Sunday, 26 July 2015

Satantic Swifts nearly blinded me

A walk round Lockwood in the drizzle was accompanied by a party of Swifts and Sand Martins feeding on the east bank. The Swifts, in particular, repeatedly flew just a couple of feet from my head. It was a spectacular sight on a grey and wet afternoon. But given the national trauma caused by gulls apparently carrying off children and livestock, they might be advised not to put on such an exhilarating flying display close to a Daily Mail or Daily Star journalist, a radio talk show host or, it seems, a Tory politician. My cunning plan, having failed to find any waders after rain, to visit during a downpour was scuppered by five fishermen spaced out on Lockwood. For a long time, it looked as if Anglers were going to beat Common Sandpipers but, bouyed by the disappearance of the fisherman in the middle of the east bank, I did another half turn and found in quick succession first four Common Sands together and then another pair.
              A single Common Sandpiper was at the top of the East Warwick where I spent some time again sheltering from the heavy rain in the hide. If the LWT could make the island more wader-friendly, it would be well-positioned. Another Common Sandpiper was on No 5 where Sand Martins had increased to at least 150 and there were also four Swallows - the first I have had for a few weeks - feeding with Swifts, House & Sand Martins over the reservoir, trees and paddock on the east side. Just when I thought I was going to draw another blank, I heard what sounded like a Dunlin, couldn't find it flying across the water only to discover it on the bank below me. It was not the Greenshank or Whimbrel I had hoped for but it was clearly a different bird than Friday's and, like a striker who finally ends a barren period with a deflection off his knee, it will do.

                                           Egrets are taking a liking to the weir


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Six visits and counting....

I should have known better but arrived at 7 am to check if yesterday’s downpour had any impact. Apart from a significant increase in Sand Martins with 50+ on No 5 alone, it hadn’t. Graham and Adam's Dunlin had predictably done a bunk overnight but there were four Common Sandpipers together on Lockwood and two on No 5. Otherwise, the only other interest was a feeding party of five species of warbler in the in the hedge at the top end of East Warwick which included two Lesser Whitethroats. It was a very pleasant fresh morning but it is now six visits since I recorded a bird of real interest and that was Jackdaw...… 
DB @porthkillier

Friday, 24 July 2015

When the Rain Comes ...

A hoped for influx of waders, forced down by the rain, (predictably) didn't happen.

A lonely Dunlin being the best Adam and I could find.

The most notable among the roll call of the morning were:

Lockwood - Dunlin, 5 Common Sandpiper, pair of Pheasant, Stock Dove, Kingfisher, c20 Common Tern, 6 - 8 Little Egret, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey Wagtail, Swift

East Warwick - Common Sandpiper

No. 5 - Common Sandpiper

No. 3 - Adult and 7 juv Shelduck

Overflow Chanel - Grey Wagtail

No martins heard or seen.

GH - @leevalleybirder

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Bobbing About

Somehow, I convinced my better half a visit to the reservoirs would be a nice way to spend the morning together. 

We headed for Lockwood first. At the bottom of Lockwood there was a flurry of juvenile pied wags and many juvenile black-headed gulls. Actually, that's pretty much the long and short of it for the day - juveniles of all our patch species everywhere.  There were 3 common sandpipers and a kingfisher at the top of Lockwood. 

(distant) Common Sandpiper
Grey Wagtail
The overflow chanel was very low too, but held nothing of interest. 

En route to East Warwick, we spent a a bit of time appreciating the blue damselflies, banded demoiselles and the funky-punky red-eyed damselflies. 

Red-eyed Damselfy
Red-eyed next to a Common Blue Damselfy
Over EW, a smattering of sand martins could be heard and there were a group of loafing common terns basking at the top end banks. A lone common sandpiper worked its way up the east bank.

Common Tern
Then we went to the Ferry Boat Inn. I painted a coot and she painted an apple.


@leevalleybirder - GH

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Nice birds

The Prof and I both independently had the idea that the heavy early morning rain might have dropped a wader onto Lockwood. Unfortunately, no one had told the birds. We did manage seven Common Sandpipers together - two more than I recorded yesterday - and another on No 5 but no other waders at all. There was no sign either of the male Whinchat that Paul had on Lockwood on Friday. According to Pete L, July Whinchats, unlike those later in the autumn, rarely hang around and this one had clearly read the rules. The best bird of the day was the Cetti's Warbler Paul had singing in one of the willows on the stream running on the east side of East Warwick which was the first for a few weeks. In general, however, the amount of bird song had dropped noticeably from last weekend while the numbers of returning Tufted Ducks and Pochard had increased. Autumn is on its way, it just ain't here yet.
DB @porthkillier.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Essex Skipper

The Walthamstow Marsh side of the patch might be subject to misuse by ravers, p***-artists and bbq-ers of late, but there are still little wonders hanging on south of the patch. 

