Wednesday, May 31, 2006

31st May 2006

Clissold Park (MJP) evening

Pochard - 16 (exc. young)
Little Grebe - 4 (ditto)
Tufted Duck - 9 (ditto)
Grey Heron - 1
Cormorant - 4
Willow Warbler - 2
Long-tailed Tit - several families
Song Thrush - 3
Ruddy Duck - 4

Family parties on the main lake included Pochards, Little Grebes & Tufted Ducks as well as many Coots and Moorhens, apparently faring well this year against the constant threats of turtles and other predators.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

May 2006 - summary


Golden Oriole at ER, 12th
Common Buzzards - two (1st), two (7th), three (11th), one (14th)
Yellow Wagtail - male at ER, 10th
heavy Common Swift & hirundine passage
Lesser Whitethroats on territory in the area for the first time
Sudan Golden Sparrow (!) - male at ER, 3rd

records refer to Stoke Newington Reservoirs unless otherwise stated

(Reed Warbler, 10th May)

Conditions for much of the first half of the month were warm and sunny, with a southerly airflow and generally light winds. Such conditions not only encouraged the arrival of all expected remaining summer visitors, but also several unexpected migrant passerines, and sustained sky-watching sessions for raptors and flyovers.

The month began with impressive numbers of Common Swifts in the area, with peak counts of 250+ on the 2nd and 200+ on the 3rd very likely being conservative.

(Golden Oriole, 12th May)

All three hirundines also continued to move through in good numbers during the first fortnight, with high counts of both Swallows and House Martins on the 2nd (45 & 30 respectively) and Sand Martins on the 3rd (25).

Raptor-watching throughout this period was almost daily at the Reservoirs, with conditions ideal for both thermaling and observing, and often several hours a day(usually between 1100 and 1400) were set aside for the purpose.

Sightings of Common Buzzards continued an unprecedented run of records, more than justifying such sessions - two on 1st were followed by two on 7th, three on 11th (over Clissold Park), and one on 14th.

(male Reed Bunting, 23rd May)

Up to four Sparrowhawks and three Kestrels enjoyed the thermals, most records probably relating to local breeders. At least two pairs of Sparrowhawks are known to reside close to the reservoirs, and Kestrels traditionally attempt breeding at one of several favoured sites locally.

Summer visitors included the years first singing Sedge Warbler on the 3rd, with several singing birds present thereafter, and a very healthy chorus of at least 10 singing Reed Warblers occupied territories wherever Phragmites was available.

(female Orange Tip, 12th May)

A handful of Blackcaps and Common Whitethroats were augmented by a singing Garden Warbler at ER between the 1st and 4th, with Willow Warblers on territory in Clissold Park and Chiffchaffs in good voice in Abney Park.

(Common Tern, 28th May)

A male Lesser Whitethroat sang on almost every visit from the 9th onwards, holding territory at the southwest corner of the ER, raising hopes of a likely and very welcome breeding presence. Single sightings of the same species in the area hopefully relate to the other half of the pair.

A fine male Sudan Golden Sparrow enjoying its new found freedom by feeding with Greenfinches in the sunshine at the East Reservoir (3rd) was a surprise to say the least, and was also the first of three predominantly yellow, attention-grabbing passerines within the first fortnight. The second of these came on the 10th, with a male Yellow Wagtail at the East Reservoir (the first of the year of this locally very rare bird).

Easily the bird of the month - and perhaps the year - came on the 12th, when a Golden Oriole was found feeding in Oaks around the perimeter of the ER. Located at around 0930 in warm sunshine, the bird was seen perhaps seven or eight times as it flew back and forth between favoured trees, but rarely allowed close views, remaining wary throughout its stay.

Last seen around mid-afternoon, the bird was thought to have been either an adult female or (perhaps more likely) an immature male, judging by the extensive yellow on the underparts.

(Hedgehog, 4th May)

Other summer migrants in the first fortnight included no less than four Common Sandpipers on the pipes and rafts of the East Reservoir on the 2nd, with one also on the 4th; Common Terns drifted through on several dates, with a peak of nine on the 10th, but none lingered long in the first half of the month.

