Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Reservoir Logs - September round-up

     Whinchats - among the smartest of British birds - performed well this month pic @sjnewton

   September kept up the excellent run of recent months with nine species added to the year list including the first Gannet since 2012 and the first Tawny Owl in recent memory. The new additions also included three ducks - Pintail, Mandarin and Red-crested Pochard - as well as a male Ring Ouzel along with fly-over Ringed Plover, Redpoll and Siskin

              Gale-force winds dropped a juvenile Gannet onto Lockwood pic @wheresrhys

    September also saw the second Great Egret of the year, two obliging Black-necked Grebes, an influx of Wigeon and a trickle of Whinchat, Spotted Flycatchers and Yellow Wagtails. The additions take the year list so far to a remarkable 139 - eight more than at the end of October in 2019 and the same total at the end of September as the Wetlands' stellar 2018. It might have been even better if the two Cranes which flew south east from Tyttenhanger to Wanstead and then onto Rainham on the 27th - a route which must have put them close to the reservoirs - had been picked up. 

      A smart Pintail began to reveal itself as a male as the month went on @pic @OwlTurbot

    It was a good month for ducks at the reservoirs. A young Shelduck stayed throughout, preferring the shelter of No 1 reservoir to the North Sea mud-flats. Shoveler numbers peaked at 116 on the 16th, slightly higher than last year's maximum total of 110..The easterly airflow mid-month saw a surprise influx of Wigeon with the first recorded on the 16th, nine next day and at least twelve on the 19th and 20th with birds seen regularly through the rest month. For comparison, none were seen in September  last year.  

        A flock of nine Wigeon was a high number for the Wetlands pic  @Callahanbirder

     A smart Pintail was found by TR on the 2nd on Lockwood with it or another seen on No 1 on the 20th and again on East Warwick on the 24th and 28th. The longer it stayed, the clearer it became that it was a male. London has a large naturalised population of both Mandarin and Red-crested Pochard but, despite the seemingly good habitat, they rarely visit the reservoirs. A duck found by RE hiding on the southern island of High Maynard on the 22nd was, after careful study of photographs, confirmed as a juvenile Mandarin as he suspected. As usual for the species, it soon slipped away unnoticed.  

     A young Mandarin made a typically brief appearance on High Maynard pic @wheresrhys

   The eclipse Red-crested Pochard  found by DC on East Warwick on the 2nd was the first of the year and a month earlier than the first in 2019. Tufted Ducks remained in good numbers with a count of 1218 mid-month. But it is getting now very late for Garganey which may be one of the unexpected misses of 2020 while the Wetlands has yet to have a visit this year by Barnacle Geese. 

           A tame Black-necked Grebe drew plenty of admirers to Lockwood pic @OwlTurbot.....

    ....and was later joined by a second bird until the end of the month pic @Chris_Farthing
         The second record of Black-necked Grebe for the year was found on the 18th on Lockwood and was joined by another on the 25th with both performing well until the end of the month. It was June 2012 when a Gannet - an adult - last turned up at the reservoirs. This time it was a juvenile seen by RE  landing on Lockwood in strong NW winds on the 27th. As it headed south, it collided with power lines but fortunately seemed none the worse as it changed direction and was tracked over KGV and then Hertfordshire. While watching from his loft on the 7th, LB picked up another Great Egret heading north over Lockwood. 

    After two good months for waders, September was poor with just five species recorded. The highlight was a Ringed Plover LB heard over No 5 on the 11th with the only Oystercatcher also a heard-only record the same day. Single Snipe were seen on the 18th, 19th and 29th with three on the 27th. Common Sandpipers were seen until the end of the month with four on the 21st the highest count while three Green Sandpipers were seen on the 20th and two next day.  

 A IY Mediterranean Gull over Lockwood was third of the year pic @Chris_Farthing 

     The first Water Rail of the autumn was heard on the 20th with another found dead on the main road on the same day. Yellow-legged Gulls were seen on the 20th and 27th while a IY Mediterranean Gull was found by PL over the overflow channel and later over Lockwood. Common Terns lingered on with last record of a family of four on the late date of the 9th.

    A Red Kite was recorded on the 22nd with single Buzzards on 5th, 13th, 20th and 21st and 2 on the 10th. Hobby continued to be frequent visitors to the reservoirs with records from at least eight days right up to the 29th with two on the 7th. Last year, there were only two records for the month and just one in 2018. DC was rewarded for an early start on the reservoirs on the 27th when he heard a Tawny Owl hooting from the nearby Paddock. Although it is a species which occurs nearby and must hunt over the reservoirs, this seems to be the first heard or seen from the Wetlands in recent years. 

