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Saturday 25 September 2010

Canvey Point Sept 25th

Decided to give the point a bash, the wind was wrong, a northerly, but given what was turning up at the north kent coast, was hopeful of some spill over down the Thames.
I watched from 12.00 to 4.15pm and in that time probably recorded the largest total of Gannets I have had at the point, 153no, mostly juvenile/immatures all up river.No birds were counted coming out, they did come out in small numbers, but only around 60% of those that went up.They either pitched down on the river further up or went up high cross country.

Large flock of Gannets coming in, Southend Pier in background.

Juvenile Gannets
The largest group was 21 with many around the 12 to 15 mark.
The weather was very bright at times and only clouded over every now and then during the afternoon, nothing exceptional came in, there were other birders present and they may have different counts from mine below.

Mediterranean Gull - 7, 3 adults, 2nd winter and 3 1st winters
Common Tern - 8 definates with a number of others too far out to id.
Sandwich Tern - 2 seen
Great Skua - 2 seen
Arctic Skua - a probable at 3.10pm, too far out to clinch
Common Scoter - 11 came in and landed mid channel
Brent Goose - 1 off the saltings
Little Egret - a group of 10

Little Egrets coming over from Kent

Marsh Harrier - a single immature from Kent to Essex, picked up by another birder, cheers.

Marsh Harrier

Also seen was a Peregrine, initially low when I got on it over the saltings, buzzed the roosting waders and then went up high.

Mediterranean gull above, these seemed to appear every time a large ship came in, they were following them as far as the point and then they broke off.A good afternoon, plenty of Gannets, when I was coming away it was clouding over, Sunday looks pretty good as well, even better if the wind swings round easterly....                                                           

Friday 24 September 2010

Rainham Marshes RSPB Sept 23rd

I was due to collect some prey remains from a Peregrine site in London, but decided to spend an hour on the river to see if anything was about before going.
On arrival, tide was out, located a single Avocet, Curlew, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Redshank, 4 Black Tailed Godwit all feeding on the mud.They were later joined by singles of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, other than this there was not a lot of movement on the river other than 2 Common Terns heading up river.
It was as I was scanning around looking for a possible Owl that I saw the Greylags lifting up off the marsh, a flock of around 25, as I looked one bird showed up slightly smaller with large white wing bars, even at this distance could confirm an Egyptian Goose.Surprisingly it has always been a relatively hard bird to get at Rainham, this could possibly be the only record of the year so far.
Watched the Tip where there was a massive Linnet flock floating about, around 120 birds, was keeping an eye on this as Merlin should be coming in soon and these size flocks are like magnets.
Also of note were 40 Meadow Pipits west and 3 Ring Necked Parakeets over from Dartford.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Ingrebourne Valley Sept 18th

A bright morning with hardly any cloud meant that I could start a Butterfly/Dragonfly transect so headed straight for Hornchurch Sports Stadium.
As soon as I walked round the corner, I heard the high pitched calling of a Firecrest, located it, alerted others and eventually got a couple of half decent photo's.As far as I could tell it looked like a male, very early in the year, they dont breed here, so not sure if a migrant or a breeder from further afield.Shaun arrived but unfortunately it dissapeared.


Carried on from here, constantly looking up as it looked good for a raptor, recorded 2 Common Buzzards, 1 of which was tangling with a female Sparrowhawk, 7 Chiffchaffs, 44 Teal and 18 Rooks and 14 Jackdaws in the top paddock.

Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk

Also got treated to a flyby Lancaster bomber, there was an open day as part of the Battle of Britain theme and this little beauty flew past, quite a sight.

Lancaster Bomber

VALENCIA September 9th-12th

September 9th- afternoon

Arrived at my aunts and uncles place, Sue and John late morning on Thursday after flying from Stanstead to Valencia with Ryanair, cost was £168.00, returning on Monday 13th.I am very lucky that I have 3 sets of uncles and aunts all with great properties, with pools within ½ a mile of each other on the outskirts of a village called Betera .This is around 10 kilometers from Valencia. Where they live is quite a wild area and this is reflected by the amount and quality of the birds seen from the garden, I also quickly discovered with 75 – 80 degrees heat and strong sunshine, there is only one way to watch birds from the garden, in the pool with a Gin and Tonic.