Wildfowl remained largely as is throughout the month, with predictably low numbers except for breeders, comprising small numbers of presumably mainly summering birds. A male Shoveler spent a few days on the ER from the 10th, and Gadwalls maintained a constant presence, with an average of around eight birds on the ER.

Pochards also remained throughout the month, with five to seven birds usually recorded. Up to eight were often seen on the main lake in Clissold Park, with a likely interchange between the two sites.

(hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose, May)

Presumably the same pair of Greylags were recorded on several dates, and a hybrid Canada x Greylag took up temporary residence at both the Reservoirs and Clissold Park. A pair of Canada Geese successfully reared three goslings on the ER.

A week of consistently poor conditions, with much heavy rain and blustery southwesterlies, commenced from the 15th, contrasting starkely with the warm and summery feel to the first half of the month; thus, little coverage was justified until the 23rd, when (despite showers) the sun briefly dominated again.

(Common Sandpiper, 2nd May)

Indeed, a sharp shower served to bring in large numbers of Swifts and hirundines - Swifts numbered at least 120, complimented by 45 House Martins and three Sand Martins, most hawking insects low over the ER. Further high counts were made on the 26th & 28th, with 60 Swifts and 30 House Martins on both dates. One Sand Martin on the 26th and three Swallows on the 28th added further proof that hirundine migration was still continuing as late as the month's end.

Common Terns continued to move through during the last week, with at least six on the 23rd, seven on the 26th, and two on the 28th. Birds drifted between both Reservoirs, and courtship feeding opportunities were provided by the boats on the WR on several occasions.

(Common Newt, May)

The last week of the month, but for Swifts, terns and hirundines, was generally quiet, although the weather showed signs of steady improvement by the last few days. A Garden Warbler at the NE corner of the ER was late for a migrant on the 28th, and provided the last significant warbler record.

(Common Sandpiper, Cormorant & Lesser Black-back, 2nd May)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

28th May 2006

SNR: (MJP) 1200-1500hrs. Bright, warm, sunny intervals. breezy WNW.

Common Tern - 2
Garden Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 7
Blackcap - 4 singing
Common Whitethroat - 2
House Martin - 30
Common Swift - 60
Swallow - 2
Pochard - 10
Gadwall - 8
Great Crested Grebe - 6 ads

(Ruddy Duck family, 28th May)

temporarily warm and sunny. little of note, except for good numbers of Swifts and House Martins again; also two swallows through (and one through Clissold Park later) - hirundine passage is continuing even this late in the spring.

a Garden Warbler feeding at the NE corner of the ER is late for a migrant, and a Lesser Whitethroat in the same area is some way off territory if it's the same singing male as seen regularly recently.

(Lesser Black-backed Gull on nest, 28th May)

Friday, May 26, 2006

26th May 2006

SN Reservoirs: (MJP) 1430-1745hrs.

overcast, then extended sunny periods. humid. mod/blustery SW dropping a little later.

Common Tern - 7
House Martin - 30
Common Swift - 60
Sand Martin - 1
Pochard - 3 pairs
Gadwall - 3 pairs (1pr mating)
Ruddy Duck - 3+ pairs
Tufted Duck - 10
Herring Gull - 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 12
Lesser Whitethroat - 1

(male Gadwall, 26th May)

three hours or so in increasingly good conditions (although remaining windy); no raptors again, despite extended sky-watching sessions. Male Lesser Whitethroat still on territory at the SW of ER.

Again, good numbers of Swifts feeding over the water; how many of these are now local breeders is hard to judge, although the (late) presence of so many House Martins suggests movements are still well underway.

(Ruddy Ducks, 26th May)

25th May 2006

Abney Park Cemetery: (MJP) 1900-2000hrs. warm, bright.

