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Many birders in pursuit of passerine quarry travel to offshore islands or remote headlands where a shortage of cover can, in season, give the erstwhile hunter better odds of finding migrants than on the mainland, which reduces the chances considerably by virtue of its vastness! But one can apply the same isolation concept to green areas within a hostile surround, replacing islands and seascape with parks and urban sprawl.


Canary Wharf at night (Photo: flickr user Larsz)

Between 2001 and 2006, Andrew Middleton, Dusty Gedge and Ken Murray were the principal players in what would prove to be a ground-breaking project for urban London. Monitoring the Canary Wharf complex of green spaces has to date involved more than 3,000 man-hours, and no fewer than 37 passerine migrant species have been recorded, of which more than 50% are nationally rare or locally scarce. In addition, two out of three other races/species recorded are potential firsts for Western Europe. To date I am not aware of any other urban comparison to this phenomenon in Europe.

This project has been driven by an incidence of migrant passerines that has sometimes been on a scale comparable to a coastal observatory, all in a totally alien six-acre environment. The results to date were only achieved through total commitment and site sensitivity by the observers concerned, with the support of Canary Wharf Group plc, and the sponsorship and encouragement of HSBC.


One of the tiny green areas within the Canary Wharf complex (Photo: Ken Murray)

The story began in autumn 2000 when I was driving home late one evening and I saw the 840-ft Canary Wharf Tower, ignited by white light and looming out of the trees some 12 miles distant. This inspired me to consider whether perhaps the odd migrant might be 'resting' at the foot of this steel and glass corporate lighthouse. I mused to my wife, "we must go and pick up a few bits tomorrow; how about the Canary Wharf shopping mall?" When we arrived the following morning we parked in the underground car park, took the lift to the mall, then the escalator to a ground-level glass trapezium. To my surprise, this overlooked a tree-lined square overshadowed by London's own cloud-piercing piece of Manhattan, No.1 Canada Square! It was whilst I craned my neck skywards that I espied the definitive zip movement that would change my life forever. The speed of it could only belong to a trans-Saharan; it was followed by another, then another disappearing into the Chestnuts. This is no cemetery I thought: this is the UK's first inland lighthouse migrant trap!

That first autumn was covered initially by myself, casually logging Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and what took it into a higher gear: Regulus ignicapillus — not one, but two Firecrests. The alarm bells were now ringing! During this phase of construction — 2000/2004 — the noise levels were deafening: a concerto of pile drivers, drills, hammers, oxyacetylene, squealing brakes; and yet even this cacophony couldn't eclipse the Phylloscopus 'tsooeet' or Sylvia 'tac'.


Blyth's Reed Warbler (Grab: Andrew Middleton)

2001 saw the site hitting the mercury with Melodious Warbler, seen well by three observers on 18th August and the well-documented post-9/11 Blyth's Reed Warbler — the first inland/London record! — on October 5th. News of the latter bird was not released, following consultation with the site management who felt that it would be inappropriate as security could be compromised. Such was the concern that Andrew Middleton and myself were issued with photo ID permits which theoretically allowed us to monitor the site without intervention from security.

2002 was covered between 21st April and 4th November, during which time thirteen species of migrant were recorded. These included Icterine Warbler on 28th July (one observer), then a leaf green, yellow wing-barred Phylloscopus with a buff wash to the vent on the 31st, which disappeared without its ID being clinched. A Booted Warbler was present on 6th October (the first inland and London record), a solitary individual which showed extremely well, albeit briefly, at ground level about eight feet away before disappearing into the canopy; again there was just one observer. A particular highlight was the occurrence of nine migrants of seven species crammed into a small, open, wendy-house-sized tree, interacting like notes up and down on a music scale, as I stood barely eight feet away: totally bizarre! Perhaps a reaction to myself and the entrapment factor.

