Thursday, November 30, 2006

30th November 2006 (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes 1100-1250
o/c, dull. light/mod SW.

Lapwing - 8 (S)
Chiffchaff - 1 (NE corner)
Meadow Pipit - 12
Carrion Crow - 130 (in several flocks, feeding)
Greylag - 3 (W)
Little Grebe - 2
Goldfinch - 35
Linnet - 2

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

29th November 2006

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0720-0940 MJP
cool, clear, sunny, still.

Rock Pipit - 1
Chiffchaff - 2
Brambling - 1
Siskin - 2 (west)
Woodpigeon - 610 (mainly N)
Stock Dove - 12 (N)
Pochard - 28
Shoveler - 2
Gadwall - c50
Little Grebe - 5
Greylag - 2 (E)
Water Rail - 1 (calling)
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 6
Sparrowhawk - 1

The first day on patch in a while (but recording the album was a little more important...; a Rock Pipit, flushed from the south bank of the ER and leaving south, was (remarkably) the sixth record this autumn, which is also the sixth site record ever.

Two Chiffchaffs were present, one singing in the sallows along the New River east, and one in the trees on Bethune Road. A single Water Rail called from the reeds, and six Great Spotted Woodpeckers is a high count for the site.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

28th November 2006 (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes 1100-1245
mild, o/c. mod SW.

Meadow Pipit - 17
Chiffchaff - 1

Also a Pipit, very likely a Water Pipit, got up from the bombcrater field, but views were brief and Rock Pipit couldn't be completely ruled out..... the southern marsh in general (especially the bombcrater field) is now happily living up to its name, with large areas of waterlogged ground and several lagoons - hopefully they'll attract more birds in the coming weeks and months.

Monday, November 27, 2006

22nd & 23rd November 2006 (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes
two hour-long visits from 0900, in stormy, mild conditions.

23rd:- 1 Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipits, 1 Siskin, pair of Stonechats, 17 Greylags, c25 Goldfinches, c10 Linnets
22nd:- 1 Stonechat, 5 Meadow Pipits, 2 Little Grebes

Friday, November 17, 2006

17th November 2006

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0710-0930 MJP
changeable, showers. blustery W.

Redwing - 26
Chiffchaff - 1
Woodpigeon - c90 (w)
Reed Bunting - 3
Shoveler - 19
Little Grebe - 8
Water Rail - 1

another very quiet morning. modest numbers of Redwings, Starlings and Woodpigeons moved over early, but the regular surges of activity in the skies now seem more than a couple of weeks away..... Duck numbers are a little higher, with Gadwalls, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks all slightly up; Little Grebes continue their comparitively numerous presence.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

15th November 2006

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0715-0930 MJP
mild, mainly sunny. light-mod WSW.

Chiffchaff - 2
Jackdaw - 2 east
Fieldfare - 1 west
Water Rail - 1
Little Grebe - 9
Shoveler - 11
Common Gull - 18
Black-headed Gull - 270
Herring Gull - 6
LBB Gull - 8

Very quiet morning on patch, although pleasant in warm sunshine. Barely any visible migration, and little of note on the water. Two chiffys in the reeds by the outflow on the ER hopefully indicate a wintering presence again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

October 2006 - summary


Ring Ouzel - one, 15th
Tree Sparrow - two on 25th
Yellowhammer - two on 26th
Rock Pipit - five birds on four dates
Yellow-legged Gull - adult, 25th
Lapwing - one over, 11th
unprecedented visible migration
involving pipits, finches, thrushes, pigeons, corvids, larks, wagtails etc.

all records refer to Stoke Newington reservoirs unless otherwise stated

In stark contrast to September, October's weather was distinctly seasonal and changeable, with dominant weather systems changing every few days - hence, movements of birds ebbed and flowed accordingly.

Although dictated in part by the weather, skywatching for visible migration was the main theme of the month, and many hours were again put in to record flyovers and movements; before this year no efforts have been dedicated to overhead passage in the area, and so results were pleasantly surprising.

(Reed Bunting, Oct 2006)

Inspired in part by encouraging results in the spring and September, and the efforts of other observers at urban sites across the capital, records of both quantity and quality kept attentions easily focused on visible migration, which more than made up for the otherwise quiet month regarding grounded migrants and waterbirds.

