Sunday, November 18, 2012

Third quarter: July to September 2012 summary

Jersey Tiger: Bow Creek, 25/08/2012
A site record count of at least 30 Canada Geese flying into the basin to roost was made on August 28th, while a hybrid Greylag x Canada Goose was a somewhat incongrous addition to the Lower Lea list on September 5th. Two Shelducks  were seen on July 2nd, a very early date for returning autumn birds so perhaps they were local breeders from further up the Lea Valley, the only other records were of single juveniles on September 2nd and 4th. Five Common Teal on August 11th were the first of the autumn, numbers built up steadily from then on with 12 on August 18th, 21 on August 15th, 36 on August 31st, 45 on September 2nd, 53 on September 5th and 115 on September 26th. The escaped Australian Chestnut Teal  was also seen on August 11th. Tufted Duck numbers remained reasonably high during the first half July with a peak count of at least 29 on the 10th, thereafter numbers dropped off dramatically with a peak August count of just four on the 25th; there was something of a recovery in September with 14 on the 5th being the monthly maximum; both of the Portuguese red-saddled birds were noted during September, the male on the 11th, 13th and 14th, both birds on the 19th and the female on the 20th and 26th. Great Crested Grebe can be found fairly easily on the docks either side of the Lower Lea but can be unaccountably scarce here. this year so far there has been only one record of a singleton on the Thames off the basin on September 21st. Single Sparrowhawks were noted on six dates between August 10th and September 11th with two on September 28th, Kestrels were scarcer with just singles on September 9th and 19th. Common Sandpiper passage started with four in the high tide roost on July 28th and peaked at seven on August 11th; the only other waders recorded were singles of Oystercatcher on August 6th and Little Ringed Plover on July 28th. Adult Mediterranean Gulls were logged flying west on July 4th and east on August 11th, single Yellow-legged Gulls were noted on August 18th and September 12th with the first Common Gull of the autumn seen on August 31st. Despite the lack of breeding sucess this year Common Terns were still seen around the basin in small numbers with eight on July 10th and a movement of 18 flying west on September 24th the best counts. Singles Ring-necked Parakeets were seen on July 25th and August 26th and single Great Spotted Woodpeckers were noted on July 9th, August 6th and 11th with two on September 21st; Common Swifts were noted on five dates with the only significant count 15+ on August 1st. The breeding pair of Sand Martins remained until August 11th but the only notable passge was a count of 17 flying south east on the late date of September 20th; other hirundines were in short supply with two Swallows on August 11th and a single House Martin on August 7th with a good local count of five on September 11th. Wheatear passage was extremely poor with just a singleton on September 12th the only record. Reed Warblers were noted singing until July 9th with at least one pair still feeding young on July 26th, there was a small passage during August with singles on the 11th and 24th, four on the 18th and two on the 31st, with single Sedge Warblers recorded on July 26th, August 31st and September 11th. A Blackcap was singing until at least July 9th, thereafter there were only four more records, all singles on July 28th, August 25th and September 2nd and 5th, Common Whitethroats were much scarcer with just singles on July 26th and August 31st. Single Chiffchaffs were recorded on ten dates between July 28th and September 29th with four on August 25th and six on September 19th the only multiple counts; Willow Warbler passage commenced with two on August 6th, thereafter singles were noted on August 7th, 8th, 10th, 20th and 25th with a very good count of five on August 31st the last of the year. It was a good period for lepidoptera with a male Long-tailed Blue at the basin on August 10th, a Painted Lady on August 8th and a good run of Jersey Tigers with two at the ecology park on August 6th, one at the basin on August 18th and singles at Bow Creek and the ecology park on August 25th; finally one, or perhaps two, Harbour Porpoises swam up the Thames on September 14th.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Westerlies again and again and again

The Autumn migration has a few weeks to run and it has largely been poor in this part of the country. Apart from one brief easterly which did produce some good birds its all been mainly winds from the west. Currently the Gulf Stream is sitting right across Southern Britain and is likely to stay there for the rest of this week at least, so expect strong westerlies and rain. So with very few grounded migrants we are left with the lottery of visible migration. So what has happened to the easterlies that used to blow in the Autumn. I am not looking through rose coloured glasses because a look through my notebooks of fifteen  and twenty odd years ago showed that easterlies and north easterlies did blow in September and October at least in one or more spells, sometimes for weeks. East coast falls though not common did happen quite regularly and if you were lucky enough to be present when this happened it was the most exciting birding you could get. I can still vividly recall falls I have witnessed, a bit like the first time I saw the Grateful Dead live in 1972, totally remarkable. Of course the Grateful Dead are no more, but easterlies are still possible. I presume the change in weather systems is because of climate change and experts predict that the climate will be far more influenced by the Gulf Stream in the future.
This mornings birding was poor, nothing moving overhead, the river was quiet and passerines were almost non-existent. I did record a Little Grebe on the basin, the first sighting of this once common species this year at the site. Teal numbers are gradually increasing moving upto 121 and there were 3 Common Sandpipers and 3 Redshanks on Bow Creek.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teasels Ripped My Flesh

A rare evening visit to coincide with the meeting of the EIDB User Forum was undertaken today. So far the Autumn migration has been very slow. Mainly clear skies and westerly winds have meant that migrants are very hard to find. There have been a few warblers,  particularly Sedge Warblers but waders, seabirds and hirundines have been almost non-existent. The area has been very busy during the Olympics especially on the Thames with vastly increased boat traffic and low flying helicopters so maybe this has had an effect. We also have failed to add a species to the year list since June, which is surprising given the poor species total so far this year.
This evening was in general quiet, there were no warblers recorded even though I spent some time searching the the best areas for this group of species. I did see something interesting moving about while I was passing by the copse and I darted in only to be attacked by some teasels. These plants have sharp heads at this time of year, and I did'nt find out what the bird was. A good sighting was a Wheatear on Orchard Wharf, the first of the Autumn. Five House Martins were feeding overhead, another good bird here and an Adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the O2 mud along with a number of Great Black-backed Gulls most of which were juveniles. It was quiet for people, no one doing Bradley Wiggins impersonations, and I don't mean growing long sideburns so I might try another evening visit again soon.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dead Heat

Arrived on site early to avoid the heat. In my experience birding in London in hot conditions goes from slow to completely dead. This mornings birding at EIDB was nearer the latter. There were no passage migrants and just a few passerines, which consisted of a few finches and a late brood of four Reed Warblers. An adult yellow-legged Gull was on the O2 mud, or is it the Dome, or in the Olympics, The North Greenwich Arena. The Thames was lifeless as was the copse. Two Common Sandpipers were on Bow Creek and that was about it, apart from a Jersey Tiger Moth in the basin.  So it was poor but not as bad as the Olympic Closing Ceremony. Russel Brand murdering 'I Am The Walrus' was a crime, and I think it was the worst television I have witnessed for ages. The Olympics were not as bad as I thought they were going to be, though I did weary of it in the second week,  mainly due to the security, packed trains and blanket coverage in the media. An incident I witnessed on the Docklands Light Railway summed up part of the Olympics for me. I was travelling opposite two posh kids with their dad, when we pulled into Custom House station. On one side of the tracks is the Excel Centre with its salubrious surroundings of hotels, and yachts, on the other side of the tracks is Custom House with its housing estates and corrugated iron. One of the kids looked upon Custom House with horror and said to his father 'Whats that dad', the dad replied, ' Don't worry about that son its where the poor people live'