John and Sues place

During the course of the afternoon I became aware of a number of birds nearby, 1 or 2 Crested Tits, afterwards I found that these were quite common to the area, especially the Calderona Mountain Range; this was around 5 kilometers north. There was also a calling Firecrest seen briefly, 2 or 3 Sardinian Warblers contact calling nearby, always skulky and hard to see and small numbers of Spotless Starlings.

The real goodies came later in the afternoon, John picked up a large raptor soaring pretty low to the east, after locating it with bins it turned out to be an adult Short Toed Eagle, a great bird to have anywhere in Spain, let alone from your back garden. Even as I watched it, it began to hover, quite a sight for such a big bird. During the remaining days of my stay, this bird (presumably the same one) never failed to appear around the 3.00pm mark.
Short Toed Eagle
Along with this we had 23 Bee Eaters go over the garden, 2 groups of 11 and 12, these were relatively low and seemed to lose height as soon as they passed over, it turned out that they were feeding up at an orange grove about ½ a mile away near my other uncle’s place. Soon sussed out that Bee Eaters are like Yellow Wagtails up in the sky, you can hear them coming but they are very difficult to pick out in bright sunshine.

Bee Eater

With dusk approaching was then treated to the finale, again John got on to it, a Red Necked Nightjar straight through the garden and heading towards the orange groves. Never seen one before so a very happy chappy, on sight the first thing that I noticed is how noticeably bigger they are than European Nightjar.

September 10th – Sierra Calderona Mountains

Arrived at 6.50am dawn with a view to doing some raptor watching, from what I understand the mountain range is not known for its birds of prey like the Pyrenees but with the Short Toed Eagle seen yesterday in the afternoon was very hopeful. Decided to get to a high point around 9.00am as I felt the heat rising straight away as the sun got higher, in the meantime I walked the paths climbing all the time. Again became aware of Crested Tit calling, these were joined by Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrests calling and 3 Hoopoe straight across in front of me, got off a couple of photo’s but very distant. As I walked through an open area of Fir Trees I located 4 Spotted Flycatchers, a cracking male Pied Flycatcher and 3 Common Redstarts, a great start to the morning.

Spectacled Warbler

Further along as the area and habitat opened up I had 4 Crossbills over, 2 Wheatears sitting in a tree, threw for a minute as they don’t often land in trees, not large ones anyway. Then had 2 Hawfinches going over, always a pleasure to see, so far the morning had been brilliant. Also could not help noticing as well, there were many nest boxes placed where ever I walked. Some of the birds seen may well have been local breeders mixed in with some migrants. I suspect that many were for Crested Tit as they are resident along with the Flycatchers and Redstarts, some were open fronted.

By now had decided that the only way was up if I wanted to catch up with any raptors so started to climb up the shallow rock face, complete with bins, camera, telescope and backpack. Halfway up as I was sweating big time and the ticker off the scale, the thought came to me, mad dogs and Englishmen. Too late to turn back, eventually reached the peak, a flat area of grassland after 25 minutes.

As I walked through the high grass to the peak I walked into a spider’s web, as I looked down at it, I thought **** me, looking at me was the biggest spider I had seen in the wild. It looked like a species of Wasp Spider, a female, certainly bigger than any that I had seen at Rainham Marshes RSPB, to give you an idea of size, the male was with her measured about an inch long.

Wasp type Spider

Presumably female and male Spiders, dont give a lot for his chances after mating

Anyway back to the raptor watching, the following was recorded from 9.20am to 1.00pm.

9.30am – male Marsh Harrier going west, high

10.02am – Short Toed Eagle distantly heading off to the flatlands

10.35a.m – Kestrel up with Swallows mobbing it

10.35am – Peregrine up and thermaling

11.22am – a White Stork going west, very, very high

12.05pm – a Common Buzzard drifting west with 3 Bee Eaters for company, quite a bizarre sight

12.16pm – a flock of 38 Bee Eaters going over quite low heading west

12.30pm – a cracking high Black Stork which I managed to just about photograph

12.50pm – a Griffon Vulture west, so high, the only reason I picked it up was due to its size. It was as I as watching this I became aware of other birds of prey above it, I counted 8.From what features and outline I could get, they all looked like Honey Buzzards.