However, a few species did manage to distract attentions back to the scrub, trees, reeds and open water. Geese were well represented by variable numbers of Canadas, usually between four and twenty; Greylags were more regular than usual, with five on 7th and five on 15th followed by a record site count of 42 west on 16th; while Egyptian Geese were less keen to visit this month, with a pair on 11th the only record.

Duck numbers, and species, were comparitively poor. Modest numbers of the common species on the East (and, to a much lesser degree, West) Reservoir rarely warranted counts, although Shovelers peaked with 30 on 7th, 18 on 25th, and 27 on 27th. Wigeons were present on 7th (one), 11th (nine) and 13th (two), and a single Teal flew west with Mallards on 25th.

(Greylags, Oct 2006)

Gull numbers began to build late in the month, with regular and heavy westward movements of mainly Black-headed Gulls at dawn on many occasions, with up to 200 recorded on several dates. Herrings and Lesser Black-backs were more numerous by the last week, with between five and 12 of each usually present. Common Gulls were present on 16th (two), 25th (one) and 27th (two); and an adult Yellow-legged Gull briefly graced the 'gull rings' on the morning of the 25th.

Warblers were practically non-existent, with three single records of Chiffchaff, two of Blackcap and one each of Willow Warbler (4th) and Reed Warbler (11th). Wader records were equally dire, with very high water levels on both reservoirs scuppering any vague chances of a surprise, or even the expected sandpipers and Snipe; the only representative of the family was a Lapwing - the first for several years - flying southwest on 11th.

Hirundines were few and far between, with six Swallows on 9th and a single on 15th, 34 Sand Martins on 7th and three on 11th, and 20 House Martins on 7th. A single Ring-necked Parakeet graced the Church Street entrance of the Cemetery on 26th.

(Jackdaws, Oct 2006)

One of the species of the month, and the first record for the site, was a Ring Ouzel, which left the trees in the SE corner of the ER, with Redwings, on the morning of 15th. Goldcrests were often present in small numbers, with an isolated peak of 15 on 13th. Yellow Wagtails were recorded on 4th (one) and finally on 11th (three).

For all the quietness on land and water, the skies were regularly entertaining (and often comparitively exciting) for such an urban site. The direction of movements, usually into a head-wind and often from the easterly half of the compass, indicate many species involved (especially those in large numbers) appear to orientate using the green space of the Reservoir area and then, for most part, head west/southwest/south (except on occasions of north or northwesterlies, when passage moved into the wind).

Whether or not the site is particularly good for visible migration, or is a traditional flight-path over east and north London, or whether this year has just been particularly good, all remains to be seen; but the strike-rate of the site, when compared to other local and potentially as-good locations, is now more than apparent.

(woodpigeon visible migration, Oct 2006)

The possibility of birds using the natural flight-path of the Lea Valley and then veering just west of south over the Reservoirs, perhaps when the 'end' of the valley is evident, is another possibility; future sessions during peak periods, both at the reservoirs and elsewhere nearby, will hopefully clarify the situation.

Finch movements were varied, and at times heavy. Greenfinch numbers sometimes exceeded 20, and occasionally over 30 birds; Chaffinches, meanwhile, were even more numerous, with ten to 25 per session in the first half of the month, and peaks of 40 (16th), 52 (25th) and 67 - a record count thus far - on 27th. Linnets were recorded on three dates, with two on 13th, six on 16th, and 13 on 25th.

Bramblings began to move through during the latter half of the month, with six on 15th, three on 16th, three on 25th and no less than 22 on 27th (including a flock of ....). Siskins were recorded on 9th (one), 13th (one) and 27th (eight), and 'redpolls' were seen on 7th (one), 15th (13) and 16th (two). Those which were seen grounded, which included most of those on 15th and the pair on the following day, were Lessers.

(House Martin & Swallow, Oct 2006)

While many finches, and other passerines, were flyovers, a varying percentage on each day tended to land and feed briefly in the trees, or fly low enough to consider the option; this was also the case with Meadow Pipits, which were again numerous this month. Of the 130 birds recorded, at least several on each day landed around the reservoir perimeter, at times immediatley alongside the observation point, or even in the reeds. The peak count came with 39 on 25th.

The records and behaviour of Reed Buntings during the month were interesting; while the species is regularly present in the reedbed on site, no more than one or two have been seen at a time for several months. However, visible migration sessions produced birds regularly arriving from the north or east (especially on days of heavy passerine passage), dropping in briefly to feed or rest, and then continuing their journey south or southwest.

