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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Dungeness and a Valley Wood Sandpiper

August 10th

With 50mph+ South Westerly winds forecast for the Saturday, Paul and myself heading down early doors full of the usual enthusiasm and arriving around 5.45a.m.

Obviously on arrival the south westerly wind, even that early, was bloody strong, walking out to the Fishing Boats proved an event in itself over shingle, however the short stubby legs came into their own.

We parked up behind one of the larger boats, nice and overcast and from the off Terns were moving in numbers, all into the wind left to right.

After a short while we were joined by Andy Lawson, during the course of the morning, with the aid of some bread, I picked up some pointers from Andy regarding juvenile Yellow Legged Gulls , I don’t mind admitting I find immature Gulls a bit of a minefield.

Anyway we had a decent morning, it brightened up around 8.30 - 9.00am but the highlights were 2 Balearic Shearwaters, picked out by Andy, I did manage to get on one for them.

My totals below:

Common Terns – around 250, no doubt some Arctic’s in there as well.
Yellow Legged Gull juveniles – 8+
Sandwich Tern – 70
Gannet – constant stream all morning, at least 150+
Fulmar – 10
Swift – small flocks totalling 30
Mediterranean Gull – 2 juveniles

Nothing earth shattering I know but just good to get out.

From here, with the wind now really howling and threatening to remove what remaining hair Paul has left, we moved on to the Hansen hide on the Arc Pits, it was the only place to go for shelter.

It proved a good move with lots of birds sheltering around or on the islands.

Again my totals, highlights.

Marsh Harrier – 1
Wood Sandpiper – at least 8 likely more
Greenshank – 2
Ruff – 3
Garganey – 3
Little Ringed Plover – 4
Little Tern – 1
Little Gull – 1 in Bay
Common Tern – around 100
Arctic Tern – 4
Sandwich Tern – 10+
Great White Egret – 1
Cattle Egret – 2 along RSPB entrance track

A good morning all round and as mentioned, just good to get down there again.


Dave McGouth found a Wood Sandpiper in the viewing area when we got back, well done to him, first one I have seen over there in a good few years.

Even better was the fact that it was quite posy and gave good comparison views alongside a Green Sandpiper.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Cooling Marshes - where else?

With the lens now back up and running I headed out to the North Kent Marshes, it’s no secret I love the wildness of the place, especially in Winter and for the last few months haven’t had a chance to visit for one reason or other.

Early a.m as usual and the drive out, over a mile along the track, produced the regular birds like Corn Bunting/Common Buzzard and heaps of Skylarks along the track.

It was low tide and the mudflats were alive with Black Tailed Godwit, 2 big flocks probably amounting to around 650 birds, also near them were 107 Avocet, hopefully they have had a good year.
Also seen was a flock of 9 Whimbrel with 2 Turnstones tagging along and nearby on the Floods a single Little Ringed Plover, 2 Common and 2 Green Sandpipers, a good selection of waders, this place rarely lets me down for good birds.

A little early as autumn migration has not begun in earnest yet, I also came across 2 Wheatear and a Whinchat, the Whinchat was an adult in moult and looked rather scruffy as you will see from the photos. 

Yellow Wagtails seemed to be everywhere including birds 2nd brooding, the colourful little Wagtail always been a particular favourite of mine, a shame to see them declining and on the Red List.

Saying that it’s much the same for a lot of the UK’s birds, so many are under threat from the sheer number of people in a relatively small island. The constant pressure on the environment to build will not stop with the constant land grabbing; this Government will never prioritise the environment as equally important, once upon a time Green Belt and SSSI used to mean something.

With this Twat in charge, what are the odds on a resurrection of the Estuary Airport?


Rather a good morning, the 3rd bird of prey, other than the Common Buzzard and the Little Owl seen in the Barn, was a hunting Hobby. It was picking off Dragonflies but eventually landed on a 5 bar gate and posed. A bit distant but not too bad, it had the look of a 1st year bird.

A Tiercel Peregrine was then seen bringing down an unfortunate Lapwing and landed in a field with it with a Curlew looking on. As I passed, it circled but eventually returned to its kill when I was a good distance away.

Also good to see adult and juvenile Marsh Harriers on my rounds, at least 2 nice fresh juveniles were seen quartering the reed beds, Marsh Frogs usually figure high on the menu list if I recall correctly.

A good morning, had to cut it short due to approaching weather from the west but can’t complain with the birds seen.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Beckton Sewage Works

At last

After summering and wintering for a few years now, I can confirm that the Common Buzzards have bred on the Sewage Works site with a fledged juvenile seen last week, only 1 seen but it’s possible that there could be more.

It is a little Raptor hotspot without a doubt; I can also confirm that the Sparrowhawks have also fledged 3 juveniles after seeing them chasing the adult female carrying prey. Very likely the condensing of Birds of Prey is down to not only lots of stuff to eat but also a no disturbance green area in an urban oasis.

There are a large number of Rabbits on site and obviously little Rabbits, lots of Common Buzzard prey but as yet I can’t recall them being taken but no doubt they are.

