Sunday, 7 March 2010

Listing landmark - 270th London species

From top: Firecrest, Stock Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Bewick's Swan and Pink-footed Goose.

Having not succeeded with Firecrest yesterday, I tried a different site this morning – a prime piece of habitat in north London with stands of holly among ivy-clad tree trunks in oak woodland. I have visited this site before but not for many years, and Firecrests have occurred here too, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised when a gorgeous male popped up in the holly and began singing, at one point even with its crest raised. Eventually a female joined it, and they gave superb views on and off for more than an hour – you can’t get enough good looks at Firecrests.

The site is potentially suitable breeding habitat so should remain nameless for this Schedule 1 species, though the pair may be tempted to move on in this improving weather anyway. Everything else in the wood was thinking about breeding, with Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers very audible and visible, displaying Stock Doves, fast-flying parties of Ring-necked Parakeets and, on a nearby lake, paired-up Mandarin Ducks, giving much closer views than yesterday’s birds at Trent Park. A single fly-over Siskin rounded off the list before I headed for home. When I got back there was no sign of the regular male Blackcap in the garden (it had been present both of the previous two mornings), but a Long-tailed Tit and a rare fly-over (and calling) Kestrel were notable.

I was catching up with emails at home mid-afternoon when news came via Dave Darrell-Lambert of two Pink-footed Geese in east London. Clearly the birds first seen at Rainham and then in the Ingrebourne Valley in February, they had been refound at Belhus Woods Country Park a short distance to the east – exactly where Dave Morrison and I speculated they might be! How I wished, while speeding through the Sunday traffic on the North Circular Road, that we’d checked the site out earlier.

As I neared Dagenham, my mobile rang – it was David Callahan who, not content with his success in finding a Little Stint at Rainham in the morning, was now watching two Bewick’s Swans on Wennington Marshes. I diverted my route and was there within 15 minutes, giving distant but confirmatory views of one adult’s bill pattern while the other slept. It was my 178th species for the site (and 102nd there this year), and only the second time I’ve seen this declining winter visitor in the London Area. David joined me for the short trip to Belhus, and after a failed attempt to see the birds from the road we parked up, exchanged pleasantries with Mike Spicer – who had just added the birds to his London list – and headed over to Huntshill Pit. After a short search I picked the birds up swimming towards a group of Greylags.

I’ve actually seen this species in London once before, but as single grey geese are not usually counted as wild (for often inadequate reasons), this duo will be acceptable under listing rules – and, as such, became my 270th species for the London Area.


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