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Sunday 31 October 2010

Barking Bay October 30th

Morning visit, good to see some sunshine for a change, although it was not set to last with rain forecast in the afternoon. As many may know the Bay is scheduled for development over the coming years, sightings and records will now become more and more important, if more records are generated, more mitigation can then be put in place. If anyone does visit can you send your records into Francesca Barker of the London Wildlife Trust, e-mail
If you do visit, the area has a reputation for car break ins , best to park further back where there is civilization and then walk down to the entrance gate.

Goldfinch on Thistles
 Tide was out on the river, on the way I had a good flock of Linnet numbering around 80 birds in the scrub, scanning the river and mud produced:
Teal- 36
Rock Pipit 1 – rocks                                                                                                                           Shelduck – 71
Curlew – 2
Redshank – 9

Other species seen were 16 Reed Bunting in the scrub, 7 Goldfinch, Fieldfare over, Green Woodpecker ground feeding, 14 Skylark, and a calling Water Rail. Also had 2 Sparrowhawks interacting, looked like a male and female getting all frisky in the sunshine, even the Skylarks were singing.


Sparrowhawks tangling

Good light for a change

Ingrebourne Valley October 29th

A day of from work, was due up London later so decided to pop over the Valley to see if I could not only catch up with the Bittern leaving roost, but was hopeful also of Bearded Tit, a major bogey bird for me on the site. Given the number of birds that had been seen recently at Rainham RSPB, I thought I was in with a shout.
Headed over in near darkness, was rewarded with a Woodcock over the viewing area, perfectly silhouetted in the sky, a good start. As the light got better as I walked through Berwick Ponds I also had a calling Tawny Owl, pretty close, but try as I might I could not see it in the gloom.
Reached the lake and walked round to the green sward on the houses side, gave it an hour but no luck with the Bittern or Beardies but did get a high Marsh Harrier east, 2 calling Water Rail, 19 Redwing,2 Chiffies, a calling Redpoll sp and 2 Fieldfares.
An excellent morning so far so headed for the farm trail, again hopeful of a Merlin, in years gone by they were pretty regular on the Trail but are now a rare sight in the Valley. I then got very lucky and picked up a distant largish raptor being mobbed, by what I thought was a Crow. The light was atrocious but was able to id a Ringtail Hen Harrier being mobbed by a female Sparrowhawk. The Hen Harrier is now a very rare bird and this was only my second ever for the site. Les Harrison had a cracking male a few years back, this bird put me on 124 for the year.

Very distant Hen Harrier being mobbed by Sparrowhawk
 The shoot game crop was alive with Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers, the latter easily reaching 30 birds, will have to keep an eye out for the recent influx of Lapland Buntings amongst them.
Additional birds seen were
Lapwing – 80 Farm Trail, no Golden Plovers in with them as yet.
Stock Dove – 50 ,single flock feeding on fields
Skylark – 22 adjacent field to top paddock
Cetti’s Warbler – 8 heard calling
Teal – 36 viewing area
Gadwall – 9
Wigeon – 7
Pochard – 20
Jackdaw – 19 top paddock
Rook – 13 top paddock

Dagenham Riverside October 24th

Fox in the undergrowth
 Dropped in for a quick visit, tide was in so I had a look at one of the jetties, they have always held good numbers of roosting waders and wildfowl.
On arrival around mid day as I parked up, was very surprised to see a Fox standing in the undergrowth watching me, a fine looking animal with no mange.Even more surprised as it walked up to the car and stood there looking at me, it was obviously being fed by the lorry drivers and was waiting for tit bits.Despite knowing the damage that they do to wildlife, especially ground nesting birds, it is hard to despise them.
I ended up with no lunch as I gave it to the Fox for posing for a few photo’s.
Back to the birds, the following was seen.
Yellow Legged Gull – 3 all adults                                                                                                        Redshank – 28 roosting
Lapwing - 19 roosting
Curlew – 5 roosting together
Black Tailed Godwit – 1 roosting
Teal – 46 on the river
Shelduck -6 on the river
Cetti’s Warbler - 1 calling along a dyke
This was the 1st high tide count of the 2nd winter period and did not expect high numbers as it is still quite early and the weather is relatively mild.
Other than the Fox, strange sight of the day goes to 3 Stock Doves roosting in tight with the Lapwings on the jetty.

Friday 22 October 2010

Rainham Marshes October 22nd

Decided to pay the marshes a visit after yesterdays showing of 2 Penduline Tits, also a Firecrest had been seen early this morning, needed both for the year.