2003 monitoring started on 19th April and continued to 5th November, beginning with a single migrant and ending with the same. Peaks in spring were the last week in April and first week in May, and in the autumn 15th–22nd September, with maximum counts of around 25 birds for each period. Highlights were four Wood Warblers and two Pied Flycatchers in the crown of a single tree. On one occasion a woman was sitting on park bench reading a paperback, oblivious to a Reed Warbler frozen barely a metre away on an open Chestnut stem — both were still there 15 minutes later. Another memorable sighting was of a tall, suited city gent chatting on his mobile with one hand, inhaling a cigarette with the other, looking skywards, with a Sedge Warbler sandwiched on a bare paving stone between his '10 to 2' feet, no doubt wondering 'where am I, and what am I doing here?'


Sedge Warbler (Photo: Ken Murray)

Other less pedestrian sightings were a small, buffy, streaked Locustella first reported on 6th October and last seen scuttling away from AM and KM's respective toes on 9th October; and a probable Great Snipe on 10th October arrowing through the trees and creasing over the heads of a couple of hard-hatted workmen lunching on a park bench, before dropping low into adjacent shrubbery (another was reported northeast on the same day). Also seen briefly later that afternoon was a Barred Warbler flying low into cover and last seen on the 16th. On the 15th a 5-inch bird with brown upperparts, pale underparts, and 'long pink legs' was seen running through the ground cover, then on the 17th a delta-brown-backed bird shot from underfoot like an arrowhead disappearing into cover, never to be seen again. The mind boggles!


Phylloscopus sp. (Photo: Ken Murray)

The following year, 2004, was even more remarkable, possibly due to an increase in 'white light' output. On 1st May a small drab Phylloscopus with a strident 'unknown' call was seen by three observers, filmed, sonogrammed and is being researched at present: tristis Chiffchaff is a strong candidate. A week later on the 8th I filmed and 'grabbed' a putative Eastern Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochillus yakutensis, probably the most amazing brown warbler that I have ever seen, putting Radde's and Dusky Warbler deep in the shade. Unfortunately, like so many of the migrants that occur, its appearance was all too brief.


Phylloscopus sp. (Photo: Ken Murray)


Phylloscopus sp. (Photo: Ken Murray)

If the spring was to raise expectations then nothing could have prepared us for the 'fall'. Pied Flycatcher on 4th August was the precursor to an unimaginable sequence of scarce and rare migrants to grace the steel and glass portals of Canary Wharf. On Sunday 15th August, after three hours of dogged hunting, an elusive straw-yellow and white acro, which gave indications of being a possible immature Aquatic Warbler, stared down at me from the top of a 25-ft Lime tree. Saturday 21st opened up with a 30-bird fall, including Wryneck (found by Dusty Gedge) 'tongue-flicking' invertebrates by a busy pedestrian walkway and the site's second Blyth's Reed Warbler in the crown of an adjacent tree! A second Wryneck occurred on 3rd September and was followed by a Whinchat on 9th September, Common Redstart on 10th September and Dusty Gedge's site-defining Red-backed Shrike sitting atop the tallest stem of a 40-ft Oak looking down on bright red double-decker buses screeching by, whilst being framed in the shadow of the towering 650-ft corporate Citigroup HQ — a sight so incongruous to all present that it almost defied belief! These were followed by Firecrest, Marsh Warbler and the site's 3rd Blyth's Reed on the 11th, an Icterine Warbler on the 12th, and finally Andrew Middleton's incredible Grasshopper Warbler on the 18th. The latter showed up for a photo shoot exposed on a black marble plinth giving a sunlit mirror image performance...simply jaw-dropping.


Grasshopper Warbler (Photo: Ken Murray)

2005 was greeted with much anticipation, as any matching or improving on 2004 would have been adrenalin-pumping to say the very least. However the spring started very slowly in stark contrast to 2004, with volume down around 50%: even more remarkable when you consider that the observer coverage had increased by about 40%!


Wryneck (Photo: Andrew Middleton)


Red-backed Shrike (Photo: Andrew Middleton)

Initially this was put down to a variables glitch and we hoped that the autumn migration, which was always the busiest period, would prevail and provide the impetus for all concerned. It was not to be; nevertheless the scarce/rare migrants ratio compared well against the volume for the year. Firecrest was the leading light that kicked the autumn off on 16th August, along with a supporting cast of regular migrants that included Chiffchaff, Willow, Garden, Reed and Sedge Warblers, as well as Blackcap, Common and Lesser Whitethroat.


