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Sunday, 6 October 2019

Rainham RSPB

October 3rd

After last month’s visit after an absence of a good few months, I again found myself heading over Rainham following my old dawn route.

The sunrise alone promised a good morning and so it turned out with some good birds seen throughout the morning, looking over on the Reserve showed a distinct lack of water in some of the regular areas, rain obviously needed to bring the water table up.

7 Redwing were seen immediately leaving roost,Goldcrest heard, Redwing starting to arrive now so the cold stuff is on its way, mind you have always preferred winter birding, having said that, it was cold and I obviously needed more layers, getting soft and starting to feel it as I get older.

Pretty Dry

No Rock Pipits yet along the River Wall,2 Chiffchaffs heard and a good count of 204 Black Tailed Godwit were in the Bay with 2 Curlew and 18 Redshank on the mud also, surprisingly no sign of any Avocet.

2 colour ringed Black Tailed Godwit

Went through the Gulls, found 7 Yellow Legged Gulls but not the ringed Caspian, it’s a bit of a minefield with these for me and don’t mind admitting they get me at it in regards to ID of the different ages, however very slowly getting there.

I should learn more on them, retaining the knowledge in my head and holding it there is another matter,age,impatience and a lack of excitement on seeing hundreds, even thousands of them on the water/mud doesn’t give me a kick, hats off to those who sort them out.

Yellow Legged Gulls

No Stonechats en route or late Wheatears but a couple of Marsh Harriers were seen flying over the Reserve.

A Barn Owl was seen having a preen, always good to see these and 2 Bearded Tits were seen flying over the Dragonfly Pools.

Calling Geese heralded the arrival of at least 350+ Greylags/Canada’s dropping in, quite a spectacular sight all coming in together and very stirring to the senses, made me think of Norfolk and the Pinkfeet, me and Chris will have to get back there this winter.

Quite a few dodgy Geese in there as well, there all Feral but it looked like a few were straight out of the Farmyard.


A single Common Buzzard was seen before I got onto another Buzzard at distance, it was so pale and had me going for a short while before it passed closer, a very striking looking Common Buzzard which I later caught up with sitting on a post. It has to be the most striking looking Common Buzzard I have ever seen, as you can imagine at distance it put me in mind of Rough Legged.

Cracking looking bird

A single Stonechat was in the reed bed near the Pools and another 2 Chiffchaff were seen en route, 2 circling waders with a flock of Lapwing turned out to be male and female Ruff, over a dozen Pochard on the Pools but no sign of any of the recent Spoonbills.


A single adult Peregrine was on one of the pylons, very alert with a flat crop so looked like it was hunting, confirmed when I saw it head off at speed over Wennington Marshes obviously on to something.


On arriving at the Centre for a coffee, Howard picked out 2 Raven flying east, a bird needed by all of us at the Ingrebourne Valley with only one record in 2004,again by Howard, given the expansion of its range I suspect that it is only a matter of time before one of us picks one up.

A very enjoyable morning.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

2019 - Season review

Not a bad year again with the sites that I monitor or are involved in, unlike 2018, the publicised sites Parliament and Battersea Power Station both unfortunately failed.

In the case of Parliament they simply did not breed, this may well be down to the arrival of a new Tiercel, hopefully this will be corrected next year.

Battersea Power Station as we know was quite tragic, with 3 of the chicks being spiked by the sub adult and the 4th being uncharacteristically knocked out of the scrape by the Falcon. However things have now changed with the new Tiercel and hopefully they will rectify this in 2020.

Within the LNHS area of the sites that I monitor, 2019 produced 32 juveniles from 14 sites and this includes 3 sites that failed so taking the successful sites – 11 it would work out at just under 3 as an average.

In comparison to 2018 it is pretty similar with 32 juveniles produced from 13 sites, as you can see not a lot of difference from this to last year.

Compared to 8 ‘grounders’ in 2018, 2019 was a better year for fledging with 5 grounders, 2 were from the same site and were rescued by the public via the RSPCA, both ended up with Sue/Tom at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

Without the priceless work of Sue/Tom/Staff/ RSPCA and obviously the public involved, there is little doubt that these 2 would have succumbed either to Foxes/Road Traffic.

Another 'grounder'

Stunning looking birds

Being checked out at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital

These 2 were the only siblings, the grounding was staggered so returning these 2 back with Paul gave us a lot of pleasure, especially in the weeks following where I watched them interacting with each other. 

In regards to clutch/juveniles produced, sizes were as follows –

5 sites produced 4 juveniles apiece
6 sites produced 2 juveniles apiece

Unusually no broods of 3 this year, the very late laying pair which laid 3 eggs in late June was the other failure, I recently got the results back from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme after sending them the eggs – no development in any of the eggs whatsoever.

Late - sadly this clutch failed

Nests were as follows. 

Nest box – 8 pairs in boxes
Trays – 2 pairs in Trays
Pylon – 1 pair
Structure – 1 pair
‘Natural’ scrape – 1 pair on roof of building (nest scrape on accumulated moss)
‘Natural’ scrape – 1 pair on a balcony (scrape made in pigeon guano)

Hopefully I can add to the above nest box total with a nest box installed earlier this summer on a building, a pair investigated it after a couple of weeks and are now territorial back on the building, looks promising for 2020.

