Saturday, 28 February 2015

No Scaup....and No Brambles either

It was a grey, drab day in terms of both weather and birding. Intermittent drizzle greeted me as I walked round Lockwood which held just three Goldeneye and a female Goosander - the first I have had for several weeks - which disappeared as usual towards the Banbury. A Chiffchaff defied the gloom to sing and another was seen along the Lea. But the only other sign that Spring will thankfully be with us in a couple of weeks was a reduction in the number of Tufted Ducks, Teal and Gadwall.
     It was no better round the Warwicks where there was no sign of any Scaup nor, sadly, any sign of brambles either (which given all the noise there might have been may explain the former). The gentrification of the reservoirs continues apace with a concrete track being built around East Warwick and all the scrub cut down on the west bank. This rather wrecked my hopes of catching up with Cetti's Warbler and will be a nasty surprise for the returning Sedge Warblers in a couple of months. Some scrub has also been cut on West Warwick but nowhere near - as yet at least - the scorched earth policy on East Warwick. So it still held two Goldeneye, the Wigeon and two female Stonechats. I had no time to look to see if the Scaup had escaped the disturbance on No 4 or No 5 as I had to meet my wife at the cinema see Birdman. Who says birders are one-dimensional...

DB @porthkillier

Friday, 27 February 2015

Cold and bright

Some photos from today. I had a short walk through the marshes on my way to the studio, pretty quiet but a pair of showy stonechats were nice to see. Several meadow pipits flew north east up the valley, and lots of birds in song. Weather looks great for raptors right now if anyones thinking of bagging an early Red kite!

JP @jarpartridge

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Almost March!

So Paul and I agreed to meet at the waterworks which held very little, a couple of singing chiffys, singing chaffinch and greenfinch and dunnocks and songthrush, lots of things singing now which is nice... A few teal and six shoveler and a pair of gadwall doing some sort of display... which was nice.

We then headed to a fairly new (for me) element to the patch! The leyton tip.. bottom of orient way near the roundabout. Looking at gulls, yummy! Nothing of note and no real standout birds but a few discussion able candidates and a probable 2nd winter/ 3cy argentatus Herring gull. We kind of got kicked off but i intend to spend some more time there before real spring arrives.

We then headed up the marshes, paul spotted something on the nearest pylon which turned out to be what we think was a young male peregrine. Images below show it to be a light bird, brownish with pale fringes tertials greater coverts extensive white around the nape which could mean there something else in it too  (lanner etc), commmets welcome, We watched it for a while and witnessed it half arsedly diving at a pair of collared doves and later it was joined by a large mature female who had caught a pigeon and they dined on its carcass atop of said pylon. Romance.

Five lapwings, picked up by paul were ignored by the peregrine and allowed to "migrate" south(ish) over the patch. Things are moving!

We got to the silos/filterbeds area and heard a few bullfinch calls, we then spent about 30 mins trying to track the buggers down to no avail and got covered in mud and scratched to high hell, but explored new parts of the patch usually only frequented by campers and people apparently caught short!

I picked up a buzzard very high headed W/SW over the mound/bench area (the only good bit of birding i did all day) and we both managed to get it in our scopes and watched it soaring briefly, I think we can expect many more this coming couple of months and red kites at least too so keep your eyes on the skies.

I don't think we saw anything else... but heres a few of photos from the patch i took on sunday as it was getting dark.


Sunday, 15 February 2015


The bomb crater male and female stonechat were very confiding this morning on Walthamstow Marshes. 

Bomb Crater field
A fox watched me as I jumped the reservoirs fence.
I walked up to the reservoir office, passing a quite Turner watercolour scene of shelduck.
Shelduck (Turner-esque)
I paid my tenner for a year permit (at least when I get caught jumping the fence I can show them my permit) then returned back to the fence, to find a common sandpiper.
Common Sandpiper
GH - @leevalleybirder