Chiffchaff - two singing
Blackcap - five (four singing)
Stock Dove - four

Evening walk around the cemetery in a brief window of fine weather yielded a surprising find - a Mallard duckling, no more than a few days old, precariously sheltering by the main Chapel. Undoubtedly born in the Cemetery (despite no open water on site), the decision was taken to rescue it, after extensive searches for the family, on account of the obvious risks present. Thanks to the RSPCA for their later collection.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

23rd May 2006

SN Reservoirs: (MJP) 0930-1330hrs.
mainly bright & sunny, odd brief showers, mod/gusting SW

Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Common Tern - 6+
House Martin - 45
Common Swift - 120+
Sand Martin - 3
Kestrel - 1 f
Pochard - 7
Gadwall - 14

The first time on patch in more than a week (the longest absence for many weeks) after consistently poor conditions and blustery south-westerlies. Surprisingly good numbers of hirundines and especially Common Swifts, many being brought in on a sharp shower, and feeding low over the water. Also at least 6 Common Terns present, using both Reservoirs (and the boats on the West for courtship feeding). The Lesser Whitethroat is still singing on territory at SW corner of East Res., with a second bird about 40 metres east; all other breeding warblers are as is.

Duck numbers remain generally low, but for slight increases in Pochards and Gadwalls; gull numbers are also at a predictably low ebb, with 10 Lesser Black-backs and 4 Herring Gulls (plus 7 of the latter over SN Common later). The water levels of both reservoirs are particularly high, preventing the possibility of any passage waders dropping in, and are expected to remain so for the forseeable future.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

14th May 2006


Common Buzzard - 1
Common Tern - 1
Swallow - 1
Sand Martin - 1
House Martin - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 1

Yet another Common Buzzard sighting for the area, this time a bird with a missing primary mobbed by a Carrion Crow over the East Reservoir. In common with most sightings so far this spring, the bird came in from the west/north-west and drifted east, and was seen between 1100 and 1400hrs (specifically 1320).

Hirudines are still moving through (although in greatly reduced numbers), with all three species recorded today. The male Lesser Whitethroat continues to hold territory in scrub near the East Reservoir, raising hopes of breeding this year. Also at the reservoirs, at least 10 singing Reed Warblers, two singing Common Whitethroats, one singing Chiffchaff, several pairs of Blackcaps and two singing Sedge Warblers are also on territory.

The hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose appears to have taken up residence in the area, moving between the reservoirs and Clissold Park. Breeding Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese and Great Crested Grebes have all had young out of the nest for some days, but both precariously positioned Mute Swan nests have eggs yet to hatch, and the pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls are still nest-building.

Long-tailed Tits and Song Thrushes are carrying food back to nestlings within the reservoirs perimeter, and a pair of Goldcrests are still occupying the conifer at the eastern end of the new river path.

Also recorded: Blue-tailed Damselfly

12th May 2006 - Golden Oriole

SN Reservoirs:(MJP,TB,LP,GJ)

Golden Oriole

The bird of the year thus far and and a hugely welcome surprise came this morning with the discovery of a Golden Oriole feeding in oaks along the eastern fringe of the East reservoir. Although nervous and hard to pin down, many brief views were possible from around 9.15am onwards on a warm, sunny day.

The bird was thought to have been a well-marked female or young male on plumage characterisitics, showing extensive bright yellow on the underparts.

Also today:

Lesser Whitehroat - 1 male
Common Swift - 45
Blackcap - 5
Common Whitethroat - 4
Reed Warbler - 10+
Sedge Warbler - 3

11th May 2006

Clissold Park: (MJP)

Common Buzzard - 3
Sparrowhawk - 3
Willow Warbler - 2
Swallow - 2
Pochard - 8

Another excellent day for raptors: 3 Common Buzzards soaring together over Clissold Park between 12.30 & 12.45 circled on thermals before drifting slowly east. Sightings of this species are still coming hard and fast; the true number of individuals involved in this spring's spate of records is hard to determine.

(Reed Warbler, East Reservoir, 10th May 2006)

April 2006 - summary

Osprey - one over ER, 26th
Common Buzzard - three on 22nd
Whinchat - male at ER, 20th
Woodcock - one over ER, 14th

records refer to Stoke Newington Reservoirs unless otherwise stated

Migration in the area was generally light and prolonged in April, with summer visitors arriving in limited numbers throughout the month, for the most part a little later than expected (largely on account of unhelpful weather conditions en route). Firsts of the spring were recorded as follows: Swallow on the 11th, House Martins (two), Reed Warbler and the first of several Common sandpipers on the 14th, Common Swift and Common Whitethroats (two) on the 19th, and Lesser Whitethroat on the 24th.

