Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Reservoir Logs - Summer 21 round-up


         Three Cuckoos including this juvenile is the best showing for years pic @sjnewton

    A mass arrival of Common Scoter was the highlight of June and July which also saw fly-overs by Spoonbill and Sandwich Tern along with the just about annual occurrence of Coal Tit. More predictable were the July first appearances for the year of Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow-legged Gull and Skylark The seven additions take the year list to 132 which is an impressive nine above last year's figure.  

June saw the biggest flock of Scoter at the Wetlands in recent times pic @Chris_Farthing

    The Godwits were one of a healthy eleven wader species recorded over the two months including the second Common Ringed Plover and Avocets of the year. The summer also saw several sightings  of Mediterranean Gull and Cuckoo as well as ringing records which showed birds travelling to the Wetlands from the Netherlands and Namibia.    

         One of the pair of Barnacle Geese which seemed to have tried to breed pic @AMP

    Barnacle Geese continued to be seen throughout June with a pair displaying breeding behaviour on the big No 5 island. But within a couple of days of the birds watched apparently swapping nest shifts on the 27th, both fed on the reservoir banks which suggests any breeding attempt failed. The pair just as quickly then left the Wetlands to end an unusual summer influx.    

    It was an even sadder story for Shelduck. None of the young from the three pairs which bred survived very long and all adults, unusually, departed by early July. This compares to five pairs successfully raising 21 young last year when some enjoying the Wetlands so much they stayed well into the autumn. 

  For the second summer in the last three, the Wetlands hosted a Scaup pic@Chris_Farthing

    A drake Scaup, the third record of the year, was found by CF on June 25th. Photographs led to debate over whether it might be a hybrid but those who saw it largely felt it was most likely a Scaup going into eclipse. It is the second year in the last three that a drake has turned up at the Wetlands in June.  It wandered the site until at least July 3rd and, given the huge number of moulting Tufted Duck in which to hide, might have stayed longer.  

This female-type Common Scoter spent five days at the Wetlands pic @rom_london 
    But it was a remarkable movement of Common Scoter which was the duck highlight of the summer. CF - again - earned his reward for visiting in a downpour on June 18th when he found a female on West Warwick. By the time, the rest of us had donned waterproofs to see the first Scoter of the year, he had found a flock of ten males on Lockwood. This is the biggest Scoter flock - part of a widespread movement across the south east - anyone can remember at the Wetlands. The drakes all departed that night but the female stayed until the 23rd. Other duck records included a drake Teal on June 7th and a Shoveler on the 15th  with eight on the 29th.    

        Two stunning summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes were seen pic @rom_london

    Black-necked Grebes gave the Wetlands a miss this Spring. So there was plenty of interest in the first discovered by CF on June 16th and the second - also a superb summer plumaged adult - found by RR on Lockwood on July 17th. Both were just one-day appearances. After a near-miss in the Spring, Spoonbill was also finally added to the Wetland's year list on June 4th when MK saw one fly from West Warwick over Walthamstow Marsh and back before presumably continuing north.   

    Two young were raised by the local Peregrines just off site and could be seen and heard on the Wetlands' pylons throughout July. Four Red Kites were seen together on June 3rd and there were singles on five other days. Hobby records were scarce compared to last year with birds seen only on three days in June and two in July. Two young Kestrels took up residence around the north side in July.    

       A  colour-ringed Oystercatcher turned out to be a visitor from Holland @AMP

    Eleven species of waders - one less than last year - were recorded in June and July. But they seemed to turn up earlier than usual perhaps because the bad weather in the Spring led to failed breeding. That was certainly the case with the Oystercatcher found on June 20th which photographs showed was colour-ringed. It was soon discovered that it had been rung as as an adult near Den Haag in 2018 and had still been in the Netherlands in April. Two very unseasonal Avocets - the second record of the year - were found on Lockwood by CF on June 10th. 

         Two Avocets rested all too briefly on the banks of Lockwood pic @Chris_Farthing 

    Lapwing are more expected summer visitors but there were more regular sightings this year. The first summer record was on June 14th & 15th, with two on the 23rd, 29th and July 19th with singles - perhaps the same young bird - on six other days in July. PR had the second Ringed Plover of the year fly over on an early morning ringing session on July 9th. Little Ringed Plover were scarcer than is often the case but there was one on June 16th & 18th and two on the 17th with the only July record three juveniles on July 8th. 