Such records included two on 7th, three on 9th, five on 17th, four on 25th and six on 27th, all strongly suggesting a migratory presence through the site in autumn.
Skylarks were previously a barely annual rarity, and so a total of 11 over during the month (two on 15th, seven on 16th & two on 25th) again helped to make the local picture clearer.

Records of site scarcities came thick and fast, especially towards the month's end. In addition to the Ring Ouzel and Lapwing, a second local sighting of Rook came on 27th, with a single moving west with a large Jackdaw flock; and after previously being unrecorded, Rock Pipits were almost regular (!), with four records of five birds (11th, 13th & 27th, with two on 25th).

Heavy movements over London during the last week brought another two site firsts to the Reservoirs. Two Tree Sparrows flew low overhead on the 25th (perhaps alighting close by), and almost as locally exciting were two Yellowhammers, which meandered around the ER perimeter on the 27th before leaving to the south.

Quantity often went hand-in-hand with quality, with the best days providing both (and the worst providing neither!). Woodpigeons provided impressive spectacles of mass migration, with up to several hundred on most day counts, but unprecedented numbers flew west and south west in flocks often containing up to 300 by the end of the month. 1,695 on 25th was followed by 2,210 on 27th, perhaps the month's highlight from a visual perspective.

Stock Doves were probably under-recorded, but peaked with seven on 27th, while at least 20 Collared Doves - a site 'resident' in ones and twos - flew west on 27th (including a flock of 13). Local Carrion Crows were often supplemented by additional birds, with a peak of 26 (southwest) on 16th.

Jackdaws, like many other migrants, greatly surpassed their traditional 'occasional in very small numbers' status, with 122 birds recorded; peak day counts were 77 on 27th and 31 on 25th. Thrush movements, as expected, took on a more scandinavian feel during the month. Several nights of heavy Redwing passage during the second and third weeks of the month paved the way for large numbers recorded during early morning sessions, with a minimum of 301 birds counted.

Peaks came on 16th (81), 25th (143) and 27th (67), the latter date also providing the first three Fieldfares of the year. Song Thrushes were also numerous, often in double figures, with a high count of 24 on 15th.

All in all, a fascinating month, especially regarding the regular highlights of visible migration. If only the water levels were dropped by a metre or so....


14th November 2006 (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes 1130-1330 MJP
dull, overcast, showers. mod W.

Pintail - 2 north (shaped to come down on Wal. Res.'s)
Meadow Pipit - 35
Stonechat - 2
Linnet - 7
Little Grebe - 2
Skylark - 1
Greylag - 17 (over)
Starling - c300

Friday, November 10, 2006

10th November 2006

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0650-0940 MJP
cold (ground frost), clear early, then o/c. light variable wind.

Goldeneye - 1 female
Fieldfare - 292
Redwing - 2
Siskin - 1
Shoveler - 11
Jackdaw - 2

Up on patch at dawn after a few days absence, and rewarded with a female Goldeneye on the East Reservoir - the first to be recorded for several years.
Very little else of note, with barely any visible migration, except for record numbers of Fieldfares; flocks included 100, 90 & 80, all heading west.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

9th November 2006 (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes 1100-1300 MJP
cold, clear, sunny. light/mod NW.

Stonechat - 1
Meadow Pipit - 18
Goldfinch - 30+
Sparrowhawk - 2
Kestrel - 2

8th November 2006 (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes 1330-1545 MJP
dull, overcast, occ. light rain. light-mod W.

Stonechat - 2
Green Sandpiper (over, then downed towards riding centre)
Meadow Pipit - 13
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldfinch - 30
Linnet - 6
Kestrel - 2
Little Grebe - 2
Starling - c700 (inc. flock of 600)
Jackdaw - 4

Friday, November 03, 2006

3rd November 2006

SN Reservoirs 0640-1100hrs MJP
clear, sunny, cold (ground frost). light NNW.

visible migration:

Ring Ouzel - 1
Fieldfare - 171
Lapwing - 3
Jackdaw - 2
Brambling - 5
Linnet - 2
Chaffinch - 31
Meadow Pipit - 4
Redwing - 25
Song thrush - 11
Siskin - 1
Starling - 375
Woodpigeon - 180
Stock Dove - 4
Pied Wagtail - 7
Grey Wagtail - 3
Skylark - 1


Water Rail - 1
Common Gull - 18
Black-headed Gull - 220
Herring Gull - 12
LBB Gull - 17
Teal - 1
Wigeon - 3
Great Crested Grebe - 4
Shoveler - 8
Magpie - 23+
Mistle Thrush - 6

A good morning for visible migration. The Fieldfare count is the largest for the site, and the Ring Ouzel - north-west with a group of Redwings - is the third site record (and the third in a month), after another bird (seen by LP) on 1st. The three Lapwings are the second record for the year, and finches were again varied. Interestingly, most flyover migrants headed north or north-west, unlike those on other days of visible migration recently, which headed mainly south and south-west; the direction of passage, at least recently, seems to correspond well with the head wind.