Counts of spring migrants lacked drama but remained relatively consistent. Two to six Willow Warblers were recorded on most dates, with a peak of 11 on the 11th (five in Clissold Park and at least six at the reservoirs); Chiffchaffs also peaked on the 11th with eight recorded (three in CP and five at SNR); single Northern Wheatears were recorded on three dates; Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were present on many dates with peaks of 30 on 20th, 20 on 26th and 25 on the 20th respectively; Common Swifts peaked at 60+ on 26th; and Reed Warblers, Common Whitethroats and Blackcaps were omnipresent from the third week onwards.

What the month lacked in quantity was made up for in quality, with several impressive records. A Woodcock flying east over the reservoirs on the 14th was a rare surprise, but a sustained period of raptor watching from the 22nd brought perhaps the most satisfying rewards. Sightings of Common Buzzards, apparently virtually unknown in the area previously, began in earnest with three on the 22nd, a female Peregrine hunted over the West Reservoir on the 26th, and an Osprey circling over the East reservoir on the 26th was perhaps the highlight of the year by then.

April's passerine highlight was provided by a striking male Whinchat at the ER on the 20th, feeding tamely in the reeds, where up to six Reed Buntings were often present. A male Brambling was present on the 24th and 26th, a single Meadow Pipit was recorded on the 19th, and wagtail numbers peaked on the 14th with seven Grey and six Pied.

Wader records (excluding Woodcock) involved exclusively sandpipers. The last of the two wintering Greens was last seen on the 22nd, but not before three (a record count) were present together on the WR on the 14th. Two Commons (with two Greens) were present on the 19th. All birds favoured the exposed concrete 'shores' of the WR.

(Comma, 14th April)

Duck numbers ebbed towards the end of the month as birds returned to breeding sites. Gadwalls, Pochards and Shovelers became less prevalent, while relatively few Tufted Ducks, Mallards and Ruddy Ducks remained but for breeders. Black-headed and Common Gulls were long gone but for a lone immature of the latter on the 14th, but Lesser Black-backs maintained a constant presence of between 10 and 20 birds. Herring Gulls were also recorded on all dates, with three to five on most visits (peaking at eight on the 24th).

Butterflies were evident from the 14th, with Commas, Small Tortoiseshells, Small Whites, an Orange Tip and a Brimstone recorded. Holly Blues, Peacocks, Red Admirals and Speckled Woods and several more Brimstones were all out in force by the 22nd.

March 2006 - summary


Yellow-legged Gull - adult on several dates
summer visitors inc. Sand Martin, Wheatear & Willow Warbler
passage finches inc. Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch & Siskin

records refer to Stoke Newington reservoirs unless otherwise stated

Wintering species dominated sightings during the first half of the month at the reservoirs, with good numbers of wildfowl and gulls present. Up ten Mute Swans and up to four Canada Geese were recorded on all visits, and (presumably the same) pair of Greylags were seen on several dates. Duck numbers fluctuated as wintering birds either began to move on or were temporarily augmented by new arrivals:

(the frozen New River, 4th March 2006)

Shovelers peaked at 23 on the 4th, but dropped to eight by the 30th; Pochards peaked at 53 on the 4th, steadily reducing to 20 by the end of the month; Gadwalls showed a similar pattern, with 35 on the 4th dropping to 20 by the 30th. Tufted Ducks, after remaining at a fairly constant 35 throughout Jan and Feb, swelled to 95 on the 4th and 70 on the 9th, before numbers steadily dropped to 30 by the month's end; Ruddy Ducks, however, bucked the trend by increasing as the month progressed, numbers reaching 34 by the 27th.

(Great Cormorant, March 2006)

Gulls continued to provide interest, with sightings of (perhaps the same) adult Yellow-legged Gull on the East reservoir on two or three occasions, with a nominate (L.a.argentatus) adult Herring Gull on the 13th; a more troublesome adult Gull sp., present on most dates throughout the month (and currently awaiting definitive identification) was present from the 4th and beyond the month's end (- see seperate posting and photos to follow).

