Tuesday, 29 March 2016


A male and female Wheatear were in a playful mood early afternoon today on the east bank of Lockwood. I spent a good hour watching and photographing them - and now I'm sporting the birder's classic 'caught out by the deceiving Spring sun' pink face.


Monday, 28 March 2016

Spring has now arrived....

         We have had our share of summer migrants already with Sand Martin, Little Ring Plover, Swallow and, of course, Osprey but it doesn't seem like Spring until the first Wheatear arrives. Perhaps it is because they are such super-smart birds that their appearance is always an event to celebrate in the birding calendar. Last year, the first turned up on March 22, which I don't think was particularly early, so they are overdue. But so far, they have been pretty scarce in London.

        Traditionally, it is the east bank of Lockwood which attracts Wheatears in the Spring and so it was again today. The honour of the first of the year goes to GH who was out quickest after the rain and had a female briefly in the SE corner. By the time I joined him, a spanking male had dropped in near the same spot. It seemed very skittish - probably because of the still strong winds - which explains the even worse than usual picture. Like the first, it seemed to quickly move on.

        Just to make sure we weren't going to miss them, another - a second female - was seen by JP at the paddocks on his way up to the reservoirs. So that made three when some other London sites are still to record their first. There was not much else with a couple of Sand Martins over East Warwick and ten more over Lockwood later, a Snipe briefly on the outside of the island on East Warwick before returning to the invisible scrape (perhaps that is something the LWT could tackle) in the middle, and a pair of Goldeneye still on West Warwick.

        A look at the list on the right hand side of the blog shows that Wheatear is our 99th bird of the year, It underlines how well the patch is doing as last year's Wheatear, at the slightly earlier date, was only our 83rd species. It took until April 16 to reach 99 when Jamie found his Hoopoe with Swift next day the centenary bird. With Willow Warblers already recorded in a couple of places in the capital and a couple of patchers off this week, the race is now on to hit 100 before the end of March. We are counting on you.....

DB @porthkillier

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Siberian Chiffchaff

Apologies for the slightly belated report. last week as I was leaving the waterworks in a hurry i thought i heard sibe chffy singing. The occasional chiffy note mixed into a complex warble. i had no time to locae the bird so the following day I spent an hour looking and eventually clocked it.

Brown and buff bird, with buff (not yellow)  supercillium.  A 'tabacco' or rusty tone to the ear coverts, very black legs, and the greeny olive tones only in the wing and tail.

I heard it sing a few more times but not call. the following morning paul and i looked for the bird, We saw another pale interesting looking bird but from photos it has none of the other sibe features and heard the sibe singing faintly.  I was disapointed to not hear it call. As stuart rightly pointed out call and features must be present and correct for safe ID.

I had told my friend Tony Butler about the bird, he had found a sibe chiffy at stokenewington resevoirs a few years back. Fortunatley he came down and heard my bird call at least three times , a high pitched squeak almost dunnock like, whilst intereacting wth other collybita chiff chaffs.


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Disappearing ducks

     After yesterday's fantastic day with my first London Ospreys among 70 species seen in lovely weather, today was always going to be a bit of a 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' event. But as I trudged round a dull and windy Lockwood seeing absolutely nothing - even the Goldeneye eluded me - I thought it did not have to be this bad. East Warwick seemed no better with a scan from the hide confirming that Graham's Dunlin had also departed.

      But as I walked down the steps, I looked at No 1 in a rather hopeful attempt to find Garganey when I saw a pair of Red-Crested Pochard resting against the island. Stuart had seen a pair on East Warwick early in the morning two days before - the first for the patch this year - but they had gone missing by the time I got there. Nor had we seen them yesterday. It was at the very edge of the range for my pocket camera but I took a couple of pictures only to find a second drake drifting into view. I had no idea where it came from and no idea where they went again either. Because by the time I had walked around East Warwick and had a quick look at its western counterpart - seeing four Sand Martins and a Swallow -  they had all disappeared again.