1.02pm – another flock of 14 Bee Eaters going west highish.
Black Stork

Short Toed Eagle

Griffon Vulture
 Not so much quantity but some good quality birds seen, most were heading down the coast past Alicante, presumably to cross around Gibraltar. These birds were so high, any raptor passage this high meant there were undoubtedly many birds missed.
Griffon with Buzzard sp above

 September 11th Albufura Wetlands, Lake and Coastline

John dropped me off next to the lake just before dawn, had a rough idea of the layout of the area from maps, decided to head for the coastline through the trees and scrub, thinking that it would not be that far. In the darkness it seemed miles, kept heading for the light and eventually reached the shoreline ½ an hour later, it was probably around a mile. On arrival the first bird that I heard was Woodlark, they seemed to be singing everywhere, also Red Legged Partridge were in evidence, probably the commonest bird there, certainly up in the 50’s during the couple of hours I spent there. They were even feeding on the beach.

Cattle Egret
Swallows were now streaming through and as the light got better everywhere came alive, the shoreline, dunes, bushes and trees at the edge of the dunes were dripping with migrant and resident birds.

Sandwich Terns were going past in good numbers but failed to locate any Gull Billed Terns or Audouins Gulls, no doubt if I had stayed there longer I would probably had one passing. I covered about ¾ mile of shoreline and the following was seen:

Woodlark – a minimum of 9

Fan Tailed Warbler -1 seen

Sardinian Warbler – 8

Sub Alpine Warbler – 1 definite and another possible

Stonechat – 1 male

Spotted Flycatcher - 11 including a group of 5

Common Redstart – 4

Whinchat – 3 seen

Northern Wheatear – 7 along the dunes

Red Rumped Swallow – 3 seen in amongst the 100’s going by

Turtle Dove – 4 in trees

Great Grey Shrike – 1 on the edge of trees , initially thought this was Lesser but checking with Collins it is Great.

Marsh Harrier – 3 – female/juv types

Sanderling – 4 on the shoreline

Kentish Plover – 2 shoreline

Curlew – 1 flyby

Bar Tailed Godwit – 1 overhead

Common Tern – 7 going by

Cattle Egret – 2 on the beach
Bar Tailed Godwit
Very distant Great Grey Shrike
Spotted Flycatcher

A great selection of birds to start the day off so headed inland to the lake, got very lucky and walked straight into the bird reserve, it has a series of shallow lakes, a couple of hides and a tower for looking over the lake.

Here I recorded many Little Ringed Plovers along with some Kentish, a single Curlew and Greenshank, 3 Common Sandpipers, 5 Avocets and 6 Black Winged Stilts. Many Mallard were present and about 25 Shoveler there as well. Also got caught out by a very long legged and long bodied plover type wader, the only thing that I thought it may have possibly been was one of the Sand Plovers, got a few photo’s before it flew. On reviewing the photo’s at a later date and going through the book it was nothing like a Sand Plover and most agreed that it was a juvenile Little Ringed Plover looking very leggy.

Black Winged Stilt

From here I pressed on to the lake and found a few viewpoints, it is very hard to approach, without doubt the best way would be to go on a boat trip, the lake is enormous.

Recorded Little, Black and Whiskered Tern from one viewpoint, all distantly unfortunately. Marsh Harriers seemed to be quartering every large reedbed and a raptor flying low distantly turned out to be an Osprey. Scanned the reed beds for any of the rarer Herons but could only locate Greys. It was now past mid day and very hot, needed a beer so called it a day.

September 12th Calderona Mountains and Betera

The very first bird seen as I arrived was a Red Necked Nightjar hawking over the pine trees in the half light, no chance of a photo.

Decided to commit to watching for raptors in the morning, similar area but further east, my plan was to try and get a better photo of the Short Toed Eagle. As it turned out I saw it around the same time that It showed on the previous visit, unfortunately it was probably half a mile away, got some records shots of it hovering but very distant. It showed around the same time when I had seen it on the Friday, so presumably it was coming from roost. As I was watching this another large raptor came up about a ¼ of a mile away from the Short Toed, again distant but certainly as large as the other bird, the likely candidate for the area would be Booted but this was too big.As quick as it appeared, it was gone again.
Pied Flycatcher

Crested Tit
Raptor watching was slow, only a Marsh Harrier recorded so decided to walk the trails and concentrate on photography, recorded Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, 2 Common Crossbills, a Woodlark and 8 flyby Bee Eaters. Crested Tits and Sardinian Warblers seemed to be everywhere.