(Green Sandpiper, March 2006)

Counts of Black-headed Gulls rose sharply at the beginning of the month as birds flocked before heading to breeding sites, with peaks of 200 on the 9th and 250 on the 13th; thereafter, numbers dropped equally sharply, with 40 on the 25th and just seven remaining on the 30th. Common Gulls were last seen on the 13th, when eight were recorded. Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull numbers both peaked on the 9th, with 24 and 12 respectively.

(Black-headed Gulls inc. one ringed, March 2006)

Raptor sightings were confined to local breeders, with one or two Sparrowhawks on most visits, but Kestrels were less predictable. Great Crested Grebes were omnipresent, with a second pair arriving on the 25th (both pairs then remaining to breed), and single Little Grebes were occasional. Two wintering Kingfishers continued to frequent their favoured sites along the New River and East Reservoir, up to three Grey and five Pied Wagtails were usually present, and at least one wintering Chiffchaff remained in the willows along the New River East.

The last of a healthy presence of wintering Snipe was recorded on the 13th, and two Green Sandpipers remained (usually on the West Reservoir) throughout the month. Water Rails continued to make their presence felt until the 25th, occasionally showing very well on the the fringes of the East Reservoir.

(Reed Warbler nest from last year, March 2006)

Return migration of passerines began around the middle of the month, initially dominated by thrushes. Good numbers of Redwings were heard calling throughout the small hours from the 23rd to the month's end, and daytime records peaked in Clissold Park with 45 on the 27th; several birds sang from the 27th to 30th. The 27th also saw peak counts of Song Thrush (25) and Mistle Thrush (seven) while Blackbirds peaked on the 28th (33).

Clissold Park also shared in the few notable records of passage finch species this spring, with single Lesser Redpoll and female Bullfinch on the morning of the 27th (with spring peaks of 22 Goldfinches and eight Goldcrests on the same day); the only other such record came from the reservoirs, where two Siskins were present along the New River West on the 30th. Reed Buntings returned to the East Reservoir after a couple of months absence on the 9th, and were a welcome constant thereafter.

(Green Sandpiper, March 2006)

The first true spring migrants occurred in the final week of the month. Three Sand Martins at the reservoirs on the morning of the 27th were joined by 27 more by dusk, and were recorded daily from thereon; a male Northern Wheatear in Clissold Park on the 28th was another first of the year, and the year's first singing Willow Warbler at the East Reservoir on the 30th complimented a steady build up of Chiffchaffs from the 25th onwards (with a peak of 6 on the 30th).

Other notable migrants included a single Meadow Pipit on the 27th and Jackdaws on the 25th and 27th (two on both occasions).

November 2005 - February 2006 winter summary

Mediterranean Gull (1st winter)
Caspian Gull (adult)
wintering Water Rails, Green Sandpipers & Common Snipe
Tawny Owls rediscovered in Abney Park Cemetery

records refer to Stoke Newington Reservoirs unless otherwise stated

After the last summer visitors had departed in October, the winter was predictably harder work. Notable records were regular, however, characterised by passage and wintering wildfowl (including Teal, Wigeon and Red-crested Pochard), several significant gull records (including Caspian and Mediterranean), and an assortment of impressive winter visitors (including Water Rails, Green Sandpipers and Common Snipe).

(New River East, November 2005)

Wildfowl counts:
Wildfowl numbers were counted on average at least once a week from November to March inclusive, to get a clearer picture of wintering status and movements. The results (for Nov-Feb) can be summarised as follows.

Mute Swan - always present; usually between six and 12, peak of 17 on 9/11, low of 4 on 15/2. Canada Goose - usually present; unpredictable in numbers, but usually single figures. Peak of 34 on 18/12. Greylag Goose - occasionally present; one on 26/1, two on 1/2 and 21/2.

Mallard - always present; 15 to 35 birds. Gadwall - always present; relatively consistent in numbers, with between 25 and 45 usually recorded. Peak of 65, 18/12. Shoveler - always present; variable in numbers, but usually between five and sixteen present. Peak of 30 on 9/11, low of 2 on 6/12. Wigeon - occasional; four on 9/11, singles on 20/11, 6/12 and 27/12. Teal - regularly present in small numbers. Up to four birds thought to have wintered, although were not always present (or were unviewable) and birds may have 'overlapped'. Peak of four on 24/1.