          They did, however, help solve the puzzle of just how many pairs of Peregrines we have on the patch which had been a matter of discussion yesterday. When I rang the Prof who was at the Waterworks about the Pochards, he mentioned that he had just had a female Peregrine with prey and a male close by fly over. Just a minute or so after the call, a female with prey landed on the pylon above the No 3 hide, closely followed by a noisy male (it seems a bit of a one-sided relationship if you ask me). So it seems as if the regular Waterworks pair and the pair at the south end of the reservoirs are the same as we thought.

     DB @porthkillier

PS: They did the same trick on the 27th as well. We did not see them despite looking as we walked round early morning but a pair had re-appeared by 10 am only to going missing again in the afternoon.

Friday, 25 March 2016


Or maybe it should be - tour de raptor.

Two OSPREYS in the space of ten minutes, Peregrines a plenty, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks. 2 Red Kites and 4 Buzzards.

With the recent trickle of patch year ticks in the last week and the first whisperings of migrants passing through the patch in the last few days, a few patchers decided to get onto the patch early.

And boy are we glad we did!

We headed for Lockwood first. We got halfway up the east side, when Jamie turned his eye to the direction of some noisy gulls and found an OSPREY being harassed by several gulls (the gull obsession pays off in more ways than one).

After watching it in the bins, I tried but failed to catch it on my bridge camera. Jamie then called Lol in the hope he might get the bird from his house.

Like the weather on Lockwood, Twitter was a bit erratic and almost immediately after clapping eyes on the OSPREY and watching it fly into the distant North West horizon, we all got Stuart’s Walthamstow Birders Twitter group message:

 Osprey heading n over olympic park . Keep a look out everything chasing it!!

Probably Stuart’s one.

The dust settled:

Then… David nonchalantly declared “There’s another.”

Maybe this was Stuart’s one?

Literally following the same route across Lockwood, a second OSPREY made its way North West.

Not expecting two OSPREY in ten minutes, our collective efforts in photographing the bird was a tad unprepared. Paul had his iphone hovering over his scope’s eyepiece while I pressed the camera button on his phone.

Resulting in this:

It's in there. Honestly.

Two OSPREYS in the space of ten minutes! Rapturous!

We covered the rest of Lockwood, East Warwick and West Warwick. We then made our way back to East Warwick and took another look at the island for any interesting gulls.

Then I saw two small waders. And as we still needed them for the day, and as they are the most common and generally only wader found on most days, I blurted out Common Sandpiper. But they weren’t – they were a pair of winter plumaged Dunlin.

I would have got there (Dunlin) in the end, as Lol delicately asked me.

And as it happened, on route to the marshes, prior to exiting the reservoirs – the pair of Dunlin gave ample opportunity to peruse their winter plumage on the east bank of East Warwick.

Laying flat on my belly, I watched the two birds get closer and closer to my camera’s view finder. I put my camera down, watched them and hoped that they might just wade on past me.

Alas they got to within 3 metres and turned back on themselves.

Cannot wait for Spring proper!

@leevalleybirder  @porthkillier @jarpartridge @StuartFisher16 @LolBodini @birdingprof  

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Rookie Error

photos @jarpartridge

After hearing that ‘the’ Firecrest has been seen in the Waterworks lately I made the effort to get in there before work, Jamie had had the same idea and so we arranged to meet up.

As I entered the site a single Corvid flew South-south-west, something about it said look at me, I don’t know what it is but you can sometimes just tell the difference between local Crows and those just passing through, anyhoo I gave it a quick look. It had the facial expression of a Rook but was dark-faced and didn’t look especially full-tailed, it carried on its sweet way and so did I.

Joining up with Jamie we checked the boardwalk area but drew a blank. Moving onto the hide we noted a handful of Reed Buntings, a couple of Cetti’s Warblers and even saw two Water Rails.

Our talk turned to what might fly over in such fine weather, we mentioned the possibility of Rook, I mentioned my bird from earlier in the morning, Jamie said he had seen that too just before I arrived but came to the same conclusion as I that it couldn’t be a Rook.

