Wednesday, 28 December 2011

If You Have Been....

All posts backwards from here are atom restored posts from the previous incarnation of the present blog (previously called 'Walthamstow Birding' - the pics seem to have been lost though).

....Thanks for Reading.

Especial thanks to Mark Pearson who set the blog up and encouraged us/me to run it. Thanks to the other (somewhat occasional, it must be said, but nevertheless much appreciated) contributors and photographers, who made this a more rounded out experience. Thanks to the Followers and those who have posted links elsewhere and to the celebrity endorsers (thanks for sharing your feelings too)

A special mention too for the hardworking patchers who have found and shared their Birds. Last, but by no means least, thanks to the readers, many of whom have offered help and encouragement over the months.

I have no doubt that the blog will one day rise again, I will do my best to get it adopted by the Country Park people when they move in, unless of course they have their own, or perhaps a new generation of Birders will take it on when the place is gentrified.

Finally a message to our sponsors, where were you?


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Listing to One Side

Followers of the blog will have noticed the cumulative patch year list which previously adorned the Right hand side of the page; it grew steadily, if erratically through the year. The grand sum of 90 was reached before the Winter was out and a single Summer migrant was recorded. We got to 100 before the end of March but, once the passage migrants were all in it took the last six months of the year to add just 16 species to bring the total to 148.

Last year with slightly less eyes on the patch and a good deal less hours spent we reached 149, it was a good year. So 150 will probably be reached one year but it will be down to someone else to keep count.

Personally I managed 128, slightly short of my best effort, 130 in 2010, despite a great deal more effort being expended. My game plan will be vastly different next year and I expect my yearlist will be somewhat smaller, hopefully though, if anyone should be kind enough to let me know about them, I will add a couple more patch ticks. This year Marsh Harrier and White-fronted Goose were added, Kittiwake or Ring-necked Duck would be nice for 2012 though in truth I will be pretty happy with whatever comes my way.

So that is it, time to set the year list to one side (I’ll stick it at the end of the blog entry for posterity; for comparison with last year see 31st December 2010 page) if anything does get added before the weekend I will update but I suspect, like me, most locals have run out of enthusiasm for this year and might well not visit the old place before January 1st.

It is funny what’s in a date, today no one would glance twice at a Cormorant (though I have noticed that many have been in breeding plumage for a couple of weeks now) but come January 1stthey will be eagerly ticked off. It always used to be House Sparrows that were used as the exemplar of this phenomenon but of course they are so rare now that they always get a second look.

A quiet day in for me today, the only sightings worthy of note was a prolonged Dog-fight between a Crow and a Sparrowhawk variously taking turns in being the aggressor and defender (still not a shadow of the scrap I watched yesterday between a Peregrine with prey and a Rough-legged Buzzard, I suspect the latter had been robbed by the former and was not in a mood to surrender its lunch without a fight, needless to say this was not at Walthamstow but only an hours’ drive away and I did see a few Hen Harriers, a Marsh Harrier, a couple of Common Buzzards and even found a second Rough-legged Buzzard not to mention all the other stuff....Twitching, you’ve got to love it!) and a Ring-necked Parakeet perched in a Willow outside my back window; it thereby gets itself off the house ‘flyover’ list and onto the ‘seen on the deck’ list, to think up till a couple of weeks ago it was merely on the ‘heard only’ list...Listing, you’ve got to love it!

I also spotted this book at home today but found it strangely disappointing, if not downright misleading!