(Teal, November 2005)

Pochard - always present; consistent after a low of eight on 9/11 , with between 25 and 45 on most dates. Red-crested Pochard -occasional; two records from the period, one on 6/12 and seven on 7th Jan. Tufted duck - always present; usually 30 to 50, Peak of 60 24/11, low of 25 on 1/2. Ruddy Duck - alway present; low of 12 on 9/11, but numbers built up 30 by the end of Nov., and consistently 25 -35 thereafter. Peak of 42 on 2/1.

Gulls provided most of the interest in the winter months, with several good records during the period. The pick of these were a first winter Mediterranean Gull on the 4th Feb., and an adult Caspian Gull on the 1st (both with congeners on the East Reservoir). Great Black-backed Gulls - a scarce visitor to the area - were recorded on 14th Dec (first winter), 11th Jan (adult) and 15th Jan (adult).

(male Wigeon, December 2005)

Numbers of the commoner gulls were monitored at least weekly; Black-headed Gulls, after building steadily during October, numbered over a hundred by 20th Nov, and remained consistent thereafter with between 120 and 200 birds on most visits (peak of 320 on 27th Dec.). Common Gulls returned on 9th Nov (4), and counts usually fell between 15 and 30 consequently, with a peak of 47 on 2nd Jan.

Herring gulls were also always present, with usually between five and 12 recorded, peaking at 23 on 27th Dec. An adult showing characterisitics of the Scandinavian race L.a.argentatus was present on 8th Feb. Lesser Black-backed Gulls were marginally more numerous, with counts of between 10 and 20 the norm (with a peak of 31 on 24th Nov).

(East Reservoir, November 2005)

Waders were, relatively speaking, well represented at the reservoirs during the winter months. The first Common Snipe arrived on 20th Nov, after which one to two birds were recorded on the majority of visits. Whether these records involved the same birds throughout, or a series of 'overlapping' records, is unknown, but three feeding together on the shore of the WR on 24th Jan showed movements continued well into the winter.

The first Green Sandpiper arrived on 14th Dec, joined by a second bird from the 24th Jan. Either one or two were seen on each visit, and - as above - the true status remains unknown, but it was thought more likely that just two individuals were involved.

(Wigeons on West Reservoir, 9th Nov 2005)

Water Rails provided respite on many an unproductive midwinter day, often seen as well as heard, and often in territorial dispute. At least four birds wintered, although again theoretically more birds may have been involved. Great Crested Grebes were present throughout, with one to two birds usually recorded, joined by a third during most of December. Little Grebes were seen on most occasions, with one to four (usually three) birds present.

Sparrowhawks were by far the most reliable raptor, with one or two recorded on most visits. Kestrels were, however, only occasional during this period; more regular sightings came from Clissold Park and Geldeston Road. The only record of Peregrine for the period came from the West Reservoir on 9th Nov.One to two wintering Kingfishers were seen on most visits, both favouring certain stretches of the New River.

(male Kestrel, Geldeston Rd, Nov 2005)

Two wintering Chiffchaffs were present on a number of occasions, joined by a third on 18th Dec, usually favouring the willows along the New River east. Yet to be blessed or cursed with breeding Ring-necked Parakeets, two records over Geldeston Road in Nov and Dec were unusual for the area (the former passing over Abney Park Cemetery a few moments later).

The winter flock of Long-tailed Tits numbered up to 16 birds, often including a Chiffchaff or two and several Goldcrests. The commoner finch species were joined by Lesser Redpolls on 20th Nov (two), 18th Dec (three) and Feb 2nd (seven), and three Bullfinches on 24th Nov. Winter thrushes were in evidence mainly during Nov and Dec, with eight Fieldfares on 24th Nov and 27th Dec and one on 27th Feb, and Redwings present on several dates, peaking at 12 on 24th Nov.

An exploratory visit to Abney Park Cemetery after dusk on 25th Jan to check for Tawny Owls produced instant success; no less than three birds responded to short bursts of tape (one within 30 seconds). This is the first confirmed record for several years and strongly implies a breeding presence in the cemetery.

Abney also held up to eight Goldcrests during Jan and Feb, when Coal Tits were seen and heard singing on several occasions.