Monday, August 06, 2012

A Trickle of Migrants

Early August has often been good for migrants  at EIDB so I usually make sure I visit the site as much as possible. But so far its been quiet and this morning was no different. The dock area was pretty dead with just a Greylag of interest. The Thames was also quiet continuing a poor spell, though its a bit livier just downriver. Common Terns were not recorded and there seems to have been a clear-out of this species. The northern scrub just held a few Reed Warblers, still feeding young. I did record a flock of about 20 birds feeding in the gardens, most were Tits, but this flock also held two migrant Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff. Sand Martins were still feeding young, I believe a second brood. The copse was as empty as some Olympic seats until I heard a screech, no it was not Paul McCartney but a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Moving to Bow Creek, an Oystercatcher was feeding on the mud. This species has been a bit hard to find this year so this was a welcome sight. Also around were four Common Sandpipers part of a large influx into the Lower Thames area. A rare sighting (especially in August) of a Swift concluded the bird records but the most spectacular sighting was of two Jersey Garden Tiger Moths at the Ecology Park.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chiffchaff at last

I have waited six months and 28 days but finally I have seen a Chiffchaff in the EIDB area. Normally a common migrant which has bred in the past, the Chiffchaff has been scarce this year. The bird was around the area of the entrance of Bow Ecology Park, a Blackcap was also seen here. The wader roost on Bow Creek held 4 Common Sandpipers and a migrant Little Ringed Plover was on the basin. The Thames and the Dock were very quiet with nothing of note, though about 20 Linnets were nearby on Orchard Wharf.
The main talking point around here was last nights Olympic Opening Ceremony. I thought some of it was good, the cauldron, the NHS part, though its ironic that the Government is trying to dismantle it and the fireworks, which I saw from my house window. Some of it was a bit confusing and I only got to Kuwait in competitor parade before falling asleep. But some of it was vomit inducing, particularly Mr Bean, I'm forever blowing bubbles and Paul McCartney, isn't time we moved on from the Beatles. I think Ray Davies (The Kinks) would have been a better choice, he's a Londoner whose wrote some great songs about London. Waterloo Sunset would have been good, or if you want la la la, then Lola, and the lyrics are relevant to the Olympics, 'Walks like a woman but talks like a man' probably describes some of the competitors. I came through Stratford this morning, it was early but the transport was running well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don't like the Kicks, but I got two Ticks.

Its Olympic Eve and things are a bit crazy in East London. There are a number of things I dislike about the Olympics, the transport situation, the security, the sponsorships, the sycophantic BBC, but most all, Rizzlekicks.  My teenage daughter has been to five Olympic events over the past couple of weeks and Rizzlekicks have played at most of them. In the early seventies I saw the Groundhogs three times in a week, but they were a decent band (apart from the half-hour drum solos). Also I am not  averse to modern music, I am very impressed with Bon Iver, First Aid Kit and quite a few others, but Rizzlekicks, was is it about. At best its nonsense, at worst its cobblers. A great opportunity has been lost with the Olympics to promote small British business and our heritage music and culture, instead they have sold their soul to the corporate devil. It needed people with vision to look at alternative ways of promoting the games. We have some great small breweries almost on the Olympic Park doorstep, but they have been shut out for the big boys. I could go on about the Olympics for hours but this a birding blog so onto today's sightings.
In the first hour the birding was as slow as a Red House Painters album, that's not to deride the Red House Painters who were a fine band. Very little was moving on the Thames and the basin was very quiet. I decided  to check out the northern scrub perhaps for early autumn migrants, even though the clear skies and hot conditions are not usually favourable. A few birds were around, Reed Warblers were feeding young, a Whitethroat (possible migrant) and some Greenfinch. Then a bird popped into view, a Sedge Warbler, only the second record this year and site year tick for me and a definite migrant. I then went to check the copse and as I approached a Ring-necked Parakeet flew out, again only the second record this year and another site year tick. After that things went back to being quiet.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Second quarter: April to June 2012 summary

                     Northern Wheatear at Bow Creek Ecology Park, April 30th 2012,
                    at least 11 birds passed through between April 4th and May 15th.

