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.