Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Flamborough Head, 28th - 31st August 2007

Flamborough Head, 28th - 31st August 2007

Several days back home for the first time in many months, and straight onto the head soon after arrival at lunchtime; with early autumn drift migration occuring along the coast over the previous few days, and conditions remaining promising, it was hard to resist. The first port of call was Thornwick Pools, an area of extensive set-aside containing some mixed scrub, two recently man-made scrapes and bordered by intermittent hawthorn hedges.

Almost immediately treated to a Red-backed Shrike and a Barred Warbler, in the very same gnarled hawthorn; in fact, while trying to photograph the (surprisingly skulking) shrike, the Barred Warbler almost magically appeared in the same frame, albeit only for a couple of seconds. Also present in this small but fruitful newly created habitat were several Yellow Wagtails, Willow Warblers and many finches (mainly Goldfinches and Linnets), as well as a flock of Tree Sparrows, which remain a comfortingly common presence on the Head. Single Dunlin and Common Sand were on the pools, and a Tree Pipit flew overhead.

On the outer Head, the area of set-aside down Old Fall Hedge was also buzzing with new arrivals; 16 Wheatears and four Whinchats were in the field, nine common and one Lesser Whitethroat were in the hedge, and two Snipe and single Golden Plover flew over.

A late evening seawatch under the fog station produced a varied, if fairly typical, haul of passing seabirds: Shearwaters offered some good close views, with Manxies and (especially) Sooties hanging around off the tip and moving south; Skuas were less prevalent, but Arctic, Pom and Bonxies passed south and harassed some of the many hundreds of terns moving through. Otherwise, the three common tern spp. were out in force, and a trickle of Little Gulls passed before the light faded.

29th - 30th

With conditions clearing and the wind veering back into the westerly half, walks on the 29th & 30th were pleasant but hardly exciting; Holme's Gut (a scrubby gulley between North Landing and Thornwick Bay, well known for producing good birds and now managed by the YWT) held a selection of passerines early on, including several Willow Warblers, a Reed Warbler, four Common Whitethroats, a Blackcap and a Whinchat. South Landing, meanwhile, held three Lesser Whitethroats, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Knot on the beach. The Shrike and Barred Warbler remained at Thornwick Pools (unfortunately constantly disturbed by rampaging twitchers), and two Ruff considered putting down before moving south. A full cliff walk on the 30th produced very little in warm sunshine, but for a Whinchat at Northcliffe.

Monday, August 27, 2007

27th August 2007

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0720-1030 MJP
bright, some clouds, sunny breaks. light WNW.

Spotted Flycatcher - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 1
Common Gull - 1 2nd s.
Garden Warbler - 2-3
Common Whitethroat - 1
Willow Warbler - 8
Chiffchaff - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - c10
Kingfisher - 1
House Martin - 14
Swallow - 1
Sand Martin - 1
Rose-ringed Parakeet - 3
Shoveler - 36
Pochard - 21

A pleasant morning on patch, with a good variety of migrant passerines on show. The pick of the bunch today was the autumn's first Spotted Flycatcher at the Reservoirs, although a Yellow Wagtail over was only the second record in the area this autumn (after yesterday's house flyovers), and the Garden Warblers showed well (in what is becoming the most productive autumn for this species at the site).

Other warblers provided a healthy back-up, a second summer Common Gull was unusual, and dabbling duck numbers are high (probably as a consequence of the extensive weed on the ER).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

26th Ausust 2007

Stoke Newington Common (near)
sunny, warm.

Yellow Wagtail - 2 over the house, 0800
Swallow - 1 over

other recent reports from local sites include the almost-as-clockwork early autumnal appearance of Red-crested Pochards at the Reservoirs, and Common Sandpiper and Garden Wabler still present.

Friday, August 24, 2007

24th August 2007

two sites:

Walthamstow Marshes 0930-1050 MJP
mild, o/c. light/mod NE.

Yellow Wagtail - 24
Whinchat - 4
Meadow Pipit - 1
Willow Warbler - 2
Common Whitethroat - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Swift - 250+
House Martin - 16
Pied Wagtail - 43
Starling - c370
Mistle Thrush - 13 (over)

Another morning of dull skies and winds from the north-east quarter after a night of heavy rain, and another relatively entertaining haul of grounded migrants (but oh, to be on the coast...). Three Whinchats remain in the cow field, where a single Meadow Pipit also put down; a small scattering of warblers is an improvement on the last couple of weeks, the Pied Wagtail flock on the mowed, south field numbered 43, and a huge, swirling tower of Swifts hawked noisily above the filter beds.

But the highlight of the day was the loose flock of Yellow Wagtails in the cow field, having more than trebled in size since yesterday. Having waxed on this page some months ago about hopes of Whinchat, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail in the cow field come the autumn, this week has provided all three, with numbers of the latter way exceeding expectations.

