Friday, 27 May 2016

Garganey surprise

It didn't look very promising as Lol and I had a morning walk round the reservoirs. There was, perhaps unsurprisingly, no sign of passage and a distinctly lower level of bird song. Nor did we catch a glimpse around Lockwood and the top field of the Hobby which neither of us have seen here this year. But as we were sitting down at the top end of East Warwick discussing how we were going to keep ourselves motivated during the doldrum period of June and July, Lol saw a duck appear from the bank beyond the hide and said: "That looks a lot like a Garganey".... and indeed it was. It was in pretty tatty plumage but clearly a drake, perhaps an adult going into eclipse plumage. That seems very early but I noticed that some of the Tufted Ducks are already losing their full summer finery. It stayed loyal to the east bank - pretty much exactly where I had the last one a fortnight ago - feeding close to the edge although Davey L also saw it fly off to the island when he came down art lunchtime. Otherwise just a fair number of Common Terns around on the north reservoirs and Warwicks and a Peregrine sitting high up on the usual pylon. Lol forgot his camera so the only shots are from my pocket effort which make the bird look even shabbier than it actually was.

DB @porthkillier

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Swift Tribute

Ive spent most recent mornings on the patch, with few new birds or much of a feel of migration, I spent a lot of time trying to photograph Swifts as they feed in the early morning over the reservoirs in their 100s.

The speed they move at and the shapes they make are mind blowing, photos don't do them justice.

Some years ago I, being that/this way inclined, Made an Homage to the swift with ink and needle on my own leg, terrible drawing but means alot...


Friday, 13 May 2016

All good things must come to an end...

               It is a mark of just what a great run of birds the reservoirs have had that I have been up here every day this week before or after work (and both in the morning and evening on Monday). It has not always been easy mixing work clothes and rain but the result has been that I have caught up with much of what has been found and added a new bird for the year - and two on Monday - each day. The Garganey was the latest welcome addition last night (thanks to Phil A for telling me that it had moved to East Warwick) taking me to 105 species for the year for the reservoirs just two less than all of 2015.

             So it was entirely predictable that, having the entire day off today, this run would come to an end. My plans to see if the Garganey was still around were aborted when I met Davey L who told me he had seen it fly off south over West Warwick. I diverted to Lockwood which, after the eerie calm of recent days, was back to its norm of near-gale force winds. This made looking for the Black-necked Grebes more difficult but they were either constantly feeding or, more likely, gone. I did find a lovely summer-plumaged Dunlin at the top end along with an apparently settled Little Ringed Plover and three-plus Common Sandpipers. There was a scattering of Swallows beating their way north which I had not seen for a few weeks. Doesn't seem likely that a northerly would make them migrate so perhaps it just forces them lower so they are easier to see.



              I wandered slowly around the southern reservoirs in a vain hope that the Garganey would return or that a Black Tern might drop in to join the posse of Commons feeding over the Warwicks but neither happened during my stay. It was, however, a very pleasant visit in the sunshine with plenty of breeding activity and birdsong. No 1, 2 and 3 reservoirs are going to be crowded all weekend as they are hosting qualifying rounds of the British Carp Angling Championships which started with a klaxon at midday and finishes at noon on Sunday. 

DB @porthkillier

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Patagonia Picnic Table Effect

A major advantage of the fact that good birds keep getting found on the patch is that people come to see them and find more (In the US this is know as the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect, PPTE).

And so to today an, unknown to us, visiting birder scored a beautiful drake Garganey on the West Warwick and kindly put the news out on the London wiki. I had just got home from twitching a Stone Curlew at Rainham, a bird that has occurred five times on the patch in recent years but with which I still have to connect and dutifully started cooking when I saw RBA broadcast news of the Garganey. I mentioned to Mrs. Prof what a lovely evening it was and how suitable it would be to take a postprandial stroll, perhaps on the reservoirs, 'I hear the West Warwick is especially lovely at this time of the year'. She knew what I was up to of course but decided there was merit in the scheme.