 Walthamstow 2011 Year List

148.Black-necked Grebe, 147.Brambling, 146.Merlin, 145.Golden Plover, 144.Knot, 143.Little Gull, 142.Snow Bunting, 141.Lapland Bunting, 140.White-fronted Goose, 139.Water Pipit, 138.Black Redstart, 137.Great Northern Diver, 136.Crossbill, 135.Sandwich Tern, 134.Spotted Flycatcher, 133.Redstart, 132.Turtle Dove, 131.Red-crested Pochard, 130.Gannet, 129.Cuckoo, 128.Oystercatcher, 127.Ringed Plover, 126.Black Tern, 125.House Martin, 124a.White Wagtail, 124.Whinchat, 123.Turnstone, 122.Arctic Tern, 121.Hobby, 120.Whimbrel, 119.Grasshopper Warbler, 118.Swift, 117.Garden Warbler, 116.Greenshank, 115.Goshawk, 114.Mandarin , 113.Red-legged Partridge, 112.Reed Warbler, 111.Yellow Wagtail, 110.Lesser Whitethroat, 109.Whitethroat, 108.Little Ringed Plover, 107.Common Tern, 106.Marsh Harrier, 105.Short-eared Owl, 104.Osprey, 103.Sedge Warbler, 102.Willow Warbler, 101.Swallow, 100.Red Kite, 99.Stonechat, 98.Bar-tailed Godwit, 97.Rock Pipit (Scandinavian), 96.Buzzard, 95.Common Scoter, 94.Lesser Redpoll, 93.Sand Martin, 92.Blackcap, 91.Wheatear, 90.Cetti's Warbler, 89.Waxwing, 88.Mediterranean Gull, 87.Dunlin, 86.Snipe, 85.Little Owl, 84.Woodcock, 83.Eider, 82.Yellow-legged Gull, 81.Barnacle Goose, 80.Red-breasted Merganser, 79.Scaup, 78.Peregrine, 77.Black-tailed Godwit, 76.Lapwing, 75.Sparrowhawk, 74.Ring-necked Parakeet, 73.Siskin, 72.Curlew, 71.Redshank, 70.Skylark, 69.Reed Bunting, 68.Bullfinch, 67.Linnet, 66.Goldfinch, 65.Greenfinch, 64.Chaffinch, 63.Meadow Pipit, 62.Pied Wagtail, 61.Grey Wagtail, 60.House Sparrow, 59.Dunnock, 58.Robin, 57.Mistle Thrush, 56.Redwing, 55.Song Thrush, 54.Fieldfare, 53.Blackbird, 52.Starling, 51.Wren, 50.Chiffchaff, 49.Long-tailed Tit, 48.Great Tit, 47.Blue Tit, 46.Goldcrest, 45.Carrion Crow, 44.Jackdaw, 43.Jay, 42.Magpie, 41.Great Spotted Woodpecker, 40.Green Woodpecker, 39.Kingfisher, 38.Collared Dove, 37.Woodpigeon, 36.Stock Dove, 35.Rock Dove, 34.Herring Gull, 33.Lesser Black-backed Gull, 32.Common Gull, 31.Black-headed Gull, 30.Green Sandpiper, 29.Common Sandpiper, 28.Coot, 27.Moorhen, 26.Water Rail, 25.Kestrel, 24.Great Crested Grebe, 23.Little Grebe, 22.Grey Heron, 21.Little Egret, 20.Cormorant, 19.Pheasant, 18.Ruddy Duck, 17.Goosander, 16.Smew, 15.Goldeneye, 14.Tufted Duck, 13.Pochard, 12.Shoveler, 11.Pintail, 10.Mallard, 9.Teal, 8.Gadwall, 7.Wigeon, 6.Shelduck, 5.Egyptian Goose, 4.Canada Goose, 3.Greylag Goose, 2.Great Black-backed Gull, 1.Mute Swan.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sanity Clause

I have just finished reading this month’s Birdwatch magazine, soon to fall victim to budget cuts I fear, mine that is not theirs; which had an interesting, and balanced, article by Andy Stoddart, extolling the virtue of doing a local patch. He mentions that there are many ways to enjoy Birding, something the mono-focussed twitcher bashing brigade on Bird Forum would do well to recognize. I really don’t understand why they feel the need to post on the Rare Bird thread; do they join Philately Forums and run down Stamp Collectors?

Any hoo, I appreciated only too well what Andy said about most patches producing little in the way of glamorous rarities and how this can be remedied with a quick fix of twitching. After this year’s abysmal personal year list, (only one year in the last 30 was lower) I will definitely be indulging in some therapeutic twitching in 2012  Birds notwithstanding. The perfect balance of character building, grounded patch work combined with the occasional twitch should keep (make?) me sane.

This afternoon I had to have a camera shoved up my nose (don’t bother googling You Tube it’s not on there) which meant I had a bit of time to do the Southern end of the patch. The footpath to nowhere is taking shape in the South-east corner of Marsh Lane fields, there were quite a lot of Birds along the previously hard to access Dagenham Brook but I suspect they will be soon driven away if the footpath gets much traffic.

