitting on the East bank of the Lockwood a Meadow Pipit that dropped in by my feet and a Wheatear.

There were plenty of Insects moving though, Migrant Hawkers, hawking as they migrated, Red Admirals sailing through and Silver Y’s shimmering on by. I suspect the Indian Summer conditions may bring some decent Birds in but we are probably going to have to wait for it to break down before we can start finding any of them. About 4 days time would be good as I am unavailable till then!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Duck, Super!

Early morning dawned bright but cool, the sun was promising but as it rose in the sky it disappeared behind the clouds, in fact I’m sure we never quite got the promised mini-heatwave today.

The Birds lived up, probably should say down, to the weather. Seven Common Sandpipers on the Lockwood were mostly new in, as numbers have diminished lately. 2 Green Sandpipers in the North channel were not new in but were new for me this Autumn, I just haven’t been able to connect with any since the late Spring passage. A nice surprise was a close encounter with one of the local Pheasants, normally seen, or, more usually heard at long range on the allotments at the North end of the Lockwood or on Tottenham and Walthamstow marsh, this fine male was pretty fearless and came within 20m.

Best of the rest was a Wheatear, plenty of Grey Wagtails, some Teal and a couple of Sparrowhawks. Strangely no Hirundines at all! The Water Bailiffs were stocking up the Low Maynard and I took the opportunity of a photo with this normally hidden creature of the depths.

Later after lunch I tried my luck on the Southern section of the reservoirs, (no marsh for me today....see previous post!) hoping for a sight of yesterdays reported Spotted Flycatcher and Goldcrest, I may well have heard the ‘crest in the large Conifers by the Southern (locked) gate but it defiantly refused to show itself. Sadly no sign of the Spotted Flycatcher either, just a handful of Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap representing any semblance of migration, still not a Hirundine to be found I was reduced to looking at Squirrels.

The best surprise was refinding, in the exact same place so not a great piece of Birding skill, the Mandarin. I think it was last seen, by me, three and a half weeks ago on the island on No.2. I suspected then that it might be a male, over that period it has been hiding up and moulting, I don’t think there is too much doubt now.

On this date: 24 09 2003 A rare garden sighting of a Dunnock this morning was probably more of a surprise than the Osprey in the afternoon, attention to the latter was drawn by the 30 Crows harassing it.


Friday, 23 September 2011

Bird Finding Made Easy?

I was at the paddocks by Walthamstow marsh today (saw Meadow Pipits!) when a tannoy announcement floated over on the breeze and I picked out the words "Peregrine Falcon". Whaaat? I legged it to the sports field behind the ice rink where there is a large 'Countryside Live' event including falconry and bird ringing. The buggers at the door reckoned I was beyond schoolchild age and therefore not allowed in until Saturday/Sunday.

Paul B

Countryside Live Weekend
24 - 25 September 2011
10.00 to 16.30
Leyton Marsh, Behind Lee Valley Ice Centre,
Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL
The Countryside comes to town! Don't miss a weekend packed with wildlife and countryside activities.
The event has something for all ages and all interests - so whether you're an avid birdwatcher, a budding wildlife enthusiast or you just want to learn more about the Countryside on your doorstep, there will be something for you, your friends and family!
  • Activity packed arena programme including - the Sheep Show, birds of prey and sheepdog displays!
  • Mini beast hunting
  • Traditional crafts
  • Wildlife information, organisations and exhibitors
  • Natural crafts and children's activities
  • and much, much more!
Adults £3.00, Children FREE!
Watch this space for a list of the organisations you can visit at this event.
You can find more information about this event on the following pages:
Get closer to nature in the heart of London
Exhibitors welcome - To register your interest in exhibiting at the event, or to receive updates please e-mail or call 08456 770 600.
Countryside Live

Countryside Live

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Flash Mob

It was Open House day in London today; Walthamstow Wetlands, as Walthamstow reservoirs is now apparently being called, was to feature. I assumed that Open House referred to buildings but not so it applies to places too. Jamie P had asked if I would co-lead with him as part of the London Wildlife Trust party. As well as the Open House people also coming along were Thames Water officials, Waltham Forest officers and, as it turned out, a fair few visitors.

I was introduced as the ‘local Bird expert’ and as ‘being here every day’ not quite right on both counts but close enough in comparison to everyone else. I never quite know what to do when guiding non-birders; I mean what are they expecting? Have they been spoiled by David Attenborough and wonder where the swirling flocks of Flamingo’s are? Do they want tame Ducks to swim up to them to be fed? Do they want to see something rare and unusual or just sheer number of species? My fears were allayed when the ‘leader’ explained that the ‘Tree Expert, Buildings Expert and Bird Expert’ would be available for questions. At least now I would know what people wanted.

