Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Red-letter day

Female Ring Ouzel with Starling and (below) Rook (© Dominic Mitchell)

The third quarter of April is often the key period for spring migration in Alexandra Park, but today's tally probably exceeded that of any other day in recent memory.

Bob Watts set the ball rolling in style with a flightly female Ring Ouzel on the cricket pitches first thing, and that was followed shortly afterwards by John Murray logging the year's first Lesser Whitethroat and Common Redstart, the latter being a cracking but brief male which didn't reappear in the cricket scrub area. While JM, Andrew Gardener and I were trying to find the Ring Ouzel, AG picked up a Rook on the move among the local Carrion Crows - always a good bird in urban London.

After a fly-over Linnet and a Jackdaw, two more noteworthy birds, we moved up to near the 'Obs' on the pitch n' putt course, where JM relocated the female Ring Ouzel, and good looks and photos were had by four of us, now including Alan Gibson. Seven Swallows and one more each of Linnet and Lesser Whitethroat later, I finally left for the office - only to get a call within the hour from AG and Gareth Richards, who were watching a Common Buzzard drifting over. Happily, Ian Lycett picked it up from the Birdwatch office window high against the sky, and we got distant but confirmatory views as it moved off south-west over the park.

Then, at 12 noon and coming towards us from the latter direction, I picked up two distant corvids. As I idly watched them I realised that one was clearly larger than the other, appearing
buzzard-sized. As they came closer it became obvious that the smaller one, which was harrying the other bird, was a Carrion Crow. The larger corvid then had a go at the crow, during which its clearly bigger length and bulk, longer wings with well-fingered primaries and big, wedge-shaped tail were obvious as they sparred in the air - Raven! We saw the tail well several times, and the size and shape were striking, especially in direct comparison with the crow. The Raven also appeared a third longer, its substantial neck probably adding to this effect. IL and I watched the two birds annoy each other for perhaps two minutes in total, until the Raven lost interest and height and dropped down, the crow still in pursuit. It may have landed somewhere along the southern edge of the park, but was not seen again.

By comparison the rest of the day was quiet, but Mike the groundsman had a fly-over Red Kite at 1.55pm. Finally, in early evening, Bob Watts closed proceedings with another excellent local raptor, a Peregrine carrying prey, near the transmitter.

With a line-up including Raven, Red Kite, Peregrine, Common Buzzard and Common Redstart, the day's finds read more like a list from the Welsh valleys than the environs of Wood Green. It will take a lot of good fortune to better that haul in the park this year.

Friday, 11 April 2008

April sightings

April 16: despite the promising weather forecast, no notable migrants today, and the water level in the reservoir has risen to cover the mud which was exposed last week. A pair of Kestrels has returned to the filter beds/railway area - the female is missing her central tail feathers.
April 15: at 6.05pm a Red Kite arrived from the south-east and flew north along the east side of the park, having been spotted from the Obs (Bob Watts) and then watched from the Birdwatch office just east of the reservoir (Dominic Mitchell). An hour later, a second bird was spotted far to the south over inner London (Bob Watts, John Murray); it landed briefly at one point but then moved on.
April 14: Red Kite seen from the Obs heading south towards the O2 Arena (John Murray), plus four distant hirundines, probably House Martins (Alan Gibson).
April 13: House Martin over the Grove (Andrew Gardener).
April 11
: Shelduck pair on Wood Green Res 0703-0720, flew in from SE and flew off W (Bob Watts, Dominic Mitchell, J.Murray); Teal pair until 0830 at least at south end of reservoir, Yellow Wagtail over Scrub 0815; male White Wagtail on northern end on res & on grass bank by filter beds 15:05 -15:15 at least, shame it's only a subspecies! (John Murray). Still at 17.45 (Gareth Richards, Dominic Mitchell, Bob Watts). Also second-summer Herring Gull, 4 ad Lesser Black-backed Gulls, hirundine sp.
April 8: 2 Shelduck low south over filter beds early a.m. (John Murray); 2 Blackcap, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, all near Conservation Pond (Mike Benyon).
April 7: male Bullfinch (Bob Watts).
April 6: Redwing (Dominic Mitchell).
April 5: at least 45 species recorded, including 3+ Linnet, 2 Swallows, 2 Jackdaws, 5+ Meadow Pipits from the Obs, Willow Warbler (heard) (APOG), female Brambling & 2 male Blackcap Grove, Siskin (heard) Scrub (Dominic Mitchell).
April 4: Osprey seen at 15:00-15.10, viewed from Obs heading E towards Walthamstow Res direction being harrased by crows; Also 2 Swallows & 4 Sand Martins North (John Murray).
April 3: 1 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Willow Warblers by Conservation Pond early am, Linnet low east over Scrub & another Willow Warbler singing there, also Swallow N over Obs at 6.15pm (J.Murray & B.Watts).
April 2: Willow Warbler still on west side of Wood Green Reservoir close to the middle platform 0700 at least (Bob Watts).