No green sandpiper


Why is it I never see a green sandpiper on the concrete in Pymmes Brook?  Yesterday at about 2 o’clock, Max and I spent whole minutes gazing N and S but no sandpiper of any coloration (a bit of lingo americano always adds to the length of words) piped up or bobbed up or (for Philip’s belief system) materialised. And there was no kestrel on the gasometer being pestered by any of the resident crows. A goldcrest heard calling in the bridge-end shrubbery, in counterpoint to a song thrush and robin singing nearby, was my meagre reward, along with a couple of moorhens and handful of mallards below.

Am I just blind and deaf and unfortunate?  No, I was perambulating at the wrong time of day, Pete, and I know it.  So it was no surprise that I came across no goosanders and no gadwall by the weir or above Sandpiper Bridge. The water level was still too high for most tastes but a hunched heron, looking as miserable and grey as the day, hugged the patch of reeds at the confluence of the channel and Lee Diversion. Like you I had tufted duck and teal, startled into fleeting low-level flight, as we walked beside the river. No egret, no kingfisher, and naturally no water rail…

But upstream of the Green Bridge, in and around the reedbed, two little grebe were popping up and down like tennis balls among skirmishing coots, moorhens, mallard and four discreetly concealed teal – two of those surprised earlier? – quite unconcerned at being  chased or bombarded by bigger birds. Then suddenly, behind us, the bellish ping of a kingfisher turned my attention.  Sadly no sighting but, above, a flock of 12/13 redwings flighted into the copse west of the bridge.  The ones you’d seen earlier, I daresay.

Two more little grebes on the Navigation, a third and fourth song thrush in song, and from Chalk Bridge a count of 43 coots occupying the water between Ikea and the old Leaside bus depot.  A wish fulfilment observation of m and f stonechat on WMW in thin drizzle sent Max and me back apace to the gasometer where the smell of acrid deep-thoat spot welding, courtesy of the Environment Agency, must have been responsible for the absence of kestrels.  Or so I told myself.  A pretty feeble and far-fetched excuse, I grant you, but what can you expect of a septuagenarian late riser?

Oldie (aka Michael R)

This week on the Marshes

Peter Lambert wrote:

 Monday 24 January 2011
Two female goosander feeding north of the weir from the East Bridge as I walked in, then a male pheasant along the west channel just south of the Sandpiper Bridge.  This one had a trace of a white collar but broken by black, so different from the two males I saw earlier this month.  Still teal and tufted ducks in the channel then 3 gadwall on the Lee Navigation (2 females, 1 male).  Single egyptian goose at the Centre – has s/he got tired of their companions?

Nothing much of note round Clendish Marsh but then at Wild Marsh West saw my first greylag geese of the year as four flew south over WM East towards the Reservoirs.  Finally 17 fieldfare in the trees along the Lee Navigation.

Wednesday 26 January 2011
A dark and gloomy morning with drizzle at times.  Disturbed two female goosander feeding in the channel just north of Sandpiper Bridge, 3 gadwall on the Lee Navigation again.  Twelve small thrushes seen in the trees along the Lee Navigation (while I was on WM West) looked the right size and shape for redwings, but they’d gone by the time I got round to them.  Otherwise only a green sandpiper standing on the concrete in Pymmes Brook near the Gas Bridge.


Latest sightings

 Pete Lambert wrote today:

Nice sunny morning for what may be my only visit to the Marsh this week, but surprisingly quiet.  The highlight of my morning was when I got back home.  Channel east of Marsh very high after all the rain on Monday, so nothing there, although I did see a female goosander fly up from the Lockwood Reservoir and go north over WM East.  Four song thrushes singing at WM East and more later reaching a total of 13 for the morning!  Four teal in the channel north of Green Bridge and a collared dove west overhead.  Two female gadwall on the Navigation just opposite the Green Bridge, but no sign of any little grebe. Eight tufted duck in the channel near the Lock.  More singing song thrushes at Clendish Marsh plus a grey wagtail and a pied wagtail in Pymmes Brook.  Single heron NW overhead near the Lock.  Hadn’t seen any egyptian geese on my walk down the Lee but what looked like “Large” flew back to the Centre as I went by.

A female kestrel flew off the Gasometer at WM West, then walking back down the Lee Navigation with the canada geese there was what looks like a hybrid goose, photo attached.  Neck too pale for canada and some pink on bill plus ‘pale-face’ effect.  Perhaps result of hybrid with grey lag goose and canada goose.

Reached home and sat looking out in my garden while I drank a cup of tea, then 4 siskin flew into the tree in front of me!  Three males and a female – probably from the group that have been feeding on alders at the Playground behind my house from time to time.  Looked really smart in the bright sunlight.  A few minute later a male blackcap appeared in the ivy on the sycamore at the end of my garden.  My first for this year, and this makes five succesive January’s that a wintering blackcap has come to my ivy berries.


November 2010 Bird Survey results

Thought I’d see how easy it is to add the survey results as a blog (as the Download Survey feature is restricted).
Bit of a pain converting a spreadsheet to a .jpg!


P.S. Click on an image to enlarge it. Click again to zoom in further.

New look Wildlife Surveys blog!

Thought I’d just try posting to the new look blog.

When I sent out the last FoTM Event Reminder email, I asked for any photos taken on the Marshes that anyone wanted to share.

This was sent to me by David Rowley –
thanks for this lovely shot.


