Thursday, 22 December 2016

Winter Chats

There were two Stonechats enjoying the tastefully manicured area near the bomb crater pond today. This spot is generally pretty good for Stonechat. Hopefully they'll stick around over winter.

Stonechat (male)

Stonechat (female)
Stonechat Playground


Friday, 16 December 2016

High hopes for 2017

It was gloomy but amazingly mild and calm for mid-December which, with a nice array of birds again, made for a very pleasant visit. High Maynard held a pair of Goosander and 50-plus Teal while I broke my record haul of Green Sandpipers for the third time in a few weeks with five on the overflow channel. They were hidden by the overhanging vegetation and were only seen when flushed by a Thames Water truck actually driving - Hollywood movie style - up it. They were checking the concrete, I have since learnt.

The drake Scaup, after a brief foray onto High Maynard yesterday, was back on No 4 while the Black-necked Grebe, which has played an embarrassing game of hide-and-seek with me over its stay, was easy to see today near the hide on East Warwick. Neil B and I also had good views of a Stonechat on the opposite bank.

Given the number of engineers and builders on the reservoirs at the moment, it hardly seems possible that there is going to be more work in 2017. But the anglers are being warned that water levels in No 4 /5 are going to fall over the Christmas period in preparation for work in January which should see mud exposed. Even more exciting was Neil's information that Thames Water are planning to drain down Lockwood from March to carry out major repair work. If this really does coincide with Spring migration, the Avocet-shaped gap many of us have in our patch lists might finally be filled.

DB @porthkillier 

Friday, 9 December 2016

He's back

We have had a good run of Scaup at the reservoirs in recent years, which, I suspect, is now second only to Staines as the best site for the species in the London area. It's always hard to know for certain whether they include returning birds but No 4 has hosted a drake for the last two years which later moves onto other reservoirs in the complex. So when Mike M discovered a drake here on December 1 - two days later than last year and ten days earlier than in  2013 - it seems likely it may know the reservoirs well. It was still in its favourite NW corner today, spending most of its time as usual asleep.

Having also see Black-necked Grebe and Goosander on my last excellent - and camera-less - visit five days ago, it was inevitable that there would be fewer birds around today now I have bought a replacement for my broken compact. Lockwood only held three Goldeneye although the overflow channel had four Green Sandpipers together which is the most I have seen in a day. There was also a solitary Fieldfare by the side of High Maynard.

Stuart and I could not find the Black-necked Grebe on West or East Warwick where it had been yesterday. There has been a great deal of tidying up around the reservoirs in recent weeks which, unfortunately, has also included razing the bramble patch and brush at the south end of Lockwood. I know it will grow again but not in time for the Whitethroats when they return in the summer. It seems a shame.

DB @porthkillier

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Pea Soup

I traveled in style up to the reservoirs to see what it looked like in the mist.

I passed the misty marshes on the way.

At the reservoirs, the fog was thick and atmospheric.

Along the Lockwood...

and from out of the pea soup…

… another patcher did appear.

Between us, a pipit flew up from the Lockwood bank. Lol picked out its singular ‘viisst’ call making it a Rock Pipit. Meadow Pipits give a burst of ’ist, ist, ist’ type calls. Something I didn’t know. Thanks, Lol - especially since I’d never seen one on the patch before. 

A walk around Lockwood produced:

Two Stonechats

A Batman Cormorant

A Common Sandpiper

And a Green Sandpiper (with smaller pied wagtail to right for size reference)

 On the East Warwick a small party of Wigeon mingled.

I checked the log book at the office and interestingly, Pete noted he had had Brambling calling overhead earlier in the morning.

The Rock Pipit takes my Walthamstow list to a nice round #130.  

Thanks, Lol.

Tufties (in pea soup)


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Autumn Stroll Around Walthamstow Marshes

With the little flurry of London Hawfinch activity over the last few days, I headed over to the paddocks to check out the finch flock.

Before browsing the finches, I checked the flood relief channel. There was a lot of activity down there. Three Grey Wagtails, numerous Pied Wagtails, six Egyptian Goose, four Song Thrushes and a Jay among the usual Dunnocks and Blackbirds.

At the rear paddocks, the finch flock was bulging. There were at least 40 Chaffinches, with maybe 20 Linnets and 8 Goldfinches, but no Hawfinch. 

C'est la vie.