As is my usual habit decided to walk the foreshore at low tide, a good showing was at least 9 Rock Pipits, as yet no Water Pipit, 49 Redshank were feeding in the Bay along with a single Curlew.2 groups of Chaffinch over head produced 2 calling Redpoll on the tail end, very likely Lessers.

Greylag Geese

 Entered the Reserve and headed to where the Pendulines had been seen, unfortunately they showed early morning but had not been seen since. On the way had a cracking little flock of Bearded Tits flyover my head, ironically towards where the Pendulines had last been seen. There were 6 over closely followed by a single bird all calling, normally quite a hard bird to see. Managed to get a couple of record shots but the light and also my lack of knowledge meant that they came out more or less as silhouettes.

Bearded Tits


 Carried on regardless, hopefully the Pendulines will winter like other years.The Target pools still held Pinkfoot Goose, but could now only see 3, cant see one leaving the others, so possibly Foxy.

Also found the Tiercel Peregrine on his usual spot on the pylon, actions showed that he was looking to hunt. At this time of year, principal prey will be the usual Feral Pigeon plus Stock Dove and Teal, all are smallish and a lot easier to carry.

 Aveley Pools held the usual assortment of ducks as well as 2 Golden Plover tucked in with the Lapwings.Eventually came to the woodland, got very lucky, firstly a flyover calling Brambling closely followed by a calling Siskin, the Brambling dropped into the Cordite area and the Siskin carried on west.
Golden Plover and Lapwing

Monday 18 October 2010

Barking Outfall October 17th

The tide was coming in as I arrived, with winter now on its way, was hopeful of some winter specialties moving in.5 Shoveler were feeding the Outfall along with 8 Gadwall, the Shoveler are regular here, these were the 1st winter arrivals. Teal numbers were now rapidly increasing and I counted 245 In the Outfall alone, I added another 80 shortly after at the Creek, quite an impressive total for so early in the year.                          


 As ever at high tide the Cormorants were piling into the Outfall to fish in the fast water, numbers quickly reached 92.When they are all fishing in the fast water it is quite an impressive sight, as mentioned earlier in the diary, food appears to be some kind of prawn.

Cormorants after feeding

 Little was moving on the river, getting very late now for Terns so will be watching for winter waders coming up the river.

Rock Pipit

 I did get 3 Golden Plover going over south which were new in, also:

Rock Pipits - 3 on the rocks

Common Sandpiper – 2 feeding on the edge of the rising tide

Wood Pigeon – 30 over south high

Chiffchaff - a minimum of 5, there is no doubt that that Thames Water sewer works must provide a good source of food throughout the winter months, I always record more wintering Chiffs at this site than anywhere else.                                                                                                                                                       


Also kept an eye open in the water on the rising tide, I have had shoals of Mullett coming in, I am told that they are Thick Lipped Mullett, not up on my sea fish , these also come to feed in the Outfall. The photo below shows a shoal coming in last year.

Thick Lipped Mullett

Saturday 16 October 2010

Rainham Marshes October 16th

A very good day, and well done to Les (Harrison) for finding the Bluethroat at Rainham.                         
Made my way there after a phone call from Les in the morning, was at a Peregrine site as per usual, very high up and bloody cold.

On arrival found Andy and Dave looking for the bird and it was Andy who refound it, we all got good enough views to confirm identity and although seen off and on during the rest of the day it did prove very elusive. Having never seen Bluethroat before, this was not only a site and year tick but also London and UK. I waited for another hour but nothing, by now a few people had turned up.

Whilst scanning the Targets for anything a goose suddenly stuck its head up and I thought Pinkfoot, nabbed a scope and there were actually 4 of them, tucked down in the grass and resting. Always good to see, reminded me straight away of last winter when wild geese were turning up locally, hopefully it is a sign of things to come.


Distant Pinfeet Geese

 Decided to go and look for the Tree Sparrow at the centre, birds seen on the way were.

Golden Plover – 5 over

Stonechat 4 – hopefully they are recovering after they were very hard to find after last winter.

Blackcap – 1 scolding me from a berry bush

Chiffchaff – 1 calling

Rock Pipit – 2 on the foreshore

Curlew – 2 on the mud

Weasel – 1 greased lightning

Marsh Harrier – a 1st year male being harassed by a couple of Crows out on Wennington Marsh       

Marsh Harrier with the usual Crow attachment

 Arrived at the centre, went to go across the footbridge and there, next to the fence was the Tree Sparrow sitting in a bush, bold as brass. Sometimes you can do no wrong, managed also to get a couple of shots of it on the feeders after a coffee.