Todays sighting

Peter Lambert Wrote Today: 

Rather dark and gloomy as I left home at 07.38, but this may have delayed the little egrets flying away from their evening roost at Walthamstow Reservoir – anyway I saw eight little egrets fly off North or North East as I walked in from Blackhorse Lane.  After all the recent rain, the channel was very high, so there were no waterfowl in the channel from the East Bridge at WM East.  West channel equally full but five teal and two tufted ducks seen from the Green Bridge.

Walking south down the towpath I saw a little grebe in the Lee Navigation (the only one of the morning) and then two shovelers in the channel (the usual recent pair) and nine more tufted ducks.  Only one egyptian goose by the Centre, admiring itself in the metal thing – have the pairs split up!  I won’t keep you in suspense, they haven’t. Another egyptian goose flew onto the Picnic Area at Clendish Marsh as I walked round there, and by the time I got back to the Centre, there were two together – Little and Large.

Grey and pied wagtail in the channel from the bridge to Clendish Marsh and then a male pheasant (dark necked variety) perched on a fence at the allotments (photo attached).  Finally at Clendish, a chiffchaff singing from Pymmes Brook near the allotments – the first one I’ve heard singing this year.

Alarm calls near the pond and I looked round to see a sparrowhawk shoot NE across and out of sight.  Almost as quick was a collared dove flying east a litlle later.  Walking back down the towpath to the Green Bridge I saw the only gadwall of the morning, two females and a male feeding under the willows on the Navigation.  Ended the morning with a female reed bunting calling from brambles at WM East.  Grand total of six singing song thrushes as I walked round.

Egyptian Goose – ID parade

Michael Ruggins wrote today:


I suppose one of these days I shall get up of a morning and see half of the stuff you regularly record day in and day out. For instance, at the Gas Bridge I simply don’t get a sandpiper green or common or purple-hazed and, although I always expect to, I rarely see a grey wagtail and not always a pied (one of those based in Tesco’s carpark and only at the overspill gasometer for short-stay purposes, do you reckon?) but I frequently hear one there.

In my defence, as you know, I most often trundle around in the afternoon approaching dusk with Max in tow. I daresay he’ll soon become one of 2011’s grounded barn owl statistics but at least I can see him in the dark. Yesterday we passed Little and Large, like sentries on night duty, standing three metres apart and facing across the Navigation between BW’s stainless steel water filler and Dave’s greasy spoon. l suspect they are imprinted on me and Max as dual white-haired nocturnal zombies they can safely ignore, with little more than a quavery shelgoose mumble in the throat as we pass by in peace.

Are they, however, the genuine Little and Large? And not the Droopies? A passport photo is needed, I feel, to substantiate their respective identities. The real Large, a loner, who spent a great deal of his non-working days in the past couple of years admiring his reflexion in the BW chrome mirror – your anthropomorphic view benevolently tongue-in-cheek – or fiercely attacking a doppelganger rival – the boring bto social-science take on such behaviour – now appears to be fixated on Little much more diligently. His constancy is a revelation.

Will it endure, I ask myself and Max, whose appetite for wildfowl is forever virginal and unsatisfied. Is he (Little) in love, is she female, or are they gay fashionistas? Is he even a male, I wonder. All I know is that his isolationist stance of yesteryear, when he’d tolerate an egyptian buddy or another pair for a matter of days only, has been sacrificed on the altar of blissful togetherness. He no longer hugs and craves the water pump. Hurrah…

Yet we still have to find empirical evidence and proof that L & L and the Droopies are who we think they are. Maybe Big Dave (Cottridge) can set up his 15 grand’s worth of Nikon and give us 150+ digital images that confirm who’s a hero and who a villain. Meanwhile your opinion would be appreciated sometime this week. 8 days, remember, in your fulsome week and not the measly 7 everyone else is restricted to by boring precedence and habit. Why aren’t we all mathematicians like you, Pete? With a degree to testify to it too.


Monday sightings

Pete Lambert wrote yesterday:

No gadwall north of the East Bridge today, perhaps the group that were here have moved off now that most water is unfrozen. While I was standing on the Sandpiper Bridge, a male goosander flew high over the Lee Navigation, then went down to the Banbury Reservoir. A short time later, a female went similarly high over WM East. At about the same time a green sandpiper called from the east and I saw it come up and go south over the Marsh towards Lockwood Reservoir. Two male pheasants flew east from across the channel and landed on the East Marsh. Both had completely dark necks without white collars. Four redwings flew up from the trees along the west channel calling, circled overhead, then went off west. A little egret flew north over the Navigation, then from the Green Bridge I could see six teal (four males displaying at two females) and two shoveler – the female and eclipse male seen here before.

Down near Stonebridge Lock there were two pairs of egyptian geese again – Little and Large by the Centre, and Droopy pair on the barge just SE of the Lock.Nothing much on the west side of Clendish Marsh, but at the SE corner, I heard a goldcrest calling from Pymmes Brook. Found it – pecking at the metal railings round the channel – but also saw a chiffchaff, which was searching at the lip of the channel for food. Both these were the first sightings in 2011, earlier I’d only heard them calling as I walked round. By the slope in the channel near the bridge to the lock, there was a female gadwall feeding with the mallard.

At Stonebridge Wood I heard a goldcrest calling again and I found my second of the day, near the pond. Then when I reached the Orchid Meadow I disturbed a green woodpecker. This was the first I’ve seen this year, my last sighting was on 6 December. It flew off SW.

At WM West there was another song thrush singing, making four singing this morning. A male reed bunting flew up into the tree calling, before flying off high NE. From the Gas Bridge, there was a green sandpiper in the channel as well as both grey and pid wagtails. As I walked towards the Chalk Bridge, a lapwing called and looking up I saw it fly high north. On the walk south down the towpath I found two gadwall feeding – a male and a female, but not together.