Saturday, October 29, 2011

Woody's on the move

Arrived at dawn today with the hope of some overhead migration. I noticed that our old friend the West Wind was back again after a short absence, and according to the Met Office is due for quite a long stay. I often wonder what it must be like to be a birder in Devon or Cornwall when the winds are nearly always in your favour. It must be like Christmas has come every day, whereas in this area we adhere to the Narnia syndrome, its always winter but never Christmas.
Anyway this morning the skies were partly cloudy which was encouraging and the wind was light, and there was some movement. It started with a few Redwing and then a couple of Fieldfares and the first 27 of what would turn out to be a large Woodpigeon movement numbering 1400. The largest single flock was about 350 and all birds headed south west. The movement mainly happened between 8.00am and with just a handful afterwards. Redwings totalled 43 and Fieldfare 11 and there was also a few Chaffinches. The 1400 Woodpigeons was easily the largest count at the site. With all these birds about a few birds of prey were seen in flight (not often seen early morning), 2 Sparrowhawks and a Peregrine.
Teal numbers were up on the basin now that the water levels have been raised following the reed-bed management. There was no discernible movement on the Thames.

Friday, October 21, 2011

October ! more like June

This is a strange month, heatwaves, virtually no rain and now summer has returned. The weather forecasters have tried to dupe us by saying a blast of winter was on the way, well in London it has been a nippy in the mornings, but not much else. There was a chill in the air this morning but by 8am the chill had gone. By ten it was warm, and by eleven it was shirtsleeve conditions. A warm front is on its way from Iberia so expect it to get warmer. So what has these conditions meant for October migration usually the time for species from the north and east. Finches have been moving in good numbers (particularly Goldfinch) along the east coast and there have been decent records in London, but Thrushes have been slow with hardly a decent count. Though that could all change over the next few weeks, though I am not sure what effect the predicted southerly winds will have.
There was no overhead migration at EIDB this morning, though its not the best site to observe it, being next to the Thames it is low lying and many birds probably pass over out of sight, particularly in clear skies which have been prevalent recently. Three Little Egrets (my first site record this year, and the highest ever count) did circle the basin a few times before flying off downriver. Teal numbers were down again, only 40 in the area, but there was a sign of winter with a Redshank on Bow Creek. A few common Finches were about and that was about it. As I left the insects were buzzing and I was humming the Isley's Summer Breeze.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Should I stay or should I go

The weather looks good for migration along the eastern part of the country, there have been rarities in Norfolk and a good passage of birds along the Essex coast, what should I do, stay local or hit the coast. The Essex coast has been beckoning me for some time (I used to be a regular at The Naze), but Leyton Orient are playing at home, and we are on a roll, we have won our last two games and wins are rare. I can't do both, not enough time. Also I like to think of myself as a bit of an ornithologist, I like see to rare and unusual birds but patterns, movements and numbers are of more interest to me. Eventually the clear skies made up my mind (perhaps the party maybe be over on the Essex coast). go to the Dock in the morning and football in the afternoon.
Arrived at EIDB early just after dawn and it was evident that trying assign birds flying over to species level was going to be very difficult. There were birds moving but they were tiny dots in the clear blue sky, even Woodpigeons were barely visible and the ambient noise here makes picking up calls tricky. Fortunately there was some movement along the Thames, two Arctic Terns flew west and an adult Common Tern, the latest date for this species at the site. There was a continued movement in one's and two's (and mainly 1st winters) of Common Gulls with at least 45 counted. Two Great Crested Grebes flew over amazingly my first record this year and a Common Buzzard flew west fairly low over the river.
I did see a few small birds in flight, 69 Goldfinch (record count) a few Greenfinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. So an interesting visit, a record count, some late records and a first for the year, all I need now is the O's to win, but I wonder what was on the Essex coast.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to Black

