nathalie's blog

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.

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.

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.


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.

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...

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