29 June 2022

Spring '22: Whimbrel, Turtle Dove, and a Merlin too

Introduction

Spring 2022 (for the purpose of this summary, March, April, and May) saw 109 bird species recorded locally with March (77), April (a month record of 95), and May (88).


Highlights

One of the best birds of the Spring was only seen by a single lucky birder, Tim Harris: our third Turtle Dove in 12 years perched briefly near Alex before disappearing south on 1 May. Tim was also alerted by a call while inspecting his moth trap in his garden and watched a Whimbrel (our sixth sighting) fly over on 5 May.


A slightly wider audience were enthralled by a Merlin (our fifth record) on 23 April which flew low up over the Brooms, around Long Wood and then picked up pace and took out a small passerine over Centre Copse. A few more saw it again the following day.


Some other notable records:

  • Jono found a Pheasant on 2 April; a long staying bird in the Brooms, last reported on on 26 April (only seventh on record).
  • Nick had a Goosander west over Long Wood on 9 April.
  • We got our hopes up when a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker appeared at a location which will remain undisclosed on 13 April and stayed for several days.
  • Jono found a singing Nightingale in Long Wood on 15 April.
  • A poor start of the year for gulls meant that our first Caspian Gull for the year was seen on 7 May and our first Caspian Gull on 31 May; both second calendar year birds and both found by Tony B.
  • Bob’s NocMig recording device picked up Oystercatcher (15 April) and then Dunlin and Little Ringed Plover (both on 1 May).

Spring passage migrants

The Spring migrant passage was kicked off, as it is so often, by the arrival of the first Wheatear; this year on 13 March. This was our second earliest on record (after 2017; 11 March) and six days earlier than our mean average first arrival. It was also the second Wheatear of the year for the London recording area. Richard found the male in the Brooms and Louis & Gosia won this year’s prestigious Wheatear sweepstake trophy; with Louis wearing black tie to collect the trophy a few days later.


The table on passage migrants should hopefully speak for itself and with a comparison in grey of spring last year to give some context. In terms of calendar days when a species is recorded, the most notable call-outs are: Sand Martin (down six); Yellow Wagtail and Willow Warbler (up four); and Wheatear (down four).


A single record of Tree Pipit this Spring was a notable improvement on the blank last year, but this year we got through Spring without a single record of Common Redstart (compared with four last year). 


Breeding birds: some selected comments


This was the second year we had the benefit of the Skylark fencing. An organised Skylark count in March revealed 11 birds on Wanstead Flats with 4-5 males regularly singing. There was evidence of successful breeding with at least one pair feeding young, although there was also sadly evidence of possible predation of one nest.


Meadow Pipit was last recorded on 29 April and whilst we still have healthy numbers through the winter, this is the second year in a row that this species has not stayed around to breed locally - I didn’t hear a single Meadow Pipit song this Spring.


Reed Warbler have popped up all over the place during the Spring, but the most reliable singing territory has been by Shoulder of Mutton pond again - although only one male this year. There have also been at least one regular singing Cetti’s Warbler on the Roding in the Old Sewage Works.


We had one or two wintering Chiffchaff but then numbers started to increase from around 9 March up to a peak count of 22 singing males in mid April. This followed a very similar pattern to the previous year. A similar story can be told about Blackcap - with one or two being reported in gardens through the winter and then numbers starting to build in March up to a peak count of 27 singing males on 14 April.


Our first Common Whitethroat arrived on 12 April this year (last year 14 April). I am not sure we have conducted a thorough survey of singing males this year but it will be at least approaching 20 territories. The first Lesser Whitethroat arrived on 15 April (26 April in 2021) this year and we had a peak count of 6 singing males with closer to 2-3 holding territory across the Spring.


Our Spring high count for Song Thrush was 17 birds across the Patch but this may have been swelled by local or wider movement and the number of regular birds holding territory is closer to half that number.




17 March 2022

Winter summary: a hard, but not very cold winter

Introduction

2021 ended with our record highest number of bird species we have ever recorded on the Patch:143. December saw 76 for the month. 2022 started much like 2021 with 78 species in January (the same as Jan 2021), but February was not aided by the cold snap we had in ‘21 and so we recorded a pretty paltry 71 species for the month compared with the outrageously high score of 85 for the same month last year. As February came to a close, the total number of birds recorded on the patch for 2022 is 79.