Following on from good counts during the winter months Shelduck numbers remained high throughout the spring with monthly maxima of ten on April 14th, 11 on May 13th and nine on June 25th; as in previous years at least two pairs showed signs of breeding but no ducklings were seen by the end of the second quarter. Common Teal numbers dropped very quickly during April from a monthly maximum of 45 on the 5th to three on the 15th with none recorded after this date; Tufted Duck numbers remained high with monthly maxima of 54 on April 23rd, 29 on May 5th and 22 on June 11th; the pair of Portuguese origin fitted with red nasal saddles were noted intermittently from April 4th to May 31st and were also reported from Hilfield Park Reservoir and Millwall Docks. Single Red Kites were noted flying west on May 15th and 23rd with the only Common Buzzard of the period flying east on April 30th; Sparrowhawks were reported on April 2nd and 10th and May 15th, Kestrels fared a little better with two on April 6th and 8th and singles on April 17th, 21st, 24th and 30th and May 5th; a large raptor flying high west on April 11th was probably a Marsh Harrier but was too distant for a positive identification. Three Oystercatchers were noted on April 12th, but it was to be a poor period for this species with just singles on May 5th and June 30th the only other records; conversely Common Sandpipers continued to be seen in good numbers with seven in the high tide roost on April 8th, 9th, 11th and 21st, counts of six were made on April 2nd and 6th and four were noted on April 14th and May 1st, spring passage ended with two on May 28th. Mediterranean Gulls are being seen with increasing regularity with with two adults on June 13th, an adult on June 25th and a 1st-summer on June 29th, the only other interesting larid was a 2nd-summer Yellow-legged Gull on June 25th. The future of the Common Tern as a breeding species at the basin is now in serious doubt, only one pair attempted to breed this year but were unsuccessful, several birds were seen on the Thames, probably commuters from other colonies further downstream or in the docks, with monthly maxima of five on April 12th, five on May 3rd and at least seven on June 29th; two Arctic Terns flying east on April 25th were the only other terns of note. Stock Dove numbers are up this year with four on April 6th, six on April 15th and five on May 15th; the mystery of where these birds breed may have been partially solved when a pair was seen prospecting nest holes in the river bank on the Pura Foods peninsula on April  4th; the only Collared Dove flew east on April 4th and a Ring-necked Parakeet flew east on April 13th. The first Common Swifts of the year were a group of six flying north on May 5th, one flew north on May 8th with the only other records two groups of four on May 15th and June 30th, there were four sightings of Great Spotted Woodpecker, all singles on April 19th, 20th and 21st and June 25th. The first Sand Martin turned up on the very late date of May 4th and the highlights of spring passage were five on May 5th and three on May 13th, despite the late arrival one pair have stayed on to breed at the basin; the first Swallows were a group of four flying north on April 13th, spring passage was fairly light with two south on April 30th, four on May 5th, one on May 21st and three on May 23rd, all flying north and a late single on June 11th the only other records; House Martins remained characteristically scarce with one flying north on April 24th, one on June 13th and four on June 25th the only records. A Yellow Wagtail flying east on May 4th gave a call suggestive of one of the eastern races; the only Meadow Pipit of the period flew west on April 14th. There was a good passage of Northern Wheatears including two on April 4th, three on April 14th, at least four on April 30th and singles on May 1st and 15th. The first singing Reed Warbler turned up on April 21st and numbers had built to four by May 15th, a singing Sedge Warbler was in the ecology park on  May 4th along with two Garden Warblers, another was noted on May 8th. The first Blackcap arrived on April 6th, around five were noted on April 13th, 21st and May 1st with a very good count of at least 14 made on May 4th, one or two pairs have stayed on to breed. The first Common Whitethroat was singing on April 19th with numbers building up to seven on May 4th, at least two pairs are breeding; Lesser Whitethroat passage was very concentrated with singles on May 2nd and 3rd and two on May 4th and 5th the only records. Following on from a very poor winter Chiffchaffs remained very scarce with singles on April 4th, 6th, 14th, 16th and 21st the only records; The first singing Willow Warbler turned up on April 10th and numbers peaked at three on April 14th, two birds were singing intermittently until April 24th with singles on May 3rd and 4th the last of spring passage. A Goldcrest on April 19th was a good find, even better was a juvenile Nuthatch in the basin copse on June 25th, the first record of this unlikely species at the lower Lea. Three House Sparrows flew west on May 4th, a good record of an increasingly difficult species here; two Linnets were singing on April 13th and 14th with at least one pair showing signs of breeding and finally a Reed Bunting was noted on April 12th.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nuthatch, first for EIDB

June is usually considered the quietest month for birding in London. A time for recharging the batteries after rushing around trying to connect with migrants and a time for checking on breeding birds. The latter was the option today and some decent weather was a bonus. A check on the mud in front of the O2 revealed an adult Mediterranean Gull, a good bird for this area. The dock held 9 Shelducks, 3 Common Terns and  the usual waterfowl. Reed Warblers were feeding young as were a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, who have nested nearby. I decided to check the copse to see if any young birds were present, and immediately saw something strange, a bird was crawling down a branch head-first. A Nuthatch, the first to be recorded at the site and my 126th species here. I saw the bird very well, it was quite dull in colour so I presume a young bird. I think the nearest breeding area for the Nuthatch is across the Thames at Oxlees Wood, so it may have come from there. I phoned John Archer who also saw the bird, John also saw a 2nd Summer Yellow-legged Gull on the O2 mud, though the Med Gull had gone. The O2 mud has quite a turnover of Gulls  so is always worth a look. To round things off I recorded 4 House Martins on Bow Creek, and Insect interest was 2 Brimstones a Red Admiral and a Emperor Dragonfly. Who said June was quiet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Touch of the Mediterranean

Woke up to bright sunshine, a good day to check the patch for breeding birds. By 10 am it was warm and I was basking in the sunny conditions at EIDB and feeling at ease with the world. I was noticing that the Black-headed Gull numbers were start to build up on the island when two full adult Mediterranean Gulls flew in at 10.25, they circled a few times calling, a very distinctive call which I don't hear very often. They landed on the island and were present for 15 minutes when all the Gulls were spooked by something. Some of the Black-headed Gulls returned, but not the Meds. I know some birders find Gulls boring and samey looking, but these two birds were magnificent. Jet black hoods with white eye crescents, red bill and legs, subtle tones of grey and white, what's not to like. I also managed to record a House Martin on Bow Creek, my first at the site this year.
The main reason for visiting the patch today was for breeding birds, well not surprisingly considering the weather, there was little sign of successful nesting. The pair of Common Terns have abandoned their nest, they laid eggs but I presume gave up, or the eggs were predated. The only young birds I saw were two Coots and some Dunnocks. Usually at this time of year there are a number of young birds around the copse (mainly Tits and Thrushes)  and juvenile waterfowl. I also failed to see any birds carrying food to nest sites. At least it is only mid June and pairs have the time to try again, but with the weather remaining dodgy the breeding season could be a wash-out. On a brighter note there were at least five singing Reed Warblers, a recent increase.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Red is the Colour

The Blues have won the Champions League, the Sky Blues the Premier League and at last the the sun is out and the skies are blue, but the bird news at EIDB is mainly red. Today saw another Red Kite fly over going west, very similar to last week, except this one was a little higher. This is the fourth record at the site . Also today saw the return of the female red nasal saddle Portuguese Tufted Duck. Three Swallows flew north proving that migration isn't quite finished yet, though it does seem to be almost over. Reed Warbler numbers are very low and the reedbeds are quiet, about 10 pairs bred last year and at the moment there are only 2 singing birds. It looks like 2 Sand Martin pairs are breeding so all is not lost after the very late arrival of this species, though its unlikely that we will have a three brooded pair like last year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mid May and its colder than a Penguins chuff

I am not particularly fashion conscious but my Spring  and Summer collection is still firmly ensconced in the wardrobe. |I am still wearing the old coat, pullovers, thick socks and gloves, and this morning I really needed them. It was freezing with a keen NW wind howling across the Basin. For a change I was the only person at EIDB and it was desolate,  like the land of Zin. There was also a lack of avian life, nothing was singing and very little moving, and I did question my sanity. But about 10 o'clock the sun broke through, it didn't produce much heat but brightened things up. A few birds chirped up, a couple of Reed Warblers, a Blackcap and a Whitethroat, and a Wheatear appeared on the Pura Foods site along with 5 Stock Doves. Then I noticed some Gulls buzzing a bird flying west over the Thames, a Red Kite, only the third record here and a species I had in mind as there has been quite a number around the London area recently. The same bird was later picked up flying over the Tower of London. The sky cleared a little and a Sparrowhawk flew over followed by 4 Swifts. Two more Reed warblers were singing, all of which were singing from bushes even though there is plenty of reed in the area. Eventually two Sand Martins emerged from the nesting hole though they soon went back in again. Though the sun was now fully out it was still cold and it was time to leave. Later on there was massive hail storm.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Boris in Birds out. Saturday 5th May

