Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Reservoir Logs - Summer 2022


         July was marked by an exceptional passage of Black-tailed Godwits pic @Chris_Farthing

   A flying visit by the reservoirs' third ever Glossy Ibis, an even briefer appearance by two Turnstone and the first, if ultimately unsuccessful, breeding of Barnacle Geese were the highlights of June and July. The summer also saw the most glaring gaps in the year list closed with Redshank and Garden Warbler both seen along with the now expected appearance of Yellow-legged Gull and annual visit by the strangely elusive Coal Tit.   

   Summer saw the Wetlands alive with breeding birds including regionally important numbers of Pochard as well as a juvenile Cuckoo on site for the second year running The six additions to the year list bring the total to 123, nine behind last year but the same total as in 2020.  

        Two pairs of Barnacle Geese bred but sadly no young survived pic @IvorHewstone

   After a near miss last year, two pairs of Barnacle Geese hatched young for the first time. Five cute goslings delighted visitors as they fed happily with their parents along the public No 4/5 path. Sadly there was no happy ending with all the young and, indeed, an adult disappearing one-by-one over time with gulls and foxes the culprits. It looks, however, that Barnacle Geese may become a summer feature of the reservoirs as No 5 played host to a moulting flock of 20 in July and into August.  

    The Wetlands played host to 20 Barnacle Geese who stayed into August pic @Chris_Farthing

      It was equally dismal breeding story for Shelduck. Two pairs had ducklings but, just like last year,  none survived long. This failure again prompted an early departure of the adult birds with the last two seen on June 26th. It was better news for Pochard with 15 pairs raising 20 young between them. Most females were lucky to keep one duckling safe from the marauding gulls so a special shout-out to the two mothers on High Maynard who co-parented a presumed combined brood of ten from the earliest stage and raised them all to maturity. 

  New families of Tufted Ducks are still appearing but, but by the beginning of August, a record 46 broods has been counted. This compares to an estimated 30 last year which itself was a big rise on the 18 in 2020. While there were plenty of broods, the attrition rate among the young is high. Gadwall seem to do better with at least two pairs raising young successfully. 

       Record numbers of Tufted Ducks have bred at the Wetlands this year pic @giles_greenwood

   Even as female Tufted Ducks were bringing their tiny ducklings onto the water for the first time, the largely male moulting flocks were gathering as usual. A count of around 1950 Tufted Ducks was made in mid-July across the site which again will be among the biggest flocks in London. Among the moulting duck were 177 Pochard. Single Shoveler were recorded on several days in June, with higher counts in July, while the first returning Teal was seen on June 16th.

   June got off to a great start when on the 1st CF saw a distant Glossy Ibis disappearing south over Lockwood. It was re-found circling low twice over East Warwick before continuing on its way after its 15 minute flying visit. It is the third record for the reservoirs following singles in October  2015 and September 2017. Among the Little Egrets feeding at the Wetlands in July was a bird which had been colour-ringed in the nest 20 km north in 2013 and had not been reported anywhere in the intervening nine years.   

     Single Red Kites were seen on June 9th, July 5th and July 15th with the sole Buzzard record on June 10th. Hobby were slightly more regular with four records in June and two in July. Peregrines, usually a near-resident at the Wetlands, were much scarcer this year with only occasional visits from the pairs nesting in Tottenham and Walthamstow town. A Water Rail calling in the No 1 reed bed on June 18th was a good sign of breeding. 

    Ten species of wader were seen over June and July, one fewer than last year with Oystercatcher the surprising omission. There seemed to be only a week gap between what were presumably the last summer-plumaged Dunlin heading north in early June and the re-appearance of Green Sandpipers. - perhaps failed breeders - in June with the first on the 13th and records from four other dates in the month.   

       Dunlin are invariably tame when they stop at the Wetlands on their migration pic @ AMP

   For the second consecutive year, Avocet was seen in June with one on the June 21st, 11 days later than last year's record. Five Lapwing were seen on June 23rd, two on July 14th and one on July 27th and next day. Adult Little Ringed Plover were recorded on two dates in June and on July 4th with a tame juvenile on East Warwick on July 27 & 28th. 

