Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Fisherman Fiend

It’s been a couple of weeks since I visited the patch proper and I was looking forward to it, I’m glad to say, less is definitely more. Was it to be the reservoirs or the marsh though? If I say it should have been the marsh you will know that I choose the reservoirs!

I noticed that Pete had written in the log that he had seen a ‘small Falcon, not a Kestrel’ a couple of times on Sunday, I think his natural caution has been further tempered by the fact that Merlin would be a patch tick (if he keeps one) for him. I also heard from Kevin, who suddenly appeared behind me on the Lockwood, that Pete had seen the Mediterranean Gull on factory roofs by the Banbury recently, so both those species are using the full length of the patch it would seem, certainly they are hit and miss in their appearances.

The Lockwood is still very low but pumping has begun to fill it so the edge won’t last long, not that it’s pulling in much.

Winter Duck are in short supply, in fact wintering Duck are in fairly short supply compared to a few weeks ago when we had vast flocks of moulting Aythyas, they must have all dispersed or headed back North in the mild weather. I did see a female Goldeneye on No.1 and couple of newly returned Shelduck on No.5, back from their moulting grounds off Germany. Possibly from Germany, though we will never know, were another couple of red colour-ringed Gulls, a Common Gull and a Lesser Black-backed Gull both on the bank of the Lockwood but waaay to far away to read any numbers.

A Chiffchaff and perhaps two Kingfishers were calling from the Lea by the Ferry Boat Inn but none of them gave themselves up for scrutiny.

On the Southern section the only action of any consequence involved screeching Ring-necked Parakeets, some seemingly paired up and prospecting nest holes, presumably for next year, it’s not that mild!

I checked the Coppermill stream edge for any Water Rail, a few of which are now on site, though not on this occasion in sight, wintering Bitterns, too mild yet? And roosting Long-eared Owls, just a fantasy really. A look on the East Warwick revealed a Fisherman walking through the small Reed bed in the South-west corner, if he flushed a Bittern I might have looked on this act more kindly but he didn’t so I think it was very irresponsible. One of his brethren on No.4 decided that he would cast his Fly just as I got behind him; I kindly requested that he look first before he had someone’s eye out, he laughed! At least we don’t have Dog walkers over here....yet.


Sunday, 27 November 2011


It was the normal tale of a Sunday afternoon, the spirit was willing(ish) but the flesh was definitely weak. I really had intended to go out on the patch (after deciding not to go looking for a Rose-coloured Starling for the Essex list I am not really keeping) but it has been a hectic week and after being out all morning some food was the first priority, second priority was just a few minutes of folding the arms and shutting the eyes, third priority didn’t really stand a chance after that.

I couldn’t make my mind up anyway whether it should have been the reservoirs to have a chance on the Merlin or the marsh to find some trickle down ‘sibes’. As ever my indecision led to no decision.

So there I was staring out of the back window, whilst finishing off the last series of 24, as if it is not exciting enough! Checking the Gulls mostly moving North to the Chingford reservoir roost, trying to check the occasional non-Starling Passerine zipping by, which are usually Chaffinches apart from the ones that look really interesting but are moving too fast or are too far away to identify, when out of the blue a small whippy-winged Falcon appears from the North-west, the direction of the marsh/reservoirs and flies straight through, giving me enough time to get the bins on it and then run to the front of the house to see it carry straight down the valley and on towards the Olympic Park.

Not my first Merlin on the patch, I had a female whizz past me near No.1 reservoir on 2nd Dec ember 1988 and a, probable male, blast North viewed from the house on 23rd September 2005, but certainly the most prolonged views. I guess it was the male that has been seen a couple of times recently on the filter beds and the Lockwood.

It didn’t seem to be hunting but looked rather purposeful in it’s flight and, being 15:30, I suspect it could have been on its way to roost somewhere to the South, worth keeping an eye out further down the valley East India Dock Basin maybe? Assuming there is just one Bird locally (they are pretty scarce in the Lea Valley) then it certainly has quite a range.