Tree Sparrow -  bottom

Ingrebourne Valley October 16th

Popped in one the way home from Rainham, had a look at the top paddock, very windy but bright and sunny, so kept one eye up for raptors and the other scanned the paddock.

8 Jackdaws and 6 Rooks feeding round the horses with a good size flock of Greylags grazing on the side field, hopefully the Whitefronts will return this winter.

It was as I watching these and happened to glance skywards that I got onto a diving Sparrowhawk, a male, it had locked onto a Lapwing that I had not seen in the field. The lapwing got up just about and there then followed a frantic pursuit, low over the field, as the male tried to take it. It closed on it 3 or 4 times but the Lapwing evaded it every time, in the end the Sparrowhawk gave up.
Glad to say the Lapwing got away
 During all of this I had the camera up and was trying to get a lock on them, they were just too quick and twisting and turning too much. I did manage to get one out of focus shot which shows the drama above.

From here I went to Ingrebourne Hill, have still got Lapland Bunting In mind, the habitat up there is ideal, possibly even Ring Ouzel.

Lots of Meadow Pipits and about 10 Skylarks hunkered down out of the wind but little else, 2 calling Siskin over was a bonus.

As I was about to go I got onto 4 high flying medium sized waders very late and initial thoughts were Golden Plover, as is my habit nowadays, I got off 2 quick photo’s and then they were gone.

Having reviewed the photo’s they look very good for a male Ruff, bill is too long for Golden Plover, pale underwing and long winged, photo below.

Heavily cropped possible Ruff

Friday 15 October 2010

Rainham Marshes RSPB October 14th

I had been to a Peregrine site at dawn and decided to pop into Rainham on the way back, with all the Lapland Buntings showing, I thought that Rainham was a good bet.

I started at the sea wall, straight away there were Ring Necked Parakeets coming over from Kent, I ended up with 29 by the time I had reached Aveley Bay, Tide was low, met Andy and he pointed out the Common Seal. It was hauled out on the mud resting, only the 2nd ever Common Seal I had seen in the Inner Thames if I remember correctly, the other was at Barking 3 years back. The Gulls definitely found it interesting.

Common Seal in the Bay
 Previous to this I had scoped the Kent side, no majors bur 7 Ringed Plover were good to see, the Essex side of the foreshore held 3 Rock Pipits and around 30 Redshank, Water Pipit will hopefully arrive soon, usually around the start of November.

The Bay held hundreds of Gulls, amongst them 3 adult Yellow Legged, try as I might I cant get excited about these, it has got to have a hook beak and talons. Also in the Bay was a single Bar Tailed Godwit, 11 Black Tailed Godwits and a single Curlew.

Black Tailed Godwits feeding on the mud

 Decided to go round the Reserve despite the disturbance of ongoing works, will be interesting to see it all when it is completed.

A walk round to the Woodland via the Target Pools (dry) and Aveley Pools produced the following


2 Sparrowhawks – male and female

Linnet – 60 a flock feeding over the Targets

Water Rail – 4 calling, all avoided the camera despite my best efforts

Cetti’s Warbler – 7 calling

Pintail – 9 seen on the Pools, the drakes looking very smart

Common Snipe – 1

Black Tailed Godwit – 3 on the Pools

Good numbers of Tufted, Pochard and Shoveler present.

Nailed a Goldcrest in the woodland which I needed for a year tick, total now 147.No Brambling seen but many Chaffinches and Redwings in the woodland.
Not up on my Newts but came across this little chap below walking across the path, unsure as to its identity.

Newt species
Apologies for the photo's, typical english weather unfortunately.

Common Seal with Gull onlookers

Monday 11 October 2010

Ingrebourne Hill Vis Miging October 11th

Day off from work so decided to visit the hill in the hope of seeing some migration, great weather at dawn, the forecast looked good with a brisk north easterly wind and clear unbroken sunshine.
 The bird that I really was after was Ring Ouzel after yesterdays showing when they were popping up all over London, it has also become a bogey bird for the patch, they are seldom recorded here at the Ingrebourne Valley, hopefully this morning could change that.