So Boris is back and whatever the politics it could spell disaster for London's birds. He is in a very strong position, he is the only Tory to win anything recently and this gives him the mandate to push for his various schemes,  the chief one amongst them being the airport in the Thames. He has Cameron by the goolies and will pile on the pressure. I am sure most birders will aware of what an airport in Thames will do for birds and other wildlife The Thames is an internationally important site for Wildfowl and Waders. I hope the RSPB are going to pipe up over this, they have been worryingly quiet of late. Also Boris wants to relax the planning laws in London making developments easier and swifter. I fear many of our biodiverse brownfield sites will be at risk, many which reside along the Thames.
I thought we were living in times of austerity but the government has made £200,000 available to eradicate the 100 Ruddy Ducks left in the UK. At £2000 per duck what are they killing them with, unless they are going to disturb them so they fly then shoot them down with surface to air missiles.
 Saturdays visit to EIDB was always going to be an 'after the Lord Mayor's show' type of event after John Archer's impressive haul on Friday. He recorded 4 unusual species (Yellow Wagtail, House Sparrow, Sedge Warbler and Garden Warbler) the first Sand Martin of the year plus good numbers of commoner migrants. There was no sign of the unusual species but I did record my first Sand Martins, 6 flying north and 2 hanging around the basin, hopefully to breed. Also I recorded the first Swifts at EIDB this year with a massive count of 6 (this is a big count at EIDB) and my first Lesser Whitethroat. So it was decent, but still no Chiffchaff.  But the main talking point was the weather, it felt like January and birds were very reluctant to move or sing and hanging around staring at bushes soon became toe numbing.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Double Dip at the Dock but a Treble Bonus

There was a strange yellow thing in the sky today, and it radiated heat. After what seems like weeks there was a respite from the rain. Though the sunny conditions also brought loads of people out, the dock was very disturbed. Today's visit  was planned with the hope of getting Chiffchaff and Sand Martin two species that I usually record in March. There was a decent passage of Hirundines yesterday and I was hopeful, but to no avail, another blank. But it was not all doom and gloom two female Wheatears were on Orchard Wharf and these joined two males on the Pura Foods site. Whilst eating my lunch a Common Buzzard drifted over low flying east at 13.18 (1st record in 2012), and two Swallows flew south perhaps deciding to get out of the country while the going is good. So three site year ticks is not bad in a poor year. Other species around were a couple of Common Terns, two singing Blackcaps and a female Kestrel. The weather is set go back rain tomorrow with northerly winds not good birding weather unless you are a Thames watcher. These conditions were in place during the last weekend and a number of goods birds were recorded at various sites along the river. EIDB has over the years  had a few decent birds in these conditions, but its very sparse. I have often wondered why waders, wildfowl and seabirds do not in general get up this far. I thought that perhaps the Thames Barrier acted as a barrier to birds, but I believe I now have an insight to the problem. This year I have regularly watched the Thames a few miles downriver at Gallions Reach and I have seen many good birds from here. On a number of occasions I have seen birds fly past me heading upriver towards Woolwich, they get as far as Woolwich Arsenal then turn  around and fly back downriver. This has happened to Godwits, Dunlin, and Curlews. The river at Woolwich narrows and also the buildings start to rise giving a hemmed in feeling. The river at Gallions Reach and Barking has an open aspect and I believe this may be a reason why the most of the birds turn back. There are always exceptions and some species particularly Terns have a reputation for going upriver. It is something that I will continue to monitor.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

EIDB set to become new Mecca for yank passerines

According to the London Evening Standard a new port for international cruise liners, including those from the US of A, is to be built on the Thames just upstream from the Millennium Dome. The article waffles on about the monetary benefits of such a project to the great unwashed of the impoverished borough of Greenwich, but all I could think about was the prospect of multitudes of stowaway YANKEE PASSERINES jumping ship into the welcoming sylvan arms of the copse at East India Dock Basin. The battered Collins would be replaced in the fieldbag by a pristine copy of Sibley in anticipation of London's first Savannah Sparrow; with no more freezing December visits in the futile hope of adding House Sparrow to the frankly pathetic yearlist.  The Port of London Authority tide tables would be replaced by Cunard Lines timetable for trans Atlantic cruise liners; it's gonna be awesome. There are precedents, a Northern Mockingbird spent a week in May 1988 on the Essex coast and a Northern Oriole overwintered in a Southend-on-Sea garden from December 1991 until March 1992, both were suppressed, but no one can tell me that these birds didn't cross the pond on boats. Interestingly no Nearctic passerines have been found at Tilbury, where the liners dock at the moment, but I recall a very convincing report of an American Robin at Dagenham Chase a few years ago, not a million miles away from the river at Tilbury. So there it is, the article seems to suggest that there is a very good chance of this happening, I just hope the good people of  Lea Valley Regional Park will leave enough habitat for the birds to take advantage of.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Warblers in but where are the Hirundines

Today I embarked on a rare lunchtime visit to EIDB, prompted by a text this morning from John Archer that a Goldcrest was in the area. Goldcrests are a very difficult species to see at EIDB, far rarer than Firecrests. I thought there was a fair chance that the bird would still be around with all the rain about, and I did relocate the bird in the copse, before it moved back into Virginia Quay. This is the first spring record of this species at the site. Also in the copse was a Willow Warbler, a Whitethroat and a pair of Blackcaps, none were in song. Amazingly I still have failed to connect with a Chiffchaff at EIDB this year.
There is still no sign of our Sand Martins and it is beginning to look doubtful that the species will breed this year. I have only seen a handful of Sand Martins this spring and I know of a number of birders who have yet to record one at all. This is looking like there is a serious problem, probably somewhere along their migration route. Other Hirundine species have hardly been common, just one day record of Swallows, no House Martins and it is to early for Swifts. This has so far been a strange spring migration with weather all over the place and many birdless days. We need some settled conditions, but it does look good at the moment.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

At last some Migrants

EIDB has been very slow this spring but this morning there was a respite from a number of blank days. Two Willow Warblers were singing, one in the copse and one in the Eco Park, there was also a singing Blackcap in the copse, though I have yet to record a Chiffchaff this year. Five Common Terns were present on the Thames, I had been expecting to see this species as they have been in the river for a few days. But still no Sand Martins, in fact I have not seen a Sand Martin anywhere this year, something that Jonathan Lethbridge has also mentioned on his blog. I also managed to add Oystercatcher when three noisy individuals flew onto the mud in front of the O2. There does at last seem to be some movement happening at last with Ring Ouzels and Redstarts being recorded at sites quite close to this area, though the weather is set to change again with cold northerly winds forecast.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Dead Weather