I was concentrating on the scrubby edges of the patch today with Bullfinch and Redpolls in mind; naturally that’s where they stayed, in mind. As I approached the top field I heard the yapping of a yappy Dog, it and its owner and child had walked along the whole length of scrubby bushes, I didn’t bother! I headed round the field and decided to look at the roosting Gulls on the Football pitches, the Dog family changed course and headed for me, I doubled back and outflanked them at which point they outsmarted me and headed straight for the Gulls....D’oh. I thought I could beat them to it but they cleverly sent the Dog on ahead and he flushed the lot, just to make sure they stayed away they all walked over to where they had settled....

Time to give up and check the Lea by the Golf Course. There were quite a few Duck loafing including 20+ Teal and a few Gadwall. One of the Teal had neither a vertical nor horizontal White flank bar; I was just thinking what it should be called....No-winged Teal? When it flew off...perhaps just Winged Teal. I don’t know what made me check the Owl Tree, habit? You’ll never guess what I saw...told you you’d never guess, the Little Owl was in there, well a bit of its wing was. Given how it filled the hole the other day and how much room there clearly is in there, such that it can get really tucked away, I’m thinking there must have been two of them in there before. Still pretty hard to see though. Follow directions as before but see photo for actual hole.

A Kingfisher called from the Lea but must have flown in the opposite direction. Near to the Red Bridge 2-3 Goldcrests were loosely associating with some Long-tailed Tits but unusually no Chiffchaffs in what is normally a good spot for them.

On the Waterworks a showy Water Rail in bed 17 toyed with me, giving me enough time to get glasses, bins and cameraphone lined up before disappearing and then doing the same all over again a couple of minutes later.

A few months ago I promised a picture of the finished sculpture in the Olympic Park which is prominently visible from much of the patch, conveniently they seem to have finished it just before the blogs demise, I say ‘seem’ as it’s hard to tell really, at least we won’t have to put up with it for too long, it must be a honeypot for metal thieves. Not the best photo but I could have given you nostrils.

Nothing much else in the Waterworks, no Snipe or Green Sandpipers though both have been seen recently and no Bullfinches or Redpolls, again both have been seen nearby in the last couple of weeks. Winter officially starts tomorrow but somehow I don’t think we are going to notice, we have virtually no Winter specialities around. Looks like the blog is not the only thing going out with a fizzle.

On this date: 21 12 1989 At Walthamstow the Red-necked Grebe was on No.4 reservoir and a Common Sandpiper was on the Lockwood. On the Marsh a Long-tailed Tit and a Stonechat, possibly a Chiffchaff heard in the distance.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

BLOGOFF (nearly)

An (the) adult Mediterranean Gull was seen again this morning flying South-east over my house, which means it has been seen more often here than anywhere else on the patch, unless of course we have more than one Bird locally. I still think it is probably the Wanstead Bird but what do I know.

The nights are drawing in; thank goodness it’s only 4 days till the shortest day. But that also means it’s only 14 days till the end of the blog, (unless someone else wants to carry it on? And if they do I would like to know where they were for the last two years?) or at least my blogging. It is nearly three years since Mark Pearson set the thing up, though it never got used until March 2010. It has been an interesting experiment in compiling it and I hope it proves to be useful to new local Birders. The site guide is complete from top to bottom, well actually from bottom to top, and should give first time visitors an idea of what to expect and what the layout of the site looks like.

The weekly (or often more frequent) journal entries should give an idea of the ebb and flow of Birds on the patch, at least for the last 22 months. The highs and, mostly, lows of patch work are recorded for posterity. The year lists are remarkably similar for the last two years, I guess it’s not too surprising how predictable most of the species are, though it also gives one a rough idea of some of the more exciting visitors to occur and, of course, just how rare rarities are.

I will leave all the blog entries and year lists intact for future generations of Walthamstow Birders, you never know, once the place is turned into a Country Park, the habitat is vastly improved; it starts to attract scores of regular Birders, loads of rarities start getting found and Petrol hits £2/litre someone may want to resurrect the thing.

Meanwhile, in case you get withdrawal symptoms; a handy cut out and keep guide to blogging Walthamstow Birding style:

1)   A play on words with the title never goes amiss.

2)   A bit of dithering as to whether to bother visiting the patch.

3)   A bit more dithering as to which bit of the patch to check, the North reservoirs, South reservoirs or marsh.

4)   A moan about picking the wrong one in retrospect.

5)   Some speculation/wishful thinking as to what might be found (this can be made to look more scientific by checking other local sites and websites for current occurrences on the migration front.)