Spurred on by Jonathan's post on his blog (therandombirder), I went out on a micro patch twitch for Essex Skipper

Small and Essex Skippers are so similar. Books and photos will explain the differences but when presented with a flurry of skippers on a sticky summer day, telling them apart is a not so simple. Both of these skippers are extremely fast flying butterflies and never stay still for long, which makes the job of separation very difficult. 

The most reliable method of identifying Small and Essex is to look below the antennal tips. This area will be jet black on Essex Skipper, and orange or brown on Small Skipper. 

Also, the small black streak on the upperside of the forewings, known as the scent line, is much bolder in the Small Skipper and lies at a slight angle to the front edge of the wing. The Essex Skipper has a finer line, which is parallel to the front edge of the forewing.

Simples... (yeah, right)

There were two in the pig pen area, behind the pond, favouring the thistles.

GH - @leevalleybirder

while at the north end...

While Graham was at the waterworks, I was resuming my acquaintance with the reservoirs after a month off. I was early enough to see find six Little Egrets including four juveniles on the weir by the Ferry Boat Inn. They were still in the hedge on my way back which gave the beer garden - I suspect for the first time - a Mediterranean flavour. The only sign of the hoped-for wader migration on Lockwood where two Common Sandpipers at the north end and three flushed by a fisherman from the south shore on the way back which probably included the first pair. Later, two Lapwing flew high towards Tottenham with a third shortly low over me going towards No 5. I suspect all three might have been disturbed by the ranger driving around West Warwick.
           Around 350 Tufted Ducks have already made it back to Lockwood with another 100 on No 4 while Low Maynard seemed to be the reservoir of choice for Pochard. The breeding season, however, was also still in full swing. Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Reed Warbler remain in song while there were parties of young Shelduck on Lockwood and No 3 where there was also a family party of Pochard. Three pairs of Common Tern appear to be in residence on one of the rafts on Lockwood.
DB @porthkillier

Sunday, 5 July 2015

You wait for years for a snake and three come along at once.

An early morning trip to the Waterworks was needed to soothe my agitated soul after trying to choose a new kitchen at Howdens. (Anyone else find this kind of thing stressful & tedious?).  I wasn't hopeful of seeing much in the way of birds but hoped the hot weather would have brought out the dragonflies and butterflies.

Nothing in the flood relief channel but I could hear a green woodpecker and a Whitethroat was displaying above the large clump of bushes near the wildlife garden.  There seems to be quite a lot of chick feeding going on still and I watched a very busy Whitethroat going to and fro with food, emerging at one point with a cricket in its bill.

There was plenty of butterfly activity.  In fact, walking across the grass brought up small clouds of what I think were Small Skippers - none of which stayed still long enough to be photographed.  These beauties did however:

I was particularly pleased to see the Comma.  For the last couple of years there seems to have been hundreds; this year I have only seen a couple on the Waterworks.

There were many dragonflies around, mainly emperors but I think also I migrant hawker or two.

I walked along the boardwalk.  The pond at the end was alive with damselflies, frogs, long horned beetles and the occasional darter.

I then caught sight of something rather wonderful - a dragonfly emerging from its larval stage.  I thought this usually happened at night and I have certainly never seen it before but it was quite beautiful to watch.  It was very difficult to photograph though, being hampered by distance, bright sunshine and reflections and the breeze blowing foliage in the way.  This is the best I could get.

Once emerged, the dragonfly appeared colourless, silver with the sunshine on it.  It flew into a branch of a nearby tree where I lost it.  Having been leaning on the wooden fence for over an hour watching this, I was about to leave when the frogs started jumping around.  At first I thought my moving had spooked them until I saw this:

I do love a snake!  And what a beauty this one was - almost 2 feet long and gliding smoothly and silently through the water.  Happy days!

On the way to the hides I came across a thrush smacking a snail on a large stone.  Now, I know they do this, and I expect all you experienced bird watchers have seen it hundreds of times but it was a first for me and it was fascinating to watch - how he chose the perfect stone and how when he dropped the snail, he brought it back every time to the same stone.  A bird using a tool - excellent!

In bed 18 a grey heron was fishing from the central raft, and I lost count of the number of frogs peeping out of the water after I got to 50.  They were calling loudly and close enough to the windows to see their cheek action.

Bed 13 still has plenty of reed bunting and reed warblers feeding young but for the first time in ages I didn't hear the Cetti's.  I did however see two small snakes near the far bank.

There is a snake there, honestly!

It was a brilliant morning.  Snakes and emerging dragonflies - who could ask for more?  I spent far longer there than I intended and so new kitchen decisions had to be postponed. Again. Job done! (SH)