Thursday 7 September 2023

Reservoir Logs - August 2023 round-up


                                   A Little Owl giving a very rare showing on No 2 island  pic @Chris_Farthing

      After a pretty lacklustre July, August started with a bang with two genuine Walthamstow rarities in a pair of Little Owls and a superbly plumaged Cattle Egret in the first two days. The rest of the month was never likely to keep up with this pace but it did produce the first Greenshanks of the year and, on the last day, an elusive Pied Flycatcher.

                    A superb breeding plumaged Cattle Egret spent the day on No 3 pic @magnusphotog  

       The month also saw a nice selection of waders including Turnstone and Ringed Plover, two obliging Black Terns, at least four Spotted Flycatchers and good numbers of  Garden Warblers. The four new birds take the year list so far to 136, eight above last year but still two behind 2021. Common Scoter which can turn up almost any month, Pintail and Red-crested Pochard are now perhaps the most surprising omissions. 
                        This very tame juvenile Black Tern was one of two this month pic @IvorHewstone        
       The Barnacle Goose flock left mid-month with 14 - including the breeding pair and young - returning for a brief visit on the 28th. The last adult Shelduck also departed in the middle of the month, leaving the juvenile behind which remained on No 3 into September. The third Mandarin of the year - a species which usually struggles to be annual - turned up for a typically brief visit on the 4th. 

           The third Mandarin of the year was a typically short-staying female pic @Chris_Farthing
        It looks as if the early autumn build-up of Shoveler on East Warwick, which not long ago could number over 100,  may be a feature of the past with only the odd bird seen this month. One duck that got away was a likely eclipse Garganey seen by the Guide in the Hide team on the 29th on East Warwick which flew south before ID could be confirmed. It would have been only the second record this year. 

                                   Super-mum surrounded by her 13 youngsters pic @Chris_Farthing

       The peak 2162 count of Tufted Duck was, remarkably, exactly the same total as last year and will again be among the biggest gatherings in London. Breeding numbers were down on last year's 50 broods but a conservative count of 31 is still one of the best totals recorded. Very few young survive so the parent of the year award goes to the female which successfully raised 13 young on the killing fields of East Warwick. Who could have guessed that hiding your young in the reeds would keep them away from hungry gulls?          

                                  A young Black-necked Grebe dropped in for the day pic @IvorHewstone

           The third Black-necked Grebe of the year was an approachable  juvenile found by TR on East Warwick on the 14th. A superb adult Cattle Egret in full breeding plumage was found by visiting American birder JK on the southern No 3 island on the 1st which stayed for most of the day. They are getting commoner at the Wetlands but records remain just about annual. 

          At least two and perhaps three pairs of Sparrowhawk bred successfully north and south of the Wetlands with birds seen hunting and soaring over the reservoirs throughout the month. Single Buzzards were seen on 12th and 27th with Hobby recorded on six days from the 16th. 

                               This Buzzard was one of only two seen this month pic @Elliott81758817

           Ten species of wader again occurred in August but with no repeat of last year's low water levels on Lockwood, appearances were more scattered and generally briefer than in 2022.  Oystercatchers were seen on the 23rd and 29th while the only record of Lapwing were two on the 17th. Juvenile Ringed and Little Ringed Plover were found on Lockwood on the 7th where they stayed, often together, until next day.  A second - this time adult - Ringed Plover was seen on the 29th while Little Ringed Plover were also recorded on the 9th and 11th. 

          Juvenile Ringed (above) pic @alanrevel  and Little Ringed Plover pic @magnusphotog

             The only Curlew was a single south calling on the 17th while there were no Whimbrel records at all. But two Turnstone rested briefly in the sunshine on the 3rd in the same area of No 5 which had held five Redshank a few minutes before. Common Sandpiper  passage was strong with daily double figure totals most days. The peak count of 22 on the 27th was just higher than last year's 20 two days earlier. The only Green Sandpipers were on the 10th and 20th. 

                   Two Turnstone made a brief stop on their migration south pic @magnusphotog 

       As well as the five Redshank on the 3rd, there was a single next day and another on the 14th. With no records in the Spring or July, Greenshank were overdue when MA found two on No 4 on the 10th. Another enjoyed a lengthier rest on West Warwick on the 16th.  

                                     The first Greenshank of the year appeared on No 4 pic @magnusphotog

       DC found a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on Lockwood on the 23rd. Common Terns were a noisy  presence throughout August with breeding on East Warwick and particularly on the Banbury apparently both successful and later than usual. There were still good numbers of juveniles being fed by parents on the 21st - a week after all the terns had departed in 2021. Numbers quickly dwindled but a very late fledged bird from East Warwick was still being fed by one of its parents into September. 

       It was the Common Tern nursery on the ramp on Lockwood that attracted a juvenile Black Tern found by PL on the 17th. It gave great views before spending the rest of the day catching flies over No 1. Amazingly, the same reservoir held a moulting adult found by CF next day. 

                 Juvenile Black Tern (above) pic @Ivor Hewstone and moulting adult pic @ Chris_Farthing

        The surprise of the month was a pair of Little Owls found on the 2nd. The first was discovered sunning itself on the No 2 island by LB. Those who dashed round to see the first 'twitchable' Little Owl on the reservoirs for decades were astonished to see a second bird appear briefly with it. Only one was ever seen again irregularly over the next few days and then only for a couple of minutes each time. But sporadic calling suggests at least one bird was still in residence until the end of the month. Given how elusive it/they have been and the sighting of a bird in the same area in January, who knows how long they have been present. 

           Whether it was the weather or, more worryingly,  again a sign of continuing population declines, Swifts and Swallows were scarce this month. For the second year running, Swifts numbers were low from mid-month onwards. There were several days with no sightings at all and only eight on the last day when 150 had been seen in 2021. It was the same story with Swallows with only a handful of records across the month. 

                        A family of Kingfishers delighted visitors on the Coppermill pic @MLP

        In contrast, Kingfishers were both numerous and showy. A family by the Coppermill bridge - thought to have been a second brood from No 5 - put on a great display for a week as they waited for their parents to arrive with food. An unprecedented third Coal Tit of the year was seen opposite the Ferry Boat garden on the 10th. 
          It was also a good month for passage warblers, Willow Warblers were recorded every day in good numbers with an estimate of at least 20 across the site on the 21st. Garden Warblers, usually a relatively scarce visitor, were commoner than usual with a conservative peak count of five on 4th. There were still at least three on the 21st and two on the last day of the month. Lesser Whitethroat also continued to be seen in small numbers across the site and month. 

                      Lesser Whitethroats were regularly seen by the Woolley Hide pic @Elliott81758817 
      The first Spotted Flycatcher of the autumn was found on the 21st, four days later than last year,  and were then seen daily until the end of the month. It seems likely that at least five birds passed through with three separate birds seen on the 29th & 30th. Pied Flycatcher is a much less regular visitor to the Wetlands with the only record a very elusive individual found by LB on the last day of the month. 

                        A posing Spotted (above) pic @MLP and wary Pied Flycatcher pic @LolBodini.    

          The first Whinchat arrived on the 16th with others on the 20th & 21st, 24th, 25th(2) and 31st. After the first Wheatear on the 15th, passage was heavier than the last couple of years with five on the 16th and 10+ on the 25th (including six together). But Yellow Wagtails continue their decline in records with only two fly-overs on the 11th and 25th. 

                                  Whinchats graced the Wetlands from mid-month pic @Elliott81758817

DB @porthkillier

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