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.