Friday, April 29, 2011

I should have gone to the Wedding

I thought this morning might be quiet with most of the country seemingly occupied with a couple of rich kids in Westminster. How wrong i was, EIDB was full of people early on. The keep fitters were thronging the dock and the woodland, and there was a full scale dog-fight on the meadow. This small nature reserve will not be able tolerate this ammount of disturbance, which is sadly increasing. With most of the area heavily disturbed I decided to concentrate on the Thames, which so far this year has been moribund. The conditions did look a little hopeful, rising tide, cloudy and a northerly wind, though a bit of rain is usually helpful. Thirteen Shelducks flew upriver and a male Gadwall flew into the dock, but thats as good as it got. There was hardly any birdsong apart from Reed Warblers and a couple of Blackcaps, but that could pick up as it warms up, and it was a visit to file under forgetable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seventy Up

Its taken some time and it has been a struggle, and I am still well down on my total at this time in 2010, but I have finally reached 70 for the patch this year. Things were very quiet early this morning. The Thames again was very quiet, when is it going to spring into life?. Then about 9 O'clock the site woke up, as often happens at this time of day. A lesser Whitethroat was singing in the Eastern scrub, though was elusive, and was'nt seen. Three Swallows flew north and a male Pochard flew into the Basin, my first record this year. This was followed by a male Teal, this species has usually departed by now. Thirty Tufted Ducks were on the Dock, including red saddle. A stroll along Bow Creek revealed three Common Sandpipers and five House Martins flying low over the water. House Martins can be tricky birds at this site, but last year and again this yaer birds have been present in the Bow Creek area. Two more Swallows flew over and just as I was leaving and putting the bins away, I saw a Crow buzzing another bird overhead. A mad scramble ensued to retrieve the bins and I was rewarded with a fine Common Buzzard which leisurely flew SW. It saw off the Crow and drifted down lower giving excellant views, a good bird for number seventy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pochard at East India Dock Basin

Common Tern at East India Dock Basin, April 2011

Pochard at East India Dock Basin, April 2011

Apart from attracting Common Terns back to East India Dock Basin, the stable high water level pulled in another species today which almost certainly would not have turned up if the silt had prevailed, the male Pochard in the photograph was found on a final sweep of the basin early this afternoon just as I was about to give up adding anything new to my yearlist. Other interest today included two House Martins feeding with Sand Martins over Bow Creek and two vocal Swallows flying west at the basin; four Common Sandpipers were feeding together at Bow Creek on the falling tide and three Little Ringed Plovers were on the Pura Foods peninsula. At least six Reed Warblers were singing throughout the site along with five Common Whitethroats and at least five Blackcaps, although the actual count of this species is probably much higher as several of the birds were very mobile making an accurate count impossible.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Senses Working Overtime

A clear blue sky, little wind and the heat already beginning to rise, and a mighty haze on the Thames. This was early morning at EIDB. There were half a dozen Common Terns on the Thames and four of these started to prospect the rafts on the Dock, an encouraging sign. Apart from this there was little on the river. Two Oystercatchers were on the Dock, an unusual occurance. EIDB can be a noisy sort of place and you need your ears plugged in and your eyes alert to detect sounds or movements from the scrub, A busy road passes behind the Northern scrub, and the Docklands Light Railway shuffles along above it, and the Dock is on the flightpath of the London City Airport. So hearing birds can be difficult particularly if the song is soft. But I thought I heard a Lesser Whitethroat in the Eastern Scrub, it was rattling very softly and also doing some sub-song. It appeared at the top of a small tree before moving to the Northern Scrub. I later heard another along Bow Creek. I was pleased to get this species (first for the year) as they can be difficult here. By 10.00am the Dock was boiling hot and it was time to leave.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Terns provide a boost

Things have been generally quiet at EIDB this spring, so an early morning visit to check the Thames for Terns was more in hope than judgement On arrival the basin was very quiet as was the Thames. A Willow Warbler and Blackcap were singing in the copse. Then I heard that familar cry, and two Common Terns flew over the dock and then back to the river, to be joined by two others. Another Tern was heading upriver but was a different shape and flying more bouyantly, surely an Arctic, as it flew past me and headed north, this was confirmed. A Common Whitethroat then appeared in the copse. Met up with Nick who had seen a House Martin on the creek (a tricky species here). A watch of the Thames and the sky revealed just one more Common Tern, a Meadow Pipit and a Peregrine. The high tide roost at Bow Creek held four Common Sandpipers, but by 09.30 things had gone very quiet.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Taking the gloss off

Bouyed up by yesterdays Glossy Ibis sighting over Leytonstone, I arrived at EIDB early to coincide with the rising tide. Clear skies and a keen NW wind are not usually conditions that are productive in this area, and that was the case. The Thames was very quiet with just four Oystercatchers moving downriver the only sighting of note on the river. Overhead was quiet as was the copse (1 Willow Warbler) and the northern scrub. There were three Common Sandpipers on Bow Creek and a singing Linnet at Orchard Wharf. A singing Reed Warbler at the Ecology Park gave brief views and a Blackcap was in song. Wildfowl are gradually decreasing in numbers, with 30 Tufted Ducks and seven Teal. The Thames usually comes to life in the 2nd week of April so things should start moving soon.