Common Whitethroat (Photo: Ken Murray)

On 30th August I had a split-second view, about 10 feet away, of an almost certain, strongly-eye-striped Paddyfield Warbler. A further hour and more of searching revealed nothing. It would have to be another one that got away. The following day Andy Middleton had the site's 3rd Icterine Warbler. On 11th September a controversial unstreaked Acrocephalus sp. was found in Canada Square. It sported a bevelled, straight or rounded tail (posture dependent), and in some lights a dark eyestripe contrasting against a pale supercillium (though in other light less so); identification was not helped by the fact that it was invariably seen high in the canopy. It was filmed, and the consensus on the grabs taken was suggestive of Paddyfield Warbler.


Acrocephalus sp. (Grab: Ken Murray)


Acrocephalus sp. (Grab: Ken Murray)

The rest of the month was relatively quiet until 5th October, when the site's second Firecrest of the year turned up, possibly coinciding with a fall of 33 at Cape Clear, Ireland. This was followed by a Woodcock found stunned outside Citigroup on 18th then, totally unexpected and to the observer's amazement, Andy Middleton heard a Cetti's Warbler singing stridently on the 21st. This was definitely not on anyone's radar! I managed to obtain, with great difficulty, a short film burst from which this grab was taken whilst workmen eight feet away were digging up the adjacent walkway.


Cetti's Warbler (Grab: Ken Murray)

The spring of 2006 was almost but not quite a repeat of the previous year, except for the site's earliest Firecrest on the 1st May and the first-ever spring record of Common Redstart on the 4th. All the required variables were there except for one: the all-important weather, something we haven't quite got under control yet! The spring at best represents a small window of opportunity, from a site historical perspective perhaps three weeks. Unfortunately, during this period low air temperature dominated, which in turn delayed the leafing, denying our VIPs (very important passerines) food and shelter.


Redstart (Photo: Ken Murray)

Autumn monitoring started on 4th August with three Willow Warblers and a Sedge Warbler; a modest haul to whet the appetite for the coming months. However, this abruptly changed on 9th August when a small bland-faced non-Phylloscopus warbler appeared on several occasions, high in the canopy and showing features normally attributable to Booted Warbler. Unfortunately for all concerned, this could only be logged as a 'highly probable'. Later on that morning a probable immature/female Common Redstart was glimpsed for a nanosecond; but when seen the following day, albeit briefly, on three occasions it was positively identified as a Nightingale sp. All the salient points were noted except the crucial length of the first primary relative to the primary coverts, which separates Common from Thrush Nightingale. However, 'cosmetically' it alluded strongly to the latter; if proved to be the former it would constitute the first urban London record and the closest to Berkeley Square in a very long time. If it was a Thrush Nightingale, the record would be the first inland and earliest national record (though one was subsequently caught and photographed on Salisbury Plain on August 9th 2008). The separation will probably never be 'committee resolved'; however, the bird had a 'barrel' of white undertail coverts almost reaching the tip of a closed cocked tail, in which no hint of rufous was observed; flesh pink legs; a pale eye ring; a contrasting pale throat bordering a dark wash over the entire breast down to the belly; and grey-brown upperparts against a warm brown panel to the primary/secondaries only — which can be indicative of Thrush Nightingale.

It is sobering to consider that in three years Woodcock, Cetti's Warbler, Wryneck, Firecrest, Whinchat, Common Redstart, Barred Warbler, probable Great Snipe, Paddyfield Warbler and Thrush Nightingale — to name but a few — have all occurred within a 10-foot radius of cover surrounded by 500-foot glass and steel towers!

Following on from the 'Glorious 9th', the rest of the month was dominated by unsettled weather fronts from the west which reduced movement to a trickle, although conditions picked up within the first week of September. The ensuing old moon with clear nights had given the kiss of death to any meaningful volume. I'm afraid the towers with all their light cannot compete with the unfettered sky: we are currently praying for cloud cover as I speak.

An update on September 16th proved to be quite depressing for all concerned: two Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff was the day's three-hour tally in what should have been reasonable conditions for a double-figure return at individual green areas, let alone in total within the estate. Observations on the day excluded Cranefly from the log. This invertebrate plays a big part in sustaining migrants during their stay and, that being the case, might go part of the way in explaining the dearth of autumn migrants. We shall certainly follow up Cranefly sightings for the rest of the campaign.