Mixed Godfinch and Linnet flock

From 7.00am to 9.15am the following was seen or heard

Redwing – 162, largest group approx 35, all west or north west

Starling – 60 all west

Wood Pigeon – 1 group of 40 high south

Stock Dove – 6 a single group south

Redpoll sp – 2 over north calling

Swallow – 4 all east

Skylark – 23, 2 groups of 12 and 11 north

Meadow Pipit – 18 all north west, highest group 5

Fieldfare – a single bird landed on the hill

Jackdaw – 216, groups of 30, 100, 32 and 54 all high south west. Unusual to see this many moving, behaviour was the same for all 4 groups.They all came in from the north east, landed on the Hill and fed in the short grass, this looks as if it has just been planted up. All the groups then, after a short period of feeding, 20 minutes or so, then lifted up high thermaled round to gain height and then headed of south west. I watched them go through bins, they carried on until out of sight.

No Ring Ouzel or anything that stands out, hopefully they are saving themselves for the weekend when I can get up there again.

More Jackdaws
Even more Jackdaws

Dagenham Riverside October 10th

Mid morning visit with the sun just starting to break through promised a bright day. Had not visited this site for quite a while, quite a lot of construction change that I knew was coming, hopefully it will benefit the birds on site with the mitigation after.


On walking round the first bird heard was a overhead Brambling, it then got better when I saw it land, managed to get off a couple of distant photo’s. On arrival at the waters edge, heard a Rock Pipit briefly and then got onto a group of 3 Grey Wagtails.

Despite a thorough search through the Gulls on the river could not find anything of note other than the usual Lessers, Herrings and Black Headed Gulls. Single Common and 3 Great Black Backs were seen.

Other birds seen were

Siskin – 2 overhead calling

Redshank – 1 on mud

Common Snipe – 1 flushed by the rocks.

Teal – 81 on mud and waters edge

Shelduck – 12 waters edge

Chiffchaff – 1 calling

Cetti’s Warbler – 1 calling

Sparrowhawk 1 female overhead

2 Small Coppers also seen.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Ingrebourne Valley October 9th

A late morning walk taking in the viewing area, the Black Bridge and then along the Farm Trail produced good numbers of Finches and Buntings. The farmer shoots and every year puts down Gamecrop for Pheasants, as many will know this benefits small ground feeding birds like Finches, Buntings, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits tremendously in the winter months. Not only does it provide a food source, it also gives cover from the severe winter weather.                                                                                                                 

As yet the overcast grey skies had not cleared so was not expecting any overhead migration, might give it a go on Sunday as this promises to be a brighter day.

My daughters 6 month old Staffordshire Bo meeting his first horse, the middle paddock looks very good for Ring Ouzel.

The following was seen in the round robin walk-

Brambling – 1 came up calling with Chaffinches opposite the viewing area

Teal – only 9 in the viewing area

Redwing – flocks of 40 and 20 overhead

Siskin – 2 initially and then a further 6

Kestrel – 2 immatures

Lapwing – 44 Farm Trail

Reed Bunting – 40 odd in the game crop, possibly could attract a Lapland Bunting as there has been a small influx.

Yellowhammer – 8 seen in the gamecrop

Jackdaw – at least 9 in the gamecrop

No significant numbers as yet of Skylark and Meadow Pipit, single figures of each being seen, Jays seem to be everywhere collecting acorns.

Barking Outfall October 9th

I was running a bit late, did not arrive until 7.30am, lots of activity as you enter Thames Water to access the Outfall, new roads and construction going on everywhere. Made a mental note to visit on Sunday next time, less disturbance.

First returning Redshank

Straight away I could see that Teal numbers had climbed as they are starting to arrive in strength, also 2 new arrivals heralded the coming winter, Rock Pipit and Redshank. This mornings weather was not ideal for photography with grey murky misty skies giving no light whatsoever, birds seen were as follows-

Sparrowhawk – male after the many Pied Wagtails

Mallard – 164 on the Thames

Teal – 219 Thames and Creek

Redshank – 2 Thames

Rock Pipit – 2 Thames

Grey Wagtail – 7 Outfall and Sewage works

Chiffchaff – 2 Sewage works

Blackcap – 1 Sewage works

Great Crested Grebe – 9 Thames

Green Sandpiper – 1 Sewage works

Common Sandpiper – 1 Outfall

It was low tide so rather surprisingly there were only 11 Shelduck, expected to see more, very likely down at Barking Bay.

Barking Creek

Friday 8 October 2010

Autumnwatch - Parliament October 5th

I had been asked by the BBC a short while back to assist in filming of the Parliament Peregrines and also provide some prey from one of the other sites that I monitor. I had recently removed 2 sacks of prey from an East London site and it was this that was used for filming. They had also kindly asked me if I would like to participate in the filming with Chris Packham, this I was very happy to do as I found his approach to wildlife refreshing, also he is quite a funny and very likeable chap.