August - October 2005 - autumn summary

Garganey - one on 5th Sep
Pied Flycatcher - one on 3rd-5th Sep
Spotted Flycatchers - at least six in Aug & Sep
Tree Pipit - one on 3rd Oct
Red-crested Pochards - six records of up to 11 birds
heavy warbler passage in Aug & Sep

Late summer and autumn migration was impressive and sustained, especially regarding the numbers (and variety) of warblers moving through; complimenting these were other notable passerines, including flycatchers, pipits and finches, and visible migration/flyovers confirmed the skies were worth watching. Wildfowl also proved interesting, providing scarcities and high counts of commoner species.

Counts of Phylloscopus warblers were perhaps most surprising. Willow Warbler numbers, after single figures during the first week of Aug, swelled to consistent double-figure counts between 8th Aug and 20th Sep, with between 10 and 20 birds the norm. Counts of over 20 were made on 18th Aug (30), 26th Aug (22) and 5th Sep (21). Numbers fell sharply by the last week of Sep, with single figures recorded until the last record of one on 3rd Oct.

(Shoveler & Black-headed Gull, Aug 2005)

Such numbers made the picture rather blurred regarding exactly how many birds were involved, but no doubt much overlapping and changeover occurred. This was also the case with Chiffchaff counts, which were hardly less impressive; sustained peaks were, as expected, slightly later than the last species, with single figure counts in the first half of Aug building up to double figures by the second half, with 10 on 15th, 22 on 18th, 18 on 26th and 25 on 31st.

(Spotted Flycatcher, West Res, 20th Sep 2005)

Sep continued to provide healthy counts, with 20 on 2nd, 28 on 5th, 18 on 7th, 10 on 13th, 11 on 20th, 16 on 23rd and 10 on 26th. Oct saw counts greatly reduced, with peaks of 8 on 3rd and seven on 7th, and movements effectively ended by the middle of the month (although up to three were present to the year's end).

Sylvia warblers also impressed, with records of all four commoner species exceeding expectations. Garden Warblers were recorded on six dates during Aug, with three on 1st, two on 8th, and singles on 4th, 9th, 15th and 31st. Blackcaps were present in small numbers throughout Aug and Sep, usually between one and four being recorded, with an isolated peak of 12+ on 18th Aug, and a last record of two on 7th Oct.

(Holly Blue, Sep 2005)

Common Whitethroats were present in small numbers on most visits in Aug, with a high count of 12 on 18th (the day of an unprecedented 'fall' of many migrant passerines). Last recorded on 5th Sep (two), and at least one pair bred by the West Reservoir. Lesser Whitethroats were recorded on four dates in Aug, with two on the 8th and singles on 9th, 15th and 18th.

Of other notable migrant passerines, flycatchers and pipits arguably provided the highlights. A minimum of six Spotted Flycatchers moved through, with two on 26th Aug, four on 20th Sep and two on 23rd Sep constituted a surprising run of autumn records; a single Pied Flycatcher was very welcome on the 4th & 5th Sep.

(Garganey, East Res, 5th Sep 2005

All records of Meadow Pipits fell between mid-Sep and mid-Oct, and usually involved small groups moving over the area (although occasionally birds alighted). Visible migration began with five on 20th Sep, and continued with 15 on 23rd Sep, two on 26th Sep, 18 on 3rd Oct, and six on 11th Oct. A single Tree Pipit dropped into scrubby wasteground just north of the West Reservoir on the 3rd Oct.

Hirundine passage was heavy at times, as pre-migratory birds gathered to feed over the reservoirs, and was dominated by House Martins. Large congregations, especially over the East Reservoir, were present on several dates during Aug and Sep (as well as smaller numbers on many other occasions), including: Aug - 90 on 1st , 35 on 2nd, 30 on 12th, 65 on 15th, 130 on 26th; Sep - 50 on 20th and 65 on 23rd. Most local breeders appeared to leave the area around the first week of Sep. (At least three pairs bred at the junction of Rectory Road and Evering Road.)

(Wood pigeon passage, Oct 2005)

Sand Martins were seen in small numbers - usually one to three, but up to six - on six dates between 8th Aug and 20th Sep. A large mixed Hirundine flock feeding over the ER on 26th Aug included 90 Sand Martins, far and away the highest count. The last record was of two birds on 23rd Sep. Swallows were much scarcer, with several singles and an isolated peak of 17 on 23rd Sep.