Things hotted up on the 20th when half a dozen Willow/Chaffs turned up with Lesser Whitethroat, Goldcrest and a large warbler sp. in Canada Square. Unfortunately, the latter was disturbed by a passer-by. The following day, the 21st, showed a 50% increase, including the site's only Spotted Flycatcher for the year; then on the 25th just outside the area, at East India Dock, Andy Middleton found a two-day Barred Warbler, which was well attended by many observers. Although not light-related, at 11:20am on the 26th I was presented with a totally jaw-dropping sight, when out of a warm, still, blue sky, three Common Buzzards in line drifted south creasing the 400-ft towers of Jubilee Park.

Sunday 1st October opened with a much-hoped-for revival, when the autumn's first two Firecrests appeared with one singing in concert with an accompanying Chiffchaff...another false dawn? Apart from the odd Blackcap and Chiffchaff, October appeared fairly quiet until the 28th, when an extremely odd-looking, almost confiding thrush was found by KM and AM, at times looking like a hybrid Redwing/Mistle Thrush. Subsequent research by Dr Charles Fentiman has suggested the possibility of the central Asian race of Song Thrush natalia; this taxon is not recognised by all mainstream literature, but when compared to overwintering Song Thrushes in the UAE which probably originate from the North East — i.e. Central Asia — the images are strikingly comparable.


Thrush sp. (Photo: Ken Murray)


Thrush sp. (Photo: Ken Murray)

In conclusion, 2005 and 2006 where somewhat lacking in volume compared to previous years. Accepting that the respective breeding successes and weather system variables might not have been advantageous to migration, it was our opinion that the lighting reduction of c.50% overnight, coupled with a distinct lack of mainstay invertebrates (i.e. Cranefly), which are light-attracted, were the real material differences, especially in 2006. Nevertheless, the monitored site area to date (c.6 acres) has demonstrated that, light willing, it had the capacity to attract and sustain an amazingly high incidence of regular/scarce migrants that has no known urban comparison in the UK. What made the site so exciting and the birding so incredible is that on paper it should be devoid of migrant life, given that these small window-box areas of cover are surrounded, encased, and indeed canyoned, by the UK's tallest blocks of glass, concrete and steel. Also the fact that eight or more national rarities should occur in Canada Square alone in a five-year period, not to mention the regular migrants, underlines the importance of this sensitive site.

2007/2008 has been an unmitigated disaster! We managed 26 and 27 bird days respectively for the years, compared to 600 in 2004! Unsympathetic lighting, weather systems and breeding failures provide a list of variables to ponder.

To make any comparisons, albeit with differences, one has to cross the Atlantic and consider Robert DeCandido's PhD entitled "Autumn 2004: Visible Night Migration of Birds at the Empire State Building (ESB), New York City, New York". This is a detailed 25-page account of monitoring 'flyover' nocturnal avian migrants. This was done from the observation platform of the Empire State Building, at an elevation of 1050 feet, from mid-August through to mid-November, from sunset to 11:45pm. DeCandido's sightings were purely flyovers, as the nearest cover is Central Park, around 1.5 miles away. This is unlike the Canary Wharf complex, which has secondary guide lighting at street/ground level within the shrubberies that surround the towers, therefore presenting the VIPs with food and cover during their transient tenancy. Just like the ESB survey, which primarily attracted New-World wood warblers, flycatchers and their allies, Canary Wharf mirrors the same groups, albeit with their Old-World equivalents.


Canary Wharf at night (Photo: flickr user Poolski)

A footnote to the above, between 25th and 29th May: I holidayed in Boston USA and during my stay I visited the financial centre, which was predominantly 'sky-scrapered'. During lunch at the foot of a particular bank, my wife and I were seated by a small, terraced marbled shrub area that enjoyed relatively scant cover. We observed two Ovenbirds, two Yellowthroats and several White-throated Sparrows. I believe it certainly re-affirmed a correlation between migrant birds, skyscrapers and 'white' night-lighting.