    A remarkable number of Black-tailed Godwits were seen in July this year pic @porthkillier

   July is usually a good month for Black-tailed Godwits at the reservoirs but this year's passage was exceptional. A flock of 11 on July 3rd over East Warwick was followed by 30-plus over the same reservoir on the 13th. Surprisingly tame birds then appeared on Lockwood on July 21st and 28th with two on the 27th. The best wader of the period were two Turnstone found by T &PR on Lockwood on July 25th. They are not even annual visitors with no records at all in 2018 or 2019 so they might have had the decency to stay longer than five minutes before carrying on their way. 

           Redshank finally made the year list with two belated records in July pic @Chris_Farthing

   Two smart summer-plumaged Dunlin were seen on June 6th with returning singles on July 25th and 28th. The first Common Sandpiper of the 'autumn' was seen on June 25th - five days earlier than last year's first returnee but two days later than in 2020. Green Sandpipers are usually the earliest returning wader with the first this year on June 13th with records from four other dates in the month. The embarrassing gap of Common Redshank in the year list was finally closed when CF found one on July 21st followed, typically, by two next day. 

       Black-headed Gulls successfully moved their colony to Lockwood this year pic @AMP

     The noisy Black-headed Gull colony, forced to move to Lockwood when their East Warwick raft was blown ashore, don't seem to have minded the change of scene with perhaps 100 young raised. Their move may have impacted slightly on the Wetland's Common Terns which bred on the raft last year with what seems like a slight fall on last year's 17 pairs. Fortunately, ten pairs were attracted by PS's decoys onto the rafts on West Warwick with at least two more pairs squeezing in among the Black-heads on Lockwood. It is hard to know how many young they raised but six were rung on West Warwick and as many un-rung birds were seen resting on Lockwood. 

Lockwood became a nursery for Common Terns pic @rudraksh9

   July is a good month to find a Yellow-legged Gull at the Wetlands as it sees the juveniles arrive in the UK. SJ found the first on the 28th, three days later than the first record last year with RE finding a second later that afternoon . The 28th was also the date the first returning Common Gulls were noted. 

              One of two juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls seen on Lockwood pic @wheresrhys

    Hundreds of Swifts continued to use the Wetlands and adjoining filter beds to feed but numbers dropped towards the end of July as local birds finished breeding and moved south. They should be replaced later in August by birds which have bred further north who use the reservoirs as a fueling station. In contrast, Sand Martin numbers increased towards the end of July when up to 70 - often joined by House Martins from the filter bed colony - fed low East Warwick early morning. The only Swallows recorded were singles on June 11th and July 21st.  

        Migrant Sand Martins joined local breeds at the reservoirs in July pic @rudraksha9

    The good summer for Cuckoos continued with one on June 16th and, as last year, a juvenile in July on the 8th. Kingfishers also had a productive year with two pairs breeding either or just off site. They are being seen regularly along the Coppermill Stream opposite the Ferry Boat Inn and at the south end of No 3 reservoir. For some reason, June seems to be the best month to catch up with Coal Tit, an inexplicable Wetlands rarity with PH hearing one early morning on 7th by the No 1 reservoir ringing site  - 16 days earlier than last year's only record. 

For the second year running, a young Cuckoo appeared in July pic @Chris_Farthing

    Summer also saw out-of-season appearances by failed breeders or wandering juveniles. Skylarks were seen on June 4th, July 7th and July 15th. As last year, a female Wheatear turned up in June on the 10th with a Yellow Wagtail on June 3rd. 

    Ringing suggests that Reed Warbler numbers are well down on last year with both fewer breeding pairs and and a worrying large fall in the number of juveniles caught. Bad weather as the birds moved north and the extraordinary heat and drought affecting food are perhaps reasons for this decline. Reasonable numbers, however, of young Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroats seem to be around although ringing data will again show if these species, too, have been hit by the weather. Lesser Whitethroats do look,however, like one species which has done pretty well with family parties seen in several areas of the Wetlands. 