Most of the crowd were obviously there to get a glimpse of the normally closed off reservoirs, the odd historic building and just to generally take in the scenery but as the morning wore on a number of guests asked Birdy questions which I did my best to answer.

It was decided that we guides should wear hi-vis jackets; maybe this was to scare off any Birds that were still in the vicinity of the 90 strong crowd, if so it certainly had the desired effect. There were a few Birds around but of course they were either miles away, heard only or whizzed out of sight before anyone could get on them.

I had been on the marsh earlier this morning with only 1 Whinchat, 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Siskin, 25 Teal and a Kingfisher to show for my time. Pete L and Kevin McM had done the Lockwood with only a half dozen flyover Wigeon to report, so it was obviously going to be hard work.

There was a constant flock of House Martins over the site, a couple of Common Terns and a few Meadow Pipits over but nothing much else though the Grey Herons, Cormorants and Mute Swan on the island of the East Warwick proved attractive to many. I think non-birders like big Birds, Birds they can see, rather than someone pointing at a fast disappearing dot and telling them ‘that was a Kingfisher’ which ironically was the first Bird I had after I removed the hi-vis and left the crowd.

No sooner had I got home than Kevin phoned with news that a mob of Greenshank and a Great Northern Diver had just flashed through the Lockwood.
Late edit: Steady stream of Swallows past the house this afternoon, then a surprise addition to the house list when a Bullfinch flew over, calling twice.

Friday, 16 September 2011

When the East Wind Blows

An early morning Stint (Mmm....Stint, that would be nice) of vis. Migging from the garden produced the usual cacophony of noise and two Meadow Pipits, 1 North and another South over the course of 40 minutes. On the reservoirs it was little better with another 5-10 Meadow Pipits over during the morning.

The only Southern vagrant on the East Warwick was Lol back from his Mediterranean jaunt. On the West Warwick, after braving the Wasps under the bridge sign, we saw a Whinchat, at first feeding on the ground but it then bush hopped along the bank before flying off strongly towards Hackney. A couple of Jackdaws went North and, on the East Warwick, 2 Snipe did a circuit of the reservoir before flying off. The only other Birds of note were a few wheeling Ring-necked Parakeets and, also wheeling but higher, a sizeable flock of House Martins. The Leaside Alders held none of the hoped for Siskins, which have been recorded from a number of London sites of late.

We looked in vain for the Mandarin around No.2. It could still be around, just snoozing on one of the islands but it may well have departed. A Hobby over the Lockwood was the best on offer there despite the promise of Raptory goodness with the Easterly wind. Kevin had seen a Redshank, and nothing else all morning, up on the Lockwood, it seemed to be a good cue to move on, in fact off. On the way out we had another Whinchat by the Ferry Boat Inn.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Time for a Chat

Met up with Mike M on the Waterworks this morning for a chat, he likes a chat you know, but, apart from a Mute Swan in distress, later rescued by the rangers, there was little on there of interest. The marsh however was much better, though strangely nothing on the Horse paddocks, (everyone else is always getting Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail, well perhaps not everyone and not always but certainly more than I do!) but elsewhere two Jackdaws flew East and there were multiple Chiffchaffs and a few Whitethroats and Blackcaps smattered around. A sizeable flock, of c.200 Hirundines over the Filter beds consisted mostly of House Martins with some Sand Martins mixed in.

The Bomb Crater field a.k.a. the Cow field held an impressive group of Whinchat and, even more impressive, a patch year tick, 2 male Stonechats. It was remarkably difficult to count them all as they were spending a lot of time feeding on the ground. One sweep through the field would reveal 5 Birds the next 2 and then 7 etc. After quite a while we counted a clear 9 Whinchat, though it might have been more if there were still some out of sight. A dozen or so Meadow Pipits flitted about and one or two more passed over this morning.

We bumped into Jamie P in the Middlesex F.B. looking for Spotted Flycatcher, my excuse was I was trying to poach it, he didn’t need an excuse, it’s his patch. My plan would have worked too because, if it had been in the right Tree, I could have scoped it from the right side of the Lea, the fly in the ointment was the lack of Fly’ in the Tree. A short chat ensued where I explained my ‘on, over or from’ the patch rule. It was put to the test moments after I left the two of them and wandered back across Hackney marsh, a flock of Siskin bounded low West, fortunately I remembered that I didn’t need them for the year as both I and they were off patch. Must remember to stay on the right side of the Lea, one of these days I will get caught out.

On this date: 14 09 08 A fairly slow visible migration session this morning in the garden; resulted in 4 Meadow Pipits and little else. At 08:10 however an Osprey was seen circling low to the North-west, it didn’t attract much attention from any potential mobbers and went of to the South-west. At 15:50 two birds seen, thermalling, far to the South-west, were possibly Honey Buzzards. At 16:14 a definite mid-phase Honey Buzzard flew straight towards the house from the North, circled and went off South-west.


