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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Southend Pier

July 30th

A brekkie in Thorpe Bay with the missus after scouting the beach for Sanderling, was quickly followed by a visit to the end of the Pier.

I know it is early for Sanderling but worth a look along the beach, it also produced a pre high tide gathering of 23 Mediterranean Gulls including 1 juvenile.

Arriving out on the end of the Pier showed 6 Mediterranean Gulls, this also included a juvenile but not the same bird as seen earlier.

Turnstones were already at roost and numbered 34 birds, many still in summer plumage.

There was also a Tern juvenile that I looked long and hard at as the base of the bill was black, this usually makes it Arctic.
However I think the legs were too long and I arrived at Common, a bit too early for Arctics also.


Juv Mediterranean Gull

Friday, 24 July 2015

Oare Marshes

July 21st

One of my favourite venues, a long overdue visit was undertaken with the recent news of some specialty waders, namely Temminck's and Little Stint along with some Curlew Sandpipers.

Bright sunshine greeted me on arrival, I had also forgot that you are always looking into the sun when viewing from the road in the morning, consequently photos are a bit naff.

Not one to complain with the glare however, it is a fantastic site which can be covered in a relatively short space of time navigating around it.

Photos below show the highlights from the visit – albeit distant and record shot photos.

Managed to catch up with all barring the Little Stint and finished the morning on 13 Wader species, also seen were 4 Raven and good numbers of Bearded Tits.

Temminck's Stint

Black Tailed Godwit

Ruddy Darter

Blackwit and Avocet being admired

4 distant Ravens - seem to be on the increase

Saturday, 18 July 2015


Although Gulls are not everyone’s cup of tea, mine included unless it’s a Med, I must admit to keeping an eye on the Gull colony at Beckton.

Nothing against Gulls but one must have their priorities, hooked beak and talons stirs the blood far more.
I have no doubt that one day the Colony will come under threat, nothing is ever left the same nowadays unfortunately.

The Beckton colony may well be one of London’s largest and possibly oldest Herring and Lesser Black Backed Colonies, I record it every year and I know Gary James covers it as well.

More recently Great Black Backed Gull has taken to nesting on or near it and given that the larger Gull preys on both species chicks; it is a bit of a surprise that they tolerate it. Much I suspect is down to outright size and aggression of the larger Gull, basically I suspect there is not a lot they can do about it.

Common Sandpiper

1st returning Teal at Beckton - June 20th

I counted the colony earlier in the year and arrived at 80 incubating Lesser Black Backed and 41 incubating Herring Gulls, the colony is pretty stable annually.
In terms of breeding birds of London it is a very important colony, and given that Herring Gull is now Red Listed even more so.
I know that Gary records it as well so his figures are likely to be different to mine, especially as we didn't count it at the same time.

The Colony - plenty of chicks/juveniles

Around a mile down river there is also another colony, a different species, Common Tern, again I dare say it is London’s largest and as I confirmed, growing.
I have blogged about this Dolphin Jetty before, for those not aware Dolphin Jetties are the small pontoons on the end of a main shipping jetty that ships use to secure to. Needless to say they make ideal nest sites with the old ropes on them that never move, they are also not accessed.

Over the last few years I have been trying to get them recognized officially, the power that be are obviously a little concerned but with the help of the London Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency forward momentum is increasing.

Main Dolphin  and breeding Jetty

This year the colony topped out at 39 incubating Common Terns and for the first time, they used the adjacent Dolphin Jetty adjacent to the main one.

New colony - expanding naturally, they breed in amongst the old rope

Add caption

Imagine if other unused/derelict Dolphins were shingled out, there is potential there to increase Common Tern breeding further along the Thames.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Ingrebourne Valley

Saturday July 4th

I at last managed to get over the Valley and got very lucky in locating a Wood Sandpiper, there were 2 at the time, but as usual, I didn't check the camera after snapping away.

Well done to Paul for confirming the 2nd bird.


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Richborough Power Station

Back in 2010, I was given the task of confirming breeding of the peregrines that were territorial on the 3 Cooling Silo’s that have graced the skies since 1962 on this Kent coastline.

Having been sent photos of the 3 silo’s and a tall chimney and studied them, there was not a niche or ledge visible that would offer a nest site to the peregrines, I remember thinking perhaps they nested off site and just favoured the Power Station site.

