Wednesday, 27 January 2016


Gave the patch a proper walloping today. Covered WaterWorks, Walthamstow Marshes, East and West Warwick, Lockwood, High and Low Maynard. I even put the benches together in the East Warwick hide and had a 30 minute nap while the heavens opened up midday. I quite liked lying there, listening to the wind and rain pummel the rickety old thing. 

Photos not getting any better.
And what did I get in return? The female Brambling continues to tease my lense in the rear paddocks. And an hour before it properly pooped it down late in the afternoon, a male and female Wigeon made an appearance half way up Lockwood. Patch Year Bird #83

Male and female Wigeon.

© The Sugar Plum Fairy

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Mrs. Brambling

Went out with the hope of flushing a Bittern out of the marsh's Great Reed Bed or picking out a Firecrest in the Horseshoe Thicket.

Came across a Kestrel at the front paddocks.

Turned the corner to head for the rear paddocks and saw tree full of Chaffinches by the side paddocks. But one seemed a bit orangey!

Took a rubbish snap (a reoccurring theme of the morning)

Thought - I'll check that when I get home - and headed for the rear paddocks.

Heard loads of Linnet, Goldfinches and Chaffinches overhead.

Got to the rear paddocks and saw a female Brambling. I wasn't imagining things after all. 

The finch flock were very flighty. The horses kept on trying to shoo off the wagtails and were constantly either sending the finch flock up or standing right in front of my scope. Frustrating!

There were a few Stock Doves in there too (personal patch year tick).

So I went round to the 'sustrans' side of the paddocks to try and get a better view. 

And of course, a horse sent the finch flock up. They flew right up into the trees beside me. And I could just pick out Mrs. Brambling.

She's on the left.
En route to the 'Great Reed Bed', I passed two Stonechats in the bomb crater field.

Heard a Greenfinch pass over the north marsh (personal patch year tick).

Did not flush a Bittern from the Great Reed Bed but did flush a Snipe which scarpered northwards.

And also did not find a Firecrest in the Horseshoe Thicket.


Sunday, 10 January 2016

'Cach' of the Day

After not seeing the Brambling last week (though finding a Little Gull) and then hearing it had been seen again this week I thought I had better have another crack today. I was joined by Jamie ‘Larry the Larus Lover’ P but we drew a blank, not a problem for him as he caught up with it on its first day but a bit of a disappointment for me. I did catch up with the Scaup which was sleeping on No.4 and Jamie got Common Sand for the year.

We went South around No.5 mainly to see what was on the filter beds, it was not a pleasant experience as you are looking through one or two fences at distant Gulls but someone has to do it, we were rewarded with quite a few Great Black-backed Gulls and a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull, it worked out well for JP too as the Barnacle decided to wander through our line of vision.

Aside from a calling Water Rail by the diagonal bridge there was little to get excited about on the Southern section. I must admit I was all for giving up but Jamie was keen to have a look at the Lockwood and I still needed Goosander so we traipsed up to the Lockwood. Viewing from the tower at the Southern end I spotted an almost certain adult Yellow-legged Gull pretty well at the top end, we needed to see it a bit better and Jamie was all for walking up there (far too much energy that boy!). Fortunately the bird took pity on us (me) and flew the length of the reservoir and confirmed its identity. It appeared to land behind the second tower and I stepped to the right to see if I could relocate it, as I did so I noticed a stunning, leggy, white-headed dark-eyed/billed beauty stood standing on the raft. It looked full of Eastern promise and I hurriedly got my scope on it, it looked like a Caspian Gull but was directly facing us, we needed to see it side on. We scooted along the bank and got side-on views. By now Jamie was salivating, I think Caspian Gull is one of his favourite birds. We took a few shots and I decided to try and live stream it to the world. 

Try here: Periscope

I wondered about putting the news out by phone (sorry folks) but realistically it was ever going to be twitchable and sure enough it flew off after about 5 minutes though strangely went South and seemed to drop onto No.4 in complete contrast to the thousands of Gulls that were streaming North to the Chingford reservoir roost. The mind boggles at what must fly over the patch every night, we did look but even Jamie can’t identify Gulls by silhouette.

