Waterbird numbers start to climb

Tufted Duck

Grey Heron


Every autumn it happens. But it’s still exciting when it does – the gradual filling out of Wanstead Park’s lakes with wintering wildfowl. Last year the clear winners were Gadwall, whose numbers peaked at more than 300 around the turn of the year, in the process establishing Wanstead Park as one of the key sites in London for the species. This year this unobtrusive dabbling duck seems to be at it again, with numbers logged on the WeBS waterbird count on Sunday 12th October reaching 101. It will be interesting to see how many more arrive in the next two months. Even more unobtrusive are Common Teal, which often tuck themselves away under overhanging vegetation in quieter parts of the Ornamental Water. WeBS counters found seven birds on Sunday but this species – another dabbling duck – is notoriously difficult to count accurately in Wanstead Park and I would not be surprised if there were already more there. A pleasant surprise was the presence of five Wigeon, two on the Basin and three on Heronry. This is a scarce duck away from the coast or the Thames. Odd birds sometimes  turn up in very cold weather, so to have such a number in mild conditions is something of an event. Many of our Pochard seem to have moved on, and my suspicious is that the September peak (74 birds) involved local breeders rather than an influx from continental Europe. Numbers of Mallard and Tufted Duck haven’t yet started to increase noticeably. Other birds of interest included five Great Crested Grebes on the Basin, single Kingfishers seen on Heronry and near the Cedar of Lebanon, a good count of six Grey Herons, two Grey Wagtails and a Little Egret.

The figures: Wanstead Park: 15 Mute Swan, 31 Canada Goose, 2 Greylag Goose, 78 Mallard, 5 Wigeon, 7 Common Teal, 10 Shoveler, 33 Tufted Duck, 21 Pochard, 4 Cormorant, 6 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret, 136 Coot, 40 Moorhen, 5 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Little Grebe, 64 Black-headed Gull, 1 Herring Gull

Hollow Pond: 7 Mute Swan, 94 Canada Goose, 2 Greylag Goose, 2 Egyptian Goose, 30 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, 17 Pochard, 16 Tufted Duck, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 48 Coot, 10 Moorhen, 68 Black-headed Gull, 2 Herring Gull.

Thanks to David Giddings and Andrew Spencer for their able assistance to do the count, and to Nick Croft and Ralph Potter for additional records. We now have a regular counter at Hollow Pond, Whipps Cross: welcome to the team, Anne-Marie White!

Tim Harris


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