Wednesday, 29 March 2017

It's not just the early bird that catches the worm

On Monday night, I was seriously gripped off. While the rest of the locals buzzed tweets back and forth congratulating each other on managing to see the Black-tailed Godwit that Paul Watts had found earlier in the day (a patch tick for me), I was working late into the night, with no chance of visiting the patch on the horizon.

Anyway, in a moment of madness, I decided to throw my bins and camera into my work bag. Then, miraculously, a late meeting was cancelled. So, for the first time in about three weeks, I managed to head to the drained south reservoirs to see what all the fuss was about...

Now, I may not find much on the patch but I've got a decent record when it comes to waders, especially after finding Bar-Tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Redshank last year. Obviously, there's not really any skill involved in this, just my sado-masochistic willingness to get soaked to the bone in southerlies or easterlies.

A Suitably Drained No. 5

With the weather positively gloomy, I was at least hoping that the Black-Tailed Godwit would stick in time for me to catch up with it. 

As I walked along the western edge of No. 4, I soon managed to do even better. First of all, a Sand Martin flew overhead. Then, out in the middle, I immediately found a winter plumage Grey Plover, only my second record for the patch. The bird stayed fairly distant throughout, although I did manage to fire off some recent shots. 

Grey Plover on No. 4
After a few moments of initial panic as I moved on to No. 5, I then managed to relocate the Black-Tailed Godwit. Two quality waders in the space of ten minutes! 

Black-Tailed Godwit on No. 5
With the Godwit in the bag, I spent the next hour taking a leisurely stroll around the rest of No. 5 finding a single Common Sandpiper and two vocal Little Ringed Plovers in the gloom. 

Little Ringed Plover on No. 5

So, all told, I'd managed four year-ticks in the space of an hour and a half after work. 

Intriguingly, one of the more wizened local birders (sorry Prof) suggested that the waders seem to be arriving quite late in the day, presumably after flying for a couple of hours from the coast.   

Whether this is true or not, at the minute it seems it's not just the early bird who catches the worm...

Adam W

Friday, 24 March 2017


To say that this week was frustrating was an understatement, sweating over spreadsheets when the patch was buzzing with new birds was not my idea of fun. Kittiwake would have been a new patch bird for me, I’ve only seen Ruff once and that not for many a year, Red-crested Pochard, Redshank etc., etc., blah, blah!

Today was my big chance. Anticipation was high, expectation was moderate, and hope was low…

On the basis that a lot of the recent action centred on the East Warwick Island, I started there. Unfortunately there were quite a few Fisherman lining the reservoir banks, and an equal and opposite number of Waders on the island. No.5 had nothing to add and all that No.4 could offer was the Wintering Common Sandpiper. I should probably mention singing Chiffchaffs, Cetti’s Warblers and sitting Little Egrets but they didn’t seem to offer much compensation. Still there was the Lockwood…

There were so many possibilities and all of them didn’t fail to disappoint. As I walked down the track at the Southern end of the Lockwood I was mentally preparing a desultory tweet, when what should stroll casually out of the Warbler bushes by the defunct toilet block but a Red-legged Partridge. I froze, hoping to get a photograph, but it strolled back into cover. I made a quick call to Lol, who was the only local likely to be able to make it to the site quickly and set myself up to get a shot if it re-appeared. Patience won out and it moved out of cover and fed quite calmly allowing me the luxury of composed pictures.

Lol arrived and got to see it too. It was still in the area in the evening. What’s the big deal, I hear you say. Well, this is Urban Birding baby! Red-legged Partridge is not a particularly urban bird, though they breed about 10 km up the valley their wanderings are a bit random and casual. They do seem to appear about every two years and early Spring is probably your best bet but they are seldom twitchable on the patch. The last patch record was in 2015 between No.1 and the East Warwick for about 2 minutes, before that one hung around in the Waterworks NR for a few days in 2011 (I actually ran for that one! To be fair not far, but actual running. Obviously I am well past that now).

2015 bird
Buoyed up by my Gamebird success, I decided to have another round of the Southern section, with, other than a lingering Buzzard found by Lol, predictably little result. I had thought I would go through the middle of Nos. 1, 2 & 3 but didn’t have the time. Davey L (nice to meet you at last, and sorry to lose you to the KGV shortly) did have the time and saw the Red-crested Pochards! There is always tomorrow.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Ingratitude of Waders

                                         An empty No 4 - of both water and waders

                  It is not since East Warwick was drained over 30 years ago that the reservoirs have put out such a welcome mat for waders. As this event resulted in the Prof seeing 11 species of waders while the reservoir was down, hopes are high now that both No 4 and 5 are showing extensive mud-flats.  - the more so as the latest information is that this might continue well into the Spring. But while the habitat looks fantastic, no one had yet told the shorebirds.....
                  It is not as if we did not have waders over the weekend. It is just that No 4 and 5 were very much no-go areas for them. The highlight was a party of five Avocets which SF found on the north end of Lockwood on Saturday which clearly must have flown over our new wader scrape first. Even when they flew off the bank, they preferred to settle on the water for a couple of minutes  - which is where I was lucky enough to see them - before disappearing. They are the first Avocets on the reservoirs since 2013 and my first here.  A Dunlin which dropped in a little later also preferred the small rocky edge on Lockwood rather than the mudflats on the other side of the road before it, too, departed.

