Thursday, 16 September 2010

2 hours by the Thames

I went for a walk by the Thames between 10 & 12 this morning. I estimated this would be optimal for the tide, it was going down and started to reveal the foreshore which tends to be when the birds are at their most active. It wasn't however the ducks and waders feast I had been hoping for. None of the Starlings, Crows or Gulls materialised into something more important, but nevermind ;) I discovered that the part of Thames Path which had been closed earlier this year was finally reopened, and in time too! Brilliant, no more walking through the back streets and losing sight of the birds on the foreshore!
I saw:
  • Black-headed Gulls: about 150. Including the Finnish CC1H ringed one in almost the exact same spot (about 2m away)
  • Herring Gull: 4, including a pair in courtship display - I really thought they were starting to create a nest on the shore at some point. Weird at this time of year I would have thought...
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull: 1 family with 2 begging juveniles, and at least 2 more adults and 2 juveniles
  • Common Gull: 1
  • Mallard: 46
  • Tufted Duck: 10, including the female and 2 youngsters I have seen every time of late
  • Mute Swan: 1
  • Grey Heron: 1
  • Cormorant: 21, most of them on the wharf, but a few fishing (when not disturbed by passing boats)
  • Grey Wagtail: 1
  • Starlings: a flock of about 50 flitting between the shore and the bridge
  • Canada Goose: 4, including the usual Greylag hybrid
  • Ring-necked Parakeet: 6 on Hammersmith Bridge. I don't recall seeing them on the bridge before, it almost look like they were trying to dislodge some of the pigeons...
  • and the Egyptian Goose family :)
Initially, I only had one of the youngsters by the bridge, on its lonesome, going up and down, calling for the rest of the family.  Then, much later on, I had the rest of the family.

The ringed 'normal coloured' adult. I am still trying to get the first 2 digits, but either the angle is wrong, or there's mud on the ring... I'll get there one day, I hope.

The rest of the family, with the pale adult and the other 3 youngsters. 2 of them have pretty much reached adult size and feathering, but the 'little one' at the back is still playing catch-up.

A view from above.

You can see here how far behind it is compared to its sibling, still all fluffed up on its beck and back...
 There you can see pretty well the lump on its lower beak which has been visible since it is was a small gosling.  I am no expert, but my theory is that it's a thyroid problem.  If you have another idea, I'd welcome your thoughts.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

White CC1H

A quick update on one of the colour ringed gulls from my previous post, white CC1H. It was ringed in Finland, as an adult, in 2000, making it at least 10 years old. Not much of a wonder the ring was in the state it was...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

My name is Nathalie and I'm addicted to reading bird rings

My apologies... Another post mostly about colour-ringed gulls...

I was doing my patch walk by the Thames yesterday as I often do on a Saturday morning and getting increasingly annoyed by 2 guys in kayaks. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but they kept on getting close to shore or alighting at the pier and pontoon. It was close to high tide and then birds have very little space to go to, which is good for me if I want to check for rings, but not that good as a lot of the birds just bugger off to the Wetland Centre. I had just got to Crabtree Wharf before them and had (thankfully) just finished counting the cormorants there (21) when one of the kayaks decided to hold onto the Wharf and all the cormorants and most of the gulls flew away. Nearly all the cormorants ended up going to the Wetland Centre, the gulls landed on the river but some came back. I locked onto a preening Black-headed Gull with a red ring. I didn't even need to check my notes this time to know I had already seen it as it has a pretty memorable code: A1 :)

I saw this gull in pretty much the same spot on 22 September 2009 and had a reply the same day form the ringer, Frank Majoor, that the bird had "been ringed as a first winter bird in November 2006 in Hilversum, a town in the Netherlands, some 30 km south-east of Amsterdam and 25 km north of Utrecht, according to Wikipedia". This makes it a 4 year old bird.

While I was taking photos, a 'friend' arrived saying "See, I've got a ring too!" and, yes, it had... Slightly broken, but still legible, and not one I had seen before: white CC1H. Checking the colour-ringing site told me afterwards that this bird should be from Finland. I have reported it, I'll blog the result if and when I get it.

Then I noticed that there was 1 Cormorant left and recognised it immediately. Unfortunately not because it had a ring but because it has some netting around its neck. I saw it a few times last year around October and November but had not seen it since and was beginning to wonder.