It didn't take long to find the fellow, although it was at the extreme Southern bank amongst some Coots. Wind shake and harsh light didn't help my woeful photography skills but I will share.

As I left I flushed a drake Garganey from the reeds halfway up, thinking this was a second bird I checked the southern end only to see a fisherman's  remote-controlled bait dropping machine sailing around, it had flushed the bird up to the middle and I had flushed it, accidentally, to the West side. I left it there but I guess the naval maneuvers proved too much for it as @porthkillier was given a merry dance around both Warwicks before finding it betwixt hide and island on the East Warwick.

Always a pleasure to see on the patch, Garganey seems to be becoming a bit more regular in recent years and may yet turn out to be annual. Spring birds are often one-day jobs but the autumn birds can linger.

I wonder what the Garganey twitchers will find for us tomorrow?


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Thigh High Waders

If we were knee high in Waders yesterday, today they were coming over our boots, so to speak.

I made it up to the Lockwood at 06:50 and snuck in behind, then raced ahead, of two industrial mowers. I wasn’t going to let them flush whatever goodies had dropped in in the overnight rain.

I had extremely limited time before work so only made it as far as the block house and couldn’t see anything of consequence in the very murky conditions. Dave C and Dave B both appeared, Dave C electing to plough on Northwards and Dave B taking the decision to join me for a quick look at the East and West Warwick.

The first bird we clapped eyes on was, presumably yesterdays, Greenshank standing in front of the hide.

Nothing else piqued our interest (though yesterday I had a nasal saddled (pale green #40) female Pochard which I should imagine originated in France.

The West Warwick did not have Dave’s hoped for Black Tern, nor my hoped for Whiskered or White-winged Black Tern, so we both scooted off to work.

Yesterdays Black Tern
Almost immediately Dave C’s tweet appeared ‘Ringed Plover at the North end of the Lockwood’ Dang! New for the year and also the last of our annually occurring Waders to put in an appearance. We are into ‘interesting’ Wader territory now as everything else will be scarce or even, whisper it quietly, rare.

Photo courtesy Dave C
Out of interest I worked out how we have been doing over the last 7 years. We have recorded 26 species of Wader out of the 33 on the historical patch list and it seems that we get 12 annually occurring species. Our worst year saw just 15 species and the best a whopping 22. So far this year we are on 15 already with seven and a half months to go, maybe its lining up to be a good year.

Having packed my bins I popped in after work in the vain hope that the Ringed Plover had stayed or that Davey L’s lunchtime Little Tern was still around but neither played ball. The remaining pair of Black-necked Grebes continue to display in the middle of the Lockwood and 9 Common Sandpipers littered the edge.

Photo courtesy Dave C


Knee deep in waders

What was supposedly to be a short, hour-long stroll around the Lockwood soon degenerated into a mad-rush to get as many locals on site as possible on Tuesday, once it became apparent that there were Waders everywhere!

Overnight, the winds have been blowing from the east and there was persistent rain. On the Lockwood, 7 Common Sandpipers were to be expected, a Redshank was a nice surprise, then I stumbled onto this stunning female Sanderling, with really well marked rufous scapulars.

Apparently it was the first one recorded on the Reservoirs for eight years.

Not content with that, I managed to find my second patch tick of the day in the form of a Turnstone on the raft next to the island on the East Warwick, before finding a stonking, summer plummage Black Tern in amongst 60 Common Terns on the West Warwick.

After a brief sojourn home for lunch, I met up with Lol B on the Lockwood and managed to relocate the remaining pair of Black Necked Grebes that Davey Leach had reported on the London birders wiki earlier in the day.

Lol then went ahead and discovered a Greenshank below the hide on the West Warwick, before later finding a Little Ringed Plover to take the day's wader tally to 7 species in total. Just goes to show what a little bit of rain and overcast conditions can do in Spring!