At last a break from the relentless westerlies. The wind this morning was a light northerly moving to the east. There wasn't any noticeable overhead migration or movement on the Thames, but there was lots of common species about and a couple of good birds. The best record was of a female Black Redstart on Orchard Wharf, my first sighting since January and the first overall record since early June. Hopefully this will herald regular sightings of this special species. Also on Orchard Wharf was a Mistle Thrush a fairly rare bird here. There were many common species on Orchard Wharf mainly feeding on seeds, including Green, Gold and Chaffinch, a dozen Blackbirds a number of Song Thrush, many Starlings and 55 Linnets, one of the highest counts at the site. The dock area was quiet, Teal numbered 40, down on recent counts and apart from a few Mallards these were the only ducks. This morning was also blissfully quiet and peaceful and long may it remain so.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Come on feel the noise

In my last post i mentioned how quiet EIDB could be, well the quiet was shattered today, not by dogs or loads of people on the site but by a rave in a nearby warehouse at Leamouth. Music was blasting across the area and the bass was throbbing. I am not averse to loud music, I am partial to a bit of Sonic Youth or Deerhunter, but as a background to early Sunday morning birding, well I think Clifford T Ward would be more appropriate. While on the subject of music it was sad to hear the passing of Bert Jansch this week. A brilliant guitarist and a great man with an interest in birds. In 1978 he made an instrumental album called Avocet, which was series of compositions inspired by various bird species including Avocet, Kittiwake and Bittern.
The birding today was uninspiring, just 30 Teal, a couple of Meadow Pipits, a Ring-necked Parakeet ( a bit of a rarity here) two Blackcaps, an increase in Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and three Common Sandpipers on Bow Creek. October can be one of the most diverse months for birds but we need to get rid of these sodding westerly winds.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Not Many Birds but loadsamoney nearby

EIDB is a strange place to go birding. When the rest of London's skies can be darkened by the number of birds, or birds are falling from the bushes, this site can devoid of birds and any amount of time looking will produce virtually nothing. But sometimes when the rest of London is quiet it can produce a corker, such as last weeks Barred Warbler. Also EIDB is generally quiet, very few people or dogs (though it does have its mad moments) and one can happily spend hours in perfect isolation. But one thing troubles me, and thats its in close proximity to Canary Wharf. Yes there they are, the Banks, HSBC, Barclays and the rest, looming over the site, always in view. Those dark satanic blocks of steel and glass, those bastions of greed and avarice, and now more quantitative easing, which is basically another bank bail-out of 75Billion. And what will the banks do with it, same as the last lot, spunk it against the wall.
Today the wind moved to the north west and there was a nip in air, but the Thames was still very quiet. There was next to no visible migration apart from one flock of 22 Meadow Pipits which flew south, which in true EIDB style turned out to be our largest count on record. Teal numbers have now reached three figures but there seems to have been a clear out of some species, with no Warblers and Common Sandpipers (upto seven of late) recorded.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

September Reveiw

The month was in general quiet, but dominated by a few very good species. The weather systems were almost all westerly, apart from an easterly on the 1st, and again on 17-18th. The month ended with a heatwave as a huge high pressure took hold across most of mainland Europe. Fed by southerly winds the temperature climbed upto 29 degrees C.
Highlight was the Barred Warbler found by John Archer on the 26th, the second record here. Also making their second ever appearance was a Curlew on the Ist and a Siskin heard flying over on the 27th. Lesser Redpolls were recorded on the 18th and 27th, the 3rd and 4th records.
Wildfowl numbers gradually increased, Teal reached 83 and Mallards 170. Apart from the Curlew and regular Common Sandpipers, max 6, there were no other waders recorded, which was disappointing. Raptors were just the normals (Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk) with a presumed escape Saker Falcon seen on the 27th. The only Hirundines recorded were a group of over 20 Sand Martins on the 15th, part of a large movement of Hirundines across London at that time. Thirty Common Terns were recorded on the 25th, the largest count at the site this year. Numbers on Autumn passage usually reach well over 50. There were no unusual Gulls or Terns. The only Wheatear was on the 25th.
Warblers were also scarce with only Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Reed Warbler regular. A few Whitethroats were seen and a single Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler failed to show. A couple of species that have been hard to find this year, Kingfisher and Great Spotted Woodpecker put in some welcome appearance's at EIDB towards the end of the month.
A little bit of visible migration took place with mainly Meadow Pipits and a few Finches, but the skies were mainly empty. So a strange month, at times devoid of birds, very low on migrants, watching the river was like watching paint dry but with some corking birds, very typical of EIDB and the area.