Saturday, 30 January 2010

Lonsdale Reservoir - first visits

I discovered this reservoir in Barnes by accident last year on my way to a Thames21 cleanup by Barnes Bridge. I visited it twice last year, loved it and decided to add it as a second patch. Last Sunday was my fourth visit, my third had been on previous weekend when the reservoir was actually still frozen and the few birds on there were just a few gulls. It also started raining buckets just as I entered the area making scanning the trees rather difficult. Still, I had managed 23 species, but I failed to find the pair of Jackdaws I had since on previous visits, or heard during the cleanups on the foreshore. No such problem this time, I found them almost immediately, very busy mobbing a male Kestrel. It was probably the one I had photographed back in November as it was sitting in a tree above the path.

Kestrel looking straight at the camera
For a bigger version and 2 more photos, click on photo.

On the same tree were a few Stock Doves, another bird I don't get to see on my Fulham patch. It's the same thing for Collared Doves which I saw in my previous visits last year, but I couldn't find any this time.

The reservoir itself had a lot more birds than on my 1st visit (not difficult): a few Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and 1 Pochard, Coots & Moorhens, Gulls of the Common & Black-headed variety and 1 Lesser Black-Backed, 2 Grey Herons. But, as hard as I tried, I couldn't find any Little Grebe (apparently they haven't come back since the big freeze).

I am used to seeing Egyptian Geese on the foreshore, so it threw me up slightly when on my first visit I saw 2 up in a tree. They were surrounded by Ring-Necked Parakeets making quite a racket as per usual.

Makes you wonder if this photo was really taken in the UK...

If I had paid more attention to reports of Egyptian Geese I probably would have noticed a few of those were of birds in trees and I wouldn't have been quite so surprised... This photo was taken back in November but I saw a pair in the same tree at my first visit this year. The second visit, it was another tree, but was it the same pair?

When I got about 2/3 round, I met with another birder coming in the other direction. He asked me "Have you seen the owl?" "No, where?" He tells me where, it was around the area when I'd seen the Jackdaws and Kestrel shenanigans, which had obviously distracted me. I wasn't surprised, it had looked good to me and I had checked some of the holes, but obviously not enough of them. I walked a bit further and from the other side saw what could be an owl in that tree & took a photo. When I got to the tree in question I tried to find the hole but just couldn't get an angle on it. I went round the tree and found this one, asleep:

I think no more of the other one until I get home and look at the photo on the computer. Is it just me, or can you see 2 eyes and a beak?

Furthermore, I chatted later that day with someone who'd been to the reservoir and had seen 2 of them earlier in the week. My plan is to go there again early tomorrow morning and have another good look for them. As well as for the grebes.

Total for this year is #35 so far.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Snow on the foreshore

I made a quick visit to the Thames on Sunday (10th) and ended up in the same quandary as with the Lapwings, with Shovelers. At Crabtree Wharf I could see at least 3 in the 'pools' south of my patch. I waited a while but none came closer, once again I decided to mull it over.
I had no intention to go to the river again on Monday but, after running some errands, decided to make a detour. I was by the 'wasteland' observing a Lapwing on the shore by Hammersmith Bridge when I heard 'tweep tweep'. I didn't take me long to locate a Chiffchaff in one of these bushes that grows on the wall of the Thames. Kerching, #47. With Goldcrest and Blackcap this winter, these bushes and small trees along the path are proving to be a semi goldmine. It didn't last long, people walked by and it left. I went back towards Crabtree Wharf, it felt relatively mild that afternoon, but you never know. Once again, there were Shovelers just outside my patch, but getting closer. I would still check by the Wharf, and who just landed in the water? a pair of Shovelers! re-kerching, #48 and a patch tick. They were gone before I had finished noting it down, it was a case of "blink and you'll miss it!".

