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Tuesday 28 December 2010

Isle of Sheppy December 28th

Weather wise not a great day to visit, it has been a long time since I last visited, probably 2 winters, overcast grey skies and drizzle greeted me on arrival.

Corn Buntings

Throughout the course of the late morning/afternoon the camera remained on ISO 1600, so apologies for the crap photo’s.

Marsh Harrier

Ringtail Hen Harrier

Started off at the RAPTOR WATCHPOINT down Harty Lane, in past years I have had up to 12 Marsh Harriers in view at the same time, today the most I could manage was only 4 separate birds, these were all in view at the same time. Scanning around provided no other sightings so presumably many have dispersed southwards due to the extreme weather.

I was hoping for an adult male Hen Harrier but could not complain with 2 Ring Tails seen off and on for over an hour, again I had both in view at the same time, even managed some dodgy photo’s. Whilst scanning I could hear Geese calling all the time and even had a skein of White Fronts overhead, even as I watched they started to drop, so headed over in that direction.

White Fronted Geese

Quite a sight

The bridle path came up trumps with a flock of around 60 Chaffinches, 5 Brambling and 12 House Sparrows. Best of all was a Tree Sparrow in with the Houses. Beyond this, in distant fields was an enormous flock of Geese, a large proportion Greylags, even at this distance I could pick out Whitefronts and Barnacles, as I scanned I picked up 2 very interesting birds that may well have been Pinkfeet Geese. As I watched the whole field took flight as a Marsh Harrier crossed overhead, the sight and noise was spectacular, probably around 500 Geese, magical to watch.

Brambling and Chaffinch


Decided to retrace my steps and walked out along the other footpath after seeing a good size flock drop in closer in a nearer field. Scoping through them produced 64 White Fronted and 37 Barnacle Geese, of the 2 I had seen briefly I could not locate.

Other species seen were

Common Buzzard – 1 on the A2 sitting on the lights

Sparrowhawk – 2 females seen

Kestrel – 1 down Harty Lane

Golden Plover – 11 in with Lapwing

Waxwing – 1 in with the hordes of Fieldfare and Redwing along the entrance road

Corn Bunting – 28 on the wires and bramble

Stonechat – 1 male

No Merlin or Peregrine sightings or Short Eared Owls, from talking to a local birder it seems the SEO’s are seen more at Shellness.

Barnacle Geese

White Fronted Goose

Monday 20 December 2010

High Tide roost count December 19th

As mentioned on Saturdays blog entry, today was roost count day, the idea being to record all roosting waders from West Thurrock Marshes to East India Dock Basin. By doing this a proper annual record can be kept of the species and numbers of wader for each winter period which come up the Inner Thames. So that we can get comparison figures to the counts below, I hope we can do another in the 2nd winter period.

Redshank coming into roost
 All who participated did a great job, especially in the snow and extreme cold, I know my feet went first, even with 3 pairs of socks on. As many may know, roost counts are just a matter of standing and waiting, in short, it was bloody freezing.

Grey Heron coming in

 Sites and participants

West Thurrock Marshes – Jonathan Lethbridge, Dave Bradnum and Nick Croft

Rainham RSPB – Steve Bacon

Stone Barges – Paul Hawkins and Shaun Harvey

Dagenham – myself

Barking – myself

Woolwich – Des McKenzie

East India Dock Basin – Nick Tanner and Gary James

Cormorant trying to get his Flattie back

Results from all the sites

Avocet – 59 possibly a record count for London

Bar Tailed Godwit – 1 very likely the bird that has been around for a few weeks now

Black Tailed Godwit – 588 a very high count, no doubt weather related

Common Sandpiper – 4 wintering

Common Snipe – 59 evenly spread amongst all the sites

Curlew – 39 main congregation West Thurrock

Dunlin – 1207 mainly West Thurrock

Golden Plover -1 a flyover at Rainham

Grey Plover – 12 very likely more around

Jack Snipe – 3 E.I.D.Basin and Rainham

Lapwing – 415 way down on normal numbers

Redshank – 888 way higher than I thought it would be

Black Tailed Godwit

One for Sarah, pair Teal, hope you like them
The Black Tailed Godwit and Redshank counts were exceptional, the high numbers are very likely down to the extreme weather with birds moving down from Canvey and Tilbury.