Myself and Chris Packham

I arrived at dawn to see if I could locate the pair and also see if the remaining juvenile was still present and had not left. Originally there were 4 juveniles, 2 females, a male and an inbetweenie that I could not sex as its size was between Falcon and Tiercel.3 of the juveniles had left, with a single juvenile remaining with both adults refusing to feed it, it appeared to be existing on the adults left overs. I had also visited on Saturday and the juvenile was repeatedly begging the adults for food relentlessly, neither bird would relent and release prey, the message was clear, it was time to go.

Juvenile with adults leftovers

During the course of the morning I managed to locate both adults as well as the juvenile, obviously it had not got the message yet, if it does not go of its own accord soon, the adults will likely ‘persuade’ it to go. The chaps from the BBC arrived around 8.30am with others shortly after, they were able to get straight on to the birds, both adult Tiercel and juvenile were still present, the juvenile could be heard above the din of passing traffic quite clearly.

The remainder of the day was spent filming at the top of Victoria Tower with Chris and the camera crew and then descending to Victoria Park to film prey remains identification. Must say I really enjoyed it, as I opened the 2 sacks it was quite obvious that some of the prey was still ripe to say the least. Birds identified were

Many Feral Pigeons


Ring Necked Parakeet


Ringed Plover

Teal – 2 no


The Ring Necked Parakeets are quite interesting, as mentioned earlier, the prey was taken from an East London site, there was also an additional bird on top of Parliament. From what I can gather Peregrines are one of the few species that will take them as they are quite an aggressive species and have a formidable bite. I have heard of a number of people in London who have seen Sparrowhawks chase them but give up, I have seen this also myself, would be interesting if anyone has seen a Ring Necked Parakeet taken by a Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawks may just consider it wise not to risk injury, they are easily capable of taking them, especially the larger female whose speciallity is Wood Pigeon.

Finished the day early afternoon, the prey was taken to Bristol after filming to a friend of mine, Ed Drewitt, he identifies everything, bones, skulls, feathers and all.

Adult Tiercel on middle Tower

Had an excellent day, the footage was shown on Autumnwatch on Thursday evening, great filming of the juvenile peregrine and also the Tiercel on a kill. Found the footage very interesting and hopefully I did not come across to bad, definitely won’t be challenging for a bafta.
If you would like to know more on the Parliament Peregrines please visit my website on

Sunday 3 October 2010

Barking Bay October 2nd

After a visit to central London at dawn, decided to pop into the Bay on the way back in the hope of some migrants, Ring Ouzels are starting to show, the scrub and short grass habitat is ideal for them. Good to see some sunshine for a change, albeit briefly, it soon started to change.

Curlew in the Bay

 Also kept an eye in the sky, looked promising for a Raptor, none seen though other than 2 Kestrels and a male Sparrowhawk hunting low over the scrub. The foreshore did not turn up hardly any waders, it was low tide, only a single Curlew being seen with 118 Shelduck feeding on the mud with no sign of the Ruddy Shelduck.

Also seen were,

Barn Swallow – 6 going over the river

Common Whitethroat – 1 in bramble

Chiffchaff – 2 in the bushes calling

Common Tern – a minimum of 8 at the Crossness Outfall

Meadow Pipit – 12 over across the river

Skylark – 4 in scrub

Rock Pipit – 1 on the foreshore, 1st of the year

A Southern Hawker was seen by the river along with 4 Migrants as well as 4 Ruddy Darters in the same area.
Also saw the Waverley on a trip down the river, fully loaded, never seen so many people on one boat, reminded me of the Scillonian.

The Waverley - fully loaded

Saturday 2 October 2010

Canvey Coastguards/Point October 1st

Decided to try my luck with a falling tide, arrived at dawn, wind was a south south westerly and it was raining, hence under cover Coastguards. Even though the wind was quite strong, I was not too hopeful as a south easterly or easterly is usually better for pushing birds into the Thames.

Coastguards at dawn looking east
 The following was recorded over a 2 hour period with an hour spent at the Point after the rain had stopped, as first thought, the winds were wrong for producing any birds of note.

Mediterranean Gull – 2 1st winters

Great Skua – 3 in together at 7.22am, all 3 turned and went back out.

Common Scoter – 2 upriver

Swallow – 120 Essex to Kent

Meadow Pipit – 22 Essex to Kent

Brent Goose – an estimate of 360 feeding off the point

Wigeon – around 600 birds, again off the point but further out.

Commic Terns- 9 seen, too far out to identify
Curlew crossing the Point