Both Common (below) pic @giles_greenwood and Lesser Whitethroats pic @rudraksha9 bred

    Unusually no Garden Warblers were heard or seen in the Spring with the first bird picked out by LB among a  cacophony of bird song near the East Warwick hide on June 18th. It moved on within the hour but two more were caught on July 16th and 23rd during the ringing sessions. The first returning Willow Warbler was seen on July 29th, two days earlier than last year.  

    August should see Spotted Flycatcher added to the year list with the last few days of the month also providing the best chance to end the two year gap since an Osprey was last recorded. Among the species which are overdue are Red-crested Pochard and Black-necked Grebe while hopes that Great Egret, after four separate records by this time last year, were now becoming regular have so far been shown to be optimistic. 

DB @porthkillier

Friday, 10 June 2022

Reservoir Logs - May 2022


                  A party of Sanderling on Lockwood were May's star birds pic @AMP

     The first Sanderling since 2018 were the undoubted highlights of May which also saw - for the second year running - multiple records of Cuckoo. Ringed Plover and Hobby were added as well to the year list in a month which saw some spectacular gatherings of Swifts as migrants finally arrived. The four additions take the year's total to 117, seven behind last year but more than in both 2020 (113) and 2019 (116). 

    Barnacle Goose posing against the backdrop of its new summer home pic @EugeneDH_Bass....

.......and guarding their nest pic @LolBodini 

    Barnacle Geese now seem to becoming regular summer visitors to the Wetlands with what, from their choice of nest site, looked like the same pair attempting to breed. Birds were seen throughout the month with a maximum count of seven on the 11th. A pair of Shoveler hung around until at least the 4th with a drake still present on the 8th while the first Pochard broods of the year were seen on High Maynard and Lockwood at the end of the month.  

                                An usually large gathering of Oystercatcher  pic @AMP

     Oystercatchers, like last year, were recorded regularly in May but the four together on the 19th were a high number for the Wetlands. Whimbrel were seen on the 2nd and 4th while the only record of Lapwing, which continue to be scarce this year, was on the 17th.  

                        The Sanderling were in a mix of plumages pics @Chris_Farthing

               After feeding and resting for an hour, they eventually flew south  pic @LolBodini

     Sanderling are a rare wader at the Wetlands with records from just four years since 2010 and none since a single bird briefly in 2018. So the party of five - in a mix of plumages - found by AMP on the 11th caused a mini-twitch. They stayed for an hour feeding on Lockwood before departing south.      

          Ringed Plover and Dunlin among the Common Terns on Lockwood pic @LolBodini

    Surprisingly, there were no records of Little Ringed Plover in May which suggests that unlike last year when they were seen regularly, no birds are nesting in the surrounding area. But LB found a Ringed Plover on the 7th in poor weather on Lockwood. Just as last May, it was accompanied by two Dunlin. Single Dunlin were also seen on the 4th, 15th and 26th. 

     Dunlin can be very confiding at the Wetlands pics (above) @Elliott81758817 & @AMP  

       Common Sandpipe numbers peaked at nine on the 1st, one less than last year's highest Spring total, with the last bird being seen on the 20th which was five days earlier than in both 2021 and 2020. The final two Green Sandpipers of the Spring were seen on the 2nd.  

      The run of Arctic Terns continued with two more on the 2nd while good numbers of Common Terns have returned. A total of 56 were counted across the Wetlands on the 21st and breeding looks likely on both Lockwood and West Warwick.  

            Common Terns could be enjoyed right across the Wetlands  pic @giles_greenwood 

    It was an excellent month for Red Kites with records on the 7th, 12th, 14th, 22nd and 26th in contrast to last year's blank May while single Buzzards were seen on the 24th and 25th. But unlike 2021 when the first Hobby was seen in April with regular sightings in May, the only two records so far this year were on the 11th and 18th.

             This calling Cuckoo hung around most of the day on No 3 pic @OwlTurbot

     After last year's remarkable and very welcome run of records, there were again multiple records of  Cuckoo, a species which had become very rare at the Wetlands in recent decades. The first was heard on the 8th by PL before CF had two separate birds on the 9th and 10th. A very obliging male called persistently on the No 3 islands on the 14th and could still be heard next day. The final record was again of a hepatic brown type on the 27th. The Kingfishers nesting on the large No 5 island could be seen making regular trips to feed their young by the end of the month.  


