Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roosting Waders

Today was wader roost count on the Inner Thames. Basically a bunch of birders organised by Dave Morrison placed themselves on various parts of the Thames between EIDB and Grays and counted the number of waders roosting at high tide. Of course most of the roosts are known to local birders, but new roosts are still being found. In the EIDB area the main roost is in a well known area at Bow Creek and contributed 12 Redshanks and 4 Common Sandpipers, but there was also a single Common Sandpiper at a new roost further down the creek, this roost also held about 80 Mallards. Five Common Sandpipers is a very good count possibly the best winter count at the area.
There was very little else in the area, it was very mild and a strong south west wind was blowing . I believe that we need some cold weather to induce a change of species as things have become very predictable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fog, Mud, Dickens, Boris and some Birds

Its been over a week since I was last on the patch, the main reasons for my absence being work, football, music and latterly fog. It was still foggy this morning though I could just about see across the Thames. At least it was peaceful, particularly with the lack of planes flying over to London City Airport due to the fog. But that master of buffoonery the London Mayor Boris Johnson wants to build another huge airport in the Thames Estuary, partly he says to ensure that when the fog comes there are more chances that planes will fly. Well I suggest that Boris reads some Charles Dickens. Dickens wrote a series of short stories about a fictional town located more or less where Boris wants to place the new airport, and the name that Dickens gave this town, MUDFOG ! Of course the real loser will be the environment, if this airport is built every birder that watches the Inner Thames (including Rainham Marshes) might as well pack up and go home.
This mornings birding was rather uninspiring, so far November has been largely dominated by southerly winds and has been very mild, winter still feels a long way off. There was 303 Teal on the Basin, the highest count so far this winter, though over a hundred of those fled the Basin when a Peregrine swooped in. A chase ensued as the Peregrine raced after the flock down the Thames, but the flock kept a tight formation and the Peregrine gave up as the flock reached Charlton. One nil to the Teal, though I would not bet against a Peregrine equaliser. The wader roost at Bow Creek held 12 Redshank and 3 Common Sandpipers, and a single Shelduck was in the area. A female Sparrowhawk flew over the Basin which did not evoke a reaction from the Teal. There were very few small birds around.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fungi Forest

Sometimes I wonder why I bird EIDB as a local patch. It has some good days amongst mostly quiet ones. I think the main reason is that it is peaceful and mainly undisturbed. But those doubts are becoming more frequent and this mornings visit only added to them. I arrived early and went to check out the reed-bed area for possible Snipe or Water Rail only to find someone with their kecks down having a dump. With that area disturbed it was off to the woodland where right on cue the outdoor gym was in fall swing. Two areas disturbed, and EIDB is a small reserve and with those areas troubled there is not a lot left. It was incredibly warm for November and with this and southerly winds the Thames was understandably quiet, as was the dock basin. EIDB is a designated nature reserve but it is often not treated as one. During the Wild Space Your Place event in the summer the dock seemed to get back its status, but five months on the old bad habits have returned. Its time again to redefine the area before its too late as wildlife is being pushed out'
Today's sightings were meagre, just over a hundred Teal and three Redshanks on the creek were the only sightings of note. One area of interest was Orchard Wharf, the ground here was carpeted with Fungi of all shapes, sizes and colours. Orchard Wharf has no public access so it was not possible to check what species they were, not that I am any expert on Fungi, but it was an impressive sight and it would be interesting to know what there were.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Third quarter: July to September 2011 summary