A final comment on the post-9/11 security issue, as mentioned previously: the three main monitors were supplied with lapel badges that clearly showed their name with photo ID. Nevertheless such is the sensitivity that we were frequently challenged by the estate security, the tenant's security, and the Metropolitan Police whenever we appeared to aim our optics/cameras at the trees in front of the buildings. On one occasion there was a complaint registered between a tenant and the estate management, which resulted in a recommendation from our permit providers that this should be avoided. To say that this was something that was not going to be jeopardised at any cost, would be an understatement. Thus compliance was always absolute!

With the prevailing CO2 concerns and the corresponding reduction of lighting ensuring a now much-diminished return, we discussed the site's now limited attraction with management, whereupon they have relaxed their previous concerns, and allowed publication of this account subject to their agreement.

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (37)

#1
Amazing.
   Alex Lees, 10/04/09 12:48Report inappropriate post Report 
#2
Really great article! Don't know why I ever moved out of London to Norfolk...
   Sacha Barbato, 10/04/09 14:06Report inappropriate post Report 
#3
!!!
   Peter Alfrey, 10/04/09 15:22Report inappropriate post Report 
#4
Superb, a real inspirational piece for urban birders.
   Tristan Reid, 10/04/09 15:43Report inappropriate post Report 
#5
Did you find any bird strikes on the ground ? Remember a Pallas's found dead under English Nature buildings in P'Boro a few year ago.
   Mark Thomas, 10/04/09 16:39Report inappropriate post Report 
#6
URBAN BIRDING IS THE NEW FRONTIER!
   Laurence Pitcher, 10/04/09 18:56Report inappropriate post Report 
#7
Over the monitoring period c8 years, almost single digit fatalities were recorded but clearly numbers were probably higher. Comprising C.Whitethrt. Goldcrest, 2 Sedge Warblr. Reed Warblr. Willow Warblr. Fieldfare, 2 Woodcock and Blckap. Considering the numbers of birds involved, it would appear a very small percentage. However the estate supports a healthy Corvid population which were seen to 'clean up' on occasion. Add to that Peregrines and Sprawks and you have a near full compliment of predators.
   Ken Murray, 10/04/09 18:59Report inappropriate post Report 
#8
Very interesting, shame none of the records bar the first Blyth's Reed Warbler was ever submitted.
   David Darrell-Lambert, 10/04/09 20:19Report inappropriate post Report 
#9
I'd have thought that it would have been patently obvious, as to why records were not submitted in time honoured fashion. Clearly you have not considered the security procedures in relation to this site.
   Ken Murray, 10/04/09 20:38Report inappropriate post Report 
#10
Inspirational article. Working an initially unpromising patch is much neglected by many these days. To have made the lighthouse link and followed it up - I take my hat off to you! Sit in your back garden and see what flies over this weekend (weather permitting). You might be surprised.
   Paul Gosling, 10/04/09 20:46Report inappropriate post Report 
#11
As pointed out in the article, security was very sensitive to optics/camcorders (from which most of the grabs were taken) being directionally used 'consistently' against the buildings and indeed elsewhere on the shrubbery where more often than not the general public was 'sprawled'. During the study period 2001-08 Spring and Autumn the site was rota monitored on a near daily basis, c2-3 hours per visit, normally early in the morning. The monitors always took note of the weather forecast and this would determine where best their efforts might be employed on the day. Indeed it was a learning curve for all involved concerning the variety of species I believe the images speak for themselves.
   Ken Murray, 10/04/09 22:02Report inappropriate post Report 
#12
Thank you for the response, does this mean that the records have all been submitted now? You can alway submit records with the site not disclosed and even observers names withheld. The first Blyth's Reed Warbler was submitted with full details.
   David Darrell-Lambert, 10/04/09 22:04Report inappropriate post Report 
#13
After a jaw-dropping first read, most of this appears to boil down to an over-hyped article involving possibles, near-misses, no-photos, brief views and obsessional suppression. Any intensive watch of an area over several years would be expected to turn up a number of scarcities and one or two rarities. Overall, the hype hides what is probably a very interesting study. Details on the numbers of migrants (accepted rarities only) in relation to weather and light conditions, and the numbers of crane-flies (where do these come from?) would be interesting. Any chance of seeing such a considered article?