Needing to get into work I suggested another quick look along the boardwalk before I had to go. There was not a lot of activity but towards the end a singing Crest could be heard in the distance, unfortunately just at that very moment the world’s noisiest Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in and scared everything off, this Firecrest does not want to give itself up without a fight!

I had to go but Jamie decided to hang on for a bit, my heart sank, Jamie is not safe to leave on the patch on his own. He seems to have taken on Pete L’s mantle of a year or so back and insists on finding stuff, this is great when you’re with him but infuriating when you have to go work! I knew that I would be reading some gripping tweet on the bus but didn’t really have any option – work is the curse of the birding classes.

I got no more than 200m when I looked up to see two Corvids flying South-south-west, they had the facial expression of Rooks and the pale face of Rooks, they even had the full tail of Rooks. They were Rooks! I turned and shouted to Jamie but he had seen them and already was reaching for his camera.

Although I have seen Rook now three years on the trot on the patch this belies the fact that they are seriously scarce here and have only been recorded in 4 of the last 7 years. Our mind went back to the first bird we had seen and after a quick bit of googling we established that Rooks do not acquire their pale face until their second calendar year, so it probably was a Rook, maybe they are common after all and we are just missing them…maybe not though.

Naturally Jamie went on to have a bird singing like a Siberian Chiffchaff after I left him but I suspect that is a story for another day…


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Sand Martin, LRP...and YLG

Lol called me from across the Lockwood saying he and pete had a Little ringed plover. I scoped it from my side whilst looking at the Gulls on the west bank.  I later flushed one from the top north west edge, i assume it was the same bird, it flew south but wasn't seen again.  First for the year!

A single sand martin flew over my head, followed by another two. They seemed to stick around and feed high over the high maynard.  Its always so up-lifting to see birds return in spring.
The weather is set to imrpove at the end of the week and i think the winds are due to swing southerly which brings me a great big lump of optimism.

Ive ordered a new camera set up so you can say good bye to strange shots like the above, and hello to slightly better ones i hope. (frame filling Gull wing moult!!!)

This 2cy Yellow legged gull was hanging about the lockwood. Note it has moulted about 40% of its wing coverts and ha begun moulting one or two tertials.

 Here it is again, looking leggy, Nice heavily marked scapulars too. you can see the replaced terial better here

I also recognised a bird that i had warily ID'd on this blog a couple of months back as a 2nd winter YLG, based on jizz and mantle tone but with reservations about the head and bill, it wasn't as advanced or brightly billed as others ive seen before of this age group. Its often in the same spot and i was glad to see it has now started getting yellow legs.  I couldnt get good enough photo.

next blog post should be jam packed with summer migrants... not gulls


Friday, 18 March 2016

Rock On

This morning started inauspiciously when a search with Jamie 'I only do Gulls' P for the on/off Firecrest drew a blank, perhaps it serves us right for straying (technically) off patch and into the Middlesex FB in order to view the bank of the erstwhile Essex FB! 

There were a couple of Goldcrests in there, I had a flyover Siskin and earlier Jamie had a Redpoll and Reed Bunting in the Waterworks NR. A pair of Peregrines were on the pylon by the power station, one flying off with prey. From then on things picked up when I joined Dave @porthkillier B on the reservoirs, though it very nearly didn’t as I missed two messages from him; 1) "Redshank on the Lockwood, looking settled"…WooHoo! Followed quickly by 2) "Just flown off North"…D’oh!

All was not lost however as, when we hit the East Warwick I found two Redshank feeding along the edge by the hide. I have always classified Redshank as the Rarest of our common Waders, though maybe they need reclassifying as the commonest of our rare Waders. Either way, for a Wader that is annual on the patch, these were my first in just short of three years.

We strolled round the West Warwick and, despite a flyover Jackdaw, new for DB for the year, and five Reed Buntings (where were they a few weeks ago!!) there was little to show for the effort. Back on the East Warwick a silent bird, which we flushed from the Western edge and then landed on the rocks resolved itself into a ‘scandinavian’ Rock Pipit. It later flew off East.