January 1st is always a special day on the patch as the local birders go out and year-tick Robin and Mallard. This year the team managed to compile 61 species on day one of the year (which compared with 69 on the first day of the previous year).


Highlights

I don’t think it would be unfair to say that this winter has been rather dull in terms of birds of interest. 


I flushed a male Yellowhammer from the Brooms on 3 Jan. It flew up, circled around me calling and flew off East not to be seen again. That was probably the best bird of the month, partly because January didn’t see many spectacular birds, and partly because we haven’t had a Yellowhammer in January for a very long time.


Rob Sheldon found our seventh Red-crested Pochard on Heronry on 16 December; a female. Sean T found a drake Mandarin on Shoulder of Mutton on 12 Jan. This is the fourth record in a 12 month period which matches the number seen over the previous decade.


The best of the rest included:

  • Louis and Gosia had Short-eared Owl over the Flats on 10 Jan.
  • Simon had the only Treecreeper we have had since November also on 10 Jan in Bush Wood.
  • Also a good winter for Firecrest with 10 records across three locations and at least three birds on 13 Jan; a pair in Reservoir Wood and a single bird in the Dell.
  • The only Red Kite of the period was on 2 December.
  • The only year tick made in February was on the last day of the month - a flyover Shelduck from Nick, and our first since May of the previous year.


Duck numbers

I am pleased to report that some of our duck numbers seem to have recovered slightly from the atrociously low numbers the previous winter (we suspect this was due to local issues - likely to do with the water rather than any more sinister macro trends). Whilst nowhere near the peak of a few years ago, Gadwall numbers this winter reached high counts in November (133 peak) and December (126 peak). The numbers dropped in the new year with the peak so far being 31. Last winter, our peak Gadwall count was 42. Further:

  • November last year also saw the peak count for Shoveler (60) which compared with 28 last winter.  This year so far our high count for Shoveler was 45 on 31 Jan. 
  • Teal numbers are pretty consistent with last year, with high counts in the twenties. 
  • Pochard high count for the three winter months was also the same for this year and last: 7.
  • Tufted Duck high counts this winter and last both saw highs in the forties.
  • Note that we have not had any confirmed reports of Wigeon locally so far this winter.


Other trends and records of note 

Rather than comprehensive review of the data across species, I have attempted below to take a small sample where observations or comparisons can be made. I will leave the fuller species review data until the bird report (I have just started work on 2021 and believe Nick may be doing something for 2020):


Skylark

It appears that our local Skylark population may have benefitted from the added protection of the fenced breeding areas last year. Across the three winter months, we had 54 recorded bird days and an average count of 3.5 birds compared with 2 during the same period last year. Our Skylark high-count of 7-8 birds this winter compares with a high of 5 last year. So, the data aren’t robust enough to draw too many conclusions, but at least the trend appears to be in the right direction. [Edit: a walk-over in March revealed 11 birds]


Meadow Pipit 

Meadow Pipit counts were also up a bit on last year with average counts of 7 (versus 4 last winter) and a high count of 25 (cf 18 last year), but counting Mipits is always a tricky business and so we have to be careful reading too much into these data. We will wait and see whether we get persistent singers and breeding success following the sad desertion of this species as a breeding bird last year for the first time.


Cetti’s Warbler

This winter we have nine records of the singing male on the Roding (none from in the Park). This seems to be very similar to the previous year. Let’s hope we get breeding success.


Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

Our winter flock around the tea hut and Perch Pond in the park was back again this winter with a high count possibly in the sixties. As previous years, we have regularly recorded a Lesser Redpoll flock in the SSSI, but the new addition this winter has been a regular flock of Lesser Redpoll (high count of 17) in the alders around Perch Pond with the Siskin.


Woodcock

Partly thanks to the evening diligence of Nick, we have had a likely record of 18 bird days for Woodcock in 2022 by the end of Feb. The regular haunt of the Roding to watch the crepuscular flyover has been reported early in Jan but somewhat overtaken by a regularly seen bird or birds in the SSSI.


