July-August 2021 – a damp squib

Further wet weather impacted second broods, and we still cannot access Thames Water land; but there were still some interesting birds to report.


July-August 2021 – a damp squib

Wood Sandpiper (Janet Martin)

July and August were again wetter than usual and lacking any prolonged warm and settled spells. It seems as though this has resulted in poor productivity in second broods as well, and there are generally not many adult or juvenile birds around.

In addition, we were still limited to the RSPB and HMWT Reserve areas, as Thames Water has still not let us back into their territory; hence numbers cannot be directly compared with historical data. However, even taking that into account, an underwhelming summer became an autumnal non-event.

Starting with the geese, the usual Autumn build-up of Geese following their absence for moulting led to peak counts of 270 Canada Geese and 72 Greylags.

Our wildfowl suffered a sudden mortality in mid August involving several birds on No. 1 Lagoon. Defra and Thames Water did tests and the conclusion was that it was not Avian Flu but more likely an outbreak of Botulism. Water levels were raised and the outbreak seemed to subside.

Meanwhile our ducks were going through eclipse plumage, so not as colourful as usual. Best was the single female Garganey present for much of July and August, and then a male was present. Are they on shifts?

Shovelers increased slowly through July and August, peaking at 48. Our commonest duck, Gadwall, cemented its place at the top of the rankings with a peak of 444 – and this is just in the North Lagoons. Wigeons had increased from one to eight by the end of August. Our Teal typically disappear to breed further north, but the return is well under way; the handful present in July had swelled to 67 by the end of August. Finally a mention of our Red-crested Pochards: a female and a juvenile were seen regularly through July and August.

The appearance of a pair Black-necked Grebes raised hopes of another breeding attempt but they proved to be a one day wonder. A Bittern put in a surprise appearance on one August day.

The occasional pair of Oystercatchers made their casual visits on three dates in July. Lapwings have started their Autumn build-up with up to 45 birds; however the higher water levels on No. 1 Lagoon won’t be to their liking. The first few Snipe have started to return. One or two Common Sandpipers were regular throughout, and Green Sandpipers built to a peak of nine – it would have been great to know if there were additional birds also on their regular haunts in the Works.

Other occasional wader visitors included two Little Ringed Plovers, one or two Black-tailed Godwits on three dates, single Greenshanks on four dates, and a nice Wood Sandpiper.

There was just one further sighting of a Mediterranean Gull. Common Terns, having had a dismal breeding season, had all left by mid July.

Seven species of birds of prey graced us this period, the usual suspects including up to five Hobbies and three single Peregrines. The icing on the cake came from a Marsh Harrier, which passed through one August day.

This has been another year of low Hirundine counts, with no roosts found other than the odd handful of birds. Swallows were recorded on just four dates, with a maximum of 14, and Sand Martins were little better, with 21 the highest count. There were a few more House Martins with up to 60 often feeding high over the site.

Warbler passage has been very muted, and our breeding birds just seemed to ebb away. There was just a single Willow Warbler in July, and up to three on seven dates in August. The largest count of Chiffchaffs was 30, and there were just three single Garden Warblers and two twos in the period, and similarly three single and one doubleton of Lesser Whitethroat.

There was one Yellow Wagtail on two dates and a lone Whinchat.

And finally, there was one record of three Linnet, with no other finches bettering that count except Goldfinch, with a flock of 29.

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