Clear skies are back again. The cloudy conditions on Saturday did produce a few birds, but this morning there were no fresh migrants to be found. Its said that with clear skies migrants fly straight through, but you would expect the breeding birds to arrive. In general this has not happened, there is no sign of our breeding Sand Martins. So this points to a problem with birds getting through. There could be a blocking high pressure system in the Channel and North Sea, or maybe problems further south in Europe or Africa. The weather is due for a big change with cloudy cold and damp conditions fuelled by a NE wind. It does not sound to promising but has to better than of late.
I spent some time on the site today and the point of interest was 6 Common Sandpipers at roost on Bow Creek. There have been good numbers overwintering on this site but some these could be migrants. This recent weather has been good for raptor sightings so I spent over an hour watching the sky and produced nothing, though I did record a Sparrowhawk flying low over the dock.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

First quarter: January to March 2012 summary

It was a good period for Shelduck, four were present on January 1st but numbers built up to a maximum of 24 on the 19th, February produced a site record count of 27 on the 12th, thereafter numbers dropped off with 14 the maximum for March on the 1st, 8th &14th,  with at least one  pair prospecting nest sites on the 31st. A pair of Mandarin on the Thames on March 31st was only the second site record whilst a flock of seven Wigeon also on the Thames on February 12th was the third site record and the first multiple count, a Shoveler  was on the Thames on the same date. Common Teal numbers were comparatively low at the beginning of January with 132 on the 1st, cold weather ensured that numbers rose quickly with 257 on the 9th and a monthly maximum of 340 on the 14th, numbers continued to increase during February with a site record count of over 460 on the 9th, the maximum count for March was 170 on the 8th but this had dropped to 36 by the end of the month. The overwintering female Pintail was seen on January 1st and on a total of 22 dates until the last sighting on February 28th; a pair of Gadwall was present on February 9th and 10th with a male on March 17th and two males on March 18th. The silt problem meant that Tufted Duck numbers fluctuated but only really built up when high spring tides in mid January put some water in the basin, monthly maxima were 56 on January 17th, 36 on February 27th and 52 on March 29th; a female fitted with a red nasal saddle on March 28th & 29th was presumably the bird of Portuguese origin noted last year. Single Sparrowhawks were noted on January 6th, February 5th & 6th and March 31st with two on March 8th, two Kestrels were seen on January 7th with singles on February 28th and March 31st the only other sightings; singles Peregrines were recorded on January 1st & 4th and February 12th with two on January 10th. the first Oystercatchers of the spring were two on March 25th, a Little Ringed Plover reported on March 29th was at least a week overdue, the only other record was of two on March 31st. A flock of around 70  Lapwing flying east on February 5th was a record site count, three on the Pura Foods peninsula on February 11th and six flushed from Bow Creek on February 12th were the only other records with singles of Common Snipe on January 4th, Woodcock on February 11th and Curlew on February 27th helping to bost the wader count to an excellent eight species. Redshank numbers remained low throughout with monthly maxima of 19 on January 6th, 17 on February 4th and ten on March 4th, 6th & 7th with the last of the winter noted on March 17th; by comparison Common Sandpipers had their best ever winter with monthly maxima of four on January 2nd & 7th, a site record winter count of seven on February 9th & 26th and six on March 26th. At least three different Yellow-legged Gulls were recorded on seven dates; an adult on January 1st, a 2nd-winter on January 6th, a 3rd-winter on January 8th, an adult on January 18th, a 2nd-winter and an adult on February 14th and a 2nd-winter on February 27th and March 16th; other interesting larid records included a Scandinavian Herring Gull on January 1st and a movement of 65 Common Gulls  flying west on January 8th. The first Stock Doves of the year were a group of four on February 29th, followed by two on March 1st, three on March 4th and two on March 22nd, 25th & 31st; single Kingfishers were noted on 12 dates between January 1st and March 31st with two on January 2nd and possibly three on January 4th; single Great Spotted Woodpeckers put in an appearance on January 9th, 15th & 19th. Passage Meadow Pipits included six north on January 10th, one on January 14th, four west on February 12th, three on March 7th and two north on March 29th. Both Grey Wagtail and Pied Wagtail were noted on numerous dates with a singing Grey on January 24th and a singing Pied on March 31st. A flock of around 50 Fieldfare on February 6th was a site record count, the only other record was of three fling west on February 12th, Redwings fared a little better with at least ten on February 6th, 35 flying west and one in the copse on February 10 and 18 flying mainly west on February 12th. There were no wintering warbler records, the only  Blackcap was singing in the copse on March 31st with singing Chiffchaffs noted on March 18th, 19th, 20th & 22nd. A sizable Linnet flock frequented Orchard Wharf during January, 45 were present on the 1st with around 80 noted on the 8th, a site record count; at least two pairs were holding territories in late March; other finch counts included at least ten Chaffinch on February 15th with up to three singing males present into late March and at least 11 Goldfinch on March 16th; Reed Buntings were noted on several dates with a peak count of nine on February 5th. Finally two pairs of Long-tailed Tits attempted to breed but both nests failed, at least one as a direct result of human disturbance. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Captain Corelli's Mandarin

A change in the weather, gone are the clear blue skies, the balmy air, and in its place cold cloudy conditions, though the wind is still from the north. Still it has meant that less people were around this morning, though the litter from yesterdays throng still remained. It also felt a bit more likely that birds might be around, even migrants. In fact my first bird of the morning was a singing Blackcap in the copse (1st record this year) and my first (and only) spring migrant at EIDB this March. March 2012 has been largely forgettable, a couple of Chiffchaffs and a report of a LRP are the only other spring migrants so far.
As usual I gave the Thames a quick look and saw two ducks far away downriver, they looked rather odd and my first thought was Mandarin, but too distant to clinch. Then to my benefit a boat came upriver and put them to flight and the birds flew towards me landing in front of me before heading off towards Blackwell Basin. A pair of Mandarin, only the 2nd record here, the first one being in May 2004. I usually do not benefit from boats disturbing birds, so this was a welcome change. Buoyed up I had a good look around the area but apart from a Stock Dove on Pura Foods there was nothing of note. So migrants are still very thin on the ground but I have heard that there has bee a huge fall of migrants at Portland this morning, so things maybe starting to happen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fogged off, Pochard and Crowded out.

