Sunday, 5 December 2010

STOP PRESS Bewick's Swans cap an amazing week

A rare sight in London, these Bewick's Swans grace the park on
3 December. For more images see
The unprecedented severe weather at the end of November and beginning of December saw an extraordinary range of locally rare birds recorded in Alexandra Park.

The run began with a flock of about 20 Pintail seen passing north-east over the Palace on 30 November. The next morning, with extensive snow and ice cover, a large movement of Lapwings was underway, with two flocks of about 50 and 40 birds especially notable and more than 110 birds in total. Other species fleeing the hard weather that morning included Reed Bunting (very rare here in recent years), Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Fieldfare, but the star birds were 10 or so Waxwings which flew east low over the filter beds towards Wood Green - a long-awaited first reord for the park.

With freezing conditions continuing on 2nd December, a first-winter Kittiwake over the reservoir was the next surprise, being just the second-ever to be recorded. In the afternoon, with this partially ice-free water body drawing birds from a wider than usual catchment area, a young male Common Goldeneye also appeared there. But this relatively rare visitor was firmly outdone the next morning when, at first light, a herd of seven Bewick's Swan's (three adult-types and four juveniles) was found on the reservoir. Another second record for the park, the birds showed very well and attracted keen visitors from elsewhere in London until they flew off north at 10.30 am.

Meanwhile, the long-staying Firecrest in the Conservation Area continues to survive the sub-zero conditions, and with a minor thaw setting in both Common Snipe and Woodcock appeared on 4th. With the first Treecreeper sighting for many weeks (also 4th) and further freezing weather forecast, Alexandra Park could yet produce many more exciting birds before the year is out.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

August 2010 Summary

Star bird of the month was awarded hands-down to Wood Warbler, found in a purple patch of activity by Dave Callaghan mid morning on 26th on the slope just below the Rose Garden halfway to the deer enclosures, but was unfortunately seen only by three observers and last the following morning in the dead ash just north of the Conservation Pond. The flock was briefly joined by two Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, just the second record of the year, and a Treecreeper, presumably the same bird found by the same observer amongst a flock at the back of Top Field on 24th. In a remarkable week Dave also heard a Firecrest amongst the flock in Top Field on the 23rd. Bob Watts found the year's first Pied Flycatcher in the Grove's veteran oak but it proved elusive and was seen with certainty by just one other observer in the company of two Spotted Flycatchers. this latter species put on a good show with peak counts of 8+ on two dates near the month end.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

July 2010 Roundup

As expected July proved another quiet month until signs of migrant activity at the end of the month.

The month was notable for the 1st Ringlet record for the site on the evening of the 12th. Bob Watts encountered an individual just opposite the Conservation Pond. It alighted briefly giving good views before flying again and being lost to sight. There were as many as 27 in the last week as near as Brent Reservoir so it was not an unexpected species. The same observer also came across two sightings of Southern Hawker, on the evening of the 20th around the "racecourse" track behind the Cricket Pavilion and then another on the 31st late morning just north of the Conservation Area bridge. There were also a few Purple Hairstreak sightings.

Common Tern activity peaked at 10 individuals on the 15th and included 2 juveniles, seen begging for food on numerous occasions. A Kingfisher heard near Tunnel Reservoir on the morning of the 22nd was also noteworthy. A Lesser Whitehroat was also heard on the same date at the same site, and it was not clear whether this individual had summered or was passing through.

However, the two Garden Warblers observed by the Conservation Pond on the 24th and another in the Cricket Scrub on the 30th were likely to be migrants rather than breeders, with a Willow Warbler singing from the Conservation Pond on the morning of the 30th.

Four young were being reared by the Great Crested Grebes at the end of the month, the most lasting beyond the first few days in recent years. At least two juvenile Little Grebes remained at the Boating Lake and another pair of Little Grebes hung around Tunnel Reservoir, occasionally showing signs they might attempt to breed there.

June 2010 Roundup

After an exceptional couple of months June rapidly wound down to the mid summer doldrums. Observer coverage dropped too, with some leaving the country altogether for summer holidays (including this blog author!)