   Graham White, 10/04/09 23:01Report inappropriate post Report 
#14
Over-hyped suggests an exaggeration of the facts. I felt it was appropriate to report not just the positives but also those species where, whilst there had not been a definitive identification, the commoner confusion species had been ruled out. Apart from the 2001 Blyths where the camcorder was borrowed, camcorders were not monitoring kit between November 2001-Autumn 2003, thus explaining the lack of images during this period. You clearly have a lack of understanding of the security issues at the site and this explains your ill-judged comment on suppresion.
   Ken Murray, 11/04/09 00:23Report inappropriate post Report 
#15
I can't help but think some of those who have made negative comments on this exciting article have missed the unique, unparalleled nature of this urban study. Photographs of Grasshopper Warbler, Wryneck and Red backed Shrike, amongst the towers of docklands, are enough to blow a banker's bowler hat off at ten yards! Assuming all the facts in it are true, and I have no reason to presume otherwise, it's a gripping read. Let's not got bogged down in the dogmatic nature of descriptions. What an inspirational piece of intuitive birding!
   Laurence Pitcher, 11/04/09 09:12Report inappropriate post Report 
#16
The positive feedback so far has been most uplifting. Indeed the purpose of publication was to inspire those like-minded birders to seek out not dissimilar architectural landscapes elsewhere. I am greatly pleased to at last feel able to share this information.
   Ken Murray, 11/04/09 11:34Report inappropriate post Report 
#17
I worked at Canary Wharf throughout the study period and find the account entirely credible. On some of the rare occasions when I was able to spend time out of my office building during the day at migration times, I did see obvious migrants such as Goldcrests and late-autumn Jays. I also heard others which, under time pressure, I was obliged to dismiss as "probable Chiffchaff". I appreciate that the reduction in nocturnal lighting is likely to have reduced the incidence of migrants at Canary Wharf, although one should take care in drawing conclusions from smallish samples when several non-constant factors are relevant to the observed variable (number of migrants). But assuming that there will continue to be at least a smaller flow of migrants at CW, I would be interested to learn from Ken whether he thinks any available time is best spent at Canada Square or at another site in the complex - and which site would that be?
   Peter Andrews, 12/04/09 11:00Report inappropriate post Report 
#18
It was Andrew Middleton who first proposed that the varying intensity of the lighting on the No 1 Canada Sq. pyramid might be one of the most important 'non-constants' that impacted on volume. His concept was to imagine the pyramid full on, and viewed from above by incoming continental migrants ie Thames estuary.c50 miles to the east. If viewed from above on a clear, moon free night, the pyramid would become an approx 3600sqm. concentration of white light, that could be a magnet to nocturnal migrants. The remit of the lighting when full on, especially between midnight and dawn, almost certainly extended beyond the study area. All the sites monitored had comparable incidence and volume.
   Ken Murray, 12/04/09 12:45Report inappropriate post Report 
#19
Such a prominent structural feature within a migration route presumably must act as a migration marker for migrant birds. With one accepted Blyth's Reed Warbler and fully documented (well photographed at least) records of Wryneck, Barred Warbler Red-backed Shrike, Cetti's Warbler and photographs of common migrants such as Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler there is little doubt that Canary Wharf acts as some kind of concentration mechanism. I think the case could have been made more...more more
   Peter Alfrey, 12/04/09 14:17Report inappropriate post Report 
#20
Barred Warbler was never photographed! seen twice only by two different observers on seperate occasions. The 'next time' you encounter a Grasshopper Warbler reflected on a marble surround during Autumn passage please let me know! The first Blyths was 'ratified' by the observers in single digit seconds! without the need to call in the 'so-called experts' or the benefit of the ensuing stills/film. I've already explained the reasons for the inclusion of 'all sightings' in post 15.
   Ken Murray, 12/04/09 15:31Report inappropriate post Report 