Sunday, 8 May 2016

A Little of what you fancy...

Having finally managed to see a Rook on a pre-work  jog around Lockwood last week, I was up to 99 species for the year at the reservoirs and, with a whole day free, was hopeful of cracking the 100 three months earlier than 2015. I kept my hopes modest with Hobby, Little Ring Plover or, if I was very lucky, Black Tern appearing the likeliest candidates. Even these seemed over-ambitious as I walked around Lockwood  which only held a single Common Sandpiper although a Lapwing flying south and the first Kingfisher I have seen for a couple of visits kept interest going. 

As I ambled along, I got a flurry of messages and phone calls telling me that Pete L had found a Little Tern on West Warwick which prompted a rapid change of pace. Arriving out of breath, I found Pete watching it with the Common Terns, having thankfully failed to see his text telling me it had flown off, something we found out it would do regularly only to return. Little Terns are not only rare on the patch - this was the first since May 13, 2009 - and uncommon in London but usually don't hang around for long. So this three-hour stay gave several regulars including Jamie P who took the pictures and Gary the chance to join me and add it to our patch list. Sadly, it finally departed just minutes before the Prof made it down...... 

He did, however, catch up with the Oystercatcher - the third in recent weeks - which we first saw while watching one of the Little Tern's forays flying towards the island on East Warwick. It later flew down past us calling and seemed to head towards the new delights of Wild Woodberry before returning and landing back on on the island again. Another first for the year, and my first ever at the reservoirs, was a Grass Snake which crossed over just in front of us on the railway side of East Warwick and into the longer grass on the water's edge.

We have had a good run with terns recently with both Black and Sandwich seen during the week and Jamie finding an Arctic - pictured below - yesterday with the Commons on West Warwick,  Lol and I went to celebrate with our first visit to Wild Woodberry since it stopped being called Stoke Newington Reservoirs. The habitat created was very impressive, the cafe and coffee excellent and there were hundreds of people enjoying the reserve and sunshine. I think it is safe to say that with Walthamstow itself due to become a London Wildlife Reserve by this time next year, that a Little Tern next May is likely to find itself watched by rather more than the eight of us who enjoyed it today.  

DB @porthkillier

Monday, 2 May 2016

Thank God(wit)!

Even after the joint heroics of two days ago - leaving several locals feeling as though they'd run the marathon - the call of the patch could not be ignored once again today...I mean what else to do on this spring bank holiday Monday? 
Weather started overcast with a strong SW wind but there were nice sunny spells later with temps hitting 15C and the promise of warmer weather to come.
I started with a circuit of Wild Marsh East where Groppy - our 'resident' Grasshopper Warbler - was still performing well on his favourite patch of bramble. I'd go as far as to say that he gives the best views I've ever had of this species, and long may he continue! There was also a singing Willow Warbler nearby which was my first of the year. It occurs to me that we've now had 11 ssp of Warbler on the patch this year, could this be a record?
By lunchtime I'd arranged to meet Jamie up on the Lockwood for a spot of skywatching, but with the strong wind, there wasn't much about (except 3 Common Sands and plenty of Swifts), so we decided to make our way down to the 'Saaf' side. Just as we arrived at the N end of no 4 res a wader flew across in front of us...a Black-tailed Godwit! JP managed to reel off a couple of record shots (he's getting pretty nifty with his new camera that lad!). This was only my 3rd and Jamie's 2nd sighting of 'Blackwit' on the patch, so a pretty rare bird here. If flew West but could not be relocated later on the East Warwick as we'd hoped. Not a great deal else was seen in the way of migrants today other than what I've already mentioned, plus a single White wagtail also on no 4. Stuart F had 3 more Arctic Terns earlier too. Another worthwhile outing then, at what is my favourite time of year...what goodies lie in store for us over the coming weeks I wonder?

Lol B

(Photos JP)