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Walk the Walk

After many requests:

We are having an organized walk, to coincide with a London Wildlife Trust one, next Saturday 17th September @ 09:45. Meeting at the Fishermans Lodge car park opposite the Ferry Boat Inn in Ferry Lane N17.,-0.052528&spn=0.006973,0.017123&t=h&z=16&vpsrc=6
This will cover the reservoirs, with the possibility of going onto Walthamstow Marsh in the afternoon. Bring your own binoculars, weatherproof gear as required, expect to walk a couple of miles.
All welcome.
Walthamstow Birders

Friday, 9 September 2011

Two Sandwiches Short....

A steady stream of Plain Martins and Cabot’s Terns moved South today through the patch. Of course to the untrained eye they looked just like Sand Martins and Sandwich Terns. Let me elucidate.

I arrived up at the Lockwood around 09:15 to find a slightly less morose than usual Kevin; he had just had a patch tick you see, Meadow Pipit. It had been a whole six days since his last and he had rather set his heart on one a day! You didn’t hear me complaining when I hadn’t had a patch tick for over a year!.....erm, well, moving on.
Meadow Pipits trickled through all morning in small groups, I saw nearly 30, the first of the Autumn. They seem to have been seen in a number of London sites this morning. Also passing through were Sand Martins, though now they are split (see I couldn’t hand on heart say they weren’t Plain Martins, I’ll just leave them as Sand Martins though.

There were 5 Swifts still kicking around all morning which is getting quite late now. Sparrowhawks were much in evidence and it was difficult to be sure how many we were seeing, certainly 5+, maybe more. A local Peregrine was sat on the pylon by the Banbury eating it’s brunch (it’s not quite Breakfast, it’s not quite Lunch but you get a good meal and a slice of Canteloupe on the side). As Lol is away for a bit there is no one stopping me posting a fuzzy blob. (You think that’s bad wait till you (try and) see the Hobby).
A Jackdaw moved South and a male Reed Bunting went West, a few Chaffinches and strangely Collared Doves also seemed to be on the move, though with both of them, as with Sparrowhawk, it’s difficult to separate migrants from residents. A few little Egrets were commuting up and down the valley.

Suddenly a Tern called, Kevin called Tern, they, for there were two of them, flew from behind some Willows and into view, I called Sandwich Tern. Both adults they just moved straight through over the Low Maynard. Similarly to the Martins, now that Sandwich Tern has been split could I honestly say they weren’t Cabot’s Terns? The good news is they were new for the patch for the year. I wasn't sure if I had seen Sandwich Tern on the patch before in September, it turns out I had.

The final fling was a Hobby low over the Ferry Boat Inn as I left, I chanced a picture but it got higher before I could get the phone on it, no sooner had I taken the shot (I told you the Peregrine wouldn’t seem so bad) there were two of them, they headed for right where I had been standing on the South end of the Lockwood, I headed for Tescos.

On this date:
09 09 03 A Redstart and a Wheatear by the riding stables on Walthamstow Marsh a Lesser Whitethroat by the Marina.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Essex Girl

Pete L kindly sent me this response from the BTO regarding a ringed Cormorant he saw on the West Warwick on Sunday:

Full name
Pete L
Address 1
Address 2
Address 3
Address 4
Postcode/Zip code
Type of bird (if known)
Sex of bird (if known)
Age of bird (if known)
Appeared adult
Was the bird -
How long has the bird been dead?
What happened to the bird? (e.g. caught by cat, hit by car, oiled on beach etc.)
What happened to the bird? (e.g. entered house, tangled in garden netting, stunned hitting window - later released etc.)
It was perched on a jetty and flew off.
Please give further details of the circumstances if you can (e.g. ring only found in drawer, found by metal detector)
Walthamstow Reservoirs
Location extra
West Warwick
TQ 348 880
Date (dd/mm/yyyy)
Date (approx)
Please enter any further remarks that you may like to add that will assist in the processing of the ring recovery.
Nasal saddle (colour and code)
Neck collar (colour and code)
Left wing tag (colour and code)
Right wing tag (colour and code)
Leg ring (colour and code)
Orange ring, CH4 code
Left above knee
Left below knee
Right above knee
Right below knee

This colour-ringed cormorant orange CH4 (metal ring G1774) was ringed as a chick in the nest at Abberton Reservoir, Essex on the 26th April 2009, as part of a project coordinated by Jez Blackburn at the BTO. Since this time, there has been just one previous re-sighting; Brent Reservoir on the 13th February 2011.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Come On! Irene!

I mean, give us something!