Today was the first day on patch where all six species of thrush were recorded. How long until the next? The cold weather both here and in northern/central Europe brought a few interesting ducks in (at last), with three Wigeon and a male Teal. Coots now number over 300, while counts of the commoner duck species remain unremarkable.

Additional - 1st Nov: 1 Ring Ouzel, 2 Brambling, 2 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing, 3 Jackdaw, c 150 Woodpigeon (LP).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

2nd November (additional)

Walthamstow Marshes 1130-1300hrs MJP
sunny, clear, cold. light-mod NW.

Stonechat - 2
Fieldfare - 36 (n)
Linnet - 3
Kestrel - 2
Meadow Pipit - 12

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

29th & 30th October 2006 (add. - The Naze)

The Naze, Essex - 29th & 30th October 2006

click on images to enlarge

Finally managed a trip out to the Naze this autumn, with two full days birding in pleasant weather. Little expected due to conditions and prevailing weather systems, with a mild, south-westerly airflow on 28th/29th, which swung slightly east of south overnight on the 29th and into the 30th.

A seawatch from dawn on the 29th produced next to nothing except 7 Red-brested Mergansers, but passerines were coming in off the sea in modest numbers; Woodpigeons, Starlings, Redwings, Chaffinches and a few Bramblings at least broke the silence. The East Scrub held c15 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff, but several hours walking and watching in the Naze Scrub produced very few passerines of note, the pick of the migrants being eight Bramblings, at least 60 Redwings and another 12 Goldcrests.

At the Naze tip, Meadow Pipits were out (and over) in force , with no counts made, but at least 200 birds involved; Rock Pipits were particularly numerous, with perhaps a minimum of 25 birds around the coastline from the village to the western seawall. Arguably the highlight of the day was a single Twite, with Linnets and Goldfinches by the lagoons.

A walk along the Walton Channel produced the usual (but very welcome) variety of waders and wildfowl. Both Godwits, Dunlins, Grey, Ringed and Golden Plovers, many Curlews and Redshanks, a thousand or so Brents, six Little Egrets and a few dozen Teal and Wigeon (with hundreds more out on the backwaters) fed along the channel and adjacent creeks.

Six Med Gulls accompanied the fishermen during an hour on the pier in the sunshine, where a Black-throated Diver flew close in and north before alighting on the sea just off the Naze. Several adult scandinavian-type Herring Gulls were on the beach (but no Yellow-legged Gulls were present), with a total of 35 Sanderlings and 20 Turnstones along with a handful of Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers.

The night of the 29th, as on the 28th, was filled with the almost constant 'sreep' of incoming Redwings, with perhaps many hundreds involved. Early morning on the 30th continued in a similar vein - walking north along the beach to the Naze tip provided great views of flocks of Redwings and Starlings coming in off the sea, descending in height, and dropping into the scrub on the cliff top. At least 230 Redwings and 450 Starlings came in (although no Fieldfares were seen or heard).

Two Shorelarks - the highlight of the trip - came in high, calling, from the northeast and landed, briefly, on the beach at the northeastern tip of the Naze. They then alighted (again briefly) by the lagoons, before being flushed by dogwalkers; just enough time to get a couple of poor quality record shots at least... They eventually came down in the dunes between the western lagoon and the saltmarsh, but remained difficult to see for more than a second or two at a time.

Again, very few passerines of note occupied the Naze scrub, with a strengthening SSE wind compounding the situation, but a further 16 Bramblings (in from the east with a day total of around 160 Chaffinches), three Siskins over and presumably the same single Twite (this time in stubble with Linnets) were some relief. Three Stonechats occupied the cliff-fall, with a further single by the lagoons on both days.

(see below for Med Gull pictures on the 30th).

Mediterranean Gulls at Walton Pier, 29th October 2006

click on images to enlarge

A total of six Med Gulls - four adults and two immatures - behaved beautifully at the end of the pier on a sunny and unseasonably warm afternoon.