The last week of August saw exceptional numbers of migrant birds, particularly Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Spotted Flycatchers, arrive at sites all over London, including Tower Hamlets. None of these species breed in Tower Hamlets, and they are less than annual passage migrants through the borough.
Easterly winds are likely to have brought the birds, most of which were migrating from Scandinavia towards Africa, across the North Sea, and heavy showers then forced them to land in London’s parks. The main arrival was on 26 August, with birdwatchers finding newly-arrived birds feeding avidly in the late afternoon once the rain had stopped. More were found over the next few days.
In Tower Hamlets, the first signs of anything unusual were single Pied and Spotted Flycatchers in Victoria Park, and a Pied Flycatcher, 3 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Redstarts at Mudchute, all on 26 August.
Though the flycatchers at Victoria Park quickly moved on, the birds found the paddocks at Mudchute to their liking, with the Redstarts remaining into September, the Pied Flycatcher also staying several days (with a second reported over the weekend). Spotted Flycatchers peaked at 4 or 5 on 27 August, with one still present on 1 September.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park got in on the act on 27 August, with a male Redstart (the first there for over ten years) and a Spotted Flycatcher. A Redstart was also reported at East India Dock Basin. These scarce species occurred alongside larger than usual numbers of common migrants such as Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats.
Header photo: Spotted Flycatcher at Mudchute (John Archer)