Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Long Stint but no Waders

Overcast skies, a northerly wind and a rising tide, these conditions have produced Terns and Waders on the Thames in previous late July's. So I settled down for a 3-4 hour watch. The first two hours produced just a few Gulls and two lone Common Terns. Eventually two groups of Common Terns (6 and 5) did pass through going west, but that was it after three and a half hours and not a wader in sight.
The rest of the area was also quiet, Wildfowl were down on recent weeks and there were no Waders on Bow Creek at high tide. Two Sand Martins were still at the dock and three Whitethroats were in the Northern Scrub. About 60+ Starlings were moving around the area and a Kestrel was hunting over Orchard Wharf. But a generally disappointing visit.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A July backward step.

I have been away at Southwold, Suffolk, taking in Latitude Festival as part of the break. I saw the Eels (amongst many others), still all beards and flat caps. In my last post I mentioned that July usually sees a build up of birds, well today bucked that trend, it was deadly quiet. Wildfowl were greatly reduced with only Mallard and Tufted Duck present. No Hirundines or Raptors and the only warblers were Reed Warblers. A single Little Ringed Plover was on the dock and four Oystercatchers flew up the Thames. Only three Common Terns were on the Thames continuing the poor run of sightings, does this signify a poor breeding season on the inner Thames. There were records of Terns and waders further down the Thames, but like most of this year they are not making their way this far up. I suppose things will get better but I am not holding my breath.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mainly Wildfowl

During July there are subtle changes to the birdlife of this area. Gulls start to return, some passage of waders and later in the month, Terns. Also wildfowl numbers start to increase. This latter event was obvious today with over 120 ducks on the basin. Over 100 of these were Mallards, including quite a number of near full grown youngsters. Six Teal were also present, this is unusual, birds don't usually start returning until August, in fact I am not sure if they have been recorded in any previous July. Also at large was the escaped Chestnut Teal, Australian in origin. This is quite an aggressive individual who was evicting Mallards from the slipway and taking over the area of the nearby Tern Rafts. Considering his origin, maybe he should be called Rupert.
There was very little else, just one Common Tern on the Thames, a very meagre return. Sand Martins are still breeding, presumably second broods and three Swifts flew north.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Second quarter: April to June 2011 summary