Friday, April 08, 2011

First quarter: January to March 2011 summary

Mild weather over the Christmas period meant that the new year got off to a quiet start; the female Pintail from last December was present on January 1st and was seen intermittently until the end of the month, a good January count of 13 Shelduck was also made on the 1st along with 258 Common Teal, four Redshank and a Common Sandpiper in the roost, Single Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting and the only Kingfisher of the month; there was also a small movement of Woodpigeon in two flocks of 23 and eight, all birds going north. Two Gadwall were found on the 2nd and were the vanguard of a small influx that included a record count of six on the 10th and two on the 11th and 15th; a very elusive Water Rail was in the copse on the 2nd, and the western reedbed on the 18th and a 1st-winter type Black Redstart was seen on the 2nd, 9th and 29th; three Redwing were noted on the 2nd with the only other sightings for the month a total of 43 moving south in flocks of 30 and 13. Common Teal numbers had risen to around 275 on the 3rd, five Redshank were in the roost, two Peregrines were on the Millennium Dome and the only Little Grebe of the month was trilling from Bow Creek. A Stock Dove was present on the 9th and the following day a very elusive Chiffchaff was in the copse, it had a contact call identical to the eastern form tristis (Siberian Chiffchaff) but no plumage details could be ascertained so it will have to remain a possible. A good local count of 18 Linnet was made on the 10th with the same number noted on the 19th, wildfowl included a high count of 108 Mallard also on the 10th with the only Blackcap of the month, a female, in the copse the following day. The Greenfinch roost behind the Esso garage was only used sporadically with a peak count of circa 50 on the 17th, a monthly high count of Reed Buntings was made on the 17th when six were in the pylon reedbed at dusk. Two male Peregrines were involved in a low level territorial dispute over the ecology park on the 23rd, the wader roost held 12 Redshank and three Common Sandpipers, both monthly peak counts and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the Millennium Dome mudflats, the month came to an end with Common Teal numbers peaking at 300 on the 29th.

February was also very mild and as a consequence the only addition to the yearlist was Great Spotted Woodpecker on the 11th, a good local count of 11 Great Black-backed Gulls was also made on the same day. The female Pintail and the elusive Water Rail were both seen on the 20th, the only February sightings of both species, three Common Sandpipers were in the roost on the same date along with a monthly peak count of 16 Redshank. Peak wildfowl counts included 212 Common Teal on the 20th and 62 Tufted Duck on the 22nd, a good local count of 14 Chaffinch was made on the 22nd and two Herring Gulls of the Scandinavian form argentatus were identified at Bow Creek on the same date.

A record count of 17 Pied Wagtails was made on March 5th but this total was bettered next day when at least 19 were recorded, the overwintering Water Rail was in the western reedbed on the 5th and was last noted on the 15th. The first Oystercatcher of the spring appeared on March 6th with two noted on the 10th and 19th, six Greylag Geese, also on the 6th, were new for the year and on the same date the wader roost held ten Redshank and three Common Sandpipers, both monthly peak counts and two argentatus Herring Gulls were identified. The first Kestrel of the year was seen on the 10th along with the overwintering female Pintail and a monthly peak count of 66 Tufted Duck; Common Teal peaked at 107 on the 13th but thereafter numbers fell steadily with only 34 present on the 29th; two Chiffchaffs in the ecology park on the 13th were probably migrants and the first passage Meadow Pipit flew east on the 15th with two on the 26th and 27th. The last Redshank of the winter was noted on the 19th which was also the last date for the overwintering Pintail, also on the 19th singles of Stock Dove and Collared Dove were noted. The two main harbingers of spring in the Lower Lea, Little Ringed Plover and Sand Martin were over a week late this year with singles of both species appearing on the 25th along with only the second sighting of Kingfisher for the year, Little Ringed Plover numbers rose to four on the 28th along with a monthly peak count of eight Shelduck. The last few days of the month were good for passage with two Jackdaws through on the 26th, a Collared Dove on the 27th, a Common Buzzard flying north on the 28th and a Fieldfare on the 29th. Finally, a Common Seal was in the Thames at the basin on the 13th and 19th.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Water the giver of life

Another early pre-work visit. I had quite a shock when I arrived at EIDB, there was loads of water in the basin. High tide was 3 hours ago, it should have flowed out by now. A check at the lock gates held the answer, the sluices have been raised, Hallelujah. The consequences of this was that there were birds all over the basin. 59 Tufted Ducks, with most on the island (yes it is an island again), 10 Teal, Mute Swans, 3 LRP's and loads of Mallards. I hope that this now will be a temporary solution to the silting problem. A male Northern Wheatear was on the Pura site, a Willow Warbler and Blackcap at the Eco Park. The copse at EIDB held a Blackcap and a very quiet singing Willow Warbler, almost a whisper, must be the Bob Harris of Willow Warblers. Two Oystercathers were on the Thames, but the river was otherwise quiet. It should spring into life in next 7-10 days. Nothing new was added to the year list (birding isn't just about the numbers game) but it was encouraging visit

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Wait here

Arrived quite early at EIDB to find that the outdoor gym was already in full swing (i thought that this was supposed to be a Nature Reserve). So decided to head across to view the old Pura Foods site, which seems to have the most scope for interesting birds, probably due to the site's lack of public access. A quick scan revealed at last a Northern Wheatear, standing on top of a pile of stones. It was a female, a bit distant but nonetheless a Wheatear. I have spent many hours searching and waiting for one to crop up, particularly at the Pura site, which looks ideal for this doyen of spring migration. They have been slow this year and other London birders have spent many hours waiting for this species to arrive.
Back at the dock, the gym had quietened down. The copse had a singing Willow Warbler (first of the year) and a Chiffchaff. Four Sand Martins were prospecting the dock walls, and a couple of Oystercatchers flew down the river.There was next to nothing moving overhead and the Thames was quiet. Then the next arrival of keep fitters meant it was time to leave.