If you compare the photos with last year's you can see the netting is pretty much unchanged, that's sturdy stuff :(

Doesn't look too comfortable swallowing...

More photos of the gulls, as well as 2 oldish Tufted Ducklings, the first I have seen on the river, in my gallery.

Monday, 26 July 2010

How amazing is that?

The Black-headed have been back for a little while now, their numbers on the foreshore between Crabtree Wharf and Hammersmith Bridge are almost at winter level already. And there are a lot more juveniles this year than last. But what I'd really like is a Med(iterranean) Gull, so I keep on scanning. I mentioned it to Louis in Chiswick yesterday and he texted me that he had just seen one by the Eyot. By then, it was a bit too late for me to go and check, but, early this morning, instead of going to the allotment I went to search for a Med Gull.  No such luck. But, as I was scanning the gulls I noticed that one had a colour ring, so I grabbed my camera and tried a few shots.  At last, it got closer and presented the right profile: white UYC on right leg.

At home, I checked my records and realised I had seen this bird before, as I was off-patch, in Ladbroke Grove, last February.  There is a bridge over the canal, with a Sainsbury's on one side, it was on a building on the other side:

I did at the time report my sighting via the BTO website after I had no reply contacting the marker directly (as recommended). From what I gather, this bird has probably been rung in Denmark, but it's been almost 6 months now and I have not had any reply.  I shall try again with this second sighting, and we'll see how that goes...

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Mystery Duck

I know it's been a long time since my last post, I pretty much haven't had the time, and once you've let it go, it can be hard to get back.  One of the things that has kept me busy is my allotment, and it's coming back from there this morning via the Thames Patch that I spotted this duck among the Mallards by Crabtree Wharf.  My first impression was "Oh, one of those weird mallards..." but after closer inspection I am not convinced.  For a start, it's smaller, about 3/4 size of a Mallard as seen on the last photo when it decided to have a go at one. Then its eyes are red, more like a Pochard than a Mallard. But it has the shimmering green of a Mallard on its neck. A hybrid of some kind?  I let you judge for yourself, and if you have any idea, feel free to comment :)

Update 12 July: This is a Chestnut Teal. Another escapee. Thank you 'Anonymous'!

Quite cute, whatever it is, I think.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A6LK still there and a pigeon

This week, the Herring Gull with ring A6LK was at the supermarket again.  Here it is with a friend.

I am still learning about gulls, but, somehow, it looks like a female to me, some je-ne-sais-quoi... One thing for sure, next to the other one, some of its feathers are well worn out, but it appears moulting may have started as some others appear brand new.

There was another ringed bird on the wharf today. I don't know if it was lost and was just resting, it stuck like a sore thumb among the feral pigeons and was not really interacting with them. There is a white pigeon in that flock but, even at a distance, I could tell it was different. Closer, I could see it has a green ring on one of its legs, but I couldn't read it.

I have tried to find out what breed it is, without success, but I have to say this is a pretty little thing compared to a lot of those fancy pigeons I have just had to look at during my search...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Very low tide

Yesterday early morning, I stopped by the Thames at Crabtree Wharf on my way to the allotment and noticed that the tide was extremely, so the plan was to come back this morning, hoping for interesting birds attracted by the extra mud uncovered.

Well, the tide was definitely very low, and still going down. In fact it was even lower than when Thames21 organised the Low Tide Events earlier this year. But the birds were not really there.

Apart from a group of 10 Mute Swans (and there were a further 3 towards Hammersmith Bridge),  All 'wading' birds turned into pigeons or starlings

It exposed some structures I don't recall seeing before.

The best was when I got to the Riverside Studios: House Sparrow chicks!

They use the bushes/trees that grow on the wall lining the Thames.

House Sparrow doing cute

Sunday, 23 May 2010


About 10 days ago, scanning the gulls for rings before doing the supermarket run, I spotted this young Herring Gull sporting a fairly mud-caked white ring. After much effort and the bird turning round to offer less better views of the ring, I finally managed to read it as A8LK.
I reported it almost as soon as I came home and had a lovely reply a few days later. This bird had been rescued as an orphan from Worthing and released early August last year from East Sussex. It has been seen along the Thames in London at various times during the winter.  I didn't see it this week, maybe it has moved along or I'll see it again next week, we'll see...