#21
This study is fantastic. Well done! I'm always amazed at the pedantic comments offered by some viewers. How truly sad for them. Keep up the good hunting!
   Suzanne Clark, 12/04/09 22:44Report inappropriate post Report 
#22
I work 100yds East of the Tower of London and find there is quite a lot of permanent birdlife in the area... Wood Pigeons outnumber feral Pigeons: there are Blackbirds, Greenfinches, Bluetits, Magpies and Pied Wagtails (there are these days a lot of green patches in the East End). There are still House Sparrows round the Tower of London. St Katherines dock has breeding Tufted Ducks. I have heard autumn willow/chiffs hidden in the scraps of office-front greenery and once had a Woodcock fly over the Tower and up into the City. I wish I still worked at Canary wharf - in the mid 90's the best I could do from the window was Kestrels and Greater-Black Backed Gulls.
   Ed Griffiths, 13/04/09 09:22Report inappropriate post Report 
#23
Sorry about the Barred Warbler- I thought I recalled a twitched bird- must have been somewhere else. What was the ratio of common migrants:scarce migrants:vagrants in terms of individual numbers of birds? You mention species ratios/percentages but not individual birds e.g. 300 indiviudal common migrants to one BBRC rarity etc. I presume you must have experienced dramatic falls of common migrants in a similar way to a regular vagrant/migrant trap on the eastern sector of the British Isles.
   Peter Alfrey, 13/04/09 23:08Report inappropriate post Report 
#24
When you refer to BBRC's, I feel that the term is 'subjective' when applied to RBShrike,Gropper,Whinchat, Melodious,Cettis,and Barred each of which was recorded once only, but were all present excepting RBShrike and Whinchat for more than one day. Further to that being accepted, none of the aforementioned would be classified as BBRC's! In relative abundance terms WillowChaffs, Blackcap,C.Whitethroat,Grdn.Warbler,Reed Warbler,Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat represented the descending order of occurence. At peak c20,6,6,2,2,1,1, respectively.Obviously the more arboreal ie Phylloscs.the easier to monitor the remaining species could have been easily double their respective perceived RA.There were anomolies for e.g. 4 Reed Warblers together on one occasion and even more remarkable a minimum 9 Garden Warblers singing in a concentrated small area. A peak fall in 2004 was c30+, in 2008 c 4!
   Ken Murray, 14/04/09 09:42Report inappropriate post Report 
#25
I was referring to the 3 Blyth's Reed and the Booted Warbler. That is 4 BB rarities (and a further 8-9 probables/possibles). In terms of scarce migrants am I correct in saying 2 Barred, 3 Icterine, 1 Melodius Warbler, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 1 Wryneck and 1 Marsh Warbler (9 scarce migrant individuals- 4 Wood Warblers and Cetti's not included but locally perhaps as/more signifcant than these scarce species). Have you got a cumulative figure of all common migrant individuals? Cheers Ken.
   Peter Alfrey, 14/04/09 18:08Report inappropriate post Report 
#26
Peter Hi, Off the top of my head, 1st Blyths seen by 5 observers, Blyths 2 and 3 seen by 3 of the original 5 +2 fresh observers. First definitive Booted seen by one observer, with perhaps another 3 seen by 4 observers. 1RBShrike seen by 4 observers, first Wryneck seen by 6 observers, 2nd Wryneck seen by one observer and photographed badly! 3 Icterine seen by 3 observers independently on 3 seperate occasions. 1 Melodious seen by 3 observers together, 1 Barred Warbler seen twice on seperate dates by single independant observers. An almost certain Thrush Nightingale first reported as probable fem/imm.C.Redstart, just a nanosecond glimpse ( although looking a touch bigger) as described was seen the following day. Marsh Warbler certainly once, probably twice. Regarding the last question almost certainly, but as of now, the totals have yet to be compiled.
   Ken Murray, 14/04/09 20:41Report inappropriate post Report 
#27
Peter - the only data I have to hand for 2004 which was an exceptional year for volume with the occurrence of 2 BRW's, shows that these two migrants represented c 43 bird days out of c 600 bird days, approx 7%.
   Ken Murray, 15/04/09 15:01Report inappropriate post Report 
#28
Cheers Ken, Any idea how that compares to a more traditional vagrant trap? Would be great to see the full stats over the study period. I would be really interested to know what the ratios are for common migrants:scarce migrants:vagrants from different migration sites- could act as some kind of indicator of what to expect away from these migration and vagrant traps where things are more diffuse, obscure and often, due to cover,- difficult to find. Thanks again Ken for a thought provoking article- more stats would be very interesting.