The remnants of Hurricane Irene passed through the patch this morning and early afternoon. I passed through the patch mid afternoon with about as much impact. The only thing of note was 1 Whinchat still in the bomb crater field, though even that went to ground as soon as one of the local Kestrels appeared. There were precious few Passerines on the Waterworks N.R. or the marsh and it appears from reports that the reservoir watchers fared much the same.

Perhaps this week’s generally unsettled weather will deliver us something though it is hard to see what on predominantly Westerly winds. Walthamstow is not renowned for its Yank Wader record, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper ever. At the moment its not renown for any Wader records to speak of.

It is looking like a bit more stormy weather may be on the way next week too.

Come on Katia!

On this date:

04 09 89 Lockwood; 7 Common and 1 Green Sandpipers, 1-3 Whinchat, 2 Wheatear and many Yellow Wagtail.

04 09 90 1 Swift, 1 Swallow and many other Hirundines over. 20+ Yellow Wagtails, a Wheatear and 1 Common Tern.


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Site #6 Coppermill Lane

Three quarters of the way down Coppermill Lane, from the bottom of Walthamstow High Street lies the new filter beds, (new as in the 1960’s, compared to the now defunct Victorian filter beds further down at the Southern end of Walthamstow Marsh) the main attraction of these is the late afternoon pre-roost Gull build up. This is mostly a Winter thing and has held such goodies as Glaucous, Mediterranean, Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls. In the Spring and Autumn there are sometimes Wheatears, Pipits and Wagtails on the Grassy banks and the ‘football pitches’ at the back. Geese often feed on here and it is conceivable that Wild Geese could get mixed in with the ferals in harsh weather. House Martins breed and there are often Hirundines and Swifts swirling overhead, especially at passage times.

On the other side of the road lies No.5 reservoir, the largest island holds the Lion’s share of the breeding Cormorants, this was previously the Heronry but whilst they often loaf here they have moved onto No.1 island to breed. Check the island for Duck, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler all hang out here and Shelduck are usually to be found on the island. Ruddy Duck used to Winter in a medium sized flock, though no more, once a White-headed Duck stayed a while. Other good Wildfowl to watch out for are Goosander, Eider and Smew though none of these are too common. This tends to be one of the favourite reservoirs for Tufted Duck and often holds a Wintering Common Sandpiper.

The smaller island also has breeding Cormorants and sometimes Kingfishers; there is an obvious hole on the South side, though patience is required for a view. If you don’t have time to go around the reservoirs peeking through the fence here is often a good bet for increasing your day list either before or after a visit to the marsh as many of the typical reservoir species can be scoped.

Further down the Lane, after the last few houses is a large stand of Leylandii, some smaller Trees and then a group of tall Trees near to the old Copper Mill, all of this is worth checking as Parakeets have recently moved in, both Woodpeckers can be found and often Winter Thrushes are present in season.

Around the bend the Lane runs along the Coppermill stream, Long-eared Owls have roosted in adjacent Hawthorns on the reservoir side of the fence, but not for many years.
The Alders sometimes have Siskins and Redpolls if it is a good year locally for them and in Autumn there are always Tits and Warblers. The Lane ends for through traffic at a small car park but the marsh can be accessed either from the gate by the car park or by going under the Cattle creep (5’ headroom rail bridge).


Friday, 2 September 2011

When Pigs Fly

When they do I will no doubt get a patch tick. These little fellows have just moved into the Waterworks N.R. thus moving further from N.R. to Z.O.O. Maybe it’s a good thing, what with Horses and Cows on the marsh we could be about to attract things that like Pigs...Pig Egret? Could be a potential split.

The Waterworks held no surprises; it also held no sign of Mike M’s Wednesday Redstart, mores the pity, though it did hold Mike M. We had a few Teal dropping into the beds, my first of the Autumn. On the marsh proper we had two, probably adult, Whinchats in the bomb crater field, the Kestrels seem to have moved on, thank goodness. A Mistle Thrush was the best of the rest.

Later we moved on to the Lockwood for the late morning Raptor Fest, despite conditions looking promising and despite hearing that 3 Marsh Harriers were heading our way from Hatfield (our Birds from Wednesday?) it proved disappointing on the large raptor front. It made up for it on the small Raptor front with 2 Hobbys soaring to the South and another over the Lockwood, plenty of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel activity and a grey fuzzy blob sitting on the incinerator chimney which later became a Peregrine over our heads, it’s the first time I have seen Peregrine up there since the maintenance work of the late Spring, worth keeping your eyes open as they used to like sitting up there.

A walk around the Lockwood only produced 7 Swifts, about 4 Common Sandpipers, a Wheatear and a couple of Teal, sadly no sign of Kevin’s Spotted Flycatcher from yesterday. Kevin did pull a couple of Whimbrel out of the bag though, they flew steadily, and silently South-west early afternoon.