Both male Sedge Warblers remained on territory singing away until the 4th, near the Balancing Pond at the southern end of Wood Green Reservoir, and in the cow parsely behind the car park backing onto the Cricket Pavilion. Sadly both had disappeared by the following day when the BBC's big Bioblitz event took place. However, several pairs of eyes were rewarded by a Common Buzzard spotted by Gerry Rawcliffe heading west at 1415. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day brightened by the limited edition kelly green APOG t-shirts sported by members of the group at thie stand. Other wildlife on show from the palace included a male Stage Beetle and several Poplar Hawk Moths.

The start of the month had also provided two Sand Martin sightings on the evevings of 1st and 3rd, including one very strange individual with extended pendant tail streamers! Otherwise the only additional report of interest was two Jackdaws south on the morning of the 3rd.

There were no further reports of much interest until the first returning adult Black-headed Gulls on the morning of the 26th. A Small Tortoiseshell also graced the perimeter of the cricket pitch. The occasional Common Tern was noted visiting Wood Green Reservoir during the month.

Of note breeding wise was a successful pair of Little Grebes up at the Boating Lake, who had four young. The Great Crested Grebes were sitting on the nest at Tunnel Reservoir but hatching had not yet taken place. Despite much activity and mating in and around the owl box where the willows have been cleared adjacent to Wood Green Reservoir, the Kestrel paid di not actually appear to hatch any young. A Willow Warbler sighting around the Cricket Scrub was intriguing and may indicate a nesting attempt.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

May 2010 - bird news

It was an excellent month in Alexandra Park, even if numbers of unusal migrants were low.

The month started well on 3rd May with a new species for the park, a female or immature Marsh Harrier low and towards Queens Wood at 0945 (Bob Watts). Just a few days later on 7th May came another first for the site, albeit only heard. Four bursts of distinctive weela-wheeo calls, diagnostic of Golden Oriole, were heard by Andrew Gardener at 1057 whilst at the Grove from somewhere behind the cafe. Presumably this bird was on the move as there was no further sign by 1320.

The next notable find was picked up by Bob Watts while giving Wood Green Res a last look on the way back from work: the site's first Black Redstart since 2006. It fed flying up and down the side of the Thames Water building and was successfully twitched by Dominic Mitchell and Gareth Richards, and was last seen by James Palmer at 1930. Earlier in the day the spring's only Whinchat had been flushed towards the Cricket Scrub from the perimeter by Dave Callahan. Bob Watts later saw this at 1750, albeit briefly, as it flew from cow parsley into the scrub beyond the elms.

A distant sighting of Red Kite from the "obs" heading east at 1755 on 13th May was probably the second bird of the month after a distant kite sp on 4th May and a third followed soon thereafter on 17th. A Spotted Flycatcher found by Andrew Gardener in the Grove's veteran oak on the morning of 22nd May was the only spring record but presaged a more exciting find in the shape of a Honey Buzzard which flew east in the company of a Common Buzzard which it attacked at 1247. Andrew Gardener, Dominic Mitchell and Bob Watts were lucky enough to connect; the comparison of the longer-winged, flat-winged, a smaller headed Honey compared to Common Buzzard were notable. Earlier in the month on 3rd May a bird fitting a description of Honey Buzzard was reported flying low over the Garden Centre at 1157 with mobbing crows in tow. The last notable bird of the month was a 1st summer male Greenland Wheatear on the Pitch and Putt found by Andrew Gardener on 30th May.

Also seen during the month there were several Hobbies and a few Common Buzzards, as well as two Sedge Warblers on territory in the Cricket Pavilion car park and near the Balancing Pond, with two Reed Warblers breifly in song for a few days at the Cricket Scrub and Conservation Pond. All in all a very satisfactory month, culminating in a running total for the annual site list of 101 species.

Monday, 10 May 2010

April 2010 - bird news

April is traditionally the peak migrant month in London, but while the park produced some goodies they were few and far between.

One of the undoubted highlights of the month included a Firecrest seen well and heard by Andrew Gardener mid morning on 16th, near the birches just behind the café in Top Field. It showed for less than a minute before flying towards the deer enclosure, and could not be relocated;.it is a typical date for a bird on passage.

