Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Walking through the valley of change

At the moment, every week in the Lee Valley Park brings exciting change. Last week you wouldn’t have heard the Nightingales or Cuckoos, you wouldn’t have seen Orange-tip butterflies, Sedge Warblers or Moorhens feeding their chicks and this week you could.

The best way to experience all this change is to get up early I’m afraid. I arranged to meet my colleague and friend Brenda at 7am in order for us to have a good long walk around some of the park before we opened up the Bittern Information Point which we man as volunteers.

It was a cool yet sunny start and we were hit by the chorus of birdsong as we made our way along Walton’s Walk towards Hooks Marsh. This choir was led by the distinct song of the Blackcap, one of the first of the warbler migrants to reach our shores for the summer.

Blackcap in full song
We were lucky with this chap as Blackcaps do like to annoy you as they sing from under the leaf cover of trees and then flicking to another point and repeating the game.

Cetti’s Warbler
 At Hall Marsh, we had had reports of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler but we heard nothing. When I say nothing, I don’t mean nothing as we could hardly miss something like the song of a Cetti’s Warbler. Not only that but like the Blackcap earlier, this one occasionally showed itself and sang from a position of actual visibilty! It’s uncanny really because whenever I have seen good views of a Cetti’s, it has always been at this spot. Could this be just this bird or is there something special about this position?

Female Sparrowhawk
Although there was always a chance of seeing a Hobby, we kept bumping into Sparrowhawks on our walk. We had seen one on Thistly Marsh (a male) followed by two females, with one flying directly over our heads.

As we headed back to open the BIP, we could hear Cuckoos and then as we came closer to the main car park we heard our first Nightingales. I think I counted three separate individuals but last year we had up to 14 in this part of the park.

As the sun warmed the park, I was hopeful that I would see my first Orange-tip of the year. Once we had the BIP open we sat and watched a pair of Moorhen care for their three chicks.

So peaceful.

Then the Coots decided they were hungry.

But the Moorhen fought back and while the melee unfolded, the three chicks scarpered into the reeds.

This is natural but it doesn’t stop you from feeling helpless sometimes and although this particular event went well, we heard later that a Great Crested Grebe had had her chicks and remaining eggs predated by a Coot. Very sad.

In the afternoon, we took turns to go on butterfly hunts. This was a good opportunity for me to practice using the macro lens which is quite tricky – well in my hands anyway.

Speckled Wood

Small white

Bee Fly

Eventually and after some general running around (a bit like the closing captions of a Benny Hill show) we got the Orange-tip. Not my best shot but I expect I will have more opportunities. But then, who knows what will be about next week. All change!

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