            After a slow start, Swifts arrived back in good numbers pic @Rudraksh9  

    Swifts finally arrived in numbers on the 5th with counts of several hundred regularly on murky days later in the month. The House Martins also returned to their colony at the filter beds around the same time but Sand Martins - at least around Lockwood - seemed to have decreased since last year. Swallows made up for lost time with 50 passing through on the 3rd. Regular records of one or two birds at the end of the month suggesting a pair might have been prospecting again in the general area.  

    Despite the late Spring, breeding warblers seem to have arrived safely in the end. Singing Sedge Warblers were close to double figures - largely around the Warwicks and rail line - while three Lesser Whitethroats were on territory. Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Reed Warbler could be heard across the site but, unlike most years, there has still been no Garden Warbler seen or heard on the reservoirs.   

           Wheatears moved through in small numbers until mid-month pic @rudraksh9 

     It has been a good Spring for Whinchat with two more seen on the 1st. The peak count of Wheatears for May was four on the 4th - slightly down on last year's five - with the last two seen on the 14th. That was later than in 2020 and 2019 but far earlier than last year when birds were seen in both late May and mid-June. Single Yellow Wagtails were seen on the 1st and 13th with six on the 3rd, again down on the peak count of seven last year. 

DB @porthkillier

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Reservoir Logs - April 2022

                Arctic Terns graced the Wetlands at the month's end pic @rudraskh9

     April started very slowly but picked up in the last few days to just about deserve its reputation as the best birding month of the year. The final week saw the first Spotted Redshank since 2017 and first Barn Owl since 2018 with a run of stunning Arctic Terns as well as a Spring Black Tern. 

    Overall, summer visitors at the reservoirs - as in the rest of the country - were late and certainly later  than last year which was notable for an early Spring. Cold northerlies in the UK and rain in southern Europe got the blame for some pretty barren days. But by the end of the month most of the expected species had been seen, if in lower numbers than usual. 

                         Whinchat was one of the few species seen in higher numbers pic @AMP

         Passage Whimbrel,  Greenshank, Little & Mediterranean Gull, Willow Warbler, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin were new for the year as were Common Tern, Swift, House Martin, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat which will all breed at or nearby the Wetlands. April also brought a nice flock of Avocets and a semi-resident Black Redstart. 

   The 20 additions take the year list so far to 113 - seven behind last year's total but ahead of both the 109 in 2020 and 113 in 2019. Among the obvious gaps in the list are Redshank, Great Egret - there had been an incredible four by this time last year - and Red-crested Pochard while Ring Ousel, Nightingale,  Yellowhammer and yet again White Stork were seen just off site.  

            A female Black Redstart took a liking to the south end of Lockwood pic @ AMP
    Last year's first attempt by Barnacle Geese to breed at the Wetlands looks likely to be repeated with a pair arriving on the 12th - a month earlier than last year - and again taking up residence on the large No 5 island. They were joined intermittently by up to three more birds with pairs regularly seen flying over Lockwood. March's female Scaup stayed on West Warwick until the 10th, Five Goldeneye remained until 2nd with the final two last seen on the 5th - 14 days earlier than the last wintering bird departed in 2021 but the same date as in 2020. 

           Avocets resting up on Lockwood before resuming the migration  pic @Callahanbirder 

    Waders generally were few in number but, by the end of the month, there had been a nice range of species. The exception on low counts were the five sleeping Avocets seen early on Lockwood on the 11th which looked as if they may have roosted overnight. Lapwing continue to be scarce with the only record on the 13th. After a flurry of records in late March, Little Ring Plover were also less regular with two on the 2nd and singles on the 8th and 16th. 

     Whimbrel feeding happily on the side of Lockwood and High Maynard pic @Chris_Farthing

     April is the month when the first Whimbrel is expected but most don't stop. This year a very tame bird fed on the grassy banks of Lockwood on the 28th just metres from its admirers. The second Dunlin of the year dropped into East Warwick late on the 1st. The wintering Common Sandpiper on No 5 was joined by more migrant birds as the month went on with a peak count of seven across the site on the 29th.  Green Sandpiper numbers also built with singles on 11th and 22nd, two on the 16th and three on 23rd & 24th. 