Arrived to thick fog, though just up the road it was pretty clear. Met up with Nick and we hung around until it started to clear at about 9am. Though we searched the area all over we could not locate a single spring migrant. I personally have failed to record a spring migrant at the site so far, ( Chiffchaff is the only one recorded as yet), and by this time I have usually 3-4 spring migrants on the list. LRP,s and Sand Martins are about a week late. This could be due to the high pressure that is sitting across the east and south east of the country at the moment. Banks of fog are present in the North Sea and the English Channel and the winds are north easterly. This mainly static air could prevent bird movement from a southerly direction, or perhaps the migrants are just avoiding the site like the rich avoid paying their taxes. I mean what sort of country rewards people for dodging their taxes. Do they really think those sort of people are going to cough up because the rate is 45p and not 50p, completely crazy. There would be an outcry if people claiming welfare benefits were given more money to encourage some of them not cheat the system. George Osborne is as stuck up as his wallpapers.
Anyway back to birding, what there was of it. When the fog lifted on the Thames I spied a duck on the far side of the river which turned out to be a Pochard, the first record this year and our first ever record from the Thames. We then had skywatch which yielded nothing. There were at least three Chaffinches singing though we have never clinched a breeding record. At about 11am a hoard of punters came into the dock more equipped for Clacton Beach than a visit to a Nature Reserve, it was time to leave.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fog on the Thames

I am trying to visit the site more frequently in the week, before work, as the weekends at EIDB are becoming quite disturbed. This morning there was a real pea-souper of a fog, I could barely see 10 yards in front of me. The fog started to lift at about 9.00 and was almost gone by 9.40 and I wondered what goodies it was hiding. Unfortunately it was very little, there were no spring migrants though often this site does attract an early migrant in the first half of March. The winter visitors are as expected declining, only 30 odd Teal and 22 Tufted Duck and no Redshanks, though a Kingfisher is holding on, though this does seem to be an early morning bird. Shelduck numbers are holding up with 14 still on the dock. It is possible that some of these birds may hang around to breed in the area. Passerines where thin on the ground with a female Reed Bunting the best of them.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Those were the days

Common Whitlow Grass at Bow Creek, 11/3/2012 
A beautiful spring morning with the prospect of a an early migrant was spoiled by an act of thoughtless vandalism on the part of Lea Valley Regional Park; the extensive patch of bramble in the copse at the basin has been heavily pruned in the last few days despite the fact that a pair of Long-tailed Tits have built a nest there. You would have to be blind not to have noticed these delightful birds going about their business and one has to wonder what plans LVRP have for this increasingly compromised site. My personal belief is that LVRP pay scant lip service to the needs of wildlife at this "reserve" and would probably ditch it or totally amenitise it if they could, it seems to me that we are seeing the latter course in action. As Gary mentioned in the previous post , dog walkers have become a serious problem at the patch, today I aborted my trip around the ecology park on account of a family of chavs with two out of control dogs which made birding the site totally pointless, trying to explain to these "people" the damage their mutts are doing would be met with slightly less success than trying to explain quantum physics to a chimpanzee. This used to be such a good place to bird, you could go a complete day scarcely seeing another person, there was no silt, so wintering wildfowl often included Goldeneye and occasionally Scaup with local scarcities like Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard and Great Crested Grebe much more regular, the comparative lack of housing made for more habitat and fewer people (point one I know but worth repeating), and, perhaps most importantly, the site wasn't "owned" by LVRP. With the imminent opening of a footpath linking the ecology park to Canning Town station effectively making the reserve a commuter rat-run, things are destined to become even worse. Highlights of my truncated visit today included six Shelduck, 108 Common Teal, 47 Tufted Duck, three Common Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail.   

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Who let the Dogs out. Thursday 8th March

A sunny March day though with a keen and cold WNW wind and in these conditions little hope of an early migrant. The number of wintering birds has remained roughly the same over the week with 130 Teal in the area and about 30 Tufted Duck. Shelduck numbers are also holding up with fourteen being counted this morning. A Kingfisher was moving around the dock, this species will move off soon as they do not breed in the area. Two Sparrowhawks were floating around, a male and a female, though they were not showing signs of being a pair. There was little sign of breeding and very little song.
One thing that is increasing at EIDB is the number of dogs using the site. A few years ago there was only a couple of dogwalkers but there are many now and there are only two places to run a dog on the site, the meadow and the copse, and the copse is one of the most important areas for nature , but it is becoming very disturbed. It is hard to see how the site can remain viable as a Nature Reserve with the pressures that are on it.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

When its Spring again

The 1st of March brings thoughts of spring migrants, particularly in weather like this morning, warm, sunny with little wind, though a bit misty on the Thames. Though realistically the chances of a spring migrant in this area are slim, but in ten days time that is a different matter. Good weather in early March often leads to a dull period for birding, you are waiting for the migrants, while the winter visitors are returning north. This is happening at the Dock, the Teal numbers are fast reducing, just 120 today in the area, but to be honest many winter species never reached the totals expected. One sign of spring is the return of Stock Doves, John Archer had four flying over yesterday and I had two foraging on the old Pura Food site today, these are the first records this year. As of yet there is not a great deal of birdsong and the trees and bushes are just beginning to bud and in some cases open their leaves. This has probably been checked by the recent cold spell.
John Archer had an interesting sighting on Monday of a Curlew flying upriver, only the third record here. Funnily enough its odds on that I saw this same bird at while I was at Gallions Reach on the same day. A Curlew flew purposefully past me upriver about 10 minutes before John saw it. Its nice to know that some birds get past the Thames Barrier as far as EIDB.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

After the Goldrush

After last weekends excitement things have returned to normal. The special birds have moved on and we are left with the usuals. This mornings visit was timed to coincide with high tide and bird numbers were generally low. Teal just about scraped above 200, there was just one Common Sandpiper and 14 Redshanks, though there was a decent count of 21 Shelduck. A Kingfisher graced the basin and a number of Black-headed Gulls were feeding here. A nagging south west wind was blowing which usually is a sign of mundane birding. I must admit my thoughts are turning now to the upcoming spring migration, EIDB does have a reputation for attracting early migrants.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ducks Deluxe

It looks like EIDB area has got its mojo back, the last couple of days have been very eventful. A Woodcock yesterday and a suite of goods birds today. Arrived today to light freezing rain landing on already icy surfaces, and on more than one occasion I did an impromptu audition for the next series of Dancing on Ice. Met up with Nick at the Eco Park but no sign of the Woodcock, but I did add a Meadow Pipit and 10 Redwings flying west, both site year ticks for me. Wandered along Bow Creek to the dock where 6 Lapwings were feeding on the mud, an unusual sighting here. The dock was still mainly frozen so we headed for the Thames where we picked up seven ducks in front of the O2 which turned out to be Wigeon. This is only the third record here and the highest count. Just after this three Fieldfare flew over, another site year tick. We then headed to East India Dock station to meet with the planned LNHS walk to EIDB. The group caught up with the Wigeon again who had moved a short way downstream, we noticed that a number of other wildfowl were with them, Nick thought one of them looked like a Shoveler and a quick look confirmed this, another rare species here and part of an influx on the inner Thames today. A Peregrine was on the Dome and another seven Redwing flew over and one was in the copse. After this things got quiet. The cold weather had worked its magic and its only three weeks until the first spring migrants arrive.. Nick returned to the area at high tide this afternoon and saw the Pintail and an impressive count of 27 Shelduck, making it a total of seven duck species seen today.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