Common Swift congregations peaked in early Aug, with 55 on 1st, 80 on 2nd, 110 on 4th , 50 on 8th and 35 on 12th. The last bird was seen on 26th Aug. Kingfishers were seen on almost every occasion, usually favouring the New River East. One (or, more often) two usually present, with three on 18th Dec. Jackdaws were recorded three times in Oct, with five overhead on 3rd, six on 11th, and one on 27th.

Finch passage was evident in Sep and Oct - especially regarding flyovers - and although few definitive counts were made, numbers of Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch rose significantly during the period. Three scarcer species were also recorded; a single Brambling fed with Chaffinches at the East Reservoir on 7th Oct, three Siskins were present on 26th Sep, and two Linnets flew over on 3rd Oct.

(Red-crested Pochards, Sep 2005)

Sky-watching provided plenty of interesting results with many finches, most pipits, Jackdaws and other species being picked up overhead, and visible migration was especially impressive concerning movements of Woodpigeons.

Numbers increased during late Sep and especially Oct, when several hundred overhead during a several-hour session was not unusual; exceptional visible migration occurred on the morning of 27th Oct, when a minimum of 2300 passed west and southwest over the East Reservoir between 0730 and 1030hrs.

Raptors were as expected, with Sparrowhawks being the commonest and most reliable. Kestrels were irregular, and a Peregrine hunted over the East Reservoir just after dawn on 4th Aug. Wader records were confined to a single Common Sandpiper at the West Reservoir on 13th Sep.

(Grey Heron, New River, Aug 2005)

Grey Herons were always present, with an average of two to four birds recorded; noticeably more common in Aug, with up to six birds present (including several juveniles). Ten to 25 Cormorants were usually recorded, with a peak of 34 on 24th Nov.

Common Terns were regularly seen, most records refering to a family party of three birds (two adults and a juv) present during the first half of Aug. The Juvenile often begged, and the adults often responded accordingly. Gull numbers, as expected, were generally low, with between three and twelve Lesser Black-backed Gulls and one to three Herring Gulls (erratically) complimenting a steady build up of Black-headed Gulls - the commonest gull in the area, with numbers building steadily from 15-30 in early Aug to 70+ by mid-Oct.

Spot counts of Coot were made on 15th Aug (103) and 20th Sep (178), and remained high well into Oct, while the first record of Water Rail came on the 27th (with a wintering population of at least four birds thereafter).

(Spotted Flycatcher, West Res, 20th Sep 2005)

Despite sustained nocturnal passage on many nights in the borough from 10th Oct to mid-Nov,Redwings were only recorded for the first time in the light of day on 27th, with 28 at/over the East Reservoir; flocks of Mistle Thrushes, meanwhile - apparently gathering before roosting nearby - included 30 on 4th Sep, 20 on 3rd Oct and 12 on 7th Oct.

Wildfowl counts were made regularly, and of the commoner species, Tufted Ducks were most numerous, with between 60 to 70 often counted; Shovelers were present on all visits in varying numbers, with counts of more than 25 as follows: 34 on 26th Aug, 30 on 7th Sep, 28 on 23rd Sep, 38 on 26th Sep, 35 on 3rd Oct, 30 on 7th Oct; and counts of Gadwall rose to 40 or above for most of the autumn.

Pochards were also omnipresent throughout, with usually 25 to 40 birds present, while counts of Ruddy Ducks varied between 12 and 25 birds.

(Garganey, East Res, 5th Sep 2005)

Three records of Wigeon involved two (eclipse m and f) on 26th Aug, five on 13th Sep and two on 20th Sep. All records of Red-crested Pochard fell between mid-Aug and mid-Sep on the East Reservoir: one (eclipse m) 18th Aug, one (f) 26th Aug, two 2nd Sep, one (f) 5th Sep, four (2m, 2f) 7th Sep, and two 13th Sep.

The wildfowl highlight of the autumn was undoubtedly a Garganey which appeared on the ‘gull rings’ of the East Reservoir on 5th Sep.

(Red Admiral, 5th Sep 2005)