                                                     Dunlin avoiding the mud

         We thought our luck had changed today when we heard and glimpsed a Ring Plover flying around No 4 and 5 which appeared to land on No 4. But when we got round there, it was nowhere to be seen and we later learnt had almost certainly headed north past Pete L on the Lockwood. The only other waders were the wintering Common Sandpipers which were on No 4 and 5 even when there was no mud and three Green Sandpipers today on the overflow channel.
                                   Not enough mud on No 5 for a single Ring Plover

                But the mud, potential and the beginning of migration did prompt a very good turn-out from birders over the weekend. And the many hours spent collectively did result in some other good birds. SF also saw a party of three or four adult Little Gulls on Saturday which dropped in briefly onto Lockwood while Lol B found a Rock Pipit early afternoon there today - both of which I managed to miss. Pete L also discovered the first Wheatear of the year, a spanking male, at the top end of Lockwood which stayed around until the afternoon while three Sand Martins headed north in the drizzle. With or without the mud. the next two months are the best time of the year on the reservoirs......

Today's 'litoralis' Rock Pipit in the drizzle (Lol B)

DB @porthkillier

Friday, 10 March 2017

Reservoir Logs - February update

First Caspian Gull of the year found by JP who has spent all of the year so far looking at them.  
                                                    pic @birdingprof
February lived up to its birders' reputation as a pretty drab month between the somewhat artificial excitement of new year listing in January and the real joy of the return of the summer migrants in March. Indeed, but for a flurry at the end of the month which included an obliging Siberian Chiffchaff, the first Curlew since 2014, Wigeon, and Caspian Gull, it would have been dreadful with the only other new birds for the year being Skylark and Red-crested Pochard.

        The Wigeon, a species which has become scarcer on the reservoirs, was seen on the 27th flying north off High Maynard while the Red-crested Pochard was another one-day wonder on Lockwood on the  8th. Our resident drake Scaup stayed...well ....resident for the month largely on No 4 where the fast falling water levels inspired a burst of feeding activity in a bird which usually spends all day asleep. Peak counts of Goldeneye were 12 on the 21st with five Goosander on the 8th. A family party of around eight newly hatched Egyptian Geese on the 19th had been reduced to just three two days later.
                                          Goosander in the gloom when No 4 still had water

          Despite the fantastic habitat as water levels on No 4 and No 5 continued to fall, the only wader of note was a Curlew on the 25th and that was flying north. Two Common Sandpipers continued to winter on Nos 4 & 5 where there were two Lapwings on the 16th. Two Snipe were seen on the 24th while the peak count of four Green Sandpipers was on the 1st. A 1st winter Caspian Gull was found on the filter beds on the 26th where there had been an adult Mediterranean Gull five days before. Lockwood also held a 2W Yellow-legged Gull on the 26th. The continued presence of Great Black backed Gulls on the No 5 islands, which last year hosted London;s first successful breeding of the species, suggests there might be more bad news ahead for young Egyptian Geese....

            The only bird of prey of note was a Buzzard on the 21st although.Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk continued to be seen regularly. Passerines, apart from thrushes with up to 40 Fieldfare and Redwing, were thin on the ground. Three Skylarks were seen over Lockwood on the 19th with two more on the 21st.  January's Black Redstart was seen intermittently around the filter beds until the 9th with probably the same bird re-appearing on the 28th. The highlight was a Siberian Chiffchaff found, in the company of up to five Common Chiffchaffs, in the hedges at the NE end of Lockwood on the 27th which had the decency to hang around so most patch birders could catch up with it. Green Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush were easier to see than in some years - particularly in the horse paddock - but Cetti's Warbler were so silent that it was easy to think they had disappeared. The small flock of Meadow Pipits kept faithfully to the banks of Lockwood through the month.

A showy Siberian Chiffchaff (if you waited long enough) pic@jarpartridge

 DB @porthkiller 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Two Water Voles!

This morning, two separate individual Water Voles were seen feeding at the same time, at different locations. 

Vole #1

Vole #2

Thursday, 2 March 2017


A male Stonechat is still around.

After a bit of rain Water Vole burrow entrances and latrines submerge. Do the voles care? – I don’t think so, but it does make recording their latrines and habitual behaviour difficult.

The mink rafts show no sign of minks!

A Water Vole was seen at a new location! A possible second Water Vole!
The northern section of the ditch is looking good! Nice work LVRPA! Hopefully it won't get filled with pizza boxes and beer cans.

A Water Rail showed.

And for every 15 Wood Mouse ...

  ... you get a Bank Vole!