I wonder what Gull I will find the next time I don’t see the Brambling?


Six of the Best

A bit belated but relevant nonetheless, a quick look back, and forward.

It’s not every year that there is an addition to the patchlist but 2015 saw that event; the accolade went to Graham H with his well-deserved Glossy Ibis. Braving the persistent rain he found the bird at the Southern end of the Lockwood and, despite difficulties with communications, managed to get the news out very quickly resulting in quite a few locals connecting with it once it had been re-found at the other end of the reservoir.

In any other year Jamie P’s Hoopoe would have been the star turn, being only the second patch record, but a first is a first. Jamie’s early start was justly rewarded, though, like the Ibis, it only stayed for about 4 hours but still permitted many to add this to their patch lists, unfortunately just as many were thwarted by its ‘now you see me now you don’t’ performance.

Another remarkable bird added to many patchers list was the Barn Owl originally seen by the boat people of Tottenham in March. News slowly trickled out and a concerted effort to see the bird from the patch resulted eventually in many obtaining their first views of the species on the patch.

Frustration rather than elation is connected to the fourth avian highlight of the year, Great White Egret. Probably the 4th to be seen flying over the patch in recent years; despite its national increase it is proving to be a difficult bird to catch up with here, one day there will be a lingerer.

Jamie’s tenacity with all things Larid paid off with a brief and elusive Caspian Gull at the Southern extremity of the patch: Leyton Tip. It is a bird that is surely more common than the numbers suggest. Gulls are nowhere easy to view on the patch, being either too distant on a far reservoir bank, tucked behind industrial equipment on the filter beds or tantalising silhouettes on their way to the Chingford reservoirs at dusk. Kudos.

The sixth highlighted species was more of an event than an appearance. Autumn saw near unprecedented numbers of Coal Tits on the move across Northern Europe and many must have hoped than one might end up on the patch. Almost none of the current crop of regulars have seen the species on the patch, a fact all the more remarkable considering they seem to be regular not much more than 100m away in Springfield Park! All that changed when Jonathan N had the honour of plucking one out at the Waterworks. Still not that easy to connect with but one by one many other locals managed to claw this one back from Stuart F and Paul W. Lol B managing to see one on many occasions from his house overlooking the Lockwood, another was at the Southern end of the West Warwick, maybe they will find themselves on some 2016 yearlists.

So what of 2016?

There were some strange gaps in 2015, a number of annual/near annual species that failed to put in an appearance, or possibly more accurately, failed to get themselves seen by any of us….

Brambling, Curlew, Little Gull, Sandwich Tern, Turtle Dove, Smew, Bittern, Golden Plover, Little Owl, Osprey, Ruddy Duck and Waxwing.

No doubt many of those will find themselves on the 2016 list but what about a bit of speculation…

The safe money must be on Raven adding itself to the Walthamstow list, they are being seen as close as Chingford on a semi-regular basis, it must be our turn soon.

A few species that have occurred in the past must likewise be due a repeat performance…

Ring-necked Duck, Black-throated Diver, Great White Egret, Avocet, Kittiwake, White-winged Black Tern, Red-backed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler and Marsh Warbler would all do me very nicely thank you.

Good birding in 2016 and keep the news coming.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

Little Things Mean a Lot

I have been sick as a dog of late (I feel your love, thanks) and incredibly busy so the last thing I wanted to hear was that there was a Brambling on the patch, worse still that it was a lingerer, even worse still every patch local and his (healthy) dog was seeing it. Happy for you guys, really.

By Wednesday I had figured out a cunning scheme, I have to read, and presumably absorb, some dire 90 page training document for work by the end of the week…”this really needs peace and quiet”, I said to the boss, “such as can only be found by working from home”. By 13:00 I was on the reservoirs (If you’re reading this boss, it will be done) and stomping in the direction of the erstwhile Brambling. Ahead of me I could see what looked like a birder, I stomped more quickly, I didn’t want him flushing the darn thing just before I got there!