           Spotted Flycatchers were enjoyed on five days this month pic @OwlTurbot

   The final Swifts of the year were three on the 11th, departing three days earlier than last year. The last Sand Martin was seen on the 25th with a few House Martins, as usual, remaining until the end of the month. Last year's autumn round up commented that ''worryingly low' numbers of Swallows had been seen on passage with a peak count of only 38. This month the total number seen was far below 38 although other sites in the capital don't seem to have seen such a decline. The highest day total was a paltry six  on the 2nd & 20th with the last bird of the month, on a bitingly cold day, on the 27th. 

 It is always much more difficult to be certain of final rather than first dates for summer visitors. But the Sedge Warbler on the 29th was definitely later than last year's 16th as was Common Whitethroat on the 23rd rather than the 10th. The last Lesser Whitethroat of September was seen on the 26th and Reed Warbler on the 22nd but both can turn up in October as the Lesser Whitethroat did last year. Passage of Willow Warblers petered out mid-month with four recorded on the 15th.   

      A male Ring Ousel stopped just long enough for @IvorHewstone to grab these images

    The first Redwing of the autumn were on the early date of the 27th when they were seen across London with seven more next day. Ring Ouzels are usually Spring visitors at the Wetlands so the male which fed briefly on berries early on the 17th before flying onto Tottenham Marsh closed a gap on the year list.   

                                  Whinchats are always photogenic ..........pic AMP

   Two Spotted Flycatchers were seen on the 1st with singles on the 4th & 5th, 7th, 12th and 23rd. It continued to be a good autumn for Whinchat with two on the 10th, four on the 15th and the last on the 16th. The first Stonechats of the autumn were two on the 14th with a peak count of eight on the 28th during a major movement across London. The highest daily total of Wheatear, however, was just two on the 21st compared to three last year with singles seen until the 26th including at least one likely Greenland race bird. 

                            ................... as are Wheatears pic AMP

     Yellow Wagtails were few in number with single birds - almost all fly-overs - on the 1st,15th, 18th, 21st and 27th. The first Meadow Pipit of the autumn were two on the the 4th with passage birds seen either resting or passing over regularly in relatively smallish numbers until the end of the month. 

   It has been a good month for Siskins moving across London and the Wetlands - far from the best place to catch visible migration - did not entirely miss out.  The first record of the year were six seen by PL on the 13th, with three on the 15th, one on the 20th and six more on the 22nd and one on the 26th. On the 22nd, too, NK picked out two Lesser Redpoll - another finch seen migrating in good numbers elsewhere in London but which remains a very scarce visitor to the reservoirs.   

DB @porthkillier

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Reservoir Logs - August round-up

    Both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers could be enjoyed together this month pics @sjnewton

   August was another excellent month with a good array of waders, raptors and passerines passing through the reservoirs although their visits were often frustratingly brief. Records included the first Wood Warbler since 2016 and the first Marsh Harrier since 2018 as well as Pied Flycatcher, Great Egret and Black Tern. Skylark, belatedly, and Common Redstart were also added to the annual list

   The month also saw the second and third Ospreys and Greenshanks of the year and the second Turnstone as well as tagged Mediterranean Gulls and Tufted Ducks which proved again how far some birds come to enjoy the safe haven the reservoirs provideThe seven new species take the 2020 year list to 130 - four more than this time last year.  

     A French-tagged Tufted Duck joined the large moult gathering pic @Chris_Farthing

    At least two young Shelduck liked the Wetlands so much that they stayed on No 3 right through the month despite the disappearance of their parents and siblings to the coast. The reservoirs remain a nationally-important site for Tufted Ducks to carry out their post-breeding moult. A count early in the month recorded 2,100 across the reservoirs, slightly down on last year's 2246 but above the 1900 of the year before. Among them on High Maynard on the 7th &10 was a bird fitted with a nasal saddle at Mayenne, 140 km WSW of Paris in June 2018. It is the third time that Tufted Ducks from the French ringing scheme have been recorded at the Wetlands in recent years. Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall all returned in small numbers with seven Shoveler back on East Warwick by the 30th.   

    This Black-tailed Godwit enjoyed the new East Warwick raft pic @EugeneDH_Bass

      The Wetlands continued to draw in waders with 11 species seen during the month, a far better performance than last year. A flock of eight Oystercatchers over west on the 23rd was the largest number that can be recalled with, more typically, one on the 3rd while a single Lapwing was seen on East Warwick on the 14th &15th.  A Whimbrel flew south on the 13th while another Black-tailed Godwit rested on the East Warwick raft on the 4th.  After the first Turnstone for three years last month, it was inevitable that the second would follow almost immediately with a single photographed by SN flying south over Lockwood on the 8th.   