Five Black-tailed Godwits turned up on Lockwood pic (above) @sjnewton and @porthkillier      


    A Whimbrel flew over calling on July 27th while the biggest gap in the wader list was filled when five Black-tailed Godwits were found on Lockwood on July 10th - six days later than the first record last year. They included a flock of four which soon continued south but the fifth lone bird settled down to feed for much of the morning.A returning  Dunlin was also on Lockwood on July 11th with other equally tame summer-plumaged birds on the 25th & 31st.  

            The three Dunlin seen were all on Lockwood and all very tame pic @sjnewton

   The first Common Sandpiper returned on June 30th - seven days later than last year but exactly the same date as in 2019. They were then seen pretty much every day throughout July with a conservative peak count of 10 on the 23rd. Green Sandpipers were seen on July 18th & 27th with two on the 24th. Redshank, like Lapwing, were surprisingly common with two on June 15th & 17th and July 16th and singles on six other days. This compares to records on just five days last summer.   

                            Redshank were regular visitors in June and July pic @OwlTurbot    

    RE picked out a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull among the local Lesser black-backed and Herring young on Lockwood among on July 25th - 12 days later than the first last year. A near-adult Mediterranean Gull dropped into the thriving Black-headed Gull colony on June 25th and at least two more were seen on July 18th when there was a movement inland.  

         One of at least three Mediterranean Gulls seen in June and July pic @Chris_Farthing

    The first two Sandwich Terns of the year were seen by LB from his loft window flying north on July 24th. At least 17 Common Tern chicks hatched on Lockwood with fledged birds being fed by the parents on the reservoir banks into August. The astonishing migrations these birds will undertake was brought to life when a CF photograph of an adult allowed the partial reading of a ring. The numbers narrowed it down to one of three birds trapped in Namibia between 2004 and 2006. As it is over 5,000 miles from Walthamstow, it is likely to have flown 150,000 miles in migration since it was rung. 

  Adult Cuckoo (above) pic @IvorHewstone and juvenile (below) pic @sjnewton & @OwlTurbot


    This year has seen the best showing by Cuckoos for a long time with at least three more in June and July. An adult was seen on June 1st and June 5th before a tame juvenile put on a show on July 12th & 13th around the High Maynard entrance. A late adult gave more typically brief views on the south side on the 25th. For the first time in a couple of years, it looks as if Kingfishers have actually bred at the Wetlands with a pair flying into a nest hole on the small No 5 island in July. 

   Swifts continued to use the Wetlands as a feeding station with around 300 birds - almost certainly a mixture of migrants and late local birds - on the last day of July. The same is true of Sand Martins with lingering breeding birds - most of which seem to have left by mid-July - joined by visitors in a flock of around 100 feeding low over No 4 on the 30th. Coal Tit remains a very rare bird at the Wetlands and the two CF found on June 23rd may be the only record of the year. Skylarks regularly turn up in July with singles from the 9th to the 12th and another on the 27th.  

       This June Wheatear was either late going north or early coming south pic @Alex_Aspden

    Migration of smaller birds - probably because the bad weather in May delayed breeding - was later than last year when Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat and multiple returning Willow Warblers were all recorded in July. The first bright juvenile Willow Warbler was only seen on the 31st although there was an earlier adult on July 21st. A female Wheatear got the seasons all wrong when it turned up on Lockwood on June 17th and stayed around to the 21st. It presumably just got fed up waiting for the weather to improve on the breeding grounds and decided to head south., 

    The ringing sessions around the No 1 reed bed continue to astound with a staggering total by the end of July of 120 adult Reed Warblers now rung - many times the number of pairs that were thought to be summer residents. Juvenile Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were also caught on July 18th which suggests they may have bred at the Wetlands. Both species were increasingly seen from mid July while there were also plenty of young Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcaps around

    Family parties of Common Whitethroats could be seen across the Wetlands pic @rudraksh9

    The welcome decision by Thames Water to let the grass grow in June and July around the reservoir banks led to a riot of wild flowers. As well as many butterflies, Goldfinches and Linnets - with over 20 including family parties around Lockwood - enjoyed the unexpected feast.  

       Linnets brought their young to Lockwood to enjoy the seed feast pic @rudraksh9

    August should see the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year as well, if we are lucky, a passing Osprey while the regular visit by Red-crested Pochard is now overdue. 

DB @porthkillier