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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Inner Thames Wader survey

November 30th

This is the 6th year running that this has taken place, again very kindly led by the Environment Agency who again provided the time and boat to monitor high tide wader roosts within the Inner Thames.

The areas covered, as in previous years, were from Broadness Point, Swanscombe then upriver to Beckton, Galleons Reach.

A four man crew consisted of Peter, Dan, Kat and myself.

This will go down as the coldest one yet, I am pretty conditioned to cold weather having worked outside most of my life, having a good layer of blubber around my waistline helped but I was still bloody freezing.

Travelling along the Thames at 25 knots in sub zero temperatures, sitting in the same position for 4 hours is not ideal, after an hour my feet and hands had disappeared and were completely dead despite multiple layers of clothing.

However the birding as always provided great highlights and kept us all ticking over as we checked the various roosts and collected the data along with a number of photos.


Golden Plover

Johnson's Wharf Roost

Fords Dagenham Roost

Grey Plover

Johnson's Wharf Roost

Johnson's Wharf Roost

New Roost

Stone Barges - Turnstone

Stone Ness Point

Single Avocet at West Thurrock, couldn't get closer water to shallow

The photos help a lot, I can do estimated counts of the various roosts but for accuracy the best way by far is to count the various species later on a photo. Additionally it also turns up species that may be missed first time round, this was illustrated when I found Avocet and Ringed Plover from distant photos.

Results below for this year and comparison data underneath from 2016.



















Grey Plover



Black Tailed Godwit









Ringed Plover






Common Sandpiper



Bar Tailed Godwit



All looks pretty similar to 2016; Black Tailed Godwit numbers are ok again but Redshank show a slight decline again. However looking back further, it could just be our recent milder winters are not pushing birds up the Thames like it used to when winters were harder.

A new roost was also located between Fords and Ferry Lane.

This Harbour Seal followed us for a short while.

A big thanks again to the Environment Agency.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Cooling Marshes of late

Another winter is here and another chance to visit a site that I have been lucky enough to survey now for 5 years.

Seeing it change from fields/ditches to a new breach over the course of time has been a privilege, different habitats but both providing great areas for birds.

Last Sunday (3rd) at high tide was probably the largest high tide count I have had there with a massive 453 Shelduck, 214 Grey Plover, 3300 Dunlin and 181 Avocet.

Impressive totals and by far the largest counts so far.

Black Tailed Godwit and Knot roost

One of the resident Kestrels hunting near by

Distant shot of a Merlin after a Linnet

Dunlin and Grey Plover

Raptors are being seen regularly, the hoped for Hen Harrier as yet have failed to materialize, the numbers of old are gone, the impact of consistent persecution up north on Grouse Moors has sadly reduced them drastically.

I can still remember seeing up to 8 birds wintering on Rainham Marshes many years ago on the Silt Lagoons, hopefully those days will come back.

Marsh Harriers however are faring well as are Merlin, on Sunday I saw both male and female both hunting over the fields.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Battersea Power Station 2017

Another good year for the pair, as per 2016 they have again fledged 4 juveniles with construction works in full swing.

The 4 chimneys have now all been demolished and rebuilt, now painted, the peregrines are again using them extensively for hunting along with many of the site Cranes. The fact is that they simply never stopped using the chimneys even during re construction, having spoken to some of the chimney workers; many have had incredible views aloft of the birds.

Once the new glass lift to the top of the North West chimney is in situ, I would imagine the public will not only get incredible views of London, but also of the peregrines ghosting by.

Adults on new chimneys

Juvenile and adult Tiercel

The family

We unfortunately lost one of the juveniles, much the same as in 2016, this is sad but normal and has happened on at least 5 of the sites that I monitor this year, fledging in an urban area can be a hazardous business I’m afraid.

Of the 3 siblings, the 2 females had left by September/October and to date, the remaining juvenile male is still present, like last year it looks like we have another long stayer.

Cranes being used extensively as launch posts for hunting

Since 2013, the pair with the new female who arrived Christmas 2012/2013 have produced 17 juveniles, an excellent breeding ratio averaging 3 per year.

With works now starting on the Power Station itself, it will be a challenging time for them but I suspect like previous years they will adapt.


In 2+ years time the plan is to relocate them back onto the Power Station, a permanent nest site has been designed especially for them, hopefully to their liking – fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Beckton Sewage Works

October 15th

After all the major works to the site over the last few years, both on the traditional site and up grading the river works and foreshore, it is good to see wildlife again becoming more abundant with many works now complete.

Goldcrest - seeing and hearing a lot of these this year

A species that I have not seen over the site for a few years now, Barn Owl, has suddenly reappeared after a longish absence, recent sightings by staff have confirmed this and was one of the reasons for my nocturnal visit on Sunday morning.

Arriving at 5.30am showed a bird present straight away before flying off to its roost site around 6.40am.
At Beckton they are strictly nocturnal due to the presence of a large number of Carrion Crows; I would suspect they would get heavily mobbed if they flew diurnally.