Juveniles had been seen pretty regularly over the years on site so they were obviously breeding somewhere.

I headed down there on the 1st survey in the hope that I could find the nest site.

The 3 Silo’s were impressive, built in 1962 and 300 foot high they absolutely dominated the area and surrounding landscape for miles.

The basic design was concrete with a narrow opening at the top; it then dropped down, pinched in slightly  at the waist and then fanned out at the bottom half. The ground section had an opening all round of around 8 metres high, it was around 80 metres radius at the base of the Silo. There was a massive area of water, presumably this was for cooling, held up on massive pillars, I looked up inside and thought where the hell could they possibly nest?

There appeared nowhere either internal or external.

My arrival was at dawn, at the start of the breeding season, as many will know prime time for peregrine activity. I settled down to watch them so that I could cover all 3 Silo’s and the single chimney.

Plenty of activity early on with the single chimney being used as a hunting launch point by both Falcon and Tiercel, prey was taken and also copulation took place, I again checked all the higher levels on the 3 silo’s.

There was nowhere high up.

In the end it was the Tiercel who gave the game away late morning, I was watching him from distance perched on the very top of one of the Silo’s and he simply disappeared as I was watching him.

He had not flown out from the top of the Silo but had quite simply dropped down inside it!

I was perplexed as I had checked all of these Silo’s inside and out higher up, I made my way over there to have a look inside.

When I got close and looked inside, there was the Tiercel on the far side sitting on a concrete ledge on the side of the Silo, no more than 10 metres off the ground. It had never occurred to me to look this low down, other than a stashing ledge for prey this had to be the nest site.

On seeing me he flew out of the bottom section and I scoped the ledge from the other side, years of guano staining were evident, this had to be it.

It also meant that the Tiercel had dived vertically down internally around 270 odd feet before levelling out over the expanse of water and landing on the ledge. Bloody spectacular to say the least, in the coming months I saw this repeated many times from the top, I could never observe it from the inside due to Schedule 1, and not wanting to disturb them, but I imagine it must have been quite a stunning sight as they dropped off the top internally.

There means of exit from the inside of the Silo was the 8 metre high opening all around, if the ledge was the nest site it meant fledging over water and then exiting through the opening. Not easy for maiden flight juveniles but nothing is ever seemingly straightforward with peregrines is it?

Despite the fact that they could enter from the bottom, I rarely observed this over the 2 years, most entries to the nest site were from the top with only occasional entries from the bottom.

In subsequent visits, I was able to confirm over the 2010 and 2011 breeding seasons that this was indeed their regular nest site as they fledged 2 broods – 5 juveniles and 4 juveniles’ respectively.

The eggs must have been laid on concrete it appears

2010 - 5 juveniles

Another angle

Juveniles with adult and prey

To this day the 2010 brood is the only time I have ever had 5 juveniles, one was lost and I found it drowned in the water, a sad event but the rest I am glad to say made it.

Juveniles - only 1 lost over the 2 breeding seasons

The site and the 3 Silo’s were demolished in 2012 – see link

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Hoo Peninsula

Glad to say that I ‘m still out here surveying, mostly nest site location, I couldn’t imagine a better or wilder place to survey than the North Kent Marshes.

I am a big fan of the place along with Sheppey, both are superb winter birding sites and even in the quieter months of high summer they still produce good birds.

Top of the list goes to a flushed Quail on June 4th and more recently I had a total of 5 Ravens, presumably a family flock, feeding on the carcass of a dead sheep. Good to see the big Corvid widening its range, is it the same birds that grace Rainham RSPB, hard to say with Rainham being 15 miles away.

A very worn Painted Lady

Yellow Wagtail

On Monday I had another good bird in the shape of a Spotted Redshank, full summer no less, they are quite stunning. It was on the last remaining pool and as soon as it saw me it was off, not even giving a chance for a photo.

Others, as you will see below have, Monday’s highlights, other than the Spotshank, were 2 recently fledged juvenile Marsh Harriers, 2 Green Sandpipers, Greenshank, Avocet and good numbers of Yellow Wagtails.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier

Black Tailed Skimmers

Ruddy Darter