It all shows how important the Inner Thames are as a wintering area for feeding waders, already looking forward to a 2nd count in Feb.

Additional species

3 Redhead Smew were seen by many along the Thames, including myself as they roamed up and down the river. Also the boys at West Thurrock had 2 Scaup, hopefully more to come.

3 very distant Smew

Saturday 18 December 2010

Barking Bay and Rainham RSPB December 18th

I had planned to start at Barking Outfall but on arrival at the site was greeted by Security. An unexploded World War 2 bomb had been found on the Thames Water site, the Army were present and attending to it. If I remember correctly from my Mum, the Luftwaffe followed the Thames into Londons East End during the War, some times they would jettison there bombs prematurely. However it got there, those army chaps deserve a medal for what they do.

                                                   Barking Bay looking towards Crossness

Decided to head for Barking Bay instead. The tide was rising, with the cold weather I expected it to hold good numbers of waders, especially Dunlin and Redshank, unusually I could not find any. The only waders represented were Lapwing, around 200, 3 Snipe flushed and 2 Curlew on the mud,Shelduck numbers peaked at 51.

Also seen were

Skylark – 6

Linnet – flock of around 100

Chaffinch – 40 in the scrub

Chiffchaff – 1 showing near the visitor centre

Rainham RSPB

I drove to the Bay car park first which turned out to be a good move as I was thinking of possible Waxwings in the woodland, and going there beforehand .As I walked down the cycle path I first heard, and then got a visual of a Snow Bunting, the time was 9.15am, decent enough views of it, overhead and then going away over the Tip. Not only a site tick, but also a London tick, a very good start. Carried on and searched the flock of Finches, mostly Linnets and Goldfinches, hoping for a Lapland Bunting. Not to be today, so went back to the foreshore.

The rising tide was pushing many waders up and I had 5 Grey Plovers coming in looking for somewhere to roost along with a few Dunlin and Redshank. Also half a dozen Snipe were zipping around looking for somewhere to drop in on. Decided from here to head for the Stone Barges, drove in to the car park, got out of the car and a Brent Goose was standing there looking at me, another tick for the year.

Brent Goose
The Barges roost held good numbers of Waders including, Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Dunlin, additionally I also saw 2 Water Pipits, the first of this winter period for me.

Tilda Rice in background

Black Tailed Godwit and Redshank

Black Tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Redshank

Grey Plover centre

Tomorrow, Sunday, a number of us will be doing high tide counts all along the Inner Thames, will be interesting to see the numbers involved, especially with the extreme weather conditions.

Pair Gadwall dancing

Water Pipit
Full results will be posted on the blog and the London Birders site.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Barking Outfall December 11th

Early a.m visit, some numbers of wildfowl and waders still relatively high despite the slight thaw in the weather, above freezing now with a massive 3 degrees showing in the car, almost feels like spring with the sub zero temperatures of late.

Some of the Wildfowl
 Undoubted highlight of the morning was a flock of 6 Waxwings flying north @8.55am, the benefits of being a Raptor nut is that you are always looking up in the air, otherwise would have very likely missed these as there was a lot happening on the river with wildfowl. As it was I did not get onto them until late and could not get a ‘ lock’ on them with the camera being so small and crap light, pity would have been good to get a photo. Site record so I am not grumbling.


Black Tailed Godwit

 Other species of note seen or heard were –

Jack Snipe – one flushed at my feet on the sea wall and pitched into some saltings about 10 meters away.

Cettis Warbler – 1 calling from vegetation along the Creek

Black Tailed Godwit – 2 in with the hordes of Redshank

Dunlin – 1 with Redshank – a year tick

Green Sandpiper – 3 together buzzing around the sewage works.

Wildfowl numbers have dropped for some and in the case of Tufted Duck, they have risen slightly.

Tufties – 560 birds as near as dammit, counted once hoping again for Scaup, Pintail or possibly Goldeneye.

Pochard – 19 birds, slight decrease

Teal – rough count of around 600, did not count the creek

Shoveler – 273, a decrease but birds were still arriving in 10s and 20s, most arrivals were from the north, possibly the Reservoirs.