Stuck on Soixante Neuf

Given posts during the week, I did not set off around Lockwood just after 8 am with high hopes. Spirits were not exactly lifted either by a  depressingly grey morning and the absence of the long-staying drake Scaup at the south-west corner - and indeed the reservoir as a whole. It may finally have scarpered. All I had were two displaying Goldeneye although, thanks to some irregulars like Pheasant and Collared Dove (by the feeders just across the Lea if you are still looking Adam), I managed 44 species yet again before I crossed the road.  
             The other Scaup, however, remain with one immature drake on East Warwick and the female on West Warwick where the second male had been seen earlier but was missing when I walked around. I did see 2 Stonechats, a Wigeon and four Goldeneye with two Chiffchaffs in the bushes in the SW corner - two more were along the Lea. Three more Goldeneye were on No 5 along with a Common Sandpiper with TS having a second on High Maynard.
                By now, the sun had come out and it was a very pleasant day but I had no luck adding to my year list for the reservoirs which has been firmly stuck on 69 for several weeks. At least five species have been recorded on the reservoirs which I have not yet seen with the (still silent) Cetti's Warbler the most regular. And, of course, I read later on wiki that one had indeed been seen again on East Warwick.  
DB @porthkillier

Saturday, 14 February 2015


Much like Prof's reservoirs post yesterday, there's not much happening down on the marshes or waterworks either.

Aside from the numerous Song Thrushes singing and dashing around the bare trees of Leyton Marsh, there was only a pair of Egyptian Geese on the paddocks providing a feature out of the relative norm.
Egyptian Goose
Oh, and you-know-who is still knocking about on the front paddocks.

GH - @leevalleybirder

Friday, 13 February 2015

They Scrub Up Well

Good News/Bad News

First the good news: The reservoir car park is open again.

Now the rest of the news: They've (not sure who they are) grubbed up a load more scrub along the river edge of the car park.

I was going to walk up the factory side of the High Maynard but they (them again) donned fluorescent overalls and walked ahead of me. So I went up the Tottenham side of the Lockwood, at least it enabled me the opportunity to savour the sound and sight of the dominating building site at Tottenham Hale.

All along the Lea, stuff had been grubbed up, cut down or strimmed to within an inch of its life, not sure where anything will nest this spring? At least they are bringing down the ugly gas holder, mind you where will the Peregrines sit now?

They were doing more work at the top of the Low Maynard, making it a bit tidier for the public perhaps, I don’t think they like rough ground and scrub.

 A shotgun cartridge on the path was a bit incongruous on a nature reserve, maybe it was left over from the welcoming committee they laid on for our last visiting Ruddy Duck.

The path between reservoirs no. 1/2 & 3 was even barer than last week, they've grubbed up more stuff, so as not to offend the eye of the urban visitors come the grand opening perhaps. Maybe it would be better to fill the reservoirs in and grass them over, or perhaps tarmac would suit better.

Oh! Did I see any birds? No! I did bump into the Regional Development Manager – (East London) of the London Wildlife Trust on my way out though, he asked if I had seen much, and, before I could reply, said he expected not as they were doing quite a bit of work. He was not wrong.

I asked him where this was all going to end and he did say that they had pretty much finished scrub clearance and that there was going to be some new planting going on.

If I sound a little sceptical, bitter or disenchanted it’s probably because I am. I’m not a huge fan of the Walthamstow Wetlands project, there, I've said it. I do hope my worst fears are unfounded and it proves to be a wonderful site for wildlife and those that want to appreciate it, maybe it will scrub up well in the end.

PW @birdingprof

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Frisky Scaup

Had a quick pit-stop at the East Warwick today (before scooting up to Suffolk to visit the old folk and a convenient Waxwing round the corner to them). I wanted to see the female Scaup found at the weekend. Quite a flock of them developing, there seem to be more Pochard and more female Tufted Ducks arriving too, Spring is in the air.

The Scaup certainly thought so as the males were head-bobbing to the female and she was flirting with male Tufted Ducks and chasing off female Tufted Ducks. No wonder there are so many dodgy Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrids about!

A bit of an experiment with blogger and video now:

PW @birdingprof

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Mr Scaup does it again

Scaup numbers are now up to a remarkable four - and all found by Pete L. After we had seen the now very long-staying adult drake at the south end of Lockwood, I went for a slow walk round No 4 and 5 and Pete did his usual circuit of the Warwicks. Not long after I left him, he rang to say he had found a female Scaup with the two now not-so-immature males on East Warwick.  When I saw it in the late afternoon sunshine, it was close by the other two in the north west corner but spent more of its time awake fortunately, giving good views of its very large white patch at the base of the bill.

