Sunday, October 17, 2010

Return passage: September 2010 summary

September got off to a good start with a Red Kite flying north-east and a Common Buzzard flying east at East India Dock Basin, both on the 4th, with single House Martin, Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat also noted, the Teal flock numbered 42 on the 4th but had risen to 130 by the end of the month. A Black Tern was on the river on the 5th with 25 Common Terns, two Sparrowhawks were also seen, the only record this month along with a single Peregrine, the only other sighting of this species being on the 19th. The only wader species recorded was Common Sandpiper with a single on the 7th, two on the 9th and four on the 19th. Single Kingfisher and Willow Warbler were seen on the 9th, the only sightings of both species this month. A Rook flying east on the 12th was the first record for the Lower Lea, it was also a good day for warblers with single Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common Whitethroat and four Chiffchaffs along with the first two Meadow Pipits of the autumn. A male Black Redstart was seen on the 19th along with seven Swallows, four Meadow Pipits and three Chiffchaffs whilst on the river a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull flew west, 15 Common Terns passed through and a Great Crested Grebe was noted. The 26th saw an unprecedented passage of House Martins when at least 197 passed through including a flock of around 140 along with 12 Sand Martins and a Swallow all the hirundines were flying north-west; five Skylarks flew north-west and single Chiffchaff and Great Spotted Woodpecker, the only record this month, were noted. The month finished on a high when the fourth Green Woodpecker for the Lower lea was on the meadow at East India Dock Basin on the 30th.

Tern, Tern, Tern: August 2010 summary

Black-headed Gull at East India Dock Basin, August 2010.

River watching from the pier at East India Dock Basin during August was rewarded with a good tern passage, broken down as follows; Sandwich Tern, three flew east on the 15th. Common Tern, two on the 10th, 85 on the 15th. 20 on the 22nd and 12 on the 23rd. Arctic Tern, two flew north on the 7th and seven flew north on the 23rd. On the 3rd an adult Mediterranean Gull flew west, a Peregrine was over the basin a Garden Warbler was in the copse and the first two Teal of the autumn were noted, this number had risen to 30 by the 29th. Three Peregrines and a Sparrowhawk were seen on the 7th along with a Great Spotted Woodpecker and two Sand Martins. A single Common Sandpiper was seen on the 8th, the vanguard of a good August passage which peaked at seven birds on the 15th with two on the 23rd and singles on the 22nd and 29th. A Sedge Warbler was found on the 10th along with single Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and Sand Martin. A Sparrowhawk, two Stock Doves and three House Martins were noted on the15th, it was a good month for the latter species with five through on the 22nd and two on the 28th. Two Egyptian Geese were seen on the 22nd, only the second site record along with a peak count of around 80 Starlings on the pylon by the entrance to the eco park and a Jay. The first returning Little Grebe was at the basin on the 28th along with a Kingfisher, unaccountably elusive this year, a Swallow, two Garden Warblers and a Willow Warbler. A comprehensive Mallard count on the 29th produced a site record total of 166 birds, also noted was a single Sparrowhawk. The month ended with single Peregrine and Reed Warbler on the 30th.

Conkers end?

Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella
on infested Horse Chestnut leaf, October 2010

It would seem that the health and safety wallahs are getting a helping hand in their crusade to ban conkers from the nation's playgrounds in the form of a tiny moth with a big name, the Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner. This moth was unknown in Britain prior to 2002 when the first examples were found in Wimbledon, since then it has expanded alarmingly and is now found commonly all over south-east England. It lays its eggs on Horse Chestnut trees and the larvae burrow into the leaves, hence the name, and eat them from within. The damaged leaves cannot photosynthesise the photons from sunlight which they need to grow and if a particular tree is heavily infected, as several of the 30 or so Horse Chestnuts in the Lower Lea are, then it will ultimately die. At the moment the moths have no known predators to keep them in check , obviously opportunistic birds will pick them off but a single large tree could probably produce several thousand moths, so this problem could prove very difficult to resolve unless nature comes up with its own solution, perhaps in the form of a parasite to keep the numbers down. The worse case scenario is that the Horse Chestnut could go the same way as the English Elm, decimated by two species of 0phiostoma fungi spread by the Elm Bark Beetle. A mature Horse Chestnut in full flower is a wonderful sight and a quintessential part of the English spring it would be such a tragedy to lose it.