       A winter-plumaged Dunlin dropped briefly onto East Warwick  pic @Apaturailia15

     Good odds could have been got on Common Redshank being the last 'shank' to be seen at the Wetlands this year but that's what has happened. While there has yet to be a Common Redshank record, JP found the first Spotted Redshank since 2016 on Lockwood on the 29th. When searching for it later, LB instead came across a Greenshank on the same reservoir to show that birds do drop in all the time.  

              The sole Little Gull of the month flew high over Lockwood  pic @CallahanBirder

     April last year was exceptional for terns and gulls with multiple records of both Kittiwake and Little Tern along with flocks of Little Gulls which had become a feature of recent Springs. There was no repeat this month with just a single Little Gull found by DC over Lockwood on the 11th. Two near-adult Mediterranean Gulls which went over calling were a bonus for those watching the Arctic Terns on East Warwick on the 30th.  

            The first Mediterranean Gulls of the year flew over high pic @rudraksh9 

     The first Common Tern was seen passing through on the 13th, nine days later than the first record last year but five days earlier than the year before. But our - hopefully - breeding birds were very regular making the long journey back from southern Africa to return on the 19th, exactly the same day as last year. Numbers built up as the month passed with pairs seemingly interested in both the rafts - complete with decoy terns - on West Warwick and on Lockwood. They included again a bird sporting a ring from the southern Africa scheme.

    Arctic Terns posing for the Wetlands photographers pic @OwlTurbot and below @rudraskh9

     Their noisy displays doubtlessly encouraged Arctic Terns to pause on the northward migration. The first two appeared on East Warwick on the 25th, with singles on the north side on the 28th & 29th before another pair put on a nice display on East Warwick on the 30th. A summer-plumaged Black Tern, found by RT as he was fly-fishing on the 26th, was not so obliging as it evaded all but T & PR.

           Sparrowhawks regularly displayed and hunted over the Wetlands pic @rudraksh9
   Red Kites were recorded on five days - one more than last year - with two on the 21st while single Buzzards were seen on six days, three less than in 2021. Sparrowhawks were seen regularly but Peregrines less so as they appear to be nesting closer to Walthamstow town centre this year. 

    Unusually, there was no passage Short-eared Owl this Spring but instead a Barn Owl was seen flying in broad daylight over the north end of Lockwood on the 28th before continuing along the flood relief channel. It is the first record since 2018 although occasional reports from the night security team of owls hunting over Lockwood suggest they may be more regular. 

    Swifts were late with the first only turning up on the 25th - fortunately on the final day of the Wetland's 'guess the arrival date' competition. It was the same date as the first arrived in 2020 but 12 days behind last year. Numbers had hardly reached double figures by the end of the month. 

             Sand Martins remained scarce until the last week of the month pic @rudraksh9                  
    The same story of late arrivals and low numbers was true of  martins and swallows as well. A single House Martin was seen on the 8th, three days later than last year. There was then a big gap until the 21st when three were feeding over their filter beds where they breed. Sand Martins remained very scarce - with some completely blank days - until the last week. Swallows were even more infrequent with just the odd bird feeding over the reservoirs until a rush at the end of the month with 50 on the 28th and 100 seen feeding over West Warwick next day. The second Skylark of the year was seen on the 8th. 

    It was a very poor year for Willow Warbler at the Wetlands. The first was a week later than usual on the 7th and there were only records on four more days with a 'peak' of two on the 9th when usually there is one day at least with nearly double figures singing across the site. Sedge Warblers were also slow to arrive with the first on the 11th, nine days later than last year although there were several singing by next day. The first Reed Warbler was heard on the 12th, again five days later than last year but, by the end of the month, they were chuntering across the site. . 

       Two Lesser Whitethroats were caught before they had actually been seen pic @ AMP

    Arrival dates for both Common and Lesser Whitethroat were also later than last year. The first Common was seen on the 14th, nine days behind last year although they could soon be heard singing in good numbers. An unseen Lesser Whitethroat was heard on the 28th with two birds caught during the opening ringing session of the year on the 30th. . 

