Thursday, 26 February 2009

Waterworks NR 25/02/09

Joined a conservation volunteer work party yesterday doing some habitat management on Bed No.17. Very rewarding it was too, although my arms are still aching 30 hours later!
There was a good turnout of 16 people, all seemingly regulars of the Lee Valley Regional Park work parties, I was the only new kid. The work consisted of cutting reeds (phragmites) in order to maintain areas of open water. The different beds here are arrested at different stages of ecological succession from open water to alder and willow carr.
One of the highlight of the day was the number of Snipe we flushed off the bed when we started work. 35! More than I've ever seen here before. Just goes to show how many birds you can hide in there without knowing about them all. They were back on the bed this morning, I counted about 20 but I guess there's a few more out there!

Another highlight was a singing male Cetti's Warbler. This is a bird I've not seen here before. Apparently it's been around for a week or two, but I haven't been down here for a while. I hope it stays and finds a mate!

Cetti's Warbler 1
Common Snipe 35
Reed Bunting 1
Redwing 2
Shoveler 12+
Grey Wagtail

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


Thought I'd take a look at this complex of mature gravel pits near Cheshunt today, the first time I've ever been here! Very impressed I was too. No Bitterns today from the watchpoint at Fishers Green unfortunately, probably too disturbed. Being half term there were a great many visitors in the park today. Musn't grumble though, nice to see people enjoying their local nature reserves. Lots of Smew about and a good selection of other wildfowl including 2 Pintail. This area has a huge number of Alders, with a correspondingly large flock of Siskins roving around, and a few smaller parties of Redpolls. Great views of Water Rail from the Bittern hide too.

5 Smew (2m, 2f Hooks Marsh Lake, 1m Holyfield Lake)
2 Pintail (Hall Marsh Scrape)
4 Goldeneye (2m, 1f Friday Lake, 1m Holyfield)
3 Goosander (1m, 2f Holyfield)
70 Siskin
14+ Redpoll
25+ Wigeon
50+ Lapwing
Many Shoveler,Gadwall,Pochard.

P.S: Why do they call it the River Lee up here and the Lea further down!!??

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Hackney Marshes (0730-0830)

80 Common Gull
40 Herring Gull
60 LBB Gull
1 Skylark (over W)
1 Redpoll (over W)
Grey Wag

Waterworks NR (0830-1000)

10 Shoveler
1 Water Rail
12+ Teal

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Adult Heerman's Gull- one of my favourites

Marbled Godwit

Anna's Hummingbird

Glaucous-winged Gull- 1st winter

Least Sandpiper

(all photos California)

Ballona Wetlands, Los Angeles, California, 02/02/09

Jamica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York, 08/02/09

A short trip to the states with the band allowed me to grab a couple of days in the field at each end. Always a much appreciated bonus. To help me decide where to spend my day off in L.A. I consulted David Lindo's excellent 'Urban Birder' website. The obvious contender for central L.A. was the wetland area around Ballona Creek, on the coast just North of LAX airport, so off I duly headed. This area consists of some saltmarsh with pools, scrub, a shallow lagoon with muddy margins surround by houses (Laguna del Rey), a tidal creek, and a harbour-like area impounded by several large, rock breakwaters. The whole area was very rich in birds. Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit an additional reed-fringed, freshwater lagoon nearby, but it looked pretty tasty from the road.
Just offshore was a raft containing 4 species of grebe and the breakwaters were heaving with pelicans,cormorants and Sea-lions. By the creek were several Willet and Hudsonian Whimbrel, and a group of peep's roosting, consisting of Least and Western Sands and Sanderling. The saltmarsh pool held a flock of Black-bellied Plovers and a single Bonaparte's Gull.
The scrub held a good few passerines including Anna's and Allen's Hummingbirds and Say's and Black Phoebes.
Laguna del Rey held many bathing or loafing Gulls, a few Marbled Godwits and the three commoner herons. The mature trees surrounding the lagoon held at least half a dozen Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warblers.

(systematic list to follow soon)

A few days later I had the chance to go birding in New York, so I chose to go to Jamaica Bay, in conditions about 25c cooler!
The West pond at Jamaica Bay was completely frozen. The East pond was 90% frozen but the open patch held a nice group of Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers and Goosander, along with Buffleheads, American Wigeon, Gadwall and a group of Ring-billed and American Herring Gulls. Every now and then the gulls would take to the air as a couple of Northern Harriers patrolled the edge of the lake.
Out in the bay it was low tide, so a lot of the birds were rather far away and the Snow Geese were nowhere to be seen! However there was lots of good stuff on offer.
Large numbers of Brants and Black Duck fed on the falling tide. The bayside scrub was jumping with Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers and I got great views of American Tree Sparrow.
On top of all this was the oppurtunity to study American Herring Gull in large numbers, at close range, in all plumages. Call me sad but this is exactly what I did for about 2 hours! One thing I noticed was how variable they are (like all the large white-headed gull complex). Some birds looked like they would really stand out if they turned up in an Irish harbour, but some just didn't.
With the adults I noticed the Glaucous-like head profile mentioned by Olsen and Larsson to be particularly noticable on a lot of birds (this being the NE population). This is a combination of a longer, heavier bill than 'argentatus/argenteus', coupled with a flat crown.

(systematic list to follow)