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.

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