   Peter Alfrey, 15/04/09 18:07Report inappropriate post Report 
#29
Peter- the 'hard core'comparative data I'm saving for a possible future article. However I'm happy to answer any questions which do not compromise that intention. The data was always conservative to the point where on 'fall days' the estimates could have been out by c50% plus for Phylloscs. and perhaps 100% for Acros. When volume was well into double figures we found this resulted in more interaction between differing species, and this in turn, enabled for a more accurate assessment. Alas when the numbers dropped off into single figures the project became long and arduous. No monitoring in this situation was going to be totally satisfactory. Ultimately each shift count, was a snapshot, albeit a relatively consistentent one as far as the participants where concerned.
   Ken Murray, 16/04/09 19:41Report inappropriate post Report 
#30
Thanks Ken for a fascinating article and photographs, especially given that I started working in Citigroup centre 6 months ago and have been meaning to get out occasionally to see what's about! Quick question: how early in the morning were most visits? Also, given that many of the scarcer finds stayed for a second day, were there many afternoon / evening visits and if so how did they compare in terms of productivity?
   Ian Ellis, 16/04/09 23:49Report inappropriate post Report 
#31
As an ex Londoner I found this article extremely interesting. Thanks for your hard work.
   Alan Pearson, 17/04/09 08:21Report inappropriate post Report 
#32
I have a copy of the American Birding Association May/Jun 2007 in a article Dancing in the Moonlight : Nocturnal Bird Migration From the Top of the Empire State Building this was watching the migration from the top of the building clearly birds are attracted to such building world wide
   James Bellingham, 17/04/09 08:34Report inappropriate post Report 
#33
Ian- I rarely visited in the evening, thus have no real 'form' for that time of day. My 2-3 hour visits on average were between c8am-2pm. The biggest problem was disturbance ie. warm days brought out the crowds and they can be a little disconcerting - one needs to develop a thick skin!
   Ken Murray, 17/04/09 09:42Report inappropriate post Report 
#34
I'm envious as I live not far away! A great read. I can confirm Ed Griffith's remarks on bird life round St Katherine Docks area and the city. On 10th March 03 I picked up a stunned Woodcock in Cutler's Gardens near Liverpool St. Security took it away so I hope it survived! Around here I have seen Siskin, Grey Wagtail, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Whitethroat, Shelduck, Teal, Common Sandpiper, Oyster Catcher, and a small group of House Sparrows is resident.
   Terry Bates, 17/04/09 10:59Report inappropriate post Report 
#35
In response to post 32, I read a similar article about Toronto, which displays a similar mechanism at play as is described in the article above. Although the HUGE annual passage through the north eastern seaboard of USA isn't comparable with the relative "trickle" we get through London - Which is, I guess, why this Canary Wharf project has attracted such cloaked suspicion!. Also, it'll be interesting to learn of any North American rarities being discovered in such events!
   Mr Pitcher, 17/04/09 11:14Report inappropriate post Report 
#36
Mr Pitcher-In late May 2004 I spent 5 days in Montreal, where I birded 'Summit Park'which overlooks the City. On one day I did 7 'slow' circuits in 5 hours, 3 of those interposed circuits produced nothing! and I mean nothing, not even a flicker of movement, let alone a call. The other 4 circuits produced moderate numbers of regular North American Wood Warblers plus a Connecticut Warbler which as I understand is not often encountered. In May 2008 I visited Boston municipal park and doing very slow circuits again with a 'taking no prisoner' approach to any arboreal movement, I found modest numbers of NAWWblrs. plus a Mourning Warbler which was confirmed by a local birder who exclaimed in his words 'that it is a very rare bird on passage!' To that, I can't comment, except to say that I believe my success on those occasions, was in no small part due, to my method and application.
   Ken Murray, 17/04/09 20:17Report inappropriate post Report 
#37
Laurence Pitcher's comments above say it all. An amazing inspirational read - well done!
   Chris Byrne, 18/04/09 08:55Report inappropriate post Report 

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