Pete also had the Wigeon on West Warwick while, through the fence, I could see there was still one Lapwing on the north east corner of the Filter Beds. We missed a Buzzard - which QG reported on wiki as going over high at 1300 - which was a shame as we were both hoping for a soaring bird of prey. Between the three of us, it seems like we must have recorded over a dozen Goldeneye although there is so clearly some movement between the reservoirs during the day as well.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Loads of Snipe and some minor gripes

For birders, work is a curse. Of course, work is a curse for non-birders too. But nothing quite gets the expletives rolling like working on your day off, only to return home and find out that a Marsh Harrier has flown over the patch. Throw in a Bullfinch as well, and the air is likely to turn an even deeper shade of blue. Work, to paraphrase Lenny Bruce, is a four letter word.

Determined to make up for lost time, I spent four hours ambling around the Marshes and Southern Reservoirs on Saturday morning. Things started nicely, with the usual five species of gull and a Grey Wagtail on Coppermill Lane. There was neither sight nor sound of yesterday's Bullfinch, but I'm sure it will appear again. Probably on Monday morning...

Ignoring the paddocks, I moved swiftly to the Bomb Crater Field, hoping to add Snipe to my patch year list. After missing them on the Waterworks and the West Warwick in January, I managed to turn up 5 Snipe in total. I decided to skip the North London Derby, which turned out for the best in the end, but the less said of this the better. The Horseshoe Thicket held a Greater Spotted Woodpecker and a female Sparrowhawk flew low over the Marshes. I spent another hour looking for the Bullfinch to no avail, but managed some compensation with a couple of Chiffchaffs, which were also new for the year. Needless to say, the Marsh Harrier didn't feel like re-appearing either.

Once I got to the Reservoirs, I set my mind to sewing up some of the gaping holes in my patchy patch year list. With only a couple of hours spare, I stuck to both the Warwicks. The two immature Scaup were still mixed in with the Tufteds on the East Warwick; looking great in almost full drake plumage. I later bumped into DB, who told me that the other drake Scaup was still on the Lockwood, with a couple of Goldeneye. 

Wandering up the bank, my eyes were fixed on the reeds for a skulking Water Rail, when I heard a Lapwing flying overhead. It took me a few seconds to pick the bird out in the sky, as it was flying higher than the pylons. Still, a cracking addition to my year list and only my second on the patch in the last year, which was also on the East Warwick.

On my way to the West Warwick, a female Stonechat flew along the margins, but the reed-beds on eastern edge of the West Warwick held a bigger surprise, as I accidentally flushed 9 Snipe. None all year, then fourteen in two hours. Like London buses... Apart from that, the West Warwick still held 4 Goldeneye and the imm. Wigeon, which was also new for the year. 

So, 56 species in four hours, which took my patch year list to 67. All in all, that's not a bad day's work.

Adam W

Vous avez un Message (French Letter)

I heard back very promptly from:


IngĂ©nieur expert - Equipe "AnatidĂ©s"  (which I think translates as Expert Engineer                                                                                          in Equipping Ducks)

Who works for these guys:

 (which clearly translates as National Office for Chasing Wild Fawns)

Our female Tufted Duck B66 was on her holidays here:

Alain kindly sent us a Card du Poste (postcard):

He thinks it is a pre-nuptial movement (before she gets married)

This French stuff is tres facile (not very difficult)

Au Revoir my Anglais chums.

PW @birdingprof (proffessor de le Ousieaux)


Friday, 6 February 2015

Three patch year ticks for me!

A Fairly quiet start on the paddocks and bomb crater field with a few Fieldfare over and a chiffy being the only notable birds. I headed for the areas of thicket that surround the west of the filterbeds, where a Bullfinch had been seen/heard recently. As soon as i had walked under the railway and away from the noisy works taking place in the underpass, i picked up a soft melancholic call. A Bullfinch, Calling regularly, i spent ten minutes looking for the bird with no luck.
A few minutes later i was up on the "raptor watch point" ha! and not long after a Common Buzzard drifted into sight, headed north. I struggled with the camera and cannot for the life of me get it to focus on distant black spot in the sky . (anyone got any advice using manual focus on a canon sx50 hs please lemme know!)