Having checked tide times this time, I had decided to go by the Thames early on Wednesday (13th). When I got up and saw the blanket of snow, I almost didn't go out, but I love snow, I love the cold and so I decided to brave it. It was still snowing by the time I got to Crabtree Wharf, and the tide having been down for a while, even the foreshore had a blanket of snow.
View to the South:
View to the North (you can just about make out Hammersmith Bridge in the distance):

snowAs I mentioned previously, part of the Thames Path is closed:

Very few birds around, sunrise had only just been, but some were starting to arrive, like this Grey Heron.

heronor this Gadwall, who didn't seem too bothered by the snow on its back:

gadwallor these Egyptian Geese (4 in total), a somewhat incongruous sight in the snow, but it didn't seem to bother them really:

egyptian geese
or this Fieldfare, briefly on the foreshore:

fieldfareBy Hammersmith Bridge, more snow on the foreshore, and some Teals and Mallards, feeding as they usually do at the edge of the water:

Hammersmith Bridge
and a Shoveler! There were 3 of them, this male and a pair closer to the bridge.

shovelerFor a moment, it followed the Teals, but then broke off and continued on its way.

shovelerI went home.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Exotic bird in exotic tree...

I have been meaning to take one such photo for a long time, but whenever I see one in this tree I don't have my camera with me. I have never seen any other bird eating those seed pods from the Indian Bean Tree in Margravine Cemetery, but the Parakeets appear to really like them. I love watching them grabbing then opening the pods, then systematically extracting the seeds.
The photo is unfortunately a bit washed out as I was still fine tuning the settings when it got spooked by a passing pigeon...

But I was so happy I'd finally got a photo, I thought I'd share it anyway, as an interlude from all these snow pictures. But don't worry, more of these to come at some point later (hopefully).

Has anyone else seen any other bird eating these? If not, at least it's one food source they're not in competition with our native birds.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

They're coming thick and fast!

Everything is relative obviously, my patch is never going to set world records, but it's been a nice few days... I was on 43 at the time of my last post, I am now on 48, including 2 patch ticks!
As planned, I went to the Thames early on Friday, to discover that it was high tide (my fault, I should have checked) and that part of the path has been closed off while the Environment Agency does some remedial work apparently. I can still see the whole foreshore but it forces me to go via the back street and walk by the ginkgo trees, 2 of which are female and had tons of fruit this year. One advantage at least of the cold is that the smell is reduced... Whatever you do never stand downwind of a fruiting gingko (unless you have no sense of smell)!
I could hear the House Sparrows from way back, always a reassuring sound. I think they may be roosting in the ivy growing on the wall of Rainville Court, or it's a staging post, but, in any case, I saw 4 of them go from one to the other as I was approaching.
Few birds around on the river, a Shelduck a few Gadwalls, Teals and Tufted Ducks, 2 Pied & 1 Grey Wagtails milling around on or near Crabtree beach. For an exotic touch, 4 Egyptian Geese turned up, 1 of the pale head variety. Different year, different times... Last year it took forever before I saw one of those of the river, this year I see them pretty much every time. Same thing with Kestrels. Funny. Actually, I could see a Kestrel perched in a tree on the other side of the river.
A Great Crested Grebe turned up, making it #44 for the year.
I was thinking it was time to go, nothing else was really going to turn up, when I saw lots of birds lift up by the Wetland Centre. Initially thought it was the crows but as soon as I had them in my bins it was obvious it was Lapwings! Possibly about 50 of them. I'd been waiting for something like this forever... Some people go on about flocks of Starlings, Knots, Geese, you name it, for me lapwings do it. I don't know if it's because it was a common sight where I grew up (Normandy countryside) but that's how it is. They followed the river south until slightly before the bend where they flew back inland & I lost them behind the trees. At no point were they on my patch. There has been a fair amount of discussion this month on the londonbirders mailing list regarding which birds to count or not. The rule chosen in the end was "either you or the bird has to be on the patch" but I am in favour of "the bird has to be on or over the patch', which is what how I have counted birds sofar, and had decided to stick to my rule. So I was in a bit of a quandary: "do I count them or not?" Plus it would be a patch tick, but a patch tick not on patch proper somehow didn't sound right. I decided to mull it over and decide later.
I made a quick visit in the afternoon at low tide, as I'd forgotten my rule of not going by the river on sunny winter days, all I get is a headache. I did indeed get one of those, got totally blinded by the sun reflecting on the water, but I also got #45 in the shape of 4 Coots. Coots are actually less common on this stretch of the river than Moorhens, so it was nice and provided some light relief.