Gadwall drake - Tim Harris


Meadow Pipit - Tim Harris

Shoveler - Tim Harris

Stonechat - Mary Holden


30 December 2021

Autumn 2021: Summary and some data

Introduction

Autumn - which, for the purposes of most of this brief report, is simply from the start of September to the end of November - added 10 species of bird to our patch year list (at a record 142 by the end of November) with many of our local birders also breaking their personal year bests before the Autumn was over. Monthly totals were also impressive: September = 104 (our highest month score on record); October = 90 (somewhat lower than the 95 we had last October); November = 85 (seven more than November last year) and a total of 120 species across the three Autumn months.


However, this may simply reflect good coverage and focused recording, rather than the year being somehow better than others. Indeed when we analyse our data on the autumn passage passerine migration (see below), and compare with data from previous years, we can see that 2021 was, in some other ways, poor to middling.


Highlights

It feels appropriate to start with our very long staying Black-necked Grebe which arrived on Alex on 3 May (and, for those who haven’t been following our patch exploits, this was only our second ever record of this species) complete with full ‘sum plum’ golden ear tufts and then through the Autumn moulted into the more subtle, but equally beautiful, monochrome shades. It was present throughout the Autumn but was last seen on 28 November when it departed as the first ice of the season spread across the lake.


A big highlight was the first Wryneck on the Flats in six years and our fifth patch record. Jono found it feeding on the edge of the model aeroplane field by the Brooms on 4 September and it was seen by most of the locals and a fair few visitors for two further days.


The day after (5 September) the Wryneck find, a similarly rare patch spectacle came when Richard, Jono and others picked up a flock of six Curlew flying west over the Flats. I was at home (off patch) when the news came through but was able to see them flying further west over Leytonstone (just one of several locally-rare birds this year I have added to my house list but not my patch list). 


Our best ever September (for total species) ended with an excellent record and photo from Nick of a Gannet flying south over the Flats (only our fourth patch record). Nick also had our fourth patch record of Merlin north over the Flats on 13th October. 


The best of the rest included: 

  • A long-staying juv Cuckoo that frequented several copses on the Flats and last seen on 7 September
  • Sedge Warbler on 3 September on the Flats
  • Marsh Harrier heading west over the Flats on 7th September found by Nick (another one I saw from my house)
  • Mediterranean Gull on 12 September on Alex from Nick
  • Mandarin on 16 September on Jubilee from Bob and a pair on Heronry from Rob on 20 November
  • Simon found Green Sandpiper on 18 September and Nick heard another on 19 October
  • Jono and Bob had Golden Plover over the Flats west over the Flats on 22 September (the first since the cold weather birds back in Feb)
  • Jono had our only Short-eared Owl for the year NW over the Flats on 21 September
  • Lapwing on 7th, 8th, 10th October and again on 5 November
  • All of our Jack Snipe records have been this Autumn, with the first on 2 October and last on 5 November
  • Jono had our second Woodlark of the year on 11 October (still a patch bogey-bird for yours truly)
  • Jono also had our only Ring Ouzel of the Autumn, which was also our second latest, on 5 November (see more under passage migrants below) 
  • Nick had our first Firecrest since April on 7 November.


Bob’s nocmig recorder has also been hard at work this Autumn with: Redshank on 6th and 8th of September (plus another on 23 October); Oystercatcher on 7th September (also a record on 24 November); Ringed Plover on 23 October; and, Dunlin on 9 October. 


Autumn Passage Migration

In the last bird report, I covered the beginning of Autumn migration (August), but now the eBird data can provide a fuller overview of the full migratory period this Autumn.


Autumn migration kicked off with the first departing Sand Martin on 5 August and Willow Warbler on 7 August. The earliest of the ‘big seven’ (Wheatear, Whinchat, C Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail) was Spotted Flycatcher on 11 August; a pretty standard date. However, as with most phenological trends this year, most passage birds appeared to be arriving later than normal. In fact all of the species tracked in the data table arrived later than average with the exception of Willow Warbler (across species tracked they were over three days later than average).


We actually recorded more bird days than the recent average (2016-2019) for each species over the Autumn except for Ring Ouzel, but I suspect this may have been more down to strong coverage and recording. Indeed, if we just compare with 2019, the key species are all down except for Yellow Wagtail (see column four in the table). Some time I will attempt to crunch more of the historical data to give a more accurate picture over time.


