Each year, on a chosen Saturday late in April or early in May, Brent Birders see how many species of birds they can find at the Welsh Harp. Usually the day’s total lies somewhere between 68 and 75, although 2011 produced an exceptional record of 81 species.
This year, the Spring Bird Count took place on 27 April. Unfortunately, the weather on that day could hardly have been worse for birding. Few migrants were on the move, and the day produced a record low count of 58 species, with nothing more interesting than a Meadow Pipit passing over.
The group decided to hold a second count on the following Saturday, 4 May (which was actually the day originally pencilled in for the count). This time the weather provided much better conditions for passage migrants, and the birders who scoured the site recorded a total of 72 species — equal to the average count over the previous 10 years.
One of the first birds seen (before 6am) was a drake Mandarin — a species that is a scarce visitor to Brent Reservoir although regularly seen not far away at Hampstead Heath. The day’s count also included no fewer than six species of raptor, with observers reporting three Red Kite, a Sparrowhawk, seven Common Buzzard, a Kestrel, a Hobby and two Peregrine.
Singing warblers — mainly summer visitors — made their presence know across the site. Birders recorded no fewer than 52 singing Blackcap, along with Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. Several Cetti’s Warbler — now a common resident species at the Reservoir — were also heard.
More than 170 Swift passed through, along with flocks of Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin.
For once, waders were in short supply, with only two Common Snipe and one Common Sandpiper recorded.
▶︎ All birders are welcome to join the 2019 Autumn Bird Count, which is currently scheduled for Saturday 31 August.