Certainly a magic sighting. (sorry, I could have said it cast a spell over me)

On this date:

27 11 1982 13:30-16:00 Bright, calm and cold; 150 Shoveler on the Lower Maynard. 6-8 Short-eared Owls along natural bank of the Lockwood including 2 together, 1 buzzing a Redshank on horse field. Seen hunting, roosting in bush and on ground, yellow eyes noted. Also on the Lockwood a female Goldeneye.  On No.5 a Black-necked Grebe, showing yellowy eyes, presumably a juvenile, also a party of 5 Little Grebes and a Ring-necked Parakeet over, high. 1 Kingfisher on the stream by the Coppermill. Another Short-eared Owl on the Marsh.

27 11 1989 1 Common Sandpiper still on the East Warwick.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Site #8 Northern Section Walthamstow Reservoirs

Access to the Northern Section of the reservoirs is via the gate opposite the car park by the Fishermans Lodge in Ferry Lane. The code to the gate is by the permit desk, don’t worry you won’t get locked in!

The Ferry Boat pub is next to the gate and has a reasonable selection of Beers, the food is middling which is more than one could say about the service, though it seems to be under new management and the staff certainly seemed much more with it on my last visit than previously, maybe the food has improved too, it has a nice Beer garden overlooking the reservoirs and is quite a pleasant extension to a Summer visit if you have the time. (just checked some recent reviews...oh dear!)

As you enter the Northern complex the River Lea or one of its components flows South along your Left hand side. The Scrub and Bushes along its edges can often hold Warblers and even occasionally a Flycatcher or Chat. Small Red-eyed Damselflies have recently been found on the floating Weed. Immediately to the North is a Weir which is the haunt of many Moorhens and sometimes a pair of Egyptian Geese, Little Egrets roost in the dead Tree opposite on occasion.

The reservoir on your Right is the Low Maynard and behind that is the High Maynard, which is higher and has a couple of islands. There is a Tern raft on the former. The Low Maynard has natural banks and overhanging Trees under which such things as Smew and Kingfishers have been known to skulk. The High Maynard is concrete sided and is more likely to hold the odd Wader.

The factories to the East used to hold breeding Black Redstarts, many years ago, they occasionally still turn up but seldom linger long. The overflow channel which forms the Eastern boundary to the site is best when nearly empty and can hold feeding Little Egrets and Waders, the latter especially in cold weather.

The Lockwood is reached by walking North and climbing the stairs. It is the biggest and possibly the best reservoir on site. Its Banks are concrete, apart from the West bank, which is natural. If you are going to find Waders this is the most likely reservoir, the Northern end is most favoured as it is seldom disturbed, Fisherman prefer the other reservoirs it seems. You really need to walk the whole thing as scoping will not reveal anything small at the furthest reaches. There is a Tern raft on here too, in 2011 Black-headed Gulls bred for the first time. Winter Duck and Grebes often favour this reservoir.

Not to be forgotten is the prospect for skywatching in season, the best vantage point is halfway up the East bank by the square concrete blockhouse, it gives an elevated 360° view. Don’t forget to look straight up too, it is amazing how constant scanning, even by more than one set of eyes fail to pick up overhead migrants until they are....overhead! Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Buzzard, Osprey are all annual but you have to put the time in. Spring and Autumn are obviously best but really anything can fly over at anytime.

Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrine all breed nearby and are often seen, Hobby is becoming scarcer in recent years but it only takes one pair to breed nearby and they can then be seen daily during the Summer.

The Grassy banks are good for pulling in migrating Passerines, from Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting in the Winter (both rare) to flocks of Yellow Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Wheatears etc on passage. Short-eared Owls have wintered in the past and roosted on the grassy slopes along with Long-eared Owls in the Lea side bushes, the first named is a scarce passage bird and the last named a mere memory though it would be worth checking in Owl years.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls

The Little Gull seems to have gone, after at least 8 days.

