Monday, 29 August 2016

No Stone Left Unturned

Having been at, an indoor, convention for three days I was keen to get out on the patch, all the more so as @porthkillier had found a 1st winter Turnstone on the Lockwood yesterday. I made the mistake of not going to see one a year or two ago on it's second day as I, wrongly as it turned out, didn't think it would stay through the night. Buoyed up with the idea that they could indeed stick for a while I arranged to meet up with Dave early doors.

As I got to the top of the Lockwood I thought I spotted him further down the bank and wondered how our plan to rendezvous at the Warbler bushes had gone wrong! I got about 100m down when he called from behind! Who were these mysterious other characters halfway down the bank, it turned out not too surprisingly to be the early rising @genghisattenborough and rather more unexpectedly the somewhat less famously early riser Lol B! Either way they had re-located the Turnstone and patiently waited for us to catch up with them, well done chaps.

A splendid, and confiding, creature it was too, only my second on the patch after a rather skittish Spring adult in 2010. There were probably 10 Common Sandpipers mostly on the West bank beach (Lockwood Plage, as it is currently known) and a very impressive total of 22 Little Egrets within about 100m of each other.

Stuart and Lol left us for the more productive pastures of Kent but we decided to press on and be heroes, oh what folly!

A single Wheatear, a few flyover Yellow Wagtails, 1-2 Reed Buntings all on the Lockwood, 7 Swifts and a similar number of House Martins hawked over the Banbury and later 6 Sand Martins flew South over the Low Maynard, a handful of Willow Warblers and that was it. I was going to say there were few Birds on the Southern section but there were no Birds on the Southern section, though goodness knows we tried.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Wait a minute, it's stopped hailing.. a line from a song by American humorist Allan Sherman which only someone my age would remember. It's a parody letter home from some whiny American child explaining why his parents should remove him from summer camp listing ever more outlandish reasons ('I don't want this should scare you but my bunk mate's got malaria'). At the end, however, the sun comes out 'guys are swimming, guys are sailing' and he tells his parents to 'kindly disregard this letter'. For some reason, the 'wait a minute line' always comes into my mind when, after some lack-lustre days, the birding luck changes......... As it did today...
       I actually visited the reservoirs again yesterday but saw so little I was too embarrassed even to tweet about it. So I did not exactly start out today with high hopes. In fact, but for the neigbour's new dog again waking me with its excited barking, I may not have bothered at all. Lockwood, however, has never looked better for waders with a good edge pretty all the way round and water levels still apparently dropping. But there was nothing apart from Common Sandpipers until I got right to the north east corner where my third ever Turnstone on the patch was on the wide shore line. Turnstone is just about annual although this is the second this year as Adam had one which dropped in during our magic week in May. I could have got closer for a better picture but didn't want to flush it and even persuaded the Fish Spotter to walk down the bank (which proved worthwhile as it was still there in the afternoon).
                                                         Turnstone on the beach

          But apart from a flock of eight Common Sandpipers together on the west bank, which I think must have put the total numbers in double figures, and three Teal there seemed little else. Thanks to the Met Office, I had the wrong clothes with me for the second day running so I decided to dodge the un-forecast showers and take the train up to see the Little Stints at Rye House which showed very well. Seeing the gravelly spit they were on, it struck me that the Prof was right that they could turn up on Lockwood. A chat with Frank N and Mark on the train back about the occasional joys and persistence required for patch birding convinced me to go back to the reservoirs and see if the rain had brought anything down. It hadn't but halfway along Lockwood, I started hearing the gulls making half-hearted alarm calls. They have much better sight than me for about a minute later, I saw that what was worrying them was an Osprey flying right towards me just a few hundred feet up. As it went over to High Maynard, it didn't continue as I expected but started soaring and gaining height. It gave me time to ring Lol whose house overlooks the reservoir to alert him and to get my camera out of my pocket, switch it on. and try to find it on the screen. Amazingly, I succeeded which was more than Lol did unfortunately despite looking from his loft.  It's my third of the year but also my third ever for London after more than 30 years of birding here and always a brilliant bird to see. So all the weariness of Friday's post seems a long time least until tomorrow...