Friday, 21 May 2010

A short ad break

I have been asked by Frédéric Malher, the main author, to let you know of the release on 15th April of "Oiseaux nicheurs de Paris : Un atlas urbain" (Paris nesting birds: an urban atlas). I know it's been over a month but I waited until it was available at (you can also get it slightly cheaper at It is now also available at NHBS.

The main part is made up of articles about the 60 bird species nesting in "Paris intra-muros" (inside the Périphérique, 18km East-West, 9.5 North-South), with map, history, comparison with other cities and a summary in English.
But there are also overview chapters about the history and the various environments, more or less natural, of Paris, a list of all species observed since 1950 as well as a summary of the status of 100 species observed in Paris since 2000.
(Adapted from his announcement on his blog where you can also see photos of 2 pages).
Like many people, I didn't think Paris had much more to offer than pigeons and sparrows until a while back the Urban Birder mentioned on his blog going to Paris, asking for pointers. This piqued my curiosity and this is when I discovered Frédéric's blog and the mailing list he had started, ornitho_urbaine. Even though the mailing list is about urban birding anywhere, it is mostly about Paris and I have discovered a richness I never imagined. It almost makes me want to go there, and I don't particularly like Paris...

Friday, 16 April 2010

Kestrel among the tombstones

On my way to the shops via Margravine Cemetery 2 afternoons ago, I was walking via the grass as mostly usual when I noticed at the edge of, but slightly out, a big group of pigeons another bird which I took initially for one of those weird colour pigeons. We don't have many in the cemetery, most are fairly classic, but we still have a few like this one:

But something did not feel quite right so I put my bins onto it: a Kestrel! on the ground in the cemetery! never happened to me before... I do see them from time to time hover around or passing by, but this, never.

It initially flew to the cut down tree of paradise but didn't stay there long as it was chased away by one of the Jays. I had actually wondered about the Jays earlier that day thinking that I had not seen them for a while, so now I have a hint as to where they may be nesting. It then went on to sit on a tombstone.

then another:

where it proceeded to scratch an itch:

It then flew back on various trees above the pigeon flock. A few times it flew into the pigeon flock who took barely any notice of it. Following some suggestion of weird matings on the Londonbirders mailing list my mind wondered for a nanosecond whether it was after that afore featured pigeon which was in the middle of it...

It then flew from tree to tree, panicking some small birds on the way, but, unfortunately, I had to leave and leave it to it. I'll never know but the next day I found a dead young black bird missing its head...

For more photos, go to my album or click on any of the photos.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The geese are at it again...

At about the same time last year a pair of Canada Geese started nesting on the Wharf by the supermarket in Sands End (not far from Wandsworth Bridge). They had failed in the same spot the previous year, they failed last year. What will happen this year? We'll see...

The goose was helpfully off the eggs for me to take a photo, it was back on them soon after :)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Lonsdale Reservoir last Sunday

I have been so busy and/or tired this week that I am only just managing to get this out now. I went to Lonsdale Reservoir last Sunday and, at last, mission Little Grebe was successful with a pair by the reed bed at one end of the reservoir :) #39 for the year.

I had barely started going round that a jogger asked me if I'd seen the owl, then by the tree I met some people who'd come specially to see it, so it's become a local celebrity it seems :)

Nearby I heard a Chiffchaff, then another on the other side which I spotted briefly. #40. The male Kestrel was sitting in a tree, I didn't spot its mate. Jackdaws, Stock Doves, but no Egyptian Geese.
A crow was picking up nesting material on the path, and another one was making a strange noise I don't recall hearing before:


On the water, there were still a few Common and Black-headed Gulls, but not that many. I couldn't see any Shovelers, but there were still some Tufted Ducks, Teals and Pochards. There had been mention on the Londonbirders wiki of likely unclipped Mandarins so I has a good look for them. Finally found them, and they gave me the run-around initially, moving from one side to the other, hiding behind the vegetation, but I think I finally got photos showing full winged birds. #41

Last visit I had done, over a month ago, a pair of Grey Herons had started building a nest on one of the rafts. They were still there:

This time, from the other side, I noticed that there was a second one, much lower one, on another raft:

Back closer to the nest, I was busy photographing the Mandarins when I heard noise from the herons' nest: the other had arrived for an exchange, the end of which I managed to video:

Nesting Grey Herons

Now that I have a bike, it will hopefully be less than a month before my next visit, with not having to spend 1hr30 just to get there and back anymore...