Joined by Sue and Mark, we carried on towards the Horseshoe Thicket, not before a Sparrowhawk swooped over our heads in ‘red arrow style’, stooping in an attempt at a smash and finch grab.

A flock of 30 Redwing and a calling Fieldfare flew north over our heads as we approached the north of the paddocks. Then a Skylark was heard and then seen flying northwest over the marshes. 

The Coppermill Lane Peregrine shooed off a gull then took position on its pylon.

A Cettis Warbler was heard from the reed bed in the Horseshoe Thicket.

A Meadow Pipit called from the Bomb Crater Field.


Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Agony & the Ecstasy & the Agony & the Ecstasy etc...

Mrs. Prof had decided to chuck out some tut, I mean cherished possessions. (She probably won’t read this but you can’t be too careful) Normally this is something for which I would be eternally grateful, however…

…this entails me having to take a trip to the local waste recycling amenity, for which read Leyton tip (Jamie, stop dribbling now!). In my book this comes under the category of D.I.Y, regular readers will know this is not my favourite pastime, nevertheless I decided that I could include it with a brief visit to the patch…

I quickly checked the local Twitter feed, London Wiki and RBA app only to realise that the patch mine had been well and truly worked dry this morning (well done chaps), except for one small bit, the Waterworks NR (unknown at the time it seems Sue had also busted that flush too)…

Jamie's best shot, Long-tailed Tit & Buzzard

I realised why I don’t generally visit the Waterworks on a weekend when the highest species count for the site was Humans, over 40 in my short visit. This was followed by not quite 40 House Martins, many Chiffchaffs, quite a few Blackcaps and 2 Whitethroats, I still had a while before I had to get back to cook dinner (It’s hard being the perfect husband but I try, at least Mrs. Prof says I am very trying, I assume that’s the same thing) so despite/because of reports of Stonechats and Yellow Wagtails on Walthamstow marsh I thought I’d wander over the road and have a look.

Sue did her bit too

(More) Agony
Needless to say the bomb crater field lacked Chats of any description, despite Stuart’s earlier Stones and Quentin’s subsequent Whin. The back paddocks were equally bereft of Wagtails, though 40+ Linnets was good. A lone Peregrine sat on one of the pylons to the North and a strangely large Egret tantalised for a while as it flew towards the reservoirs, it’s really odd how all of us keep seeing what on initial views looks like a Great White Egret, it’s not like we don’t see enough Little Egrets. This one did the decent thing though, allowing me to get a scope on it and see what it really was, just a large Little, when we do get a real Great White it is going to be blindingly obvious.

At this point the, hitherto grey sky, parted to reveal a large patch of blue and a bit of warmth, enough to make me think Raptors! I did a scan of the sky and suddenly, there they were, no, not Raptors, Spoonbills! 3 birds lazily circling, quite high but unmistakeable, long-legged, straight necked and with a dirty great big bit of cutlery stuck on their faces.

Panic ensued, who do I phone? Tweet, put the birds out on RBA, try for a photo, hold on I’ve lost them, more panic! Ah, found them again, right start again, d’oh! Lost again. They seemed to be drifting, thermalling, heading towards Woodberry, better get a message to them, no they’re going South-west, now they are into the sun, run around the other side of a bush for a better view. Gone.

Realisation that they are new for the patch for the year #141, only 5 short of our average and with 3.5 months to go. Better still #130 for me for the year, equalling my previous best, with 3.5 months of the year. They were circling for about 7 minutes but I kept losing them every time I made a call, tweeted, texted or tried to line up a shot, very frustrating. In fact I couldn’t really say what age they were, but quite possibly some/all had black in the wing tips but their height, and the fact I kept losing sight of them, really was against me.

Realisation that I didn’t actually need it for the patch, having seen one that spent half a day on the island of East Warwick on the 10th June 2006, a multi-rung Dutch bird. (The last patch record, allegedly, was in 2013, from an erstwhile patch-watcher who submitted no records, and saw a bird which apparently flew over another birder also on site at the same time. I have no comment) Also that I could probably have seen them from the house, with a great deal of good fortune. Feeling bad, knowing that realistically no other local birder was going to see them, goodness knows they were hard enough to see when you knew roughly where they were!