    The second Turnstone of the year, like the first, sadly did not stop pic @sjnewton

      Dunlin were seen on the 3rd and 24th with the first Snipe of the autumn on the 17th. Common Sandpipers were present throughout the month with the maximum count of 19 on the 11th, slightly below last year's peak of 22. Single Green Sandpipers were recorded on the 7th, 25th and 28th. It was a good month for Redshank with individuals on the 3rd, 10th, 11th, 14th and two on the 27th. The 10th also saw the second Greenshank of the year which remained until early the next morning with another on the 17th.   

         An adult Dunlin spent a couple of hours resting at the reservoirs pic @ porthkillier

     Common Sandpipers lived up to their name with up to 19 seen daily pic @OwlTurbot 

            Two Greenshank were seen this month pics @Chris_Farthing 

                      Two Redshank on Lockwood pic @IvorHewstone

     It is not just ducks which travel a long way to the Wetlands. For the third year, a Black-headed Gull which breeds in Poland returned to Walthamstow. Even more remarkable, was the colour-ringed juvenile Mediterranean Gull found and photographed by RE on the 9th. It turned out to have been rung at its breeding colony in the eastern Czech Republic on June 17th, less than two months before being seen on Lockwood.  Common Terns, after successful breeding, gave some fantastic views with at least six still in residence on the 31st. The first - and perhaps only - Black Tern of the year was seen by PL flying north on the 30th.  

    Mediterranean Gull arrived from the Czech Republic pic @wheresrhys   

    As breeding numbers of Great Egrets increase in the UK, they are becoming more regular, if still rare, at the Wetlands. The bird picked up by LB going north over Lockwood on the 8th was the fifth successive year they have been seen while they were only recorded once in the previous five years. 

          Very much a record shot of one of two Ospreys this month pic @porthkillier .

              and a rather better photograph of a Sparrowhawk pic @OwlTurbot

   The second Osprey of the year used the reservoirs to gain height before crossing London on the 27th with another being seen by visiting birder GB two days later. Marsh Harrier is a much rarer bird at the Wetlands with the female-type picked up by PR on the 3rd the first since May 2018. It was later seen over Wanstead. Buzzards were seen on the 4th and 28th which was also the date of the only Red Kite.  Two adults Peregrines were semi-resident on the pylons while Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were also seen regularly. The same was true of Hobby which were recorded on at least 11 days in the month with two hunting on the 2nd. 

  Up to 70 Swifts were still feeding over the reservoirs up until the 20th with 20 on the 25th and single figures until the end of the month along with much larger numbers of Sand and, in particular, House Martins. Swallows, however, continue to be extremely and worryingly scarce this year with hardly any passage this autumn. A Skylark, the first of the year, was found on the 8th by CF on Lockwood.   

                  Whinchats performed well during the month pic @OwlTurbot

   The Wetlands are very much in the shadow of nearby Wanstead when it comes to attracting migrants in the autumn but August did see the reservoirs record all we might expect. The star bird was a Wood Warbler found by RE late on the 19th - the first since a singing Spring bird in 2016. A female-type Common Redstart on the 10th put in an equally brief appearance.  Whinchats were rather more obliging with records on the 9th, 24th and 28th with two on the 20th and three on the 27th. 

       Wheatears were few in number but always a delight to see pic @ OwlTurbot

   Wheatears were seen on 12 days after the 8th with a rather disappointing maximum of two on the 23rd, 25th, 26th and 28th.  It looked as if the Wetlands was going to miss out on the influx of Pied Flycatchers which seemed to have turned up in every green space in London this month until AMP saved blushes by finding one by the central pylon on the 20th. It was  joined by a second bird next day with one being seen irregularly until the 23rd.  

              Spotted Flycatcher is a regular if scarce visitor in August pic @sjnewton

   The first Spotted Flycatcher of the month was also found on the 20th with one being seen in the same trees as the two Pied Flycatchers on the 21st & 22nd, with another on the 30th.  Yellow Wagtails are also very scarce this autumn with the only records a single on the 28th and an excellent flock of around 12 seen going south by LB next day. 

   Willow Warblers numbers built up from mid-month but, unlike some years, daily counts did not reach into double figures. The last Sedge Warbler was recorded on the 28th although undoubtedly others were hiding as was almost certainly the case with Garden Warbler which were seen on at least two days. Common Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Reed Warblers, which all bred, were seen until the end of the month. 

DB @porthkillier