3 August 2011

July: before society ate itself

Unfortunately the extremely witty and erudite intro that I had been going to use, regarding internet usage and intelligence, was proved to be a pack of Melton Mowbrays. Though I am sure in time we will know the truth...

While better than June and May, we probably didn't see enough top stuff to keep Factor happy, but for us (The Crap Birders) July was a tasty precursor to what will come.

Bullfinch put in an appearance on the first day of the month with a pair going west up the side of the Heronry pond, further sightings occurred during the rest of the month in the Old Sewage Works and by the Warren Close entrance. A male Sparrowhawk carrying nesting material and the sound of raucous young suggested nesting activity in the Park and up to 3 birds were seen on several occasions enjoying the freedom of the skies without the attentions of the large crow population of the flats. While in the SSSI it was confirmed that there were 4 Willow Warbler fledglings.

Common Tern could be seen over Heronry, Shoulder of Mutton and the Basin at around 9:00 AM most mornings before heading off back, presumably, to Walthamstow with their precious cargo of one small fish.

Note the law of two thirds going on here...

The 4th saw the first ever grounding of a Lapwing on the Alex on a day when a further 3 flew various directions over the flats. Two days later it was the turn of a Common Sandpiper to pitch up on the best wader scrape in London (and if we could get rid of all the dogs, joggers, litter and food dumpers it would be), while a female Shoveler heralded the return of our wintering ducks. She would be later joined by a male doing eclipse and partial eclipse, depending on what side you looked at, small numbers of Gadwall, and 2 Teal. Tufted Duck numbers dropped both on the flats and in the Park, but for the first time in my limited recollection a pair bred on Jubilee of all places, and while the male has hot footed it to avoid any parental contribution and maintenance, mother and eight young are doing well.

Dad high tails it before he's lumbered with the kids. Another example of the law of two thirds going on here...

On the 11th a record number of Greylag Goose (19) were spotted, feeding in with the Canadas on the playing fields, in addition to the two family groups on the Alex itself. Why bother making Walthamstow into a wetlands park, when with the judicious use of a bulldozer on the football pitches we could have one here!

The only new bird of the month arrived on the 9th in the shape of a Green Sandpiper, to be followed by one or two birds the next day and a further two on the 21st, which Jono finally got to after a mad rush from his bed. More Common Sandpiper pitched up on Heronry and Alex and a Little Ringed Plover was heard over the broom fields on the 10th. How many waders we actually missed by not being there is any one's guess.

Further signs of Autumn were to be seen in the increasing numbers of gull in the dawn roosts on the flats, which included singles and pairs of Common Gull, both adult and this year's brood. While on the 23rd the flats held its first Yellow-Legged Gull of the season. Better get reading my Olsen and Larsson.

Of the Summer birds, Common Whitethroat carried on being the commonest, while their more elusive Lesser counterpart became trickier to pin down on due to the fact they didn't call as much, which was the same story for Garden Warbler. In the Park it appeared the Reedies had successfully reared a second brood. The two more vociferous species - the Blackcap and the Chiffchaff - were very much apparent virtually everywhere.

Swift numbers rose and fell towards the end of the month, while House Martin (the only breeding hirundine) was a virtually cert, Sand Martin regular, and Swallow numbered less than ten passage birds all month.

No excitement on the raptor front; Kestrel seen occasionally, Sparrowhawk more regularly in the Park and less than expected numbers of Hobby sightings (they might not have bred this year in the vicinity), though reports of Tawny Owl hooting during the day by the warden's cottage in Bush Wood means they are still holding on. I even got a calling bird on the 30th on the south side of the flats in woods near Capel Point (tick # 100 for the flats for me this year). However on the 24th I did have a very strange small falcon pass between myself and the sun, lacking a great deal in the tail department, I could see no features that would make ID anything more than a guess. Surprisingly I guess Red Footed Falcon!. One was later seen over Gants Hill with further sightings later the next week over Barking, Rainham and Crayford. The latter birds all equipped in the tail department, and with no news on the GH bird, its another that got away. I thought I had one last year (September) on the day a Short-eared Owl was flushed south of Long Wood, so perhaps there's still some chance.

Bird of the month had to be the Cuckoo picked up by a cabby by the Alex midway through the month and taken into overnight care; well the driver wasn't going to go south of the river, not for any fare. Interestingly, those who saw the bird remarked that it still had a lot of downy feathers implying that it was a local bird! Hmm missed that one. Picture to be found on Paul Ferris Wanstead Wildlife site.

Of the rest: Ring-necked Parakeet (or Rose-ringed) peaked at 50 birds flying north one morning over the Alex, Linnet flyovers occurred on a few days, Reed Bunting disappeared altogether. The Larks and the Pipits were keeping a low virtually silent profile by the middle-end of the month as they went into moult. A Nuthatch was seen by warden Brian Gotts on the 11th by the Warren Close entrance. Jackdaw appeared to have had a good summer with 64 including young on the pitches west of Alex on the 12th.

All that aside it was a month of butterflies.....

Ok not a butterfly but smart none the less for it!

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