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.

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