         Whinchats were among the most enchanting visitors this month pic @Chris_Farthing
   A female Black Redstart was seen on the 24th, 29th & 30th on the north side suggesting it may be hanging around looking for a breeding partner. Whinchat was the one species seen both earlier and in larger numbers than last year. While it was not recorded in 2021 until May, the first this year was found by AMP on the 15th with others on the 21st, 24th and 27th. Wheatears were seen regularly from the 4th with a peak of six on the 13th.  By the end of the month, some showed characteristics of the larger Greenland race. 

                               Wheatears passed through in reasonable numbers pic @rudraksh9

    There was no repeat of last year's exceptional passage of Yellow Wagtails which saw a flock of 15 on one day late in the month. The first record was not until the 23rd, three weeks later than last year and well behind both 2020 and 2019, followed by four on the 28th and 29th and two on the 30th. SJ's sharp hearing added both Siskin and Lesser Redpoll to the year list with single birds going north on the 8th.  

           Yellow Wagtail were later and scarcer than last year pic @porthkillier

DB @porthkillier 


Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Reservoir Logs - March 2022 round-up



               A soaring White-tailed Eagle thrilled all who saw it pic @Chris_Farthing

     The Wetlands' first ever White-tailed Eagle was the stand-out bird of an excellent month which swept aside the doldrums of January and February. The eagle will long live in the memory of those lucky enough to see it but there was also plenty of interest - from first to last - for those not at the reservoirs that day. Among the highlights were multiple Garganey, Black Redstart, Curlew and Scaup  - each more notable than anything which had turned up in the first two months of 2022. 

              Wheatear posing in front of the Engine House pic @HarringayBirder

    March also saw a nice selection of waders including the first Avocet, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwits of the year. Summer migrants were a little later and slower to arrive than usual but the first Wheatear, Sand Martin and Swallow just about made it through the rain and cold. The month also saw the first Rook and Skylark along with a pair of Mandarin, the first  for 18 months. The 16 additions take the year list so far to 93 -  two behind last year but the same as 2020 and four more than 2019.  

   Garganey graced the Wetlands this month pic (above) @OwlTurbot and @giles_greenwood 

    Mandarin, like Red-crested Pochard, are surprisingly rare at the Wetlands despite being widespread in London. The pair which made a typically brief visit to the north side on the 29th were the first since August 2020. Garganey may be more frequent but they are also much more prized - and wilder. CF found the first three of the year on No 1 on the 22nd with what seems likely to be one of the two drakes staying until the 31st. What was presumably another pair was found on Low Maynard on the 30th. 

        Drake pic @porthkillier and female Scaup pic @Chris_Farthing arrived this month  

    It has been a good winter for Scaup in London but it looked as if the Wetlands, a traditional site, might miss out until a one-day drake was found on the 15th. A second bird - a female -  found on the 25th was more obliging and remained into April. Five of the wintering six Goldeneye - just like last year - also stayed to the end of the month while the last Goosander of the winter were a pair on Lockwood on the 12th.  

These two Dunlin made a brief stop on East Warwick pic @TG

    After two poor months for waders, March opened the tap. The first were two short-staying Dunlin on East Warwick found by TG on the 1st. They were followed by two Curlew photographed in flight by SN on the 5th with a third bird being seen on 27th and 28th when, unusually, it landed on the East Warwick island.


   Three Curlews in one month is a good showing pics (above) @sjnewton & @Chris_Farthing 

     Oystercatchers are among the Wetland's noisiest visitors and the first pair of the year on the 12th were hard to ignore with another on the 23rd. Avocet has become more regular at the reservoirs in recent years so the single seen flying south on the 14th was not as unexpected as it once was. It is the third year on the run this elegant wader has turned up in March and the third consecutive year it has been been found by LB from his loft overlooking Lockwood. 