Gadwall – 146, as with Shoveler, birds were coming in from the north.

Shelduck – 50, birds up and down from Barking Bay.

Common Snipe – 4 foreshore

Redshank – 273, a big increase, probably from Barking Bay.

Curlew – 1 on the foreshore

Lapwing – 23 overhead

Rock Pipit – 3 on the saltings and rocks

Pipit sp - got a quick view of this on the sewage works, very pale on the underside , possibly a Water.

Of the 2 Black Tailed Godwits, one was carrying leg rings, big red on the left and smaller orange on the right, photo below. Will be interesting to see where it hails from.

Colour ringed Black Tailed Godwit

Sunday 5 December 2010

Rainham - Aveley Bay December 4th

Was hopeful of catching up with the Eider which I need for London and the patch, it was seen yesterday so was optimistic it could still be in the area.

Posy Stonechat
 Paul and Jono were already present as I walked down, and although I missed the 3 Gooseanders going up river as I arrived, I got 2 of them coming back high. A good start and also a year tick.

Conditions looked too good for any scarcer species up the Thames even on an incoming tide, and so it proved with little movement, and unfortunately no sign of the Eider over a couple of hours.

Jono and Paul waiting for Les to find something

Grey Plovers

Grey Plovers goingto roost

Cant complain though, some good birds were seen, as follows-

Dunlin – both sides of the river, probably around 600

Redshank – again both sides, around 300

Curlew – 2

Grey Plover – 3 seen

Ruff – 1 overhead

Common Snipe – 4 seen

Wildfowl – large numbers of Wigeon and Teal everywhere on the river along with lower numbers of Shelduck and Gadwall. A single Pintail was also seen.

Stonechat – 1 very approachable bird

Rock Pipit – 2 in the area

Corn Bunting – 3 upriver and a further 6 feeding on the Saltmarsh.

Brambling – 1 seen in with a passing Finch/Bunting flock.

Popped in to Corbets Tey to check up on the lakes on the way home in the hope of a rarity, no luck but did get a female Sparrowhawk with prey. Got onto her first being mobbed by a couple of Crows, then she just came towards me and I got of a couple of photo’s, light was not great, but not too bad.

Female with prey

The eyes have it

Friday 3 December 2010

Grange Waters December 3rd

Having visited recently looking for Grey Partridge with Dominic, decided to do the circuit in the hope of some Smew, they usually arrive around the start of December.

All the fishing lakes at Mollands were frozen over with only a handful of holes being kept open by Mute Swans, going through these eventually produced a cracking Red Head Smew, very distant but close enough to id.

Distant Redhead Smew at Mollands Lane, hopefully we will again get some Drakes

 As you would expect there were tracks everywhere in the snow, some of the drifts were 2 foot deep, as I walked on towards Grange Waters Scuba Diving lake, I flushed a Muntjac at my feet, quite a surprise as I did not realize they were in the area.Dont know who jumped higher, me or the Muntjac. The Scuba Lake was unfrozen and loaded with Tufties and Pochard, it looked very good for a rarer bird but nothing materialized .

Robin - lots of birds are having a hard time of it with this weather
 As I walked round the edge woodland I got onto a calling Marsh Tit, have not had one in a few years and undoubtedly in the area due to the cold weather. A rare bird to find nowadays in Essex, try as I might in thick cover, the little bugger would not let me photograph it.

Birds seen on the circuit were

Woodcock – 1 walked up

Redwing – 70 main congregation - scuba lake treeline

Fieldfare – a minimum of 120 birds feeding on Hawthornes by the housing estate

Siskin – 4 over

Yellowhammer – 2 over

Skylark – 12 over

Tufties – 162

Pochard – 94

Teal - 47

Gadwall – 26

Shoveler – 8

Great Crested Grebe – 12

Little Grebe – 16

Water Rail – 2

Gooseander – 1 a drake flying over which I got onto very late

Redshank – 1 overhead calling

Mollands Lake - completely frozen over
 I also met a Falconer who had an immature male Goshawk, an absolutely stunning bird, he very kindly let me take some photo’s of the bird on a post, if he reads this, thank you very much and hope you enjoy the photo’s.