6)   At this point inject a bit of nostalgia of how it used to be in the good old days.

7)   Probably best to insert some blurry photo about now to break up the dry text.

8)   Probably best to insert an apology about now for the blurry photo.

9)   Now a description of the visit itself, this can be long and rambling or more concise according to taste, yours of course, not the poor readers.

10)  Some sort of conclusion, possibly tying all the disparate elements of the blog entry together, is usually best left to the end.

11)  Another dose of nostalgia, if available, preferably gripping readers     off with something really good that was seen aeons ago.

And there you have it. Simples.

Maybe a couple of blog entries left till the end of the year, I might even follow the template.

On this date: 17 12 1996 The Dartford Warbler soon seen on Walthamstow Marsh in loose association with 3 Stonechats, also 2 Chiffchaffs nearby.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

And we are still suffering the fallout....

Apparently in 894, a force of Danes sailed up the River Lea to Hertford, and the following year they built a fortified camp in the higher reaches of the Lea, about 32 km north of London.

(Dirty) Old Man River

For the second time this week the patch makes BBC local news, though not sure either story puts us in a good light. Looking on the bright side, maybe the pollution will kill off the Shark/Crocodile/Alien Creature that lies below.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Site #9 Banbury reservoir & the Wild Marsh

We have reached the top of the patch, North of the Lockwood reservoir is the Wild Marsh East, sometimes viewed as part of Tottenham marshes it is actually firmly in Essex and therefore part of the Walthamstow patch. Formerly a grazing field it has hosted such delights as Yellowhammer and Great Grey Shrike and when waterlogged Redshank, now it is a bit more manicured and has much more extensively wooded edges. It still has its specialities though and is the best area on patch for Garden Warbler, Bullfinch and Firecrest, the last two still quite rare. This year it held a summering Grasshopper Warbler and Pheasants are frequently heard, and occasionally seen on here. Access is from Sinnott Rd and Sandpiper Close E17 or from Tottenham marshes via a footbridge over the Lea.

To the East are some allotments and a new housing estate, previously the site of breeding Grey Partridges, sadly now very unlikely to reoccur on patch. Pheasants are often seen here and it was also the site of the Dusky Warbler of 2010 which also got alongside the overflow channel which runs North. The channel is a reliable site for Green Sandpipers and occasionally other Waders. Further North the channel becomes deeper and sometimes holds Goosander in Winter, though these tend to be mobile getting anywhere between the Southern reservoirs and right up to Chingford.

The Banbury is the Northernmost of the Walthamstow complex, the William Girling and King George V being North of the North Circular and therefore in Chingford. Access is nowadays restricted to keyholding WEBS counters but much of the reservoir can be seen from Banbury Rd. Anything large should be seen with patience. Previous scarcities include Common Scoter, Sabine’s Gull, Brent Goose, Little Tern etc. in fact this is the most favoured reservoir of the group for Sea Duck and other Sea Birds.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Cinch You've Been Gone

Today was meant to be the triumphant reveal, as I said last blog: “Now we know where it sleeps it should be a cinch whenever we want to see a Little Owl”. Lol wanted to see a Little Owl.

We walked across the Golf course, I pointed out the Tree.

 “See that dead stump, see those Woodpecker holes, just behind and down there’s a horizontal branch, there’s the hole it’s.......”

Lol was very understanding and even suggested that we check all the other Trees along the River bank, we did with much the same result.

By the Friends Bridge a wintering Chiffchaff put in an appearance but stayed resolutely out of a nearby Tit flock. The marsh was decidedly Bird less; a few Meadow Pipits were all we could muster. On the back paddock were three Mistle Thrushes a Song Thrush and some Blackbirds, proper Winter Thrushes were conspicuous by their absence, though I did see a handful of Fieldfares this morning over Leytonstone.

Face was slightly saved by seeing the more regular Little Owl at the Southern end of the paddock.

We met Jamie P on the Waterworks N.R. he told us that he too had not seen the Golf course Owl a few days ago....did I hear someone say cinch?

There were precious few Birds in any of the beds, no Snipe, Green Sandpipers or Water Rail and the Pigs have gone too (fattened up for the festivities maybe? Will they ever be seen again?). The only things of note were a couple more Chiffchaffs, some Teal, Shoveler and Tufted Ducks, one of the latter was sitting still on the first bed and virtually glowing in the low sunlight, I couldn’t resist a picture, The Duck though got fed up with my fiddling about and decided to go into a diving frenzy, hence the Shoveler photo, it stood still.