I decided to give the Thames a miss on Saturday morning, in part as I needed to help TOH, but I did a quick visit mid-afternoon. I had just arrived and was doing a first scan of the foreshore, when I heard a tweet. Lifted my bins. YES! There on the foreshore, on patch, proper!

A Lapwing doing patch proper (Counting Coots ™)
(I was probably just as excited as he was a few days beforehand)

Quandary over for now. #46.
It flew off, but then it, or another one, landed on the mud even closer, giving me a chance for more photos, and then it flew off (again).

To be continued...

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Patch tick!

Sorry I have neglected this blog once again, but it's been a tad mad around here. I also, foolishly, decided to have a 'net detox over Christmas, which meant it took me ages to catch up afterwards. I have been out lots however, in part to just escape it all, and from 1st January to kick start my patch list. I started with a 2 hour walk in Margravine Cemetery where I managed to find all residents apart from Wren and Greenfinch. I did see a Greenfinch later that day but it took a few more days before I managed to find a Wren. I also managed to find the Coal Tit which was nice as I had not seen it for a while, and I found it in the exact conifer I'd been hoping to find it. And the Redwings were still there, or at least some were, as on New Year's Eve I saw at least 80 of them advancing on the grass like an army, which was quite impressive as the cemetery is not that big!
An unexpected tick by the cemetery that day was a Common Gull, standing on the Woodpecker's aerial on the estate, i.e. the one the Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on in the Spring becoming the talk of the neighbourhood.
The female Peregrine made an appearance around lunchtime, sunning herself, making it 21 for that day. Until the Greenfinch which made it 22 for the first day, on a par with last year albeit with a few different birds.

The next day, being a Saturday morning, I did my usual Thames Path walk and added a few more birds to make it 35 with most of the usual suspects. The most notable thing was that I saw a third adult Great Black-Backed Gull as well as the usual pair, which are currently very busy courting, or at least I assume that's what all this 'barking' is about. A few days previously I could hear them, but just couldn't locate them, until I looked on top of Harrods Depository: they were on top of the flagpoles!

On Sunday 3rd, I was checking if Redwings were still around in the cemetery, and they were making it the start of their 4th week, when 2 Egyptian Geese flew over, a first for me in Margravine, & making it #36.

An early morning visit to the Thames on Tuesday morning allowed me to add Shelduck with one feeding by Crabtree Wharf, not unusual at this time of year, but not that frequent either. Nothing else out of the ordinary, except maybe a few more Gadwalls than previously this winter. I have unfortunately not been able to go and check again since then, but I'm hoping to early tomorrow. We'll see. I finally added Wren for this year as I was almost home, making it #41.

Then yesterday, we were promised some more snow, so I thought I'd go and get some milk before then, and check Margravine Cemetery at the same time. Got to Barons Court having found a few Redwings. I was trying to check them from a distance so as not to disturb them, I shouldn't have bothered, dog walkers do it anyway. The corner shop didn't have any milk so I backtracked and crossed the cemetery again to go to Fulham Palace Road. As I was about half way through, I heard an unusual sound high above in a tree: a Fieldfare! At long last! A patch tick! Grabbed my camera, tried some record shots, but conditions were appalling, and it was just starting to snow quite heavily. Thankfully, it flew over to another tree closer to me, where I managed some slightly better shots.

I also decided to take a record-video. Pretty crappy quality and I wouldn't have bothered putting it up if it wasn't for the goldfinch behind:

I have seen them do it between themselves too, is it threat or courtship? But, in this case, it made me think of these passers by in the background who make faces at the camera when someone is interviewed or talking in the foreground. Might be just me, but I find it funny...

That was #42, and #43 came today in the shape of a Kestrel hovering over the hospital.
A pity the Skylark I saw on the foreshore by the supermarket this afternoon wasn't on my patch, but it was nice nevertheless...