Another species, this one not making a comeback but relatively new to the site, is a single Common Buzzard. On most of my visits now I am seeing it, I would presume drawn in for the winter by the large number of Rabbits present.

Usually just a flyover bird, this battle hardened individual is actively hunting over the site regardless of all the Crows that are mobbing it, I suspect they are seen as an occupational hazard.

I also caught up with 11 Black Tailed Godwit on the foreshore, again a bird that I did not connect with much at the Outfall over the last couple of years. Hopefully this flock of 11 is the fore runner of many more to come.

Showing the bendy bill

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Spain - El Chorro - 4 Eagle species

September 6th

Luis picked me up at 6.00am and en route to the mountains we stopped at Fuengerola to pick up another chap, Matthias who was relatively new to birding.

After another very enjoyable Spanish breakfast we arrived in the mountains of El Chorro around 7.30am, the 1st bird heard was Thekla Lark calling, in front of us was a massive mountain and on here was one of the species I wanted to see – Bonelli’s Eagle.

On the road up towards the mountain through the pines, Crossbills seemed to be everywhere.

We scanned the mountain picking out roosting Griffon Vultures, but it took around 20 minutes before Luis eventually picked out a roosting Bonelli’s Eagle.
Good views through the scope, hard to tell male or female but it was quite obviously a big Eagle, this became more apparent when a Spanish Ibex and its kid appeared on the top just above the Eagle.

Roosting Bonelli's with Spanish Ibex just above

By now everything was coming alive as the morning arrived and the heat of the day started to make itself known, pretty soon other birds around made themselves known.

Around 40 Alpine Swifts soon appeared over our heads as we made our way up the track towards a distant summit.

Red Rumped Swallow, Woodchat Shrike, Bee Eater, Sardinian Warbler, Crag Martin, Stonechat and Hoopoe, all were seen as we made our way up.
Half way up we came across more little gems in the shape of Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush along with a Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear and a number of Dartford Warblers.

When you get all these species, relatively easy to see on a stroll up a mountain, it does spoil you and make you realise just how special birding abroad is.

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Blue Rock Thrush

Black Wheatear

As we neared the top of the track, a pylon came into view and on top, scanning around and most definitely in hunting mode was a Short Tailed Eagle.

We all approached the top expecting the bird to flush but it not only stayed, it continued to hunt also giving great views.

After 15 minutes it went into a shallow dive at something on the ground, missed and then left for another pylon.

Without doubt the best views I have had off one, certainly closer than the one I saw in the UK a few years back.

Short Toed Eagle

Now with 2 Eagles under our belt we scanned around, Honey Buzzard, Marsh Harrier were all seen along with around 20 distant Griffon Vultures.

Presently though 2 other large raptors came up over the crest of the mountains, no less than a pair of Golden Eagles, even at distance looking through the scope stunning birds.

Watched one land and got better views so now 3 Eagles up.
On the way back down we came across 4 Black Wheatears together with what looks good for a Melodious Warbler on the fenceline. They were all a little agitated and looking down so presumably a predator/threat at ground level,possibly a Snake.

4 Black Wheatears

Agitated - Melodious Warbler on left

We also came across 2 Blue Rock Thrush which gave good views, one squabbling with a Black Wheatear.

As we arrived back at the car, we had been gone around 3 to 4 hours the Bonelli’s Eagle decided it was time to move, it came out overhead and was immediately joined by another, a pair.
Size was quite apparent with the female noticeably bigger than the male, in common with most birds of prey.
Decent views were had overhead before they eventually drifted off to hunt, we then headed to our next venue, another watch point.

Honey Buzzard

Male Bonelli' Eagle

Female Bonelli's Eagle

On arrival with the heat of the day now really kicking in, at least 25+ Griffon Vultures were aloft along with Black Kite, Kestrel and a couple of Sparrowhawks.

Before long though we picked up our 4th Eagle species in the shapes of dark and light phase Booted Eagles, these rounded it off very nicely.

Booted Eagle

A cracking mornings birding with Luis and Matthias, a big thanks to Luis, El Chorro is another stunning place and no doubt like Tarifa ,I can see myself visiting again next year.

Full Bird List

Alpine Swift – 40+

Blue Rock Thrush – 4

Red Rumped Swallow – numerous

House Martin – numerous

Crag Martin – 3 seen

Crossbill – numerous on the drive up through the pines

Sardinian Warbler – 3

Bee Eater – flocks of 25 and 40

Black Wheatear – 4

Northern Wheatear – 1

Hoopoe – 2

Woodchat Shrike – 1

Dartford Warbler – at least 4

Melodious Warbler – 1

Common Redstart – 1

Wren – 1

Spotted Flycatcher – 1

Thekla Lark – 3

Stonechat – 2

Common Whitethroat - 1


Griffon Vulture – around 45

Sparrowhawk – 4

Kestrel – 1

Black Kite – 1

Honey Buzzard – 1

Marsh Harrier – 2

Booted Eagle – 2

Bonelli’s Eagle – 2

Golden Eagle – 2

Short Toed Eagle - 1