In previous years I have lead pretty much all of the monthly bird walks arranged for the East London Birders Forum, but this year other people have agreed to lead the walks. This doesn't necessarily mean that I won't attend the walks and help out, but it does mean that I can take my camera along and there is no problem with me hanging back behind the group to try and get some photos!
This months walk was at Walthamstow Reservoirs, a complex of mainly small reservoirs that were constructed in Victorian times or soon afterwards. After those who needed to had bought their day permits we set off around the reservoirs on the south side of the road in bright sunshine. It was soon obvious to me that the bright sunlight, was producing some good reflections in sheltered areas, which looked like a good photographic opportunity:
Mallards: 'wild type' male, 'wild type' female, and one of the many different "manky mallard" variants - domestic Mallards that have been allowed to enter the wild population, resulting in ducks of all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and colours depending on the characters of the specific breeds in their ancestry. The one shown below is a female because it lacks the up-curled central tail feathers that all male Mallards have (and because it was paired with a male Mallard!).
Pochard: There weren't many Pochards around, although a few pairs tend to breed at the reservoirs each year, and only a single female came close enough for decent shots (most of the males were sleeping on the islands).
Egyptian Goose: There now seem to be pairs of these resident at many of the gravel pits and park lakes in the east London area, with Walthamstow being no exception. Some people like the way they look, others don't. I haven't yet come across anyone who like the raucous honking sound they tend to make in flight though!
Coot: One or two of these were also in areas with good reflections, and seemed to be finding that the glass like water surface made it easy to spot small insects which had managed to get themselves stuck in the surface meniscus. I watched one heading straight for even very tiny insects and delicately plucked them from the surface - I doubt that most of them were very filling!
All around the reservoir there were signs that the breeding season was well underway. Grey Herons and Cormorants, which both start nesting very early, already had well grown young in their nests.
Little Egrets were also occupying nests on one of the islands in the heronry, and were displaying and calling (a curious almost 'gargling' sound), they showed that they were in breeding condition with the long plumes on their backs, and because the skin on the lores (just in front of the eye) had turned to a pinkish-red colour.
Other birds were actively building nests, including Moorhens (with one pair seemingly building a nest near the top of a tree - which I'll try and check on at a later date), and this Long-tailed Tit, which was constructing its well camouflaged nest out of lichen and spiders webs in a dense bramble near where I took the photograph.
Other birds, like these Tufted Ducks, and a pair of Mute Swans, were doing what comes naturally!
When you add in the many different bird species in song (which included a couple of Common Chiffchaffs, and a briefly heard Blackcap, which could have been newly arrived migrants), and the abundance of insects, including Small White & Red Admiral Butterflies, and a few species of bumblebee, as well as the glorious warm weather, it seemed quite appropriate that British summertime was officially due to begin with the clocks moved forward an hour during the coming night!
The most unusual bird for the area was missed by most of the group, being seen by just a few of us who later had a look at the reservoirs on the other side of the road (still part of the Walthamstow Reservoir complex). A male Scaup (or Greater Scaup to use the more international name) had been around for a while, moving between the different reservoirs, and we managed to find it on the Lower Maynard, associating with a few Tufted Ducks. The slightly larger size, and rounded head shape were obvious in direct comparison, and it was close enough to note other details such as the restricted black 'nail' on the bill, which is an important feature to check for to eliminate the possibility of hybrids.