The bullfinch began calling again from the field that borders coppermill lane and i was able to connect with it and take a few record shots.  A few alarm calls from a near by tit flock made me look up and see another large raptor against the cloud directly above me. Bins up, Boom! It was a Marsh harrier! Boom again! The first i've had on the patch since autumn 2009. The bird performed nicely for me, Soaring and losing/gaining height for about 5 or 6 minutes It appeared to be an adult female, on the grounds that by now i would thought that a first winter male might have some grey in the wing and good light showed it to be particularly clean dark bird with little cream colouring. I might be wrong though...

A couple of minutes later a paler Common Buzzard than before gunned west over .

Three golden eyes (1 drake) were on number 5 and thats that.

I wont post my attempts at photographing the raptors (just blue) but heres my shots of the female bullfinch...cowfinch?

oh god they're bad, but you can kind of tell yeah?


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Repetition, Hesitation, Deviation & Repetition

Repetition: Inspired by @jarpartridge I checked out the filter beds in Coppermill Lane. It’s a place I find a bit frustrating as it clearly gets lots of birds but they are very difficult to see; what with the fence, the crash barriers that they all hide behind, the distance and the sun (you’re looking south). I came away empty-handed, needless to say. Later in the afternoon @danbarrett6 tweeted out a Bullfinch from there! No further details (later heard it was in trees by the silos on the Western side) but I happened to be on the South of No.5 so had another Bullfinch but a Jackdaw was feeding on the Eastern side of the beds.

Hesitation: I was going to do the Lockwood but the Fisherman’s car park was closed due to ‘works’, meaning I couldn’t park near the entrance, this caused me to pause and formulate a new plan. Everywhere you go on the reservoirs they are doing ‘works’! A lot more scrub has been cleared along the path between No.1 and Nos.2 & 3 which is also closed. They have cleared bushes by the Beam House, chopped down Trees at the bottom of the West Warwick and grubbed up scrub at the bottom of No.1. Where will it all end?  I expect its all part of the prettification before it is open to the great British public.

Deviation: I took the car down to the underpass by the West Warwick and, call me crazy, decided to walk Clockwise, rather than Anti-clockwise around the reservoir. I know! That’s just the sort of mood I was in, caution to the wind, devil may care. After just a few metres a Kingfisher flashed past, a few more and a Snipe (if you have been wondering where they all are this Winter, Mike M told me he flushed 15 from the Bomb Crater field on the marsh last week – Wellingtons advised) flushed up from the edge, my deviant behaviour was paying off, talking of deviant behaviour, I spotted some Common and Black-headed Gulls appearing to want to land on the top of a Tree (not sure what type - Ash?), as I watched I realised they were actually feeding from the Tree, whether it was seeds or Insects I’m not sure but I think the former. It went on for some time, long enough for me to get a few shots, in other words quite a long time.

Another oddity was a female Tufted Duck with a nasal saddle, looks like B66. I have sent the record to a ringer in France as I suspect it may be from there. Looks like we have had some Duck movement as I couldn’t see any Scaup on the Southern side of the complex and there seemed to be more female Tufted Duck around, whether this is cold weather movement or Spring passage I don’t know.

Things got even more exciting when I spotted a small party of Duck grazing on the bank in the South-east corner, through the bins they looked like they might be Wigeon, I was a bit disappointed and confused when the scope revealed they were Gadwall, until this one popped his head up. Quite probably the bird Pete L had a week or so ago, looks like a 1st year male. They all got spooked by a passing train but dropped onto the reservoir and was still there later.

Best of the rest was a Water Rail in the South-west corner of the East Warwick, a confiding pair Pheasants on the weedy area North of the East Warwick, another Kingfisher in the Coppermill stream, 5+ Meadow Pipits on the Eastern edge of No.5 and a few Goldeneye scattered around.

PW @birdingprof