It's funny how thinks turn out, one minute I'm cursing some old dear under my breath for letting her dog off the lead, the next I want to by the mutt a lifetime supply of Bonio, all because it flushed a Woodcock and gave me a patch tick that has been 15 years coming. It is the first record for the ecology park and only the second for the lower Lea following on from one flushed by Gary from the copse at the basin on December 1st 2010. The bird did a leisurely circuit over the Pura Foods peninsula (thus making it onto my Tower Hamlets list) before dropping down into scrub on the western side of the eco park; I left it in peace, hoping it will still be there in the morning. The other highlight of the day was three Lapwing on the deck on the Pura Foods peninsula, they are usually flyovers here. The rest of todays haul included 18 Shelduck, the overwintering female Pintail, 442 Common Teal , a single male Tufted Duck on Bow Creek and eight Redshank and three Common Sandpipers in the high tide roost. It was very quiet on the passerine front with just singles of Grey Wagtail and Song Thrush of note.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The High Numbers

Pintail at East India Dock Basin, 9/2/2012 

An unexpected chance to make a visit to the patch on a weekday paid big dividends, as soon as I got a view of the basin I knew I had a very good chance of breaking the site record count of Common Teal; the 7 metre plus tide had finally put some water in the basin, and it was covered with Teal, I conservatively counted 250 and hurriedly made for Bow Creek where I had in excess of 210, more than 460, then first count of 500 cannot be too far away. Other wildfowl included a pair of Gadwall, (new for the year), the overwintering female Pintail, two Greylag Geese, seven Canada Geese, 16 Shelduck and ten Tufted Duck. On first inspection the wader roost was deserted but I found ten Redshank roosting on the Pura Foods peninsula along with two Common Sandpiper, another two were in the roost on the way back, which led to a return to the peninsula where the original two were still in situ, four is a very good winter count but then I found another three roosting on a pontoon on the last meander, a quick check of the other two roosts confired that they were still occupied. Three Reed Buntings picked up on call flying north over the basin provided some passerine interest but finch numbers at the feeding station seem to have dropped, not a bad return for an ad hoc visit, I should do this more often.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Happy Birthday Charlie, Cold aint it

I have bemoaning the fact that this winter has been so mild. Well the cold has arrived and it has brought mixed fortunes. The basin for the first time was completely frozen shifting all the wildfowl out, the only birds present were a few common passerines. Of course the weather was the cause of the frozen basin, but because of the silting problem, to keep water in the dock the sluices have been raised. It is a tidal basin and at present water flows in when the tide is higher than 6.5 metres. Over the last 10 days the tides have been very low so no water has entered the basin. The lock gates are old and leak so water has been escaping. We could have lowered the sluices but it takes a Herculean effort. In the past the dock has remained largely unfrozen and has attracted birds from other frozen waters. I have to wonder if things conspire against you. Anyway the creek had birds on it, but not the expected increase in numbers, 260 Teal and 17 Redshank and a single Common Sandpiper. The bird of the day a Common Snipe was flushed from the stream in the Ecology Park and flew to Bow Creek where I had good views a few minutes later. There has only been 13 Common Snipe records and all but two have been in freezing conditions, so this was a good sighting.
It is Charles Dickens 200th birthday on the 7th February and Dickens spent a lot of time wandering around the dock areas of London getting ideas for stories and characters. The East India Dock area features in a number of Dickens novels and shorter fiction. The area particularly the Orchard Wharf area still has features that would have been present during Dickens time, narrow streets, cobbled areas, buildings and warehouses and all of this and the Nature Reserve is under threat if the concrete plant gets planning permission, is nothing sacred.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Bonus Here

One problem with birding blogs is having something to write about to keep the blog current. EIDB is stagnant for birds at present, numbers are decreasing, some species have failed to show and so far January 2012 is the worst on record. When you take into account that John Archer is now watching the site at least three times a week, you would expect sightings to improve with greater coverage. This morning just 7 Teal on site 40 Tufted Duck and 4 Shelduck and apart from a few common species that was it. So why is this happening ?. The mild weather is obviously a major cause, but other factors are at work, and I believe that disturbance and isolation are also a cause.
Disturbance has increased over the last couple of years, there is a lack of open space locally and with more housing being built the pressure on the site is going to mount. This morning there was loads of joggers, keep-fitters and dogs and this was probably the reason for the low Teal count, and the seven that were there had buggered off before I left. But birds can only be disturbed if they can get to the site.
EIDB has become more isolated, nearby brownfield sites have or are being developed. A large area of scrub and trees along the banks of Bow Creek in Canning Town has been cleared, tower blocks and other buildings are being built and development is occurring along the Thames at Greenwich and Royal Victoria. EIDB has always had an open feel to it, but this is starting to change and if the Pura Food development happens this will have an impact on Bow Creek. But the biggest impact will come if the concrete works gets the go-ahead at Orchard Wharf. I have to wonder at the viability of EIDB as a Nature Reserve if this happens.
To end on a positive note, there is strong local opposition to the concrete works and there is a fair chance that it will not get planning permission, also it is due to get colder over the next week, so that may induce some bird movement.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pretty Vacant

I think its time we put up the 'To Let' signs up at EIDB, saying ' birds wanted to occupy tidal basin on the River Thames, last tenants have deserted'. It was a struggle to find birds this morning after last weekends increase in numbers, probably due to last weeks cold conditions. Today was very mild with a fresh westerly wind (as always). Only 30 Teal were on the basin with another 100 spread around Bow Creek, just 3 Shelduck and Tufted Duck numbers have reduced by a half and just a few Gulls and finches, and that was it. I failed to record a Cormorant which must be some kind of record for the Thames. It was also quiet on Bow Creek, just 4 Redshanks a couple of Common Sandpipers and a few Shelduck. I suppose this mild winter is good for the energy bill but its playing havoc with the birding

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bright Frosty Morn

The second day of sub-zero night temperatures, though the cold failed to bring in anything unusual to the area. Tufted Duck numbers are creeping up towards fifty and are outnumbering the Teal on the basin. Shelduck numbers are still high with 15 on the basin and two on Bow Creek. The female Pintail was again on Bow Creek, though this time she was asleep. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the copse, this a good sighting for this time of year, this is only the fourth record in January (including a bird recorded last week). Over the last few weeks Nick has been putting down food in various areas, and today a number of birds were feeding on the hand-outs, most were Chaffinch. I spent about an hour and half watching the Thames and also the sky. The Thames was very quiet with nothing of note and there was hardly any movement across the clear blue sky. So far I have struggled to reach 45 species for the year, a very average start to the year, but maybe the Blue Crested Hoopoe which turned up on Midsomer Murders will put in an appearance.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Linnet Record Broken