At least two pairs of Shelduck were present throughout and showed signs of breeding but as in previous years no conclusive evidence was found. The last wintering Common Teal lingered into early April with nine on the 10th, a small spring passage was then noted from the end of April with a pair on the 25th and a male on the 29th and two males on May 7th with one still present next day. A Gadwall on May 1st was the only record of the period and a male Pochard was noted at East India Dock Basin on April 24th & 27th and June 13th. Tufted Duck numbers peaked at 63 on April 20th and a male marked with a red saddle of Portuguese origin was present on April 17th and, remarkably, it was joined by a female on May 1st with both birds then seen intermittently until May 9th. Single Sparrowhawks were noted on May 1st & 30th with two on June 1st, Common Buzzards were logged flying south-west on April 27th and north on May 7th, there were only two records of Kestrel, singles on April 30th and June 19th and two of Peregrine, on April 10th and June 1st. The first Oystercatcher of the spring was noted on April 2nd with two seen on many dates from April 17th and a peak count of four on May 6th. Two pairs of Little Ringed Plover were holding territory with song flighting observed on several dates. Common Sandpiper passage commenced with a single on April 5th then two on April 10th, four on April 17th & 24th, three on April 25th and a single flock of six down the Thames on May 1st. A 2nd-summer Mediterranean Gull was found on June 1st with a 1st-summer bird noted on June 3rd & 4th; non-breeding mainly 1st-summer Black-headed Gulls began to build up during June with a peak count of circa 190 on the 19th. The only Arctic Tern of the period was on the Thames on April 17th along with five Common Terns, the first of the year; the peak spring count was just seven on May 7th, whilst two pairs attempted to breed but were both unsuccessful. A pair of Stock Doves was noted on several dates until May 7th and a Collared Dove passed through on April 2nd with a Ring-necked Parakeet on May 30th. Common Swifts were elusive with singles noted on May 14th & 30th and June 4th and then a good local count of 42 heading south during inclement weather on June 12th. The first Sand Martins of the year were two on April 10th, numbers peaked at nine on April 17th and two pairs bred successfully. Swallow passage was very poor with just two west on April 24th, five on April 27th and one north on May 1st. It was a very good period for House Martins with the first of the year on April 17th followed by two on April 24th, one on April 25th, five on April 27th, two on May 1st, four on May 14th, one on May 19th, two on May 30th, four on June 1st, two on June 3rd and two on June 19th, such a continuous series of sightings suggest that breeding has taken place locally. The only Meadow Pipit passed through on April 17th, Northern Wheatears enjoyed a good spring passage with singles on April 2nd, 6th, 20th & 19th and May 1st with a site record count of four on April 5th whilst a Whinchat on May 8th constituted the first spring record of this migrant at the Lower Lea. The first singing Reed Warbler was logged on April 10th and numbers gradually built up to a minimum of 16 singing on May 8th with at least six pairs staying on to breed. A Sedge Warbler was singing in the northern scrub on April 17th followed by single singers nearby on April 25th & 29th. The first probable migrant Blackcap was noted on April 5th with at least six singing by April 10th, one pair definately bred in the copse and at least two other pairs probably bred, the only Garden Warbler of the period was a showy non-singer in the copse on May 12th. The first Common Whitethroats appeared on April 17th with five present by April 24th, Two Lesser Whitethroats appeared on April 23rd and one or two were noted singing until May 8th. The first singing Chiffchaffs were noted on April 2nd and passage continued throughout the month but there was no evidence of breeding; the first singing Willow Warbler was also on April 2nd with singles on April 5th & 6th and two on April 17th the only other records in a poor spring for this species. An elusive Spotted Flycatcher was in the copse from May 12th to 17th, a species usually associated with autumn passage in the Lower Lea and the second site record of Rook involved a singleton flying east at the ecology park on April 17th. After a good showing last year the only record of House Sparrow was a singleton in the ecology park on May 6th. A singing Chaffinch was noted on May 1st but not thereafter and a singing Reed Bunting on April 10th with a pair seen on May 19th. Finally an escaped male Chestnut Teal, an Australian species, was noted intermittently from June 13th and a Common Seal was in the Thames off the basin on May 6th.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Lower Lea Common Sandpipers

Last winter up to three Common Sandpipers overwintered in the Lower Lea and could reliably be found in the high tide roost on the western side of Bow Creek Ecology Park. It has been known for several years that this is one of the best sites in London to see this species during the winter months but a paper in the latest edition of British Birds magazine reveals that as the Lower Lea holds at least 1% of the UK wintering population (which is estimated to be just 73 individuals) it is of important conservation significance. The full paper entitled Overwinter population estimates of British waterbirds can be found in British Birds, volume 104, pages 364 to 397. It is an interesting and sometimes surprising read and highly recommended.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Eels Foot

A very quiet visit, with the only noteworthy sighting being five Oystercatchers flying down the Thames. The Common Terns seem to have abandoned their breeding attempts on the basin, this will be the first time that this species has'nt successfully bred at EIDB since the rafts were installed in 1998.
An amusing scenario involved a Cormorant trying catch an Eel in the basin. It managed catch the Eel in shallow water, but let it go. The Eel landed on the mud and started wriggle away with the Cormorant floundering after it. The Eel managed to reach water again and swam off, the Cormorant by this time was completely caked in mud and to make matters worse was crapped on by a Lesser Black-backed Gull which was attracted by the commotion. Thinking of Eels, the band The Eels played Glastonbury and were all beards and flat caps, in fact quite a bit of Glastonbury seemed to be beards and flat caps, so at last after many years I am at the height of fashion, much to the consternation of my teenage children. To have a dad so hip(pie) is somthing of an embarrasment for them. The Eels Foot is a fine pub near Minsmere.