Common Buzzards are incredibly thick skinned to put up with this constant mobbing.

Female Sparrowhawk was flying round with prey remains teaching the juveniles to hunt

Good news all round is that I now have my lens back, didn’t get nowhere with my countless e mails to various organisations stating my case. Even sending evidence from Forums where the same thing had happened to others didn’t help so have had to swallow it.

Very frustrating knowing I have never dropped it and then to be told impact damage, you live and learn.

In the past few months I have been using the Sigma F2.8 70-200mm that Luke kindly gave to me in Aus, must say very impressed with it, pretty sharp and faster focusing, all the photos in this post were taken with it.

Viking Jupiter coming up the Thames at Beckton 

To celebrate getting the 200-500 back I went to Cooling Marshes, Kent the day after, will post shortly, caught up with Hobby, a Peregrine taking a Lapwing and a couple of Marsh Harriers.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Peregrines Latest

I will start with Battersea Power Station and the continuation of the triangular relationship, yes it’s still going on and it seems no nearer to reaching a conclusion to regain some normal stability.

Last year’s juvenile, now changing into an adult, continues to hold territory on the Power Station daily with the Falcon and the adult Tiercel remains half a mile away to the east.

The 2 Tiercels clash daily but the adult Tiercel is unable to move the sub adult Tiercel on, the Falcon daily goes and sits with the adult Tiercel to the east as they are a bonded pair, albeit the adult Tiercel cannot hold to the Power Station site and spends his time away from it.

It really is a strange scenario and something I have not come across before, for breeding stability the sub adult needs to go, it’s quite obvious now after all these months the adult Tiercel is not going to give up.

At one time the adult Tiercel did slip by the sub adult and displayed to the Falcon, I naturally thought that’s it, he has displaced the sub adult but unfortunately that was short lived and normal service was resumed later that day.

New adult Tiercel displaying on left - last years infertile egg still present

Sub adult - blue tones coming through

Neither Tiercel will give up it seems, what tragically happened this year with the sub adult spiking the 3 chicks, not his own chicks, was obviously down to clumsiness but the stress of the situation could well have been a contributing factor.
It’s easy to read human emotions into it, they weren’t his own chicks but the adult Tiercels, would he have been more careful and attentive around them, if they were his and he had a stronger bond to them?

You might have seen recently that another pair that I monitor has laid exceptionally late with a clutch of 3 fresh dark coloured eggs observed on June 20th – 27th.
This is a pair that I monitor at least twice a month and I had given up on them breeding this year, there was no signs of breeding in the normal months of March, April and May so naturally thought that they would just summer and hold to territory.

They bred successfully in 2018 and I had been checking the nest ledge regularly as above, however towards the 3rd week in June I observed a nest relief with the Tiercel letting her feed while he disappeared onto the ledge.

Further watching eventually showed 3 eggs amazingly, 3 months behind normal London laying.

As you do, I always look for reasons why.

Failed elsewhere – no - nest ledge has been used since 2017 and monitoring them has only showed normal activity before this with birds present and territorial.

New adult or adults – no both the same birds, the Falcon is ringed and the Tiercel has distinctive head marks so I know it’s him.

It’s a strange one and if successful, they will be hopefully be fledging young in September, crazy!

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Beckton Sewage Works Latest

Since the last post on the Kestrels, all which are now flying around, fully fledged and now getting harder to find I have since found the Sparrowhawks.
They have chosen to nest this year in a really inaccessible position, I can hear the young calling and have seen the adults coming and going regularly to this particular tree. Will hopefully get some photos when they become mobile and start showing themselves outside of the nest.

In regards to photos, I am using 70-200mm lens at the moment, the Nikon 200 – 500mm F5.6 broke unfortunately and seized up at 400mm.

Taken into Fixation on June 3rd, have been told that Nikon UK, Nikon Europe and Nikon Japan do not have the part so still waiting.
Was told impact damage, but have never dropped it and now having done a bit of research on the Forums, found the exact same thing has happened to others as well.

Very frustrating, especially at £377.00 and only 2 years old from new, it’s not something I would expect from Nikon and obviously a little suspicious, when 3 Nikon organisations have all run out of the same spare part.

Have stated my case to them but getting nowhere at the moment.

Enough of that and rant over, the pair of Common Buzzards are still summering on site holding to a particular area but as yet can see no evidence of breeding. Giving them plenty of space and watching distantly from the car they seem bullet proof when it comes to the local Crows. Mobbed wherever they go, they seemingly just ignore them only occasionally reacting, incredibly thick skinned Raptors.

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Enjoying the sun

Adult Kittiwake in June - very unusual

One thing that has come from the lens failure is that I have been using the 105mm Macro lens more on Dragons/Butterflies, good fun and some of the shots are not too shabby.

Harbour Seal with Flattie

Common Tern

Pollen covered Bee

Southern Hawker hopefully

Black Tailed Skimmer

Either female Common Blue or Brown Argus?

Emerald Damselfly

Large Skipper