DB @porthkillier 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Crawling towards a PB

When I saw a Skylark in early July to take me to within one of my total for last year at the reservoirs, I thought it would only be a matter of weeks until I beat my personal best. After all, there were a couple of irregular breeders (Hobby & Garden Warbler) and a couple of regular passage birds (Whinchat & Spotted Fly) I had yet to see along with various odds and sods which had already been recorded by others. Eleven almost universally dismal visits later, I was not feeling so confident particularly as I am soon off patch for six weeks. So with a good smattering of migrants all over London this week and overnight rain, I was determined to be at the reservoirs for opening time and stay until I had passed 107.
      Lockwood had plenty of Common Sandpipers with at least 16 usually in small flocks and Teal numbers had increased to four but there was no sign of Lol's Redshank from yesterday or any other wader. Nor was there any sign of passage with no Spotted Flys or Garden Warblers despite lengthy waits at the usual haunts on the north side. In fact, Whitethroats and Blackcaps seemed to have largely moved out but there were still a few smart Lesser Whitethroats around. My luck changed when news of all the flycatchers gathered at Wanstead persuaded me to round again and look at the snags at the top of High Maynard. There were still no flycatchers but there was a flighty Whinchat (107) on the bank which hadn't been there a couple of hours before and almost immediately wasn't there any longer as it flew across to the west side.

                                                       Very distant and flighty Whinchat

Crossing the road, a long slow walk down the central path finally delivered a very bright Willow Warbler and then after the usual tantalizing glimpses, a Garden Warbler (108) emerged right in front of me by the magic semi-circle. I pushed my luck by continuing to look at the best flycatcher spots on the south side but nothing. In fact, given the time of year, the conditions and the migrants elsewhere, it was a long, hot and hard slog. But at least we have breeding terns and they have had a surprisingly good year...

DB @porthkillier

Peregrines and Kestrels on Walthamstow Marshes

With Autumn whispering its teasing breeze, I went out early onto Walthamstow Marshes in search of a Wryneck, a Shrike or something else of that ilk. But of course, as is far more likely, I came home with just a couple of local raptors. [It was very early, quiet and greatly enjoyable]

 The first raptor was a Peregrine; on the last pylon north of the paddocks.

The next raptor was another Peregrine [or as is most likely, the same one plus its significant other], which were on the most northernly pylon of the marshes, by coppermill lane. 

Significant other arrowed,
It was making an odd whining noise which alerted me to its presence.

I then walked the loop back towards the bus stop, checking out the Kestrel that I had noticed before.


Saturday, 20 August 2016


A quick patch visit today around East Warwick and the Rear Paddocks.

A female Teal stood out among the Tufties.

 The East Warwick water level was teasingly low. And with the wind being so gusty I could see there were quite a few small birds taking refuge in the exposed rocks. A little walk along the 'shoreline' flushed several Grey and Pied Wagtails, three Common Sandpipers and one female Wheatear. 

The reed bed between 1 & 2 continues to develop.

There was no black and glossy bird in the flood relief channel by the rear paddocks.

Just a little white one.


Friday, 12 August 2016

Something of the Night About it

A bit of a catch up blog this one and for a very good reason, I’ve been out at night and haven’t had a chance to write it up.

Monday 8th


Jamie P and I had a quick walk around the Lockwood in the early evening with nothing much to show for it other than a moulting adult Common Gull, the first returner of the Autumn. Approximately 30 seconds after he said "I wonder when the first Common Gull will appear?" Spooky.

Bat Walk

As long time readers of this blog will recall, I went on a Bat Walk at the Waterworks a few years ago and was disappointed to say the least. The organizers started their introductory spiel with “We don’t know much about Bats” and basically it went downhill from there. 1 Common Pipistrelle.

Last year there was a Bat Walk at Walthamstow Reservoirs and 6 species were seen! I decided that if there was another one this year I would give it a go. There was. I did.

Good for Bats, not so much for Radio 4
It started well, the leaders were knowledgeable, personable and experienced. Bat Detectors were passed out and instructions on their operation were given. The group of 28(!) was split in two and we sallied forth into the night. I would have preferred 27 less people and an expert of my own but that would have cost me £300, so beggars (and miserable old men) cannot be choosers.

Bat Men and Women
The Bats played Ball and we saw and heard Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle (Eh! Who you lookin’ at?) and Noctule. Their was talk of Serotine and Daubenton’s but both, as far as I know, remained unconfirmed.

Common Pipistrelle
Soprano (a.k.a. Fat Tony) Pipistrelle
I was rather hoping for the hoot of an Owl but, over the crackle of 28 Bat Detectors and a fair bit of wind, that was a no hoper. I hear there is a Hedgehog lamping expedition taking place shortly, so maybe they will have more to report in that direction.