Lol, who had confused the terms naturalist and naturist today, needed to warm up so we burned precious light at the Cafe with a Coffee. Suitably thawed we hatched a plan to check the Gulls on the filter beds down Coppermill Lane.

There were plenty of Gulls and we gave those close enough a reasonable grilling, Lol turned his attention to the No.5 reservoir behind, which I had given a cursory glance a few minutes earlier, and immediately pronounced that he had a small black and white Grebe. This was good news as either would be an addition to the cumulative patch year list. It proved to be a Black-necked Grebe.

As keen blogwatchers will appreciate this is species No.148 for the patch this year, at the end of last year I set a few targets, one was to get to 100 species before the end of March which we did, another was to get a total of 150 species for the year and another to get a new species for the Walthamstow list. We’ve got 21 days left....should be a cinch.

On this date: 10 12 90 The Mediterranean Gull still present on the filter beds at Walthamstow also a 1st winter male Smew on the High Maynard and a Common Sandpiper on the Lockwood.


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Owls of Delight

The decision before me today, having been on my feet all morning was, sit at home and do Jack, which would probably have led to me sampling the bottle of Jack (Daniels) in the kitchen way too early in the day, or get on the patch. No contest. I still went on the patch though!

Marsh Lane fields were fairly Birdy, though nothing of any great consequence, I was hoping for scarce Passerines today given the ongoing mildness of the Winter, relatively speaking of course. (I still haven’t put the heating on at home, obviously we can no longer fill the car up, eat AND be warm, something had to go, mind you the natives are not restless yet so it must still be ok.) Perhaps the problem now is it is too warm and we need that cold snap to push the Winter goodies our way. Talking of which I noticed someone is laying a footpath down the hitherto overgrown and pretty impassable East side of the Dagnam Brook, it might be a nice little walk when it is finished but it will pass right by where the Snipe used to hang out in the last cold snap, so I guess that’s them finished.

Over the footbridge and on to the Pitch’n’Putt and down to the River Lea which was fairly Birdless in contrast. I thought, as is my wont, that I would check the ‘Little Owl Tree’, in fact I checked all the big Trees on the Hackney side of the Lea on the South side of the Golf Course for possible roosting Little Owls. I have done this every time I have walked this way for most of the year, since I heard that one had been seen down here, naturally I have never connected.

The ‘Little Owl Tree’ is in fact a half dead Black Poplar about 100m SSW of Tee 8 on the South side of the Lea, I call it that because Mike M told me he saw one sitting on the obvious curved thick branch on the right. I checked the Tree carefully noticing some obvious Woodpecker holes on a thick trunk on the right hand side that ends abruptly where the top has snapped off, I was just wondering whether a Little Owl could get into such a small hole, when I spied a larger, natural hole behind, above and to the left which appeared to be filled with a shape that strongly resembled a sleeping Little Owl. My scope soon proved that the sleeping Little Owl shape was in fact constructed of a sleeping Little Owl. Result! Now we know where it sleeps it should be a cinch whenever we want to see a Little Owl. How it has escaped detection for so long is a mystery, might it be connected with the presence of leaves? We will never know (until Spring).

I wanted to do the Waterworks but also wanted to do the marsh and thought I would have time to do both, which I didn't. A walk up the side of the Horse fields revealed a handful of Chaffinches, a few Mistle Thrushes and about 15 Linnets. Upon reaching the Coppermill stream by the Horshoe Thicket and the Marina I thought I heard a brief ‘pik’ of a Water Rail, I gave it a quick burst of the iphone and lo and behold one called back, though not from where I had heard it, it then proceeded to come out in the open, walk along the edge, swim across the Stream and interact with the original Bird I had heard. I was so gobsmacked to see one out in the open I didn’t think to take a picture until it was too late, nonetheless I will share the result. (If you squint you can see the buffy backside of the Bird walking away just to the right of the blue bottle)

The Horshoe Thicket was birdless but by now it was getting late, I hurried on back to the Horse fields, via the bomb crater field, which I had a quick walk around trying to spot a Stonechat or flush a Snipe (or better still Jack Snipe) but that particular cupboard was bare. At the Horse field a Little Owl was in the usual Tree. So two pairs on the patch perhaps, but they don’t give themselves up easily, unlike the Jack Daniels which is giving itself up very easily as I type.