Using the same comparisons against the mean over the last few years, the average day counts were all pretty similar with a few notable exceptions: Swallow numbers were down by around half on the average. More positively, Sand Martin, Tree Pipit, and Pied Flycatcher numbers were all up on average.



Wryneck - J Lethbridge


15 September 2021

Summer 2021: 'A summary of the not-very-summery summer'

Introduction

The summer lull in June bled into some more unseasonally cloudy, dull, wet and windy weather which hasn’t always been conducive to seeing perching birds. However, by the end of August our patch bird total for the year stood at a hefty 132 with the total monthly patch lists: June = 73; July = 72; and August = 98 (our highest month total ever) and a total of 103 species of bird recorded across the three summer months. Several of the local birders have already broken, or are well on track to beat, their own personal best year records.


In terms of successful breeding, we have had a couple of success stories from species which don’t often breed locally: Pochard and Reed Warbler spring to my mind immediately. It appears that the fencing to protect our tiny remaining Skylark population may have had some success and we are hopeful that at least one pair reared a brood successfully from some positive signs. 


Skylark - Tony Brown



Sadly, Meadow Pipit have abandoned Wanstead Flats as a breeding location this year. Let’s hope they return. Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat breeding success seems healthy if the number of singing (early season) and juvenile birds (late season - aware these numbers can be inflated by migration) can be anything to go by although there are signs that second broods may have been thin on the ground. We believe our local House Martins - still only found at one location - bred again. To focus on one more positive: Little Grebe numbers seem to be increasing; and negative: Song Thrush: singing territories on the Flats, in particular, seem down on previous years.


Highlights

Birders often dread June - arguably one of the worst months of the year for birding interest, so it helped allay the blues when Nick found a Quail calling with its distinctive ‘wet my lips’ hidden amongst the grass in the fenced area of the Brooms on Wanstead Flats on 6 June. Even more extraordinarily it appears that there were two Quail calling the following day.


It would be remiss if I didn’t mention our long-staying Black-necked Grebe on Alexandra Pond, Wanstead Flats. First spotted by Mary on 3 May, at the time of writing, this stunning bird has now been with us for four months and attracted a fair number of photos throughout the summer and more recently as it starts to moult towards its winter plumage.


July often isn’t the greatest of months either but three fly-overs (sadly only seen by a small number of birders) smartened our list up: Mary had Oystercatcher circling Alex on 12 July before Jono had it ‘heard only’ going over his house; our first (but not last) Garganey of the year flew over Nick towards Alex but could not be re-found; and Rob had a brace of Lapwing flying North over SSSI on 17 July (our first since the huge flocks in the February cold snap). 


Richard found an adult Cuckoo on 29 July - most likely on its way back. Nick also had an adult on 11 August. These were just precursors for a long-staying juvenile bird, first found by Nick on 15 August and then seen regularly since then, most often flying quickly between various different copses.


August could, of course, accurately be included in an Autumn summary given the beginning of autumn migration (more on that later), but we stick here to a simple three-full-month definition of the season for the ease of write-ups (one swallow does not a summer make etc etc).


Nick had an Arctic Tern - only our second record for the Patch - flying over and calling on 4 August and also a flyover Greenshank on 18 August. A visiting birder reported a Pheasant on 20 August (perhaps not realising quite how scarce a bird this is for our local patch). 


Rob found the second Garganey of the year, on Alex, on 26 August which stayed just long enough for the first wave of local twitchers to add to their yearlists. Anyone getting there after 8am were disappointed. The following day Nick found a Raven heading west over the Flats. Jono got it from his house and I garden ticked it over Leytonstone a minute or two later. Jono and Rob also had Great White Egret heading east over the Flats on 29 August.


Raven - James Heal



Curlew, Whimbrel, and Oystercatcher were all picked up on the NocMig radars while their birding masters were fast asleep so added to generic patch lists, but (*spoiler alert*) the excitement of a flock of Curlew seen during the day had to wait until September.


Early Autumn Migration

The reappearance of Willow Warbler on 7 August (the first since the last spring bird on 1 May) heralded the beginning of the ‘Autumn’ migratory period. Our first Autumn Wheatear (16 August) was our latest ever. Hopefully the table below speaks for itself.




It will make sense to give a fuller picture of the Autumn passage passerine migration later in the year or as part of a full year review.