High hopes for this new box, there already in and out of it

We again ringed chicks at 2 sites in London, if I recall correctly this began in 2012 using Orange rings and then transferred to a Green colour 3 years ago. It has worked well and there have been a number of returns, sadly a few deaths but the majority live sightings. One juvenile Tiercel from 2013 relocated only 4 miles from its natal site paired with a Falcon and then bred in 2017. 

Another juvenile Tiercel, again from 2013, replaced his Dad at the natal site in 2018 and bred with the Falcon, however she was not his mother but had been replaced by a different Falcon.

Lots of information/data which comes from the ringing program so it works very well, additionally a number of juveniles/adults have relocated much further afield.

Ringing - gives lots of data

If you see any of these green ringed juveniles please get in touch.

This year with any grounders, with the help of Paul and Shaun a green ring was placed on juveniles prior to release, in particular it was the 2 siblings referred to earlier; hopefully the future will be good for both. 

Finally also, a big thanks to my 2 mates Paul Hawkins/Shaun Harvey for putting up with my demands, as I have said before, both are a little ‘soft’ from working indoors all their lives but I’m now getting the best out of them with a little guidance.

In all seriousness though, good to know that the peregrines will be catered for in the future when I’m past my sell by date.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Battersea Power Station

Stability at last

The adult Tiercel has now moved onto the Power Station site and as per previous update has usurped the sub adult Tiercel, it was badly needed and just a pity it didn’t happen earlier in the breeding season, the breeding outcome I have no doubt would have been different with the chicks.

He is already pulling his weight more than the previous sub adult, bringing in far more prey with the Falcon obviously taking it from him, even if he did in one case try to hold onto it. It is the natural state of things and unlike the sub adult pestering/bullying his mother for prey, this new Tiercel delivers and waits.

Adult Tiercel - taking his place on site

His arrival on site has also altered the Falcons behaviour, she now spends more time resting/sleeping in the nest box, previously she was pestered by the sub adult but has now reverted back to type. 

Of the sub adult there has been no sign, hopefully he left ‘naturally’ pushed out by the adult Tiercel choosing this as the wisest option.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Beckton Sewage Works

 September 14th 2019 

With wall to wall sunshine forecast, a visit was on the cards to check on the Beckton wildlife and hopefully get some decent photos.

Initially checking all the usual haunts at dawn showed 2 Grey Herons at roost on a Willow Tree and I caught one of the Common Buzzards slipping away in the low light.

Roosting Grey Herons

The forecasters were spot on as I headed to the foreshore, a nice surprise was a record count of 14 Little Egrets picking off the shrimps, certainly the most I have seen, the one I am still looking for is Great White Egret. Still needed as a patch tick and spreading out all over the UK and breeding, it is only a matter of time before I hopefully catch up with one.

Can still recall the first Little Egret I saw in the late 90’s, a big rarity then, working on a site in West London, who would have thought they would have colonized like they have, it looks like Cattle Egret is going along the same route.

Part of the Little Egret flock

I also added a site first in the shape of a Spotted Flycatcher, a welcome addition to the site list taking it up to 143 species seen on or over the Sewage Works over the many years. A good bonus as well was a Whinchat seen near the Flycatcher, another site rarity and passing migrant, seems to have been a good Autumn for both Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat.

Spotted Flycatcher

All in all it was a good morning with some good migrants moving through, the hoped for passing migrant Osprey has not yet materialised but I know that one was seen going over up river so hopefully still in with a chance before they all pass through.

Birds of note seen –

Yellow Wagtail – 10
Grey Wagtail – 7
Whinchat – 1
Spotted Flycatcher – 1
Green Sandpiper – 1
Black Tailed Godwit – 4
Swallow – 1
Linnet -12 on the set aside

To finish the morning I caught up with the pair of Common Buzzards, no sign of the juvenile so presumably moved on but good to see the pair together, the female being slightly larger, not as pronounced as in Peregrines but there to see when you have got them together.

Both were given a hard time by the Crows but eventually they went up on thermals before heading off east, very likely off to Rainham RSPB where there have been quite a few recently.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Cooling Marshes

September 3rd

A spare morning arose so it was off to the Marshes hopefully to catch up with some migrants, wasn’t expecting too much in regards to waders as tides were wrong.

A great sunrise heralded a good mornings birding, 2 Kingfishers initially in the Dyke together and a Wheatear on the road on the drive out in low light.

I do like a good sunrise

Wheatear on the way out

A couple of Raptors on the way out included a female Peregrine, juvenile Marsh Harrier and a Common Buzzard straight out of roost, no early Shorties but a nice perched Yellow Wagtail was good. 
As the sun came up a mixed flock of Swallows/Sand Martins dropped out of the heavens which probably amounted to around 150 birds, many will be on their way very shortly for that epic flight.

Hirundines coming down at dawn

Tilbury bound no doubt

After working a circuit on arrival, an early overhead calling Golden Plover, a couple more Yellow Wagtails and a close Hobby were seen. 

However just about to leave, I came across a flock of 7 Whinchat, a Stonechat and 2 Wheatears which were very flighty and nervous as a Hobby had started to pick off Dragonflies nearby.

Whilst I was watching these I also had a flyover calling Tree Pipit, in all the years doing surveys here I can’t recollect getting one before.

Anyway all good, also added another 5 Whinchat on the way out. 

Surveys start again in October, as much as I like Spring/Summer visits; I don’t think you can beat winters on the North Kent Marshes,whether I'm still saying that in a few months time getting changed at -1 out there with a howling wind is another matter.