Wednesday, 17 February 2010

bits and pieces

Wednesday means it's supermarket day, and means checking on the House Sparrows out there. I was getting increasingly worried as I couldn't see/hear the nice little flock that was in the bushes by the car park. I couldn't either find them by their nesting site, yet the catkins they loved last year are almost ready. Today, I finally saw a male peer through those bushes and call. It then flew off and initially looked like it was flying to the houses on the other side of the roundabout when he suddenly made a sharp angle and descended in the 'wasteland' that's between the car park and the derelict warehouses. When I got closer I could indeed hear sparrows in there, but the vegetation was just too dense. However, looking for them, I found a pair of Foxes having a nap in the sunshine.


Its left eye appears to be crying, but it looked otherwise in good health. I miss the time when we used to see them in the back gardens (2004 & 2005 (when we had a litter of 4 cubs)).

The past few weeks, I have noted aMoorhen which must have been from a very late brood last year as the red mask is barely developed, though I admit it's not that obvious on the photos at this size. I would have thought that last year's birds would have fully developed to adulthood by now.



Lastly, I have plugged them before, but it is now even more important than before: if during the months of February to July you see Peregrine activity around tall buildings in your area, please contact the London Peregrine Partnership.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sometimes... find what you have been looking for, albeit not where you are looking for it, and/or when you are looking for it...
It can be difficult to say why one likes some birds more than others sometimes, but little grebes are amongst those for me. It's not a bird I see often on my patch, as a matter of fact I was quite surprised when I saw one a few times last year. I went to the Wetland Centre about 10 days ago and among others I was really hoping to see one, almost failed but was thrilled to find one towards the end of my visit.
When I discovered the Lonsdale Reservoir, one of the things that attracted me in coming back was the fact that I saw 3 of them there on my first visit. I have been 3 times this year and have yet to see one. I was really hoping yesterday since one had been reported during the week, but to no avail. And if was even more frustrating that someone else reported one later in the day...
This morning, I was doing a Thames21 cleanup at Kew Bridge. When I arrived the first thing I noticed, actually no, the second thing, as the first one was a grey heron by one of the yellow cages, were 2 smallish birds under the bridge. "no, can't be!", check with my bins, and "yes, it is!" Big grin :)

Earlier, on my way to the tube via Margravine Cemetery, as I was getting closer, once again, there was no missing the Redwings as they were chattering at the top of various trees. I didn't have time to stop and count them but, on my way back a few hours later, they were busy feeding on the ground and I counted 54 of them. They have now been around for over 2 months ;)

Monday, 8 February 2010

first signs of spring for 2010

The almost obligatory snowdrop photos... I went into Margravine Cemetery yesterday afternoon to photograph flowers. After all, I started this blog 3 years ago initially to record the passing of seasons. I noticed the first snowdrops about to flower on 25th January, which is 12 days later than last year.

Somehow the carpet doesn't seem as thick as in years past.

A few crocuses have also started flowering, and I managed to find some that were not damaged by the squirrels, who seem to be very fond of them. Unfortunately, I didn't note when I started seeing them appear last year, but I have an entry for 19th January 2008 reading " I also noticed that more crocus flowers had opened" which means that they are also slightly late.

We'll see if I get violets (one of my favourite flowers) on my birthday this year. I could just about guess buds on the ones most likely to flower first.

I had not gone into the cemetery to see the Redwings but I just couldn't miss them. For the second day running, they were at top of trees and very vocal. I managed to count 59 then. Then, on my way out I noticed that most had flown to the ground to feed. They were everywhere! I then managed to count 63, but I probably missed a few hidden behind gravestones and trees or still in trees, so I'd estimate them to be around 80.

They've been around since 12 December, only a few days and it'll be 2 months, numbers fluctuating but with a minimum of 20 every time I checked up on them. They're still as skittish as when they first arrived, but hiding behind a grave stone I managed to take some closer photos of this one by the old chapel of rest.

They've been a welcome addition to the cemetery this winter, especially as I never managed to find any goldcrests which is a shame after the 3 we had last winter.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


I spotted another one of these by Wandsworth Bridge about 10 days ago. I don't know how long it's been there, as I do scan those buildings from time to time but had not noticed it previously. That makes it my fourth for London. I wonder how effective they are, but, more importantly, how effective they are at keeping real flesh and blood peregrines away. If so, it could explain the lack of sightings in that area, especially as it is certainly not lacking in pigeons...

In contrast, this photo taken a few days later of a proper killing machine. I wouldn't want to be a pigeon under that gaze...

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Has anyone lost a Mandarin?

When I went to the supermarket earlier today, I had the surprise to find on the foreshore this duck. A pretty little thing really, a female Wood Duck I am pretty sure. EDIT: it's a Mandarin... Not a bird I encounter every day on the Thames...

It was associating with the few Mallards around, but seemed rather lost. I heard her calling at one point.

She was also very skittish, always swimming away when she could see me above the parapet It stood at some point on the leaf litter and I couldn't see any ring, but I didn't have much time for it as she quickly ran away back to the water.
Looking at some of the photos, could her right wing be clipped?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lonsdale Reservoir, 31 January

I left home early this morning to visit the Lonsdale Reservoir again. Glorious clear blue sky, and it was pretty chilly, but I wasn't quite expecting the reservoir to be partially covered in ice.

First of all, the owl was in the same place and easily visible even from the Thames Path. From there, I managed to find an angle to view that hole I mentioned in my previous post, and, unfortunately, it had been wishful thinking on my part. Nevermind...

owlGratuitous shot of a sleepy owl

In the next tree, a pair of Egyptian Geese was very noisy. I noticed one of them had a metal ring on its right leg, so I tried to photograph it and got a much better result than I had thought initially. A quick search told me that I am probably missing 2 digits, so I'll have to try and get the rest of it at another visit.

Almost as soon as I came off the Thames Path and entered the wooded area, after 2 wrens had crossed the path in front of me, my attention was caught by another bird arriving very fast through the trees. It landed in one of the trees bordering the path and was immediately mobbed by a few crows and flew back in the direction of the reservoir: a Sparrowhawk! Brilliant! Year tick #36.
Further on, a pair of Jackdaws were having a go at a Kestrel, just like my previous visit, but, unlike then, it was a female.
Few birds were on the reservoir, but up to about 10 Coots, a pair of Mute Swans (year tick #37), 7 Shovelers and 2 Tufted Ducks were sharing the small portion of open water. Up to around 110 Black-headed Gulls congregated on the ice in a fairly tight area, a lot of them preening. There were 5 Common Gulls among them, and just as I was leaving I noticed a Herring Gull ( year tick #38).

Only 3 additions to the year list, but a very enjoyable walk. And I managed to avoid the mad robin again, which is no bad thing...

A few more photos in my Lonsdale Reservoir album.