Tree Pipit - James Heal

Spotted Flycatcher - Nick Croft

Wheatear - Nick Croft






11 June 2021

Spring 2021 - Summary

Intro

This Spring has seen some very odd weather. Spring passage was undoubtedly retarded by some very long stretches of persistent northerly winds. Nevertheless, this year continues its march on as one of, if not, our best ever years for birds if we go by the rather blunt metric of the number of species recorded. Several of us are on track for personal best records.

As a team effort, the total monthly patch lists across the Spring were: March = 86; April = 93; and May = 87. The total spring list (March to end of May) was a pretty healthy 115 species.


More broadly, the health of bird diversity locally is a mixed picture. Action has obviously been taken for our dwindling breeding Skylark population, but we have some concerns that we might have lost or be about to lose Meadow Pipit as a breeding bird. Other species seem to be fairing rather better: Cetti’s Warbler seems to be moving from a patch rarity to a patch regular; Reed Warbler appears to have at least a couple of territories; and the number of Common Whitethroat territories seems strong. Wanstead Flats, in particular, remains a star performer in London for passage passerine migrants. Whilst the Spring passage is never quite as impressive as the Autumn, some of the records (such as a day high of 12 Wheatear) are notable.


Highlights

Birders generally rate a season by the number and quality of rarities and scarcities. High up on the list was our first ever Iceland Gull found by Mary on 23 March on Alex pond. There was a mad scramble to see this stunning first-winter/second calendar year white-winged gull and much gnashing of teeth from those of us who missed it on the first day followed by significant arm waving, whooping, and socially distanced air high-fives when it appeared again the following day and the day after etc.


2cy Iceland Gull - Tony Brown


If a single day had to be identified as the zenith of our Spring birding, it is probably 24 April. Tony picked up the first Green Sandpiper of the year going north over Alex. A few minutes later and a mile or so west, two Green Sandpiper flew in and landed on Cat & Dog pond right in front of me before dawn and before they saw me and scarpered. Others heard and saw one or two flying around over the next hour or two, and so we settled on a minimum of three birds. Things got better when I picked up three Whimbrel flying east over the Flats (a full patch tick for me) and another flew over shortly afterwards. This all happened before Tony found a singing Nightingale just south of Long Wood. As several of us stood silently near a patch of brambles and brooms listening to the wonderful liquid trills and whistles of the king of songbirds, I certainly reflected that it was quite high up there on the list of most memorable day’s birding on the Patch I have had.


Green Sandpiper on 'Cat & Dog' Pond at first light - James Heal



Mary was clearly not content with having found our first ever Iceland Gull and discovered a wonderful almost-summer plumage Black-necked Grebe on Alex on 3 May. This is the second ever record locally and the first in just over forty years. I won’t spare Bob V’s blushes by saying he saw the first one back when I was six months old. This wonderful golden-eared bird was still present a month after it was first found and having been twitched by a reasonable number of London, and even a few further-afield, birders.


Black-necked Grebe - Jonathan Lethbridge

Talking of twitches, bird-finder general, Nick C (although Mary is catching him up), spotted an Osprey heading west over the Flats on 6 May. He alerted East Central Turret Observatory (aka ‘Jono L’) who located the bird whilst working from home and he in turn cascaded comms to others including to Western Turret (aka ‘yours truly’) who managed to spot it out of my northern hatch (skylight) circling Bush Wood. There was a scurrilous rumour that I made a dash with my bins to the Patch to try and get Osprey on my Patch list, but failed. Clearly such a rumour of uncouth twitching is below the standing of an eminent naturalist and Chair of the Wren Wildlife & Conservation Group and I would deny it strenuously.


Nick also flushed a single Woodlark from near Long Wood on 28 May - our latest ever Spring record. At the time of writing, I am fresh in from listening to a bird sing that was an even better find from Nick, but I don’t want to steal the thunder of a summer write up (which is likely to be somewhat thinner on the ground than Spring).


For those only marginally interested in local birds, you might wish to turn the page or tune out now. For those hardier souls who get a kick out of phenological data, read on...