I was momentarily stopped in my tracks by a candidate 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull which promptly did the off as I erected my tripod. The mystery birder ahead of me had stopped and seemed to be texting or some such so I slowed down again, as I did an elegant Tern-like Gull came flying directly towards me, dipping to the surface a few times, it looked small, it looked interesting, my thoughts turned to the recent Bonaparte’s Gulls in Berkshire and Hertfordshire, it got within 30m and banked revealing a dark charcoal underwing…LITTLE GULL, a stonking adult in winter plumage no less.

There then followed the normal headless chicken procedure of juggling phone, glasses, telescope, tripod etc. by which time it was cruising the far side of No.4. I did manage to get some record shots but it was constantly on the move and the light really was dreadful. By now the mystery birder turned round revealing himself to be Garrry J, I pointed to the Gull but he had already seen it. A quick tweet and the twitch was on, some locals getting their second patch tick of the week.

Sadly 2015 was a blank year on the patch for Little Gull (and Brambling), which up until that point had both been of annual occurrence, so it’s ironic that both should turn up in quick succession so soon into the new year. So often Little Gulls are just fly throughs here, though the last I saw, in 2014 stayed for a morning and my previous sighting in 2010 stayed at least 8 days. My records are all of singles, apart from an astonishing 50 together, mostly 1st winters but with a few 2nd winter and adults, on the Banbury in 1989 (the flock also held a Black Tern, 4 Sandwich Terns and a Sabine’s Gull, a day to remember for sure).

I chatted with Garry whilst we looked for the now seemingly ex-Brambling amongst just a dozen or so Chaffinches and he informed me he had just seen a Green Sandpiper fly along the overflow channel, so that puts us on a cumulative total for the patch of 78 for the year, I suspect that is some sort of record. Apart from Wigeon and Caspian Gull that is virtually everything seen that was around at the end of December, with a change in the weather promised for next week we could be in for some cold weather movement. Keep ‘em peeled!


Sunday, 3 January 2016


After waking up late and seeing the drizzle, i had decided to stay in. Five minutes into this decision David Callahan messaged our twitter group saying he had a brambling on the patch.

Brambling have been very hard to see on the patch for me, in fact the closest I've been to the have been a couple of fly-overs just outside the patch boundaries.

Waterproofs on and stupid wax fisherman's hat (which i later left on the bus), I scanned No 4 for a 2nd winter yellow leg that David had also mentioned but no sign. I did however see the brambling. after getting to the general area (the paddock below/besides numbers 4 and 5 res'), a bird with a white rump flew away from me and over the relief channel, two mins later i heard brambling , and then it was in the closest tree to me. Showed pretty well for a couple of minutes then was gone.

It didn't stop raining the whole time i was out.

This female kingfisher was near the outflow on number 3

A water rail was by the edge of number 2 from the central path, and the Drake Scaup was on the Lockwood

Happy new year.


Saturday, 2 January 2016

Not too shabby at all

The weather map suggested there might just be a rain-free window for a trot round Lockwood early morning to catch up on what I missed yesterday when the reservoirs were closed. Three female and a drake Goldeneye, along with a drake and female Goosander were expected. Slightly less so was the drake Scaup halfway up the east bank which had not been reported for a few days.
      As it turned out, the rain held off long enough for me to look at No 4 and 5 as well. A Common Sandpiper was in the NW corner of No 5 which then flipped over to No 4 which held the drake and two female Goosanders seen earlier by SF. As I was watching the Common Sand, I looked up to see my second wader of the year with a Lapwing high overhead. I had the same luck when watching the the Barnacle Goose feeding on the playing fields and heard and saw a Fieldfare in the trees along the overflow channel. Up to 60 species already with several species it took me weeks to catch up with last year already in the bag. If the weather allows a walk around the Warwicks tomorrow, I should just about beat last year's total for the first weekend.  
DB @porthkillier

Friday, 1 January 2016


No, yes, I'm not sure? 

Sue and I met up this morning to get the 2016 list started. The Prof had made a head start on us and had already got the female stonechat that Sue later picked out. The horseshoe thicket was alive with goldcrests and song thrushes. A siskin was heard over the raptor hill. The rear paddocks held a small flock of linnet. 