The Mediterranean Gull seems to be being seen a bit more often, best bet is the filter beds off Coppermill Lane but in truth it can get anywhere.

And Sundays ringed Herring Gull.....

I Got this reply from Richard Thompson:

"Many Thanks for the sighting of one of my birds. If you don't already know I manage the RSPCA wildlife centre in Fairlight and we release back to the wild previously sick, injured and orphan wildlife, many of which are gulls!/pages/Rspca-Mallydams-Wood-50th-Anniversary/118870988183041

I have released over 3,000 gulls in the last 12 years, most are Herring gulls (Larus argentatus,) but I also ring Lesser Black-backed (Larus fuscus) and Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus). All birds are released from Pett Level, East Sussex 50:55N. 00:42E. I also ring wild birds and many are gull chicks.

White darvic ring A7JR, (metal ring no. GR14048) was ringed as a juvenile on 21st October 2010.

This bird has been seen twice before, once at Pitsea on 29thOctober 2011 and once at Rainham on 12th November 2011.

Many thanks again for reporting this bird to me."

As for the Common Gull, Paul Hawkins kindly did some digging for me and came up with this:

"This is one of Sönke Martens birds. Red ring with white code (Axxx) with Helgoland-metal ring on other leg.
note 1 : used letter is "A" at beginning.
note 2 : examples for used codes are A102, A467, AC99, AE54, A99X, A55N, AN67, A5A4 etc"

Interesting that we are getting Gulls from Pitsea and Rainham, not to mention Helgoland, it really does raise the possibility of almost any Gull species being seen at Walthamstow!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Bird on a Wire

I was a little late meeting up with Lol on the Lockwood, mostly due to the traffic; they’re digging up Ferry Lane, again. Don’t get me started on Clancy Docwra, I thought they had finished digging up the borough a few years ago now they are at it again and it is doing my pressure no good at all, the cold tap is just a trickle of its old self.

I digress, the Lockwood level was as low as last week, (maybe that’s where the pressure drop is coming from) the only bird of note was my first Goldeneye of the Autumn, a female. The 1st winter Little Gull was still on the Low Maynard, as last week, still feeding just as frenetically and still eluding photography.

As we entered the Southern section one of the Water Bailiffs stopped to tell us of an Osprey about two weeks ago, we were just by the bridge that goes across to the track between No.1 & No.2, which is just as well because at that point a Woodcock came out from the bushes there and flew over us toward the Lea, another few moments and we would have missed it. Next up was a male Peregrine flying North and eventually landing on the crane by Tottenham Hale.
I cajoled Lol into walking round the whole of the West Warwick, tempting him with promises of Redpolls in the Alders, as ever I lied. We did get a Water Rail calling from the Coppermill stream at the South-east end of the West Warwick for our troubles and a couple of ringed Gulls, a Herring Gull with a white Darvic reading (as best as we could see) A7JR and a Common Gull reading A45A on a Red Darvic. I will report back if I find out where they have come from but I suspect a nearby tip rather than Vladivostok.

A Green Woodpecker was balancing very well on overhead railway cables, not something I have seen one do before. There was a Wigeon on the East Warwick and a high count of 11 Ring-necked Parakeets over No.5. A very pleasant, if tiring, walk in the fine November weather with a strange absence of any great Passerine activity. Maybe it’s just too mild to move anything down our way yet. Hopefully the current spell will continue and allow some tasty wintering Sibe to come our way.


Friday, 11 November 2011

From Siberia to the Mediterranean

I thought about the patch today, while twitching the Bow Siberian Chiffchaff in fact. I probably may have strolled over there if the little devil hadn’t have given me the run-around for over two hours! It showed well, calling constantly for nigh on half an hour when it deigned to put in an appearance. That left little time for Walthamstow, after the Tesco run.

