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)