We bumped into Mike in the WaterWorks. A peregrine falcon perched in a pylon before gliding off towards the ex pitch and putt field. A common snipe flew out of bed 18 and three lesser redpoll fed in birches.

A small flock of around ten meadow pipit were on the ex pitch and putt field and three jackdaw were in leyton tip.

A respectable 61 birds in total were seen between the four of us.

61. Common Gull (1-Jan)
60. Lesser Redpoll (1-Jan)
59. Siskin (1-Jan)
58. Linnet (1-Jan)
57. Collared Dove (1-Jan)
56. Great Spotted Woodpecker (1-Jan)
55. Goldcrest (1-Jan)
54. House Sparrow (1-Jan)
53. Green Woodpecker (1-Jan)
52. Meadow Pipit (1-Jan)
51. Peregrine Falcon (1-Jan)
50. Kingfisher (1-Jan)
49. Grey Wagtail (1-Jan)
48. Cetti's Warbler (1-Jan)
47. Common Snipe (1-Jan)
46. Grey Heron (1-Jan)
45. Pochard (1-Jan)
44. Great Crested Grebe (1-Jan)
43. Stonechat (1-Jan)
42. Canada Goose (1-Jan)
41. Greylag Goose (1-Jan)
40. Egyptian Goose (1-Jan)
39. Little Egret (1-Jan)
38. Robin (1-Jan)
37. Great Tit (1-Jan)
36. Chiffchaff (1-Jan)
35. Little Grebe (1-Jan)
34. Song Thrush (1-Jan)
33. Mute Swan (1-Jan)
32. Rose-ringed Parakeet (1-Jan)
31. Blue Tit (1-Jan)
30. Long-tailed Tit (1-Jan)
29. Jackdaw (1-Jan)
28. Greater Black-backed Gull (1-Jan)
27. Lesser Black-backed Gull (1-Jan)
26. Shelduck (1-Jan)
25. Greenfinch (1-Jan)
24. Kestrel (1-Jan)
23. Goldfinch (1-Jan)
22. Pied Wagtail (1-Jan)
21. Starling (1-Jan)
20. Mistle Thrush (1-Jan)
19. Cormorant (1-Jan)
18. Chaffinch (1-Jan)
17. Shoveler (1-Jan)
16. Gadwall (1-Jan)
15. Tufted Duck (1-Jan)
14. Moorhen (1-Jan)
13. Coot (1-Jan)
12. Sparrowhawk (1-Jan)
11. Dunnock (1-Jan)
10. Wren (1-Jan)
9. Teal (1-Jan)
8. Mallard (1-Jan)
7. Blackbird (1-Jan)
6. Wood Pigeon (1-Jan)
5. Magpie (1-Jan)
4. Pigeon (1-Jan)
3. Carrion Crow (1-Jan)
2. Black-headed Gull (1-Jan)
1. Herring Gull (1-Jan)

GH - @leevalleybirder
SH - @suzehu
Mike M

Reset Extra

As I unexpectedly had time on my hands and knowing the reservoirs were shut today, I wandered up to the top field (between Lockwood and Banbury) to see what I might be able to add to the patch list. The answer was not much and certainly not the Woodcock I hoped for. But I had at least one - if not two - male Pheasants and a female Goosander flying up the overflow channel to the Banbury. More unexpectedly were a single Redwing (which took me about six weeks to see last year) and a male Reed Bunting both sitting in the hedges. Even  better was a Water Rail feeding along the Lockwood (Essex) side of the Lea just by the lock. Otherwise a few Goldcrests and plenty of species still needed for the new year list if it ever stops raining. I am already about thirty behind everyone else....

DB @porthkiller..

Extra, Extra...
Didn't get out today as was feeling a little worse for wear, but did have a look out the loft window long enough to see a few things, the highlights being a Peregrine on pylon by Banbury res (hope they breed again this year), a female Goosander flew past and there were 2 f Goldeneye on the Lockwood - my first modest contribution to the first day on the patch. Best wishes to all for 2016!