Betera Orange Groves

Decided to try and ambush the Bee Eaters late afternoon as I had noticed that they came down here and fed on earlier days, was hoping to get some good photo’s. As usual the best laid plans usually cock up, did not manage any Bee Eaters, could hear and see them passing either side of me but , in there place was rewarded in by 2 species of Eagle.
Short Toed Eagles
 As I was scanning I picked up 2 high thermaling Eagle species, one was an obvious Short Toed with the other a less paler bird, both birds wing shape and outline were the same. Decided that the other was a Short Toed as well, although darker I could see the ‘bib’, so this was very likely a pair or an adult and juvenile. Even as I watched them another raptor came up underneath them, smaller but again pale underneath, got good views, again distant, but enough to confirm a pale phase Booted Eagle.                                            This bird eventually left the Short Toed Eagles and came down lower giving good views and was able to get some half decent photo’s.
Booted Eagle pale phase
Short Toed Eagles
 2 Hoopoe flybys rounded off the visit

Had an excellent time thanks to my aunt and uncle, John and Sue, they ran me everywhere, great food, great beer and great birds.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Canvey Point Sept 5th

I arrived at the point around 6.40am, as soon as I arrived I thought it was too bright despite a decent south easterley wind blowing straight on to the point.Looking at the forecast the evening before it had given overcast with patches of light rain so was hopeful of some 'goodies'.Tide was rising and was set to peak around 9.30am, decided to give it a while just in case anything did come in.
At least 30 Commic Terns were seen, all heading up river along with 5 Sandwich Terns, did not pick up any Blacks but 3 or 4 were seen later by others.
With good light I then went round towards the marina, the tide was starting to push the waders up so settled down out of the way to try and get some photo's.

Bar Tailed Godwit preening

Distant Grey Plover still summer plumed

Bar Tailed feeding

After this I went back to the point to try my luck again, Jeff was there and 4 other birders joined shortly after.Had missed 3 Black Terns going up but little else came in other than Terns, also got onto a very high distant Raptor but lost it in the distance going over to Kent.
Large flocks of Curlew and Black Tailed Godwit were now all making there way over from Kent so finished the session with some distant photography, light was not good but still a good morning out on the 'seaside'.

Black Tailed Godwits coming over from Kent

Curlew coming in to roost past the point

Juvenile Ringed Plover

Saturday 4 September 2010

Rainham Marshes Sept 4th

Met up with Paul and Jono just after dawn at the top car park, with the change in wind direction, we were hopeful of some migrants along Aveley Bay foreshore.Other than a contact calling Chiffchaff, nothing materialised so we turned our attention to the river.
On the mud Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, 2 Ringed Plover present along with an Oystercatcher.As we scanned the river a very large head appeared which turned out to be a bull Grey Seal drifting in with the tide
Bull Grey Seal having a breather
Whilst looking at the Seal we picked up a distant flock of waders on the Kent side, they were eventually flushed by a boat and came over giving reasonable views, in total there was 3 Knot and 39 Dunlin, a good start to the morning.After this it got even better with a wader picked up by Paul, we all got on it and it turned out to be a Curlew Sandpiper, it was one of the birds we were hoping for as there had been an influx.
Knot and Dunlin flock
11 Common Terns were then noted moving up river, Whimbrel calling,  2 Common Sandpipers on the waterline, 7 Wigeon which were fresh in with 12 Yellow Wagtails overhead.
I then entered the reserve and walked straight onto a calling Bearded Tit, missed earlier in the year so very welcome, got Paul and Jono onto it as well.I carried on and they walked the foreshore up to the Stone Barges.
No raptors of note other than a male Peregrine sitting on his usual pylon, a female Sparrowhawk flushed 2 Green Sandpipers by Aveley Pools.The pools produced 2 Pintail, the first in for the winter, 3 Whinchat on the bullrushes, many Shoveler and Teal.At least 6 Little Egrets as well as 2 Greenshank and 2 Common Snipe made it a very good wader day.


Carried on from here along the boardwalk and came across a calling Water Rail which eventually showed just enough to get a couple of shots off.

Water Rail

I then walked the woodland and cordite area looking for migrants, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Warbler all recorded but again no Spotted Flycatcher.
A Migrant Hawker then gave me the challenge of trying to photograph it in flight, never easy as they dont seem to stay still long enough and it is hard trying to get a lock on them with the auto focus, must have fired off 50 shots.Eventually got a half decent photo, after this decided to call it a day, a very good morning.

Migrant Hawker