Two eclipse drake Common Teals were the first returning birds of the autumn on the very early date of July 7th, three were present on July 10th and six on July 11th, numbers continued to build up throughout August with a monthly maximum of 40 on the 24th, whilst 90 were counted on September 17th, ten short of an unprecedented September hundred. Post-breeding Mallard numbers remained high with a peak count of 169 on September 11th with what was presumably the overwintering female Pintail among them on July 7th and 9th. Tufted Duck numbers by comparison remained low with a peak count of 21 on July 10th, thereafter numbers dropped off drastically with just a single recorded on August 24th and a September peak count of 7 on the 25th; the red-saddled female of Portuguese origin was noted on September 11th & 12th but no breeding was noted this year. Raptor sightings were restricted to the usual three species; single Sparrowhawks were noted on August 8th and September 1st, 13th, 20th & 25th with two on September 11th & 18th; the only Kestrel sighting was of two on September 18th, Peregrines fared a little better with singles on July 17th and September 4th, 17th & 18th with two on July 20th. There was a typical series of late summer Oystercatcher records with two on July 17th and August 5th, four on July 23rd and one on August 14th. Little Ringed Plover records were restricted to July with two on the 3rd, two on the 9th including a juvenile, two on the 10th including a song-flighting male, three on the 17th and the last of the year, a single on the 23rd. A Curlew over the basin and then off east was a good find on September 1st and constitutes the second record for the Lower Lea. The first migrant Common Sandpiper was in the high tide roost on July 1st and was the vanguard of what proved to be a very steady passage with further singles on July 10th and September 17th, five on July 17th, two on August 13th and September 3rd & 18th, four on September 4th & 11th and a peak count of six on September 25th. The first juvenile Black-headed Gull passed through on July 7th but young birds were very scarce this year with just three among a gathering of 450 July 17th. The first Common Gull of the autumn was noted on July 7th, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull put in an appearance on September 5th and a juvenile Kittiwake was on the Thames off the basin on August 18th. After a disastrous breeding season Common Terns remained scarce during the early part of the period with three logged on July 3rd, two on July 7th, then just singles on three dates until five on July 17th, things then picked up with 13 on July 17th, seven on August 2nd, 16 on September 1st, 13 on September 11th and a peak count of 30 flying west on September 25th; the only Arctic Tern was noted flying west on August 13th. Common Swifts remained unaccountably scarce with just two records, both of three birds, on July 11th & 20th; single Kingfishers were recorded on September 22nd & 27th with single Great Spotted Woodpeckers noted on September 18th, 19th & 26th. At least one of the two pairs of breeding Sand Martins was still feeding young in the nest in July of what was presumably their third brood; five migrants passed through on August 2nd and 23 were noted flying west during a significant hirundine passage over London on September 17th; House Martins were only recorded on two dates, a singleton on July 20th and two on August 2nd. There was a small passage of Meadow Pipits during September with two flying south on the 11th, 1 over on the 17th, three south on the 18th, two west on the 19th and three north-east on the 25th; the only Northern Wheatear of the period was noted on September 25th. An early Redwing passed through on September 27th, but even rarer in a local context was a Mistle Thrush on August 5th. Reed Warblers have had a good breeding season with newly fledged young noted well into August, at least five were logged on September 4th, one on September 18th with the last of the year on September 27th. Blackcaps were present throughout in small numbers with monthly maxima of seven on July 3rd, two on August 13th and three on September 4th, a Lesser Whitethroat was still singing on July 9th with another noted on September 4th, a family party of Common Whitethroats was in the ecology park on July 10th, three were present on September 4th with the last of the year on September 11th. The ornithological equivalent of lightning striking twice happened on September 26th when a Barred Warbler was found in the northern scrub at the basin, exactly five years and in almost exactly the same place as the first record of this very rare visitor to the Capital; it attracted a reasonable crowd of post-work birders but despite inclement weather which really should have kept it in situ, it could not be found the following day, it constitutes the ninth record for the London area. Chiffchaffs remained scarce early on in the period but passage picked up towards the end of August with at least six on the 29th, five on September 4th, six on the 17th, seven on the 18th and four on the 27th, the only Willow Warbler of the period was on September 4th. A Siskin was a good find on September 27th and there were two records of Lesser Redpoll, one flying south-west on September 18th and one on September 27th. On the escape front a Black Swan was at the basin on August 20th with a drake Chestnut Teal there on July 11th & 17th and a large falcon, either a Lanner or Saker flew over on September 27th. Finally the only Painted Lady butterfly of the autumn passed through on September 3rd.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

When the North wind doth blow we will have birds

A nip in the air, a North wind (though with a bit of west in it), it felt like late Autumn. In these conditions EIDB usually comes to life. It started slowly but at 08.40 a flock of 35 Lapwings flew over going west, the first record this year and the largest count at the site. The Thames contributed with a male Gadwall, an uncommon visitor here. Twenty two Redwings flew North and 62 Woodpigeons moved West. A large flock of Starlings (500+) were in the area, also the largest count at the site. By 10.30 it had gone quiet and I checked the roosting birds at high tide, there were 8 Redshanks but surprisingly no Common Sandpipers and Teal numbers were about 125. Unfortunately the North wind is only going to be around for a day or so to be replaced by another South West airflow, and I guess things will be back to normal.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Remember Remember the 5th of November

There was not much to remember about this visit. There wasn't any birding fireworks, in fact it was one of the quietest days of the year. The weather forecast had predicted Northerly winds but the wind was Westerly though I did detect a hint of a slight NW as I was leaving.
The only species of note was 5 Common Sandpipers on Bow Creek a good count at this time of year. Nine Redshanks were at the traditional roost site on Bow Creek and 130 Teal were in the area (125 of them on the basin). Birds are more conspicuous by there absence this year, Little Grebe has not been seen on the basin at all this year, this species is usually a common autumn/winter at the basin. Little Grebe not at the basin is like Gerry without the Pacemakers or Florence without the Machine. Northerly winds are predicted for tomorrow so I'll be back for another go.