Tuesday, 26 July 2016

White Stork - London list #295

White Stork with crow entourage. Rather than carrying a baby, this tip scavenger appears to have found an old nappy!
It's never easy to guess what your next new patch or county bird will be. But one species which I probably should have laid to rest in London previously is White Stork, several twitchable individuals having appeared within the capital's recording area over the years. Most, however, have turned up at inconvenient times, notably when I have been overseas, so when Peter Alfrey texted with news of a bird at Beddington Farmlands on my day off last Friday, it looked like game on. Itching to go after a family commitment, plans had to be aborted mid-afternoon when the bird bailed prematurely.

It actually did me a favour, as it turns out, with doubts over its origin and even identity surfacing subsequently. It's hard to tell from the distant phonescoped record shots, but the bill and legs appear blackish rather than red, somewhat suggestive of Oriental Stork (even if the dark-looking wings are not), while it also seems to be ringed, possibly indicative of a captive origin (ringed escapee White Storks are currently at large in Britain).

The second Beddington stork was clearly unringed, and not Oriental ...
Lightning can strike twice, however, and so it happened at Beddington today. Another White Stork alert from Peter saw me rapidly reschedule evening plans and undertake a rare rush-hour trans-London train twitch. I didn't get to this south London outpost until almost 19:30, but thankfully observers on site had seen the bird go down on the landfill so it was surely still present. It's amazing how well camouflaged a black-and-white bird the size of a teenager can be against a backdrop of black bin liners, white carrier bags and general household detritus, and an initial scan failed to locate it. As we slowly approached, however, the bird lumbered up into the air, drawing with it an entourage of Carrion Crows, and proceeded to circle the site before landing on the northern lake.

White Stork with a Grey Heron on the northern lake at Beddington.
Here we could watch it at a safe distance, and note its clean red bill and unringed red legs - surely a different bird from the one photographed last Friday? An even more remarkable occurrence if so. It will be interesting to see if any reports of a stork resembling that individual emerge subsequently. In the meantime, however, White Stork is a welcome addition to my personal London list - just five species to go to the big 300.

Species status | London: vagrant, occurring not quite annually but 1-3 records most years, with 18 individuals between 2000 and 2014 (during which there were four blank years). Most are fly-overs, with lingering or twitchable birds much rarer. | Britain: very scarce visitor, usually in spring and autumn and less so in summer, but several known escapes also at large. According to reports on BirdGuides.com, the latter are most frequent in Norfolk; other counties reporting escapes in the last five years include Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, West Yorkshire and Wiltshire.

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