Spring passage migrants

The table hopefully speaks for itself. If not:

  • The second column (‘bird days’) is quite simply the number of days from March to the end of May when a particular species was recorded. We tend to find this more useful than counting birds on passage e.g. if you see three Wheatear on Saturday and three on Sunday are the birds on Sunday new in, the same as the day before or some combination?
  • The third column obviously relates to the first record of each species on the year. I have included ‘last’ date as this is a Spring review, but obviously some of these species might continue being seen throughout some of the summer months, and hopefully all of them will reappear in the Autumn on the way back.
  • The fourth column and the coloured numbers refers to the first arrival of each species this Spring with green numbers relating to the number of days earlier than the mean average first date locally and red corresponding to those later than the mean average.
  • Average count is mean average number of individual birds seen on each of the ‘bird days’ and high count is simply the highest number of individual birds of one species seen on any of the Spring days.

Whilst some of the poor weather - especially the prolonged northerlies during some of the key migratory periods - undoubtedly retarded the flow of some species by a bit, the table shows that there were still more species showing up for the first time on a date earlier than the mean average than later.


A couple of species are worth drawing attention to...


We saw reasonable numbers of Willow Warbler on passage, including an impressive high-count of 11 singing on 11 April right across the Patch. Sadly, it does not seem that any of these birds stayed as Willow Warbler does not appear to have bred locally for a few years now.


Wheatear seemed to have a good Spring, despite being four days later than the average first arrival (and a full 12 days later than our earliest ever). We had a total of 24 bird days and an average of three birds seen on each of them (with a high count of an astonishing 12 birds on 20 April).



I will let the table on Passage migrants speak for the rest of the records.




Migrant and resident breeders


A quick(ish) canter through some of the breeding birds (albeit most definitely not exhaustive). Swifts first appeared on 21 April (two days earlier than our mean average first for year), and we had a trickle through on most days after that until 1 May when a sudden jump from 2 to 23 birds signalled that our local birds had returned. We have had a couple of days when over 100 birds have been seen across the patch and an average of around 25-30 daily. No comprehensive survey of nest sites has been completed and so it is difficult to draw any conclusions beyond the numbers we see frequently.


Hobby was first seen on 25 April (four days later than the mean average) and one or two local birds seen regularly since then.


We seem to have at least two pairs of Little Owl on Wanstead Flats still and one or two of them were very frequently seen on favourite trees.


Our first Reed Warbler for the year arrived on 29 April (4 days later than the mean average) in Wanstead Park and there have been two singing males in the Park and a third heard on three days during May on the Roding in the Old Sewage Works.


Reed Warbler - Sean Kerrigan


We only have a small colony of locally breeding House Martin. The first record was on 5 April which was just one day earlier than the mean average. Our high count of at least 25 birds on 8 May was followed by only three other days when double figures were reported. The rest of the time we have only had low numbers reported regularly.


It appears that the Roding in the Old Sewage Works has two singing Cetti’s Warbler and there has been another on the Ornamentals in the Park. Fingers crossed that this year or soon we get some breeding successes.


After the odd appearance of winter Chiffchaff and perhaps a couple of early arrivals moving through, we start to see a big influx from March and then with peak counts of singers in April (this year around 13 birds during the second week of the month).


Small numbers of Blackcap also remain resident locally through the winter; particularly in local gardens, but the arrival of migrating birds seems to happen around the beginning of March. This is steep increase in numbers, perhaps as some birds passing through temporarily swell numbers, before declining to numbers of birds with established territories.


I have decided to optimistically include Garden Warbler in the company of our resident breeding birds rather than with the passage migrants although we have no evidence of breeding beyond some persistence in one or two singing males.The first one was recorded by a visiting birder to Wanstead Flats on 2 May (4 days later than the average first arrival) and the local regulars didn’t connect to one until 19 May in Wanstead Park. We had a couple singing possibly for a few days in late May in the Old Sewage Works.


Lesser Whitethroat first appeared this year on 26 April (a full 9 days later than the average first for year). We had a peak of five birds on the day after the first (probably as the migratory flood gates had opened) and have two seemingly established territories on Wanstead Flats and one in the Old Sewage Works.


Common Whitethroat has had another good year if singing males are anything to go by. The first arrival (on 14 April) was only two days later than average. Double figure counts of singing males has been a regular occurrence and we reached a peak of 25 birds counted on 7 May.


