Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Waders,from a Jack to a Lapwing. Sunday 19th December

This visit was timed to coincide with the co-ordinated wader counts on the Inner Thames. The Basin was 80% frozen and only held a few Teal and some Gulls. The copse was empty but a 1st winter Black Redstart was foraging around the lock gates. Had a spell watching the Thames, but this too was quiet. Time to check the Creek for waders and wildfowl. Plenty of Teal were present spread out along the river, on checking the reed-bed I leaned over the railings, and was confronted by a Jack Snipe on the edge of the mud, 5 Common Snipe were also here and 3 more were across the river. Five Meadow Pipits were feeding on the wet grass at Bow Eco Park, this area remains unfrozen due to the water being fed by a pump. The snow was quite deep in this area. Snow can change the look of an area, make quite ugly places seem inviting, like a new coat of paint, but in the East India dock area its just bleak.
On the way back to the Basin a female Pintail was feeding on the mud. The tide was flowing into Basin when I returned and 2 Common Snipe were feeding out in the open on the mud. Met up with Nick and it was time to check the wader roost at Bow Creek as the tide was almost full. A Common Sandpiper was roosting on the river wall, and
8 Redshanks were in the roost with a number of Teal and a Common Snipe. The Redshank are considerably down in number, at this time of year the roost usually holds as many as 50 individuals. It is likely that the severe weather has moved the birds on to other areas, probably to the south west or perhaps the Emerald Isle. Some years ago I did a survey of bird corpses in coastal Essex, after a week of sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow. Redhanks were by far the most commonest casualty.
A small number Lapwings flew over, making it 5 wader species for the day. Another check of the Thames and the Basin revealed her majesty the Pintail on the Basin, after flying in from up the Thames. This is a wary and flighty bird, but Nick did manage to get some pictures, which may appear on this blog. Nick then went off to work and I made my way home, for thawing out bowl of soup and some crumpets.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Spoon-fed mega fits the bill: October 2010 summary

Little Grebe at East India Dock Basin, October 2010

Two juvenile Common Terns on October 3rd were the last of the year, the only Yellow-legged Gull of the month was also on the 3rd and two Swallows passed through. Two Little Grebes were at the usual wintering spot in the north-west corner of the basin on the 8th, two Lapwings and a Common Snipe were also noted on the 8th along with two Chiffchaffs and 20 Goldfinches. A very good October count of circa 240 Common Teal was made at high tide on the 10th which was an excellent day for passage migrants; a Wheatear was in the gravel works, after a good spring passage this one turned out to be the only autumn record, seven Stock Doves flew south and two Collared Dove passed through, a flock of seven Skylarks flew east, a record number for the basin and 148 Redwings flew south; two Redshank in Bow Creek were the first of the autumn along with two Common Sandpipers; five Swallows a Lapwing and a Sparrowhawk also passed through and single Great Spotted Woodpecker and Chiffchaff were on the reserve. The last Common Whitethroat of the year was noted on the 13th along with ten Long-tailed Tit. A small passage of Meadow Pipits was noted on the 17th with eight flying west and four north, the only other migrant that day was a Skylark flying west, two Linnets were on the reserve with three Redshank and two Common Sandpipers in the high tide roost. A Common Buzzard flew north on the 18th and a Collared Dove passed through, a Green Woodpecker was on the meadow at the basin and a Peregrine, 12 Chaffinches and a Chiffchaff were also noted. The 24th seemed like a very unpromising day with just 13 Chaffinches the only birds of note, that is until we received a text message from John Archer downstream at Crossness informing us that a Spoonbill was heading our way; after half an hour it was located on the Millennium mudflats before flying off west only to return a few minutes later giving us excellent views of this totally unexpected vagrant, needless to say the first record for the Lower Lea and easily the best bird of the year (so far). The month ended quietly with four Little Grebes on the 31st, a single Chiffchaff and a very good local count of 20+ Long-tailed Tits.