An immature male Goshawk - stunning

With all the speculation and confusion over male Goshawks and female Sparrowhawks when they are high up thermaling, it was good to see a Goshawk close up and see the differences.

One of the id features - a long rounded tail when thermaling

Barking Outfall December 3rd

An early morning visit to the Outfall to check on wildfowl numbers, very, very cold, I am just about functioning and again, I’m questioning if I am losing the plot to keep doing this at this time of morning.

On the way in I got very lucky and had a 1st winter/female Black Redstart fly across the entrance road to the sewer works, a good start and a year tick to boot.

There was at least 6 inches of snow, it makes everywhere look clean and tidy and gives everything a magical look, even a smelly sewer works.

Anyway, back to the birds, when I put my head over the wall to check on the Outfall, the number of wildfowl was staggering, all were piling in due to the big freeze up. Could see that all species had increased, the Tuftie flock looked massive.

Totals below

Tufted Duck – 514 and not one Scaup amongst them.These as per last year may well be coming off the larger Reservoirs.
Pochard – 26 tucked in with the Tufties

Shoveler – 409, these were still piling in as I was going through them, presumably coming from Crossness or Rainham

Gadwall – 304 again these were still coming in

Teal – a minimum of 700 birds scattered at the Outfall and up the Creek

Shelduck – 116 – a big increase

Redshank – 182 feeding on a rising tide

Black Tailed Godwit – 4 on the mud

Common Sandpiper – 1 on the rocks

Green Sandpiper -1 sewer works

Common Snipe – 18 feeding on very edge of mud

Grey Plover – 1 a site tick, they never usually get this far up

Rock Pipit – 2

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Ingrebourne Valley Farm Trail Nov 30th

In common with most of Essex and parts of London, most of the country for that matter, the Valley was covered in the white stuff, great to look at but a nightmare for birds to find food. Walked the Farm Trail, the game crop as expected was packed with Finches and Buntings, no doubt it is these that has attracted the Merlin seen on the 27th.

Male Yellowhammer
 The fields were alive with Meadow Pipits trying to find food, an estimated count easily reaching 100 birds.

Gave the game crop a good hour hoping for the Merlin to reappear, had bought my big lense with me, it did not show in that time but had good numbers of other species seen.

Reed Bunting
 Yellowhammer – a minimum of 50 birds, very likely more

Chaffinch – 40, again possibly more

Reed Bunting – 120 at an estimate

Brambling – 3 including 1 well marked male

Skylark – 12 in with the Mipits

Golden Plover – 2 low over the field looking for somewhere to land

Lapwing – 40 top paddock

Redwing – a flock of 40 overhead

Fieldfare – 3 in with the Redwings

Common Snipe – 2 walked up from main path

Red Legged Partridge – 1 in the Gamecrop

Lesser Redpoll
 While walking back from the top paddock came across a flock of 22 Redpoll, managed to get a few photo’s, they all looked good for Lesser except for 1 that showed features of Mealy, unfortunately the photo that I took of it was crap. One that may have got away, looked good at the time.

                             Lesser Redpolls

Sunday 28 November 2010

Cold Weather movement -Barking Outfall November 28th

A massive increase in Wildfowl due to the extreme weather, the Thames locally offering the only source of food due to many of the water bodies being frozen up.

Part of the Outfall

 In particular Tufted Duck in a week have gone from 3 birds to a staggering 387, no Scaup but with the continued cold spell, definitely a possibility.

Tufties on the edge of the mud

 Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal have all massively increased but surprisingly Shelduck numbers were quite low with only 26 birds seen, very likely packed out at Barking Bay.

Black Tailed Godwits were again present with 11 birds feeding on the mud, also had a very high flock of Golden Plover going south west @ 11.45am, numbering around 200 birds, in 2 V formation flocks.          

 Totals from the morning were:

Gadwall – 116

Shoveler – 202

Teal – a massive 515, 400 on the Thames with another 115 down the creek

Mallard – 118

Curlew - 1

Redshank – 129

Also around 40 Pied Wagtails and 5 Grey Wagtails were seen on the Sewage Works.

Grey Wagtail