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.