I was sitting at the back window in the late afternoon gloom, which looked remarkably similar to the midday and morning gloom when I suddenly realised that I had left my Bins in the car, I’ll pop out and get them in a minute, I thought, I won’t be needing them in these conditions, at which point I looked up to see an adult winter-plumaged Mediterranean Gull flying around the factory roof opposite with a few other Gulls, in fact it landed on the roof a couple of times, thus coming off the ‘seen in flight from the house’ list and getting itself straight onto the ‘seen on the deck from the house’ list. It’s the first adult that I have seen from the house the last two being first winters, with another first winter just a couple of hundred meters away in the local park.

This was a Bird I had not quite given up on for the patch this year, as an adult, probably the same one, has been seen by the filter beds and by Ferry lane in the last couple of weeks, in fact it could be the Wanstead Flats Bird too. I have been on the lookout for it and decided I must check the filter beds in the mid-late afternoon in case it is dropping in there for the pre-roost gathering, no need now, I shall have to think of other targets for the year.

After considering this year to be a bit mediocre patch-wise the last few weeks have seen both the patch and me adding a number of species (totals 145/126 respectively) and now we are both only 5 species off last year’s record. Can it be done?


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saturday, 5 November 2011

There’s No Bunting Like Snow Bunting

I knew before I arrived that this morning’s Snow Bunting had done a bunk but decided to have a stroll around the Lockwood anyway, you never know it might return to the scene of the crime. It didn’t, but the good news was that I got a patch year tick nonetheless. Atop the Lockwood I was struck by the light flight of a small Gull-like Bird, that little Gull looks like a Tern, thought I, its November this could be good, it was, but not that good, the little Gull-like Bird was in fact a Little Gull. A first winter Bird, and the first for the patch this year surprisingly, it hawked up and down the Low Maynard for at least a couple of hours.

After upgrading the software on my phone I find that the zoom feature on the, fairly poor, camera is suddenly not available anymore, could be that the quality of my photos will deteriorate from now on (I can hear Lol asking if that’s possible) but here is the best.

The level on the Lockwood was the lowest I can remember, naturally nothing had been attracted to it (since this morning’s brief Snow Bunting) but it may yet come good. There was just 1 Common Sandpiper, soon to be a wintering Common Sandpiper I hope. 2 Green Sandpipers were in the North Channel. Also in the North Channel were 3 Little Egrets a couple of Herons and a bunch of Gulls all standing motionless around an abandoned football, it felt like I had just interrupted some sort of Avian tournament.

There were a couple of dozen Teal at the North end of the Lockwood and as I scoped them they took off, at which point it appeared that one of them, may have had a vertical white flank bar, I watched them fly around for a bit expecting them to land in the middle, which a handful did, the others flew dementedly like each one was being personally pursued by a flock of Peregrines. I gave up watching in the end and decided to catch up with them on the South bound leg of the circuit, needless to say they were nowhere to be found.

The South side of the complex held no surprises though the Duck are looking a bit smarter now, coming out of eclipse. A reasonable number of Shoveler and Gadwall were on the East Warwick. On No.5 there was an interesting hybrid ‘athya’ probably a Ferruginous x Pochard, I tried for a photo but the light was non-existent.

As I passed the island on No.2 somebody let off a large firework in Walthamstow and, despite the distance, everything on the island went up. It was interesting to see how much stuff was roosting on such a small island, hundreds of Woodpigeons, Crows, Gulls, Herons and Egrets, the later calling ‘aarrk’ in annoyance, not a sound I have heard from them before. Eventually most things settled down again but I suspect a disturbed nights sleep will be had on the patch tonight.

On this date:

05 11 1983 Walthamstow 13:30-16:30 Wind NW2, misty; 2 male & 1 female Teal on No.3. 1 Gadwall on High Maynard, 1 male Goldeneye on Lockwood. Adult winter-plumage Dunlin and 1 scandinavian Rock Pipit also on Lockwood. 3 Grey Wagtail.

05 11 1987 Walthamstow; 1 Black-necked Grebe on No.3 reservoir.