It was a very grey day at EIDB today, though good light for watching the Thames. The first bird I saw was a Greylag Goose flying west up the river, my first of the year. Orchard Wharf directly to the East of EIDB has been attracting good numbers of Finches, feeding on the seed heads of plants at this private site. Good views can be obtained of Orchard Wharf from the dock and it is worthwhile spending a few minutes scanning the area. Linnet numbers have been good this winter with about 50 birds regular, but this mornings flock of 80 easily beat the 55 seen in October 2010, the previous record. I think this record may not last long as there is still scope for this flock to increase. Shelduck numbers have also shot up over the few days, 23 were in the area this morning which could be a record count. Whilst checking out Bow Creek I got a call from John Archer saying that Kittiwakes were moving west past Crossness. So Nick and I made our way back to the pier at EIDB, but despite watching the Thames for 90 minutes none were seen, though there was a movement of Common Gulls west (65) which I thought was a record count, but 107 is the record recorded in March 2000. Whilst river watching we did find a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull which drifted west.
Not to be outdone by the Kittiwakes, Nick and I decided to head downriver a few miles to Gallions Reach where we thought we would stand a better chance of Kittiwakes as it is not far from Crossness, and we were rewarded with 4 fine adult birds flying west, though you do have to wonder if they made it as far as EIDB.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fourth quarter: October to December 2011 summary

The first Shelduck of the autumn turned up on October 26th with numbers building up to a peak of six on December 17th and 18th with one pair already showing territorial aggression towards another pair. Common Teal numbers continued to rise with monthly maxima of 177 on October 26th, 303 on November 22nd and 358 on December 10th, but by the end of the year numbers had dropped to around 150 due to the mild weather. A Gadwall was a good find on November 6th and the female Pintail returned for its second winter on December 11th. Water level problems at the basin kept Tufted Duck numbers low in the early part of the period with none recorded in October and only two in November, both on the 11th; things picked up in December with seven on  the 10th and a peak of 16 on the 15th and 17th. Water level problems also affected Little Grebe with singles on December 10th and 18th and two on December 17th the only records, likewise Great Crested Grebe was scarce, the only record was of two flyovers on October 15th. The only record of Little Egret was of three flying down the Thames on October 21st, the largest flock recorded at the lower Lea. Two Sparrowhawks were noted on October 29th, 30th and December 18th, with singles on November 22nd and 27th. A Common Buzzard flew west on October 14th, a good date for a migrant and two Peregrine Falcons that drifted slowly east on October 22nd looked like migrants rather than local birds; singles Peregrines were also seen on October 29th, November 22nd and December 6th, with three indulging in a territorial dispute over Bow Creek on October 30th; but somewhat worryingly no Kestrels were reported this period. The first Redshank of the autumn was recorded on October 16th with monthly maxima of seven on October 22nd and 23rd, 12 on November 22nd and 27th and 22 on December 11th. It was an excellent period for Common Sandpipers with an October peak count of seven in a roost on the Pura Foods peninsula on the 1st, three on October 9th. November 22nd and December 10th and 17th, four on October 23rd and December 30th and five on October 30th, November 5th and 27th, ones and twos were recorded on five other dates; the only other wader recorded was Lapwing, a flock of 35 flying west on November 6th. On the larid front there was a good count of 45 Common Gulls on October 15th, most of the birds were in 1st-winter plumage; adult Yellow-legged Gulls were noted on November 2nd and 4th and December 6th, a 2nd-winter was also present on the later date. There was a small movement of terns in mid October involving two Arctic Terns on the 15th and one on the 16th, all flying west, and a Common Tern, the latest record for the lower Lea, on the 15th. There was a small movement of Woodpigeon on October 16th totalling 138 birds including 78 moving north-west and 41 south-west but this was just the precurser for a massive passage of 1,400 flying south-west on October 29th; in contrast there was just a single record of Stock Dove on October 1st. The only Ring-necked Parakeet was recorded on October 9th, Great Spotted Woodpecker fared a little better with singles on October 15th and 23rd; two Kingfishers were seen on October 5th, the only multiple count of the year with singles on December 4th, 17th and 18th. There was a passage of Meadow Pipits during October including 22 flying south on the 7th, a record count for the lower Lea. Black Redstart remained scarce with just a single record on October 13th. The first Fieldfare of the autumn was in the ecology park on October 22nd with three flying north-west the following day and 11 through on October 29th the only other records, at least 251 Redwing passed through on October 23rd with two smaller movements of 43 on October 29th and 22 on November 6th the only others noted; a single Mistle Thrush was seen on October 13th and six Song Thrushes on October 9th were almost certainly migrants. Two Blackcaps were noted on October 5th and 9th, single Chiffchaffs on October 1st and December 17th with two on October 5th and November 20th and three on October 22nd. Single Jays put in an appearance on October 22nd and December 18th and 21st, around 45 Carrion Crows were present in the ecology park on October 22nd and a very good local count of over 500 Starlings was made on November 6th.It was a good period for passage finches, good numbers of Goldfinch during October included 69 on the 15th, 44 on the 23rd and 60 on the 26th; 55 Linnets on October 13th was a record count for the lower Lea, with another good count of 50 recorded on December 23rd; two Lesser Redpoll flew south at the basin on October 23rd and finally a Reed Bunting was at the basin on December 15th with three there feeding on phragmites on December 18th.

2012 A Decent Start

I got an early start this morning and it was very mild with a SW wind, I managed to record 35 species which is four more than this time last year. There was nothing surprising or spectacular but a Pintail on Bow Creek and a Kingfisher on the basin were good records as they can be tricky. Teal numbers were low with just 91 and Gull numbers were poor, though six Great Blacks were notable. Four Redshanks and a Common Sandpiper were on Bow Creek and I had a very good view of a Peregrine as it swooped low over the creek. There was about 70 Finches feeding on Orchard Wharf which included a good count of 45 Linnets.
EIDB lies just a couple of miles south of the main Olympic site and I think that birders who have patches in the Lea Valley, Southern Epping Forest and Greenwich could face difficulties birding their sites during the games. there will be heavy security and warships on the Thames . Restrictions could be in place and wandering around with binoculars and telescopes may cause some problems.
2012 will be an important year for wildlife and conservation, the Coalition Government have already made significant changes and more are due. Natural England's role has been redefined, it will no longer be allowed to hold views independent of the Government. It will now concentrate on delivery and customer focus rather than on protecting and lobbying for wildlife.
This means that other wildlife bodies will have to take on a greater role in defending wildlife and conservation, though so far this has not been apparent. There are also changes afoot to planning policy which will speed things up and has been labelled by some as a developers charter. Brownfield sites will be particularly vulnerable and these sites are often more important to wildlife than the greenbelt or farmland. So it is important that birders record what they see on their sites, keep breeding and wintering numbers of bird species and other wildlife if possible. Records can play a very important part when a a site is under threat, and its also important that birders send their records to the appropriate county recorders or enter them online.