Home is where my cat is

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?

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.

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