The 2006 bird, imagine three of these really high up and you'll be where I was about 16:00

I’ve just seen 3 Spoonbills over the patch, nuff said.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Like it or Knot

A warm and muggy morning, and I continued my run of early (well early for me) starts on the patch which I have to say I'm quite enjoying! Met Prof W at 7.30, and Jamie P was of course already up there before work. Today it was well worth it, as no sooner had we got up the bank on Lockwood than PW spotted another juvenile Arctic Tern flying daintily around the NW section of the res. This was particularly good news as I'd missed one yesterday that JP had had just before my arrival, but which disappeared very soon after, as did today's bird.

Soon after Jamie spotted a grey & white-looking wader flying North up the flood relief channel. It was quite bulky-looking with relatively slow wing beats. PW got onto it before me and quickly identified it as a Knot - a patch first for myself and Jamie no less - good work lads! It appeared to come down over the Banbury res, and might be the juv bird JP & I saw on KGV res a few days earlier. My only minor gripe is that I didn't get it in the 'scope so views were distant...still, who knows it might yet reappear in the days to come.

After JP had gone his merry way, PW did well to find a pair of Greenshank lurking at the back of the relief channel, and superbly camouflaged in the surrounding muck and algae.  Oddly, one of the birds appeared to be hopping around on one leg, so may well be injured. I honestly think it would've been nigh on impossible to find them with bins alone, and indeed we may well have overlooked them yesterday when they'd been reported by another observer.. That's now 4 Greenshank I've had on the patch this year which is a record for me. The only other birds of note here were a flyover Yellow Wagtail, 5 Common Sandpipers, 4 Wheatears and a couple of Swifts.

With temps warming up nicely, we hauled ourselves around the South side, firstly East Warwick - where a single Wigeon was the highlight, and first of the year for both of us - then around 5 and 4 where there was little of note other than our 2 regular Peregrines sitting on adjacent pylons. Surprisingly, not a single hirundine seen today, but a very worthwhile visit to the patch.

Today's 2 distant, camouflaged Greenshank in the flood relief channel (top) and a not-so-spectacular Wigeon on the East Warwick (pics courtesy @birdingprof)

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Final piece of the jigsaw

Hobby has been hard to catch up with this year on the reservoirs, perhaps because we don't have a local breeding pair this summer on the surrounding marshes. But after a slow walk up Lockwood, I finally saw the last of my missing summer regulars when I got a quick glimpse of one coming down the overflow channel from Banbury before it disappeared behind the trees. Lol (who also had not had one this year), Jamie and I saw presumably the same bird later flying across No 4 carrying a recently snaffled bird. It then circled over the playing fields and seemed to be plucking or even eating its prey in flight - which, according to BWP, they can do with birds as well as dragonflies.

It was hardly a surprise that it first came from the direction of Banbury as there were still plenty of martins feeding overhead with around 20 late Swifts. Other migrants included three Wheatears on the side of Lockwood while at least two Spotted Flycatchers remained in the pylon bushes. They came out into the open more today so even I could get a recognisable picture even if not quite up to Jamie or Phil's efforts @owlturbot from yesterday. But then they can't fit their camera in their pocket....

There are still a few warblers around with perhaps four Willow Warblers seen, two Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat. Common Terns on Lockwood were down to four with two juveniles - perhaps the twins off the raft on Lockwood with their parents. I wonder if they were still be there next weekend.

 Sadly, there seems to be some inverse relationship between the excellence of the habitat on Lockwood and the number of waders, Despite a wide beach round the entire reservoir all we saw were around five Common Sandpipers - less than we would expect if it was all concrete.

                                          A beach waiting for a wader...any wader

DB @porthkillier 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Spottys stuck around.

We struggle for good autumn migrants on the patch. Wanstead seems to pull in all the Redstarts and Pied Flys.  So when David Paul and Lol found a Spotted Flycatcher in the sheltered area along the central path, I made sure I paid it a visit the following day. Surprisingly it was still there and joined by two others. Rarely sitting out in the open the birds stayed within cover for most of the time I watched them. 
David had seen a Wheatear on the Lockwood and a few common warblers, as well as five or so Swift feeding over Banbury.  A group of mostly juvenile Gulls on the causeway between number four and five reservoirs held a nice Yellow-Legged and Great Black-backed, both juveniles. The Yellow Leg stayed out of camera range and is the third juvenile I've seen this year.
Juvenile Great-Black back
Goldcrests seem to have bred on in or near the pub carpark this bird and several juveniles were in a tit flock nearby the other day.  @jarpartridge