A pair of Peregrines (presumably different to the Middlesex birds, on the pylon at the bottom of the East Warwick, the female with prey, showed the sexual size difference off to an amazing degree, the male looking to be about half the bulk of the female, let’s hope he was a diplomat.

No.5 was pretty dull but No.4 held a Common Sandpiper and a flyover Rock Pipit (who knows if it was the previous bird or another?).

The patch yearlist creeps up to 89 and Birds on the move, but not what you would call proper migrants, maybe next week.


Monday, 14 March 2016

Caspo the Friendly Gullst

My request from my fellow patchers as to where to go today was, refreshingly, met with polite suggestions, chief among them was Jamie’s idea to check the Lockwood for new migrants. (obviously now he has repented and renounced Gulling I took this idea at face value, not suspecting for a moment that he could have more sinister motives)

It was cold, bitingly so, in a stiff Nor’eastely. However the Sun was burning through, so with an optimistic air I sallied forth up the East bank of the Lockwood. I’m not sure where the optimism died but it was long before I got hallway up.

The reservoir was pretty devoid of anything resembling a migrant, the only thing that looked to be worth looking at were (surprise, surprise) Gulls. About 100 LWHG’s on the West bank called out to be scrutinised, why they all decided to take flight and disperse remains a mystery as, contrary to last Friday, when the banks were thronged with walkers, truants and dudes today I had the place to myself.

Around the top of the High Maynard a single ‘wiisp’ call failed to resolve itself into any sightings and despite hoping that it was a Rock Pipit and would turn up at the North end later it was not to be.

Expecting it to be on the water’s edge I had dropped down to the concrete edge and wandered North, I got nearly to the North-east corner when I spotted the head and shoulders of a Gull facing away from me on the grassy bank. It felt good, it felt Caspian good. Mindful that Lol ‘needed’ (how he hates that wordJ) it for the patch I stopped and called him.

“Turn your head ever so slightly and look out of your window” I said “ I’m pretty sure I’ve got a Caspian Gull standing on the bank, I won’t approach any closer until you’ve seen it”

“O.K”. he said “I’ll just get showered, dressed and have breakfast then I’ll have a look”

“!!!!!”  “It’s right outside of your house, have a look!”

“Alright, I’ll call you back”

I looked back and the bird had gone…nothing was in the air so I guessed it had just dropped off the bank…Lol called back.

“I can’t see it”

“No neither can I, I’ll try walking up further and call you back”

I walked up and saw it on the North side of the concrete edge, long story (yes, I know it’s already been a long story) short I recalled Lol and he said he was on his way.

It was quite confiding and was sat down most of the time and when it did stand appeared to only have one leg, though after rattling off stacks of shots I realised it actually had two. Something was definitely wrong with its left leg though as it consistently held it out of view and was always the first Gull to sit down and last to get up.

For some unknown reason all the Gulls relocated to the West bank, Lol eventually appeared, we strolled down there and re-found it. Being a new bird for him he was nervous of accepting my word on its identification. (The cheek of it! Though I had earlier tried to point out an adult Yellow-legged Gull to him that on second looks was actually a summer-plumaged Common Gull so possibly understandable) After a few congratulatory tweets from other Gull-aholics he seemed to be happier and I would imagine there is now an inky tick in the previously empty box next to Caspian Gull on his list, if he keeps one. Feel free to find me an AvocetJ

I thought I would check the West Warwick but apart from getting the run-around from a washed out grey and white small Grebe I had Little to show for my efforts (pun not intended but I’ll leave it in).

After news that the Essex FB Firecrest had been seen again today I thought I would give it a try. You have to look across the Lea, to the Essex side, from the Middlesex FB, but I’m not proud. I wish I had have been, as once I did get to see the bird I was left with an uneasy feeling that it could be a hybrid Rather like the one Here: I’m not saying there is not a Firecest there but the, admittedly poor, views I had means I won’t be counting what I saw of it.

As for migrants, I know what you did there Jamie. Stop making me look at Gulls.