Clissold Park 1330-1500 MJP
humid, o/c (but a little brighter), still.

Willow Warbler - 9+
Reed Warbler - 4
Chiffchaff - 2
Blackcap - 2
Common Whitethroat - 1
Goldcrest - 10+
Long-tailed Tit - 16+
Chaffinch - 18
Little Grebe - 4
Sparrowhawk - 1
Swift - 4+
House Martin - 5

A very entertaining walk in the park, on account of a rich and varied feeding flock of passerines moving slowly along the northern edge of the park and around the lakes; conditions were ideal, with the showers ending, the wind dropping entirely and the air becoming very warm and muggy, and full of insects. The size and variety of the flock was indicative of migrants - having been driven down by the conditions and wind of the last couple of days - enjoying the first extended opportunity to refuel.

a few photos from yesterday (Whinchat from the Marshes, Magpies and Roe deer from Clissold Park):

Thursday, August 23, 2007

23rd August 2007

two sites today:

Stoke Newington reservoirs 0700-0915 MJP, PC, LP
o/c, intermittent drizzle. light / mod NNE.

Common Sandpiper - 1
Common Tern - 1
Willow Warbler - 7
Reed Warbler - 6
Blackcap - 3
Goldcrest - 8
Shoveler - 20
House Martin - c40
Sand Martin - 3
Sparrowhawk - 3

Nothing particularly spectacular at the reservoirs today, but a feeling of migration being well underway with Willow Warblers, hirundines and other bits and pieces having dropped in under stormy night skies or moving through.

Walthamstow Marshes 0930-1130 MJP
cond. as above.

Yellow Wagtail - 8
Whinchat - 4
House Martin - 15
Sand Martin - 1
Grey Wagtail - 2
Stock Dove - 25
Starling - c300
Goldfinch - c45
Linnet - 2

Again, a strong sense of migratory movement in dark, often drizzly conditions - it was the turn of the cow field to produce the goods today, and while nothing quite lived up to the Stone Curlew of the day before yesterday, the presence of no less than eight Yellow Wagtails and four Whinchats was easily enough to keep entertained.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

21st August 2007

Walthamstow Marshes 0900-1040 MJP
o/c, intermittent drizzle, dull. light NNE.

Stone Curlew - 1
Northern Wheatear - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
House Martin - 12
Swift - 5
Stock Dove - 13
Starling - c250
Goldfinch - 30
Linnet - 5

What was turning out to be a good week from a local birding perspective (Hobby, Yellow-legged Gull and Common Buzzard are all uncommon in the area) just got a great deal better, with a surprise find to say the least - a Stone Curlew quietly sheltering from the drizzle in a patch of weed in the Horse Field.

Happy enough with flushing a Wheatear from the path, I decided to try and get a few photos, and so scanned the Horse Field from the main raised track, which runs immediately alongside it. Pausing briefly at a tussock in the centre of the field (the rest of the field is closely cropped by horses), a strangely familiar head protruded from the weeds.... a comedy eye-rubbing moment followed before the bird briefly came into full view, allowing a few passable digi-binned photos before scuttling back into the tussock. An unexpected and memorable treat, and a clear frontrunner for bird of the year at a local level.

I left at 0945, when the bird was still sheltering in the same spot, although how long it would remain in the area is questionable, with so much disturbance close by.

For those who want to try and see the bird, the horse field is immediately north and adjoining the riding centre, and best viewed from the central raised track. Grid Ref: TQ 3548 / BNG 8720

(click on photos to enlarge)

Otherwise, the Wheatear was a pleasure, if a little more expected, the finch flock is back up to a healthy level, and the sole warbler of the day was an immature Lesser Whitethroat at the southern end of the marshes.

Back at the other local patches, Tony Butler saw 2 Whimbrel at SN Reservoirs this morning (like last year's Black-tailed Godwit, they circled and attempted to put down, but the water levels are too high), and the autumn's first Spotted Flycatcher was reported from Clissold Park.

Monday, August 20, 2007

17th Aug photos

A few photos from Walthamstow Marshes on the 17th. Just about managed to catch the back end of the Marsh Harrier as it soared low and north; it would've been easy to get much better pictures as the bird came by surprisingly closely, but in those brief situations, a decision has to be made between (hopefully) nice photos or a conclusive ID, and with a large raptor moving through at some speed, the latter was the more sensible option.

20th August 2007

Two good walks, two good birds....

Walthamstow Marshes 0940-1120 MJP

Yellow-legged Gull - 1 ad.
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
House Martin - 5
Sedge Warbler - 1

SN Church Street & area 1400-1720 MJP

Hobby - 1 ad. (over Church St./Abney Park south entrance)
Mistle Thrush - flock of 21 (Clissold Park)
Blackcap - 1 (Clissold Park)

Two good walks, two good birds....

