Saturday, 4 December 2010

From Russia with love

Refugees from the frozen Continent, these Bewick's Swans will have
originated in Russia and probably reached London via the Low Countries.

It’s been an exceptional week, with the early freeze-up providing unprecedented early winter birding in London. On 1st, with the car firmly iced in, I set out on foot across Alexandra Park for the Birdwatch office. I had already notched up a decent tally by the time I got to the filter beds, with 10+ Northern Lapwings (Gareth Richards had another 100+), two Reed Buntings (a local rarity), three Skylarks, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare and an Aythya hybrid all logged in very wintry conditions. But then came a flock of 10 Waxwings – unbelievable! Though they were on the move, they at least had the decency to fly on past the office window, where Ian and David also logged them. I was delighted with this first site record, but hopefully more will appear and other local birders will get a chance to see them.

Next day saw a lunchtime dash to Rainham, where I met up with Bob Watts to score a Common Eider found by Andy Tweed, Phil Street and Dave Smith (it was a London tick for high-listing Bob). No sign of any of yesterday’s Pomarine Skuas, however, so it was straight back to the office to continue passing January’s Birdwatch for press.

But the party wasn’t over. Today an early morning alarm call from Bob saw me back in Alexandra Park watching a herd of seven Bewick’s Swans that he’d found in the half light - my second patch tick in three days. Three adult-types and four juveniles, they were an extraordinary sight against the backdrop of suburban north London. It turns out that at least 51 Bewick’s Swans were seen in London today, the largest group being 27 which dropped down on the Thames briefly in Aveley Bay; our birds headed off north at 10:28 am. Whatever next?

This Aythya hybrid shows characters suggestive of both Tufted Duck
and Common Pochard - or is another species involved?
London year-list update:
206. Common Eider.

Rainham patchlist 2010 update:
157. Common Eider.

Alexandra Park Patchlist 2010 update:
87. Reed Bunting.
88. Waxwing.
89. Bewick's Swan.


  1. I'm jealous... But did you notice the Common Gull standing on the juv Bewick's head (top photo)? Must be something to do with the cold weather.

  2. Amazing how they can do that - a little-described association between these two species!

  3. Bewick's Swans at Alexandra Park ... an utterly superb record and a London tick for me. Well done lads, here's hoping the imminent cold snap brings in more great birds.

  4. Glad you caught up with them, Des - a truly memorable event indeed. It'll be interesting to see if the next cold spell forecast for the end of this week is anything like as productive.



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