As an aside, I mentioned the Bat Walk to a colleague at work “Are they still classified as Vermin” she queried. Josephine Public needs a lot more education when it comes to wildlife.

Thursday 11th


The evening was a relatively clear one and I was hopeful of seeing some celestial and terrestrial bodies from the patch. Mrs. Prof was up for it and we took a bunch of Teens along for protection, Jubilee Park after dark is not for the feint-hearted!

Saturn, it helps if you squint
We arrived around 22:00 to make sure our eyes were acclimatised for the pass of the International Space Station at 22:15 and I’m glad we did as a spectacular Meteorite flashed across in front of us causing spontaneous gasps from one and all, success. The ISS proved to be a hit too as it gave prolonged views as it crossed the skies. Strangely this manmade tin can seemed to be of most interest to everyone but me. I’m impressed, don’t get me wrong but I think seeing Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, complete with rings as well as killer views of the Moon and breathtaking Meteorites take some beating.

Mmm, Cheese
We had a few more Meteorites, which not everyone saw and, after dropping everyone home I snuck out for another look and had 10 all to myself. I may  have even cured the impinged tendon in my shoulder what with all the laying on the ground too, so win, win.

Friday 12th


Joining Dave B up on the Lockwood proved to be a good move as we had signs that Autumn passage is underway, nothing earth shattering to be sure but movement nonetheless. First up was a Little Ringed Plover which defied ageing (by us I mean, not age defying of itself), 3 Common Sandpipers and a tame juvenile Dunlin. An adult Yellow Wagtail, a close encounter with a bleached adult Red Kite, which took an age to drift South over Tottenham Marsh, 4+ Willow Warblers and some Lesser Whitethroats were all passage birds.

Sue H texted to say she had got a Spotted Flycatcher on the Waterworks and some Lesser Whitethroats too. We are about to get a very warm Southerly so there could be some more movement to come...


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Bingo! Ringo!

With Mrs. Prof out gadding I had the opportunity to go Nightjarring or go around the patch, a no brainer I’m sure you would agree, but somehow I opted for the patch!

@porthkillier had earlier tweeted that the edge of the Lockwood looked good so I decided I would give that a bash, but first I would check out the Southern section. There were no Snakes, or anything else, under the sheets at the top of the East Warwick, though a juvenile Sedge Warbler was a welcome surprise. Terns were much in evidence all over the complex, including a well grown juvenile on the East Warwick raft. A Common Sandpiper was the only Wader there.

The mystery deepens with the juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls, I’ve still to see them. Two adults were on No.4 and a 3rd year was flying around No.5. The dead individual was still showing well between Nos. 4/5. Tufted Ducks numbers are building steadily and I’m sure Pete L will have a count for us soon.

I had to drag myself up to the Northern side and decided I would just scope it from the bottom, fortunately I spotted a couple of Common Sandpipers and decided to venture up to the middle. This was a good move, as I progressed I noticed there were 4 Common Sandpipers and a Plover, initially I suspected it to be Little Ringed, being quite horizontal in carriage, as I moved closer it appeared not to have an eye ring and the breast band seemed quite deep, this was clearly worth pursuing. I stalked it closer and closer and everything screamed Ringed Plover. I couldn’t quite bring myself to claim it as it is not a Bird I see much at the reservoirs and certainly not well. (On checking my records my last two ‘sightings’ were heard only and my last actual sighting was seemingly 32 years ago!). I rattled off quite a number of shots and everything seemed to point to Ringed as opposed to Little Ringed. Ringed Plover is just about annual on the patch but they don’t often hang around, I was well pleased but decided I needed to see the spread wing to be totally happy. It proved almost impossible to flush and just kept running ahead of me at about 3m range, happily it called a few times, confirming its identity and then eventually flew a short distance…wing bar!

I put the news out and left it in peace, well at least temporarily as 3 joggers and a cyclist zoomed past along the bank of the reservoir, given its confiding nature I suspect it returned to whence it came.

The only other Birds of consequence were a Green Sandpiper along the concrete edge of the High Maynard and the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard still.

It looks like Autumn has started. 


Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Breeding Common Terns

Following on from David's post regarding our breeding common terns...

A new-ish chick cut quite a forlorn figure whilst it was contemplating life after the nest, peering out over the side of the raft. What's it all about? Where do I go from here? Who's the weirdo checking me out?

Meanwhile, the relatives were keen to let me know my presence had been noted!


All in, I counted two chicks and a fledged on the left of the raft, plus three chicks and a fledged on the right of the raft.

Seven newbies!