The number of Song Thrush territories on Wanstead Flats sadly seems to be declining whilst seeming more stable in Wanstead Park and the Old Sewage Works. Two or three singing males on the Flats has been a reasonable count through the season whilst 5-7 territories in the Park and 4-5 in the Old Sewage Works are also commonly achieved counts.


As anyone local will know, this the first year that the CoL has fenced off the main areas of grassland where Skylark and Meadow Pipit are known to breed. We believe that two pairs of Skylark have established territories and some evidence of breeding over an above singing males has been witnessed. Three singing birds have been heard on a few occasions but we suspect that there may be a ‘spare’ male aside from the two pairs. Let’s hope that the fencing, few disturbances to their habitat will lead over time to more sustainable breeding numbers than hopefully at least two which is where we are now.


Sadly, the story for Meadow Pipits is more dire. Whilst passage/movement birds were counted in the early part of the season, there have been no singing males at all during the crucial stages of the Spring. Hopefully this does not mean that Meadow Pipit is yet another bird to have been lost to us locally as a breeding species. Time will tell.


I won’t attempt to provide breeding survey updates of more of our commonly seen birds as I am not sure the data we collected really formed an accurate view this Spring.


Other birds

Our long-staying Common Shelduck was last seen on 25 March. We had two Spring fly-overs in March.


Mandarin Duck was reported from Wanstead Park on 14 March.


Marco strengthened his game bird credentials by finding a Pheasant on 28 March and then a Red-legged Partridge on 4 April.


Mike M heard the patch’s only Cuckoo on 30 May.


Common Sandpiper was first recorded this year on 3 May (six days later than the mean average first appearance) in the Old Sewage Works and we had one which seemed to stay for several days on Heronry a few days later.


There was a little bit of confusion reminiscent of the double trouble we had with Mediterranean Gull a few months ago when a second calendar year Caspian Gull on 6 April turned out to be two second calendar year Caspian Gulls seen on Jubilee and Alex.


2cy Caspian Gull - Tony Brown



It has clearly been a good year for gulls (with the Kittiwake and Iceland Gull helping us to a record tally of ten species this year) and a late season adult Great Black-backed Gull in Wanstead Park on 10 April was a bit of a surprise.


Great Black-backed Gull - James Heal


Indeed, we have had nine bird days with Yellow Legged Gull this year, the last of which, so far, was seen on 8 May. Our friendly second calendar Mediterranean Gull also stuck around until 12 March.


Unsurprisingly, Red Kite numbers seem to be continuing to rise with 29 ‘bird days’ from March to the end of May (41 Red Kite counted since the beginning of the year). This is still not at the level of Buzzard sightings with 50 bird days during the spring months and a day high-count of 8 birds seen on 13 April. We have also had 16 bird days for Peregrine and up to two birds seen on each of those days.


There were nine ‘bird days’ for Rook this Spring from 8 April until 1 May with a high-count of three birds on 22 April.


Rook - Tony Brown



A nice surprise in April, was a singing Firecrest in the City of London Cemetery. Whilst, strictly speaking, off-patch for the local birders, this individual was actually singing from a Holly Bush visible from the patch boundaries (whether it was audible or not whilst standing on the Patch is really a question one shouldn’t ask a gentleman).


In the spirit of phenological last dates as well as first, it is perhaps worth noting that our last sighting of Fieldfare came on 26 March (only the second year on record where we haven’t continued to record this species into April); a full two weeks earlier than the mean average last sighting. Redwing, however, continued to be recorded until 13 April which is a week later than the mean average last Spring record.


Those at the front of the class may remember that we had a bumper autumn and winter for Stonechat. We had one or two birds that stuck around until 23 March.


Similarly, some of our winter finches stuck around for a while. Our main flock of Linnet has been elsewhere since around mid February, but one or two birds in particular have been seen frequently throughout much of April and May on the Flats. The same is true for Lesser Redpoll (where a single bird was last seen on 27 April) and Siskin (last recorded on 30 April).


And, to finish with Buntings, we had three records of spring Yellowhammer (30 March, 5 April, 18 April). There were also nine records of Reed Bunting - all single birds - from March to May.


Common Redstart - Nick Croft


Canada Goose Gosling - Bob Vaughan

Ring Ouzel - Bob Vaughan

Yellow Wagtail - Nick Croft