Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

singing Phylloscs


Despite a cool, wet and blustery day, the trans-Saharans continue to trickle back through the patch, with just Swallow still to check in of the expected early spring quartet. Of warblers, Chiffys and Blackcaps have been knocking around for several weeks now, and today produced the first Willow Warblers, with at least three birds singing sweetly despite the rain. More at Hackney Wildlife.

Willow Warbler

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

honk if you just got hitched

Yorkshire, 18th - 26th March 2011

There were innumerable highlights, both avian and otherwise; of those another time. But last week, back home with our nearest and dearest from as far afield as Japan and the U.S., was all about becoming an honest man, thanks to my american beauty. Lucky me.

Pink-feet, not cold feet

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

three little steves

After a week-long vigil staring into space, finally they came today, and were well worth the wait; as an added bonus, an ultra-rare patch Redshank made a few ultimately doomed circuits before sensibly heading north. More at Hackney Wildlife.

Monday, March 14, 2011

open season

While the first Sand Martin back on patch may be 'late', large raptor movements have kicked in with a vengeance, especially today.....

Conditions have been mixed over recent days, but a sunny and mild period on Saturday produced the first Common Buzzard of the spring, low and north over the East Res; similiar conditions today looked promising, and a Red Kite (likewise the first of the season) looked particularly evocative just above the tower blocks and against a blue sky as it drifted east mid-morning. A Common Buzzard drifting some distance to the south added further inspiration.

A 'business lunch' on the roof of Lincoln Court - a neighbouring 15-storey residential block which is luckily also my Obs of choice for the spring raptor season - instantly produced. Setting the 'scope up and scanning north, no less than six Common Buzzards were thermalling together, before drifting north - a record simultaneous count.

Three of the same species ten minutes later some distance away may or may not have involved the same birds, but 'fresh' singles north and east over the next hour or so brought the day total to a minimum of nine, a new day record, and still so early in the season.... Peregrines were pleasingly omnipresent all day, and equally predictable were Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Five raptor species in mid-March in urban central London will do just fine for now.

and some other photos from the patch over the last day or two; full details here

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Walthamstow Reservoirs, 9th March 2011

Happiness is the first trans-Saharan migrant of the spring....

An early start filming with auntie beeb at Walthamstow this morning gave me a good reason to slink a few kilometres away from Stoke Newington (thus easing my guilt of patch unfaithfulness), and as I was there, it seemed a good idea to cover it properly.

Starting at 0730 and staying on the south side, a female Goosander, a Green Sandpiper, three Chiffys and a male Blackcap were all recorded alongside the multitudes of common waterbirds, including Great Crested Grebes (one of the intended Natural World star turns and today's centre of attention), which performed impeccably.

Within a couple of metres of the camera a Cetti's Warbler started up, and continued throughout, apparently the first here this year; ditto at least two Water Rails nearby (all of which are worth listening out for in the background of the film...).

Moorhen, climbing the fence vertically

Lunch at the nearby Ferry Boat Inn seemed like a good idea at the time and a bad idea just minutes later, when eight quid's worth of microwaved crap (a.k.a 'Jamaican stew' and the only vegetarian option in an encyclopaedic menu of rot) arrived with a fanfare; for 'great home-cooked food every day', read 'putting the enteritis into Gastro pubs'.

smacked out on honey, tragic roadkill or Ferry Boat lunch menu victim?

Moving swiftly along, it was time to cover the northern reservoirs in the hope of interesting wildfowl or a stray wader or two. The Maynards held little, and so around the Lockwood, heading anti-clockwise towards the edge of Tottenham Marsh, with a blustery south-westerly and sunny intervals still reguarly breaking through. Nine Goldeneye and another two redhead Goosanders were out on the waves, but no waders lurked along the favoured habitat in the north-east corner.

Continuing round and down along the western bank, walking along the edge itself is often productive, with small, hidden pockets of mud and shingle attracting otherwise unnoticed shorebirds. A group of waders flushed from one such pocket (no more than a couple of metres long and hidden from the main bank), which consisted of six Green Sandpipers, a Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.

Content with a good selection of birds and with thoughts directed at kicking back with something edible to hand, a glorious, pin-sharp male Northern Wheatear whipped across the water in front of me and landed on the bank nearby.

The first true southern visitor of the year, the first Oenanthe to make landfall in London in 2011, and an unadulterated joy.

a local beauty

and another

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody

With Waxwings not yet waning, another garrulus and self-indulgent bulletin on account of another couple of on-patch run-ins with them of late. As mentioned recently, I've been lucky to see them here at SNR in five of the last six months, but only in the last couple of days have they dropped out of the sky and into the treetops.

Walking to the office on Wednesday, nearby trilling magically cut through the traffic and human noise pollution, and a flock of 20 or more were perched in a tree bordering the East Res and the Jewish school. Hence the now familiar pavement-kneeling, bag-emptying, camera and/or bins grabbing routine in the busy street, at the exact spot (on Bethune Road) where I've had cause to do likewise for a Short-eared Owl, a flock of 100+ White-fronts, and various large raptors in the last couple of years.

Today, the same beautiful sound while on a circuit of the East Res, and a flock of 16 flitted overhead, swerved between the tower blocks and headed north out of sight. It could be a long time before our dark urban borough is graced by them again, so it seems only just to make the most of them.