 Oystercatchers making a noisy tour of the Wetlands pic @rudraksh9

    The first Little Ringed Plover was found by DC on the 18th, around the average arrival time but well ahead of last year when it did not turn up until early April. There were regular records until the end of the month, usually on Lockwood. Two Black-tailed Godwit high towards the Thames on the 29th was the first time since 2019 the species has made it onto the year list before July. Add in the wintering Common Sandpiper throughout the month with what was perhaps the first migrant on Lockwood on the 26th and Green Sandpiper again on the flood relief channel on the 7th and eight species of waders were seen. 

                        Little Ringed Plover were regular after mid-month pic @AMP

      March is also usually one of the better months for birds of prey and that was certainly the case this year. Red Kites were recorded on the 18th, 20th and 21st and Buzzard on the 12th, 22nd, 24th and 29th while Sparrowhawk and Peregrine could be seen regularly displaying over the Wetlands. But what those searching the skies did not expect to see on the 30th was a White-tailed Eagle drifting high south. 

    The White-tailed Eagle steadily gained height over the Wetlands pic @Chris_Farthing

    So large that it is known affectionately as the flying barndoor. it was first spotted by TR who immediately put the news of a large raptor out. The alert enabled LB to run up to the Engine House balcony and positively identify it as a White-tailed Eagle and CF to take the all-important photographs as it soared higher for its crossing of London. 

    Thanks to its tracking device, it could be identified as a second-year male from the re-introduction scheme on the Isle of Wight which was enjoying a tour of the country. It had travelled 667 km in five days on its way back to the south-coast.  While strictly not countable on the year list as the Isle of Wight population is not yet self-sustaining, it seems churlish to ignore such a big event and bird. 

    White-tailed Eagle flying from Norfolk to Newhaven via the Wetlands maps @RoyDennisWF

    Rather more humdrumMarch lived up to its reputation as a good month for scarcer crows with Jackdaw being recorded on several days and a pair of Rooks seen going north by LB on the 23rd. Skylark is also expected in early Spring with the first on the 18th. 

    Rain over the Mediterranean and later cold northerly winds at Walthamstow probably explains why migration was both late and slow. The first Sand Martins did not arrive until the 13th - ten days later that last year - when four were found by DB & IH with the visiting RSPB North East London group. They remained scarce until April with daily numbers struggling to reach double figures compared to 90 counted on one day last year at the end of the month. The first Swallow scurried across Lockwood on the 29th on exactly the same date as last year but it was the only one seen this month. 

    This grey Chiffchaff's call and song confirmed identity as the Siberian sub-species pic @AMP

    Even these paltry numbers were better than for Willow Warbler with no records for the whole month when the first singing bird usually turns up by April. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs did arrive and could be heard across the site. The Chiffchaffs included a singing and calling bird of the Siberian form found by CF on the 2nd which confirmed the probable but silent bird in the same area at the end of February.  It was seen and heard irregularly until mid-month. 

      An early female Wheatear oblivious to the happiness she sparked pic @HarringayBirder 

    The arrival of no species is more anticipated than the first Wheatear of the year. This March it was seen on the 22nd - six days ahead of last year when lockdown put much of the reserve out-of-bounds but six days later than in 2020. In keeping with the slow Spring, the only other records were an early female on the 25th and males on the last four days of the month. The Wetlands shared in a good migration of Black Redstarts across London this month with a male seen briefly by T &PR on the 25th and a female on the 28th & 29th.  The wintering pair of Stonechats seemed to have disappeared on the 2nd with a probable migrant seen on the 24th. 

           This female Black Redstart was one of two seen this month pic @Chris_Farthing

    Winter thrushes continued to be in small numbers with 10 Fieldfare on the 5th and 22 Redwing on the 29th among the highest count. One species which got away was a probable Water Pipit on the 11th so the species may now have to wait until the autumn to make it on the year list. 

    Good news is two species which have suffered serious declines in recent decades continue to make a strong recovery. House Sparrows, once restricted to colonies at the extreme north and south of the Wetlands, have now spread so widely they are now making use of the Engine House 'Swift' tower as a new nesting site.  Greenfinches, too, have bounced back and are singing and displaying across the Wetlands.  

                 Fieldfare were seen in small numbers this month pic @rudraksh9

DB @porthkillier