The usual route to the marshes, through Millfields Park, was brightened up by an adult Yellow-legged Gull feeding with the gull flock, around the cricket square. Presumably the same bird flew NE, a few hundreds metres away over the marshes, 20 minutes later. Otherwise the marshes are pretty quiet at the moment, with most of the breeding passerines having dispersed, and the finch flock minimal at best.

A walk in Clissold Park was equally quiet, but on the way home along Stoke Newington Church Street, a pause to talk to a friend proved fortuitous, with a cracking adult Hobby coming in from the west and arching low parallel to the street, giving very close view before disappearing behind the trees of Abney Park's southern entrance.

Friday, August 17, 2007

17th August 2007

Two sites:

Walthamstow Marshes 1100-1250 MJP
o/c, some sun. light/mod NW.

Marsh Harrier - 1
Stonechat - 1 imm.
House Martin - c50
Swift - 8
Sand Martin - 2
Pied Wagtail - 27
Linnet - 4
Grey Heron - 3
Starling - c260

Great views of the Harrier, which came in fairly low from the SE and drifted steadily NNW, over the centre of the marsh, harrassed by a small cloud of hirundines and several Carrion Crows. Also the first Stonechat of the autumn, a pale immature on the central marsh. Hirundines, particularly House Martins, were feeding overhead and moving through in good numbers, as they have been for several days in the area. Swifts are evident, albeit in small numbers, after the main departure last week; the substantial flock of Pied Wagtails, meanwhile, was no doubt attracted onto the playing field by the freshly-mown grass. Warblers are presently all but absent, with the majority of breeders and juveniles evidently already gone.

Clissold Park 1315-1500 MJP

House Martin - 30
Swallow - 1
Swift - 5
Little Grebe - 2 ads with 3 new young

Thursday, August 16, 2007

16th August 2007

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0815-1020 MJP, TB
mainly sunny, some cloud; mod (occ. blustery) NW.

Garden Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Willow Warbler - 10 (inc. 1 very grey bird, & 2 singing)
Chiffchaff - 1
Reed Warbler - 13
House Martin - 25
Sand Martin - 3
Grey Wagtail - 2
Goldcrest - 4
Goldfinch - 25
Shoveler - 23
Gadwall - 8
Pochard - c25
Tufted Duck - c40
Sparrowhawk - 1

After a period of generally warm, settled weather, heavy storms and strong winds have arrived during the last 48 hours, especially overnight; with this in mind, and with the sun shining early, a couple of hours at the Reservoirs seemed worthwhile in the hope that a scattering of migrants may have been grounded. And so it was - an entertaining morning, with a good cast of passerines supported by steadily increasing duck numbers.

Warblers were especially good, with cracking close views of both Garden Warbler (in the scrub to the south of the ER) and Lesser Whitethroat (in the bushes between the New River east and the Res). Willow Warblers were out in force, with most feeding actively in the willows between the New River east and the northern bank of the ER.
Reed Warblers are almost everywhere, especially where berries abound.Hirundines were hawking insects over the water, with 25 House Martins and 3 Sand Martins present. Two Swifts were also recorded.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

8th August 2007

Stoke Newington Reservoirs 0830-1200 MJP, TB
warm, mainly sunny. light N.

Garden Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 5
Willow Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 8
Common Tern - 3
Shoveler - 34
Pochard - 20
Gadwall - 8
Tufted Duck - c45
Ruddy Duck - 5
Swallow - 1
Sand Martin - 1
Grey Wagtail - 4
Swift - 10
Black-headed Gull - c40
LBB Gull - 12
Herring Gull - 3

The first time up at the reservoirs this month, and in all likelihood, the first of many. The expanse of algae-covered mud around the edge (and extending into the centre) of the East Reservoir is potentially productive - while no waders were present today, the possibility of something interesting appearing has risen a hundred fold; how long Thames Water intend to maintain the low water level is anybody's guess, but a few weeks would be very welcome.....

The mud and surrounding shallows attracted gulls, a Common Tern, many Shovelers and other ducks to ground, and is presently perfect for waders, wagtails etc. A deterrent this morning along the eastern edge (although Mute Swans and Canada Geese were very tolerant) were the family of five foxes, sunbathing, playfighting and throwing around mud-filled plastic bags.....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

3rd - 5th August 2007

several sunny days at last, with little to report from walks in the park and cemetery:

3rd - Clissold Park: adult Common Gull, 1 Blackcap, 4 Little Grebes

5th - Abney Park Cemetery: Coal Tit, 2 House Martins

this fish, approx. 70cm long, is frequenting the western lake in Clissold Park - any ID ideas?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

1st August 2007

Walthamstow Marshes 1030-1230
sunny, warm, light W.

c50 Goldfinches, 4 Reed Buntings & 10 Linnets in one flock (growing by the day presently), 7 Common Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, c35 House Martins, 2 Common Terns, c200 Swifts.

also, a single Swallow north over the house this afternoon.