Two Ring Ouzels later in the month was a return to the form of previous springs, 2009 having provided a blank. The first was a very elusive bird found early on the morning of 20th by Bob Watts, in the north-east corner of the playing fields. It was photographed within the next hour before showing again mid afternoon and again briefly a couple of times the following day. The second individual was a female found by Andrew Gardener mid morning on 27th near the "Lonesome Pine" and thence near the monkey puzzle tree adjacent to the Pitch n Putt fence. In contrast to the male it was a very showy individual. The only Common Redstart of the month was a stunning male seen flying low upslope from the obs while Bob Watts was 'viz migging' and seeing no raptors on the evening of the 9th. It alighted briefly before the backfiring of a vehicle sent it flying into the fence and thence towards the Boating Lake.

The obs again provided stunning views of a Red Kite on the morning of 11th as it flew south in the close company of three Carrion Crows. That day also provided the first Little Egret of the year flying north-west from New River Village - a welcome addition to the site life-lists of Messrs Gibson and Richards who were alerted by Bob Watts as they stood in the Cricket Pavilion car park. The day also provided two of the month's four Common Buzzards and one of the month's five Rooks, with three on the day of the guided walk on 18th.

The best of the rest included a rather smart male Brambling that showed sporadically on the mornings of 5th and 6th, close to the owl box in the NE corner of Top Field, and found by visiting birder Donal Gardener. Northern Wheatears were a bit thin on the ground but four individuals towards the end of the month included two Greenlands on the Pitch 'n Putt on 24th. Two spring Garden Warblers in the Cricket Scrub on 21st and 28th were atypical compared with recent years, when the species has only been observed in the autumn.

Returning spring firsts included Sand Martin (2) on 4th, Lesser Whitethroat on 20th, Common Whitethroat on 21st, Common Sandpiper and Common Swift (4) on 23rd, Reed Warbler on 25th and Hobby on 28th. Hirundine numbers were poor, with a maxima of 20+ Swallows on 24th, and the first House Martins (4) were as late as 24th. Common Swifts built up to 100+ on 30th. Wintering birds departed; the last Water Rail was seen at the Conservation Pond on 6th and Siskin and Shoveler on 4th.

Also of note during the month was an Egyptian Goose on 2nd, the smart drake Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid at the Boating Lake early in the month, and 5 Greylag Geese on Wood Green Reservoir on 12th.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

March 2010 - bird news

Not many stand-out birds this month but the Raven reported flying south-west over the Garden Centre at 1310 on 18th by visiting birder Pete Mantle would be only the second record for the site. He followed this up 10 minutes later with a Common Buzzard flying SW too. The following morning on the 19th at 0653 Bob Watts picked up two drake Garganey flying low SW from the direction of Wood Green Reservoir. This is only the 2nd site record, the first since 1999.

Just the one Woodcock record this month, one pick up flying over Alexandra Park Road at 1750 on the 11th. Two Lapwing sightings on the east bank of Wood Green Reservoir on the mornings of 2nd and 16th were noteworthy for being the first perched and twitchable individuals this century! There were three Peregrine sightings during the month and one Red Kite on 26th just outside the park but heading towards it at 1430. On the gull fron two immature Great Black-backed Gulls with 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls over the Circus Car Park, represented just the second record this year.

Summer migrants arrived in the shape of Chiffchaff on 15th followed by brief sightings of a male Wheatear on 21st 0745-0750 at the back of the North View Road gardens and then the same or another early afternoon near the Conservation Pond at Platform 3. Willow Warbler on the 25th with up to 4 by the month end was followed by 3 Swallows on 31st over Top Field.

Wintering visitors were on the wane but flocks of 80+ Redwing between the Rose Garden and Deeer Enclosures on 6th and 7th were notable. At least 3 possibly 4 Water Rails were present in the Conservation Pond and from the bridge in the Conservation Area. There were occasional Siskin sightings with 4 on 12th.

Also of note during the month was a Reed Bunting NE early morning on 23rd, peak counts of 9 Jackdaws and 10 Meadow Pipits on 28th, 3 Kingfisher sightings during the month, 14 Jays on the 1st and the return of the smart drake Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid to the Boating Lake at the end of the month.