Chris Farthing’s Woodberry bird highlights: February 2020
February 2020 continued the theme of most of this winter, being mild and wet. This generally limits bird movement and leads to few surprises. We had to wait for the very early stages of the ‘spring’ migration period for the highlight of the month, when on the 22nd a female stonechat (main picture above) appeared in the reed-bed close to the boardwalk, where it remained for a couple of hours at least. Given that stonechats are reasonably common in the Lea Valley in the winter, it is perhaps surprising that they are seen so infrequently here, with sightings being less than one a year on average, the previous sighting being in October 2017.
On the water, no new ducks were seen in the month. Both shelduck and shoveler were present infrequently, a singleton of the former and pair of the latter, but teal continued to show well all month, with up to nine being counted. Our two common but elusive winter reed-bed visitors, water rail and snipe, were probably present all month but sightings were very low, although the squeals from the reed-bed suggested that at least three of the former were present.
After being a regular bird here earlier this winter, it was surprising that there were no kingfisher sightings through January, but we did have one visit in February, on the 5th. Amazingly, we didn’t have a single sighting of a great crested grebe in February, no doubt this will change in March due to the good quality breeding habitat here.
The variety of gulls seen here in winter can increase during cold spells, so in a mild month we were lucky to have one unusual gull visit, when a yellow-legged gull (picture 1 below) was seen briefly on the 20th. A stock dove was seen flying over on the 28th, in addition to a few sightings of collared doves.
Another new bird for 2020 was a buzzard (2) which passed overhead on the 28th, drawing attention from the local crow population. Both sparrowhawk and peregrine were seen frequently through the month, with the latter often being seen perched on the Skyline Tower.
Whilst chiffchaff and goldcrest have been plentiful here all winter, sightings of blackcap (3) have been fairly low, with a male seen twice in February and a female seen at the end of the month along the woodland trail.
As the breeding season approaches, more and more birdsong can be heard. Chaffinches and greenfinches were singing every day by the end of February, and a male reed bunting (4) could be heard singing most mornings from the same location near the northern end of the lagoons.
The total number of bird species seen here in February was 60, which is very much in line with the previous few Februaries here, except for 2018, the beast-from-the-east year when 65 species were seen.
[Photos by Chris Farthing]