Thursday, March 31, 2011

Same as it ever was

Another early pre-work visit in a blustery south-west wind which did not look to promising. This turned out to be all to true. No spring migrants were seen or heard, and the handful that have previously arrived, have either moved on or are keeping low.
Teal numbers were below 20 and 4 Shelducks and a Kestrel were the only birds of note. I have been birding for over 30 years and I know the memory can play tricks, but this is the slowest spring migration I can remember for some time. Still it is April tomorrow and things can only get better.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Migrants at last

An early pre-work visit paid off today. Clear skies and surprisingly warm sunshine for the time of day greeted me. A non-singing Chiffchaff was in the copse, but little else was present here. Then the first spring migrant of the year for me appeared, a Sand Martin flying round the dock and around the lock gates, probably one of last years breeding birds. Then in true London Bus fashion a second migrant, a single Little Ringed Plover on the island in the dock. A quick check of Bow Creek, the Ecology Park and Pura Foods site failed to add to the total. Then whilst walking back to EIDB a Kingfiher was found perched on a stick at Bow Creek. not usually seen in Spring, this was a welcome sighting. Kingfishers have been hard to find in the Lower Lea Valley this year and seem to be on the decline. Back at EIDB the LRP was still on the Island and 2 Greylags were wandering about on Orchard Wharf and the gym classes had started in the copse. Keep Fit, keep fat I say.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Give me something for the weekend. Saturday-Sunday 19th-20th

Pintail at Bow Creek, March 20th 2011

In my last post I mentioned that a bit of sun and few migrants would lift the spirits. Well I got the first. Saturday had its moments, there was about an half an hour of bird movement at about 09.30. 12 Grey Herons flew north, a Collared Dove (never easy) flew east, a Stock Dove was around and a Kestrel (hard to find this year) flew north. Three Common Sandpipers were on Bow Creek with a single Redshank and the female Pintail. About 90 Teal were in the area, a Common Seal was on the Thames at Orchard Wharf and 2 Oystercatchers were on the mud in front of the O2. There were very few birds in song considering the spring conditions.
Sunday: The Oystercatchers were back on the mud, but Sunday was generally birdless and is not worth talking about. Perhaps its time to join the masses at Rainham or Wanstead.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not a Lot

Sometimes, and particularly so far this year, birding at East India Dock Basin resembles a Ingmar Bergman film, not a lot happens and for a long time. A three hour visit this morning in grey cloudy conditions with a chilly north west wind produced very little for the notebook. Not a sniff of a spring migrant, nothing flying over, and apart from a few Gulls very little along the Thames, and virtually no singing, like a Justin Bieber record. So what birds were seen, the Pintail was in the dock until bullied away by a Coot, 3 Redshanks and 1 Common Sandpiper were at the high tide roost at Bow Creek and about 50 Teal were in the area.
The only real sign of spring was a pair of Long-tailed Tits collecting nesting material. But a bit of sun this weekend and few migrants should lift the spirits.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Common Seal

Common Seal off East India Dock Basin, March 2011

I finally caught up with the Water Rail in the western reedbed at the basin today, apart from that and the first singing Chiffchaff of the year not much was happening on the bird front so a Common Seal in the Thames off the basin was a very welcome diversion, it was seen to catch and eat two flatfish, probably Dabs and had Gary and me comparing our Lower Lea mammal lists. Gary had a Stoat at the basin several years ago when there was a lot more habitat available before the construction spate of the last decade and I've had a species of Pipistrelle, probably Common, apart from that we've both seen the following: Red Fox, Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Grey Squirrel and Brown Rat; the 2006 Northern Bottle-nosed Whale seen as far upstream as Battersea would have made it onto the list had somebody been on hand to see it and there must be various shrews, mice and possibly Bank Vole and Hedgehog present and historically Black Rat and Rabbit must have been recorded, the latter is fairly common a mile to the east at the Royal Docks. Lea Valley Regional Park have somewhat optimistically installed an otter holt in the ecology park but the sobering news that the Lower Lea is the most polluted river in Britain means we might have a bit of a wait until it receives its first tenants. Gary also remembers American Mink being seen with some regularity on the Lea around Middlesex Filter Beds a few years ago but that's one mammal tick I can live without.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

East India Rallies. Saturday and Sunday March 5-6th

Saturday: After being in the doldrums for a number of weeks, the area showed signs of life today. Firstly I finally got to see the elusive Water Rail that has been present most of this year. It showed very well for about five minutes in front of the NW reed-bed. EIDB area has a bit of a reputation for early spring migrants, but the weather (cold NE wind) is hardly suitable. Still you never know, so I scanned across the Pura Foods site with a bit more purpose than usual. I picked up a flock of Pied Wagtails, hoping that a White would be with them. Somthing spooked them and they flew towards me, all Pieds, but 17 of them, the largest count for the area. The Pura Foods site is looking very good, and I will be surprised if it does not pull some good birds down this spring. There were some signs of spring, violets were in bloom in the copse, and Wrens were singing heartily.
Sunday 6th: If anything colder than yesterday, the NE wind was stronger. There seems to be a kind of Narnia syndrome going on the moment, always winter but never spring. I arrived on site just as 4 Greylag Geese flew over, then another two followed, the first sightings this year. About 100 Teal and 2 Redshanks were on Bow Creek and 2 argentatus Herring Gulls were present. Back at the Dock there was no sign of the Water Rail and not much sign of anything else. A single Oystercatcher was along the Thames, another first for the year.