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Thursday 29 December 2011

Southend Christmas Eve

Bit of a late posting as my BT Internet crashed on the 23rd, finally identified and back on line after 6 days due to a failed server.
I have at last got my new camera; a D300 so decided to try it out, firstly on the foreshore at Southend and then out to the pier to catch the high tide. The light at first was not too bad but then it became overcast and grey.
I have to say that the camera performed well, it’s going to take me a while to get used to it, I am not a gadget man, there’s just too many things to remember at once, can’t teach an old dog new tricks springs to mind.
With my wife Chris going shopping in Southend I headed for the pier after a few shots of the Sanderling flock on the way as well as a couple of Brent Geese near the pier.

Sanderling and single Dunlin (click on photos to enlarge)

Sanderling and Dunlin

Brent Geese differing

Dispute over


On arrival at the end I checked the ramp Turnstone roost and tucked in with them was the Purple Sandpiper, a cracking bird, I suspect it will be on many New Year’s Day lists if the tides are right.

Purple Sandpiper


Just behind them the Mediterranean Gulls hovered around the 20 mark, the full range from 1st winter right through to full adult were on display, not a great lover of Gulls but I never tire of looking at these.
After firing off god knows how many shots, new toy you know what it’s like, I tucked myself out of the westerly wind and watched the river from 11.00am to 1.00pm.Quite surprised as I was not expecting too much, I saw the following;

Great Northern Diver – 3 at one point all fishing together about 150 metres out of the eastern end of the pier
Red Throated Diver – 38 all upriver, this included a flock of 16 together
Kittiwake – 19 mostly following boats but some loafing on the sea
Great Crested Grebe – 2 on the sea
Guillemot – 3 all up river
Razorbill – 1 upriver @ 12.02 and presumably the same bird out @ 12.24pm
Common Seal – 2 just off the pier

Distant flock of 16 Red Throated Divers coming in

Distant Great Northern

2 of the 3 Great Northerns together

Great Northern Diver

Not a bad haul for a couple of hours, a pity about the overcast skies, just have to go back over the Christmas Holiday, a good easterly wouldn’t go amiss.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Barking Bay December 22nd

I have finished work now for the Christmas period so a dawn visit called to see what’s about.
With a rising tide waders were being pushed up closer, the first initial scan produced a goodie in the shape of a Knot, a bit of a rarity this far up the river. Unfortunately it did not stay long and soon disappeared down river, a pity as I was hoping to get some photos.
Other waders present were 7 Curlew, 2 Black Tailed Godwits, 32 Redshank and 44 Dunlin. I also got onto a small flock of waders going over to Crossness, all Dunlin bar one, a bigger wader, chunky with a smallish bill, only a silhouette but possibly a Turnstone.                                                                Decided to walk the rest of the site in the hope that I can catch up with the ever elusive Stonechats, not surprisingly they did a bunk but I did see Green Woodpecker, 5 Fieldfare, 6 Common Snipe, Chiffchaff and a male Sparrowhawk.
The Linnet flock is now hovering around the 150 mark.

Large Dunlin flock (click on photos to enlarge)

Redshank foreground with Lapwing and Dunlin behind

Dunlin dropping in

By the time I returned to the river the tide was nearly in, the remaining mud now held 8 Black Tailed Godwits and a very good count of Curlew 16 in number. The Redshank had already gone to roost but the biggest flock by far were Dunlin, an estimated count of around 600 birds was reeling all over the river looking for somewhere to roost. In the end they split, at least 400 of them headed for the Riverside Jetty and eventually landed and waited out the tide. If I my memory serves me correctly this is the first time I have seen them using this particular jetty, good to see its use taken up by the waders, this is what it has been set aside for.

Dagenham Riverside

After Barking Bay I headed for Dagenham Riverside, on arrival a Peregrine had put every wader present up, quite a sight as the Black Tailed Godwit flock were feeding on the mud that was now starting to show. A count of 430 was reached with 39 Redshank, 86 Lapwing, 2 Snipe and a Curlew as a supporting cast. Obviously this is part of the flock from the Stone Barges roost, it would be good to know how many, or if they did roost on the Barges.

Black Tailed Godwit

Thursday 15 December 2011

Barking Outfall and the Stone Barges

An unplanned mid-week visit to the Outfall came up trumps with a 1st site record in the shape of a Turnstone. They are a bit of a London rarity this far up the river, occasionally turning up at Rainham or seen as a migrant coming through in May. There are hundreds of wintering birds at Leigh on Sea and Southend, one this far up the river is quite rare. Photos below

Turnstone ( click on photos to enlarge)

A slightly oiled Oystercatcher


After this I went to the Stone Barges to have a look at the roosting waders, Paul the other day had a flock of 600.An estimate of their numbers reached 560 roosting on the barges, I also had another group heading up river on arrival.

A small part of the Black Tailed Godwit flock


A very high tide

Also present were 69 Redshank, 150 Dunlin, 18 Lapwing and 2 Water Pipits.

Monday 12 December 2011


Recently I have been doing a lot of bird surveying over the Kent Marshes, the quality and numbers of birds on show have been quite staggering, especially at low tide. Along with Paul, we have both seen some really good birds, Wood Lark, Richard’s Pipit, Black Redstart and Hen Harrier to name just a few.

Grey Plover and Turnstone ( click on photos to enlarge)

Being a Harty Lane winter regular this section of Marsh compares pretty well with raptors, on Saturday’s survey we picked up 2 Common Buzzards, 5 Marsh Harriers, 2 pair Kestrel, female Sparrowhawk, female Merlin, Ringtail Hen Harrier, Short Eared Owl and 3 Peregrines.

Short Eared Owl
As most will know I am a raptor nut being involved with London’s Peregrines, they have always given me my kicks so it was interesting to watch and observe both the Peregrines hunting strategy along with the female Merlin.
We had both seen an adult pair of peregrines early in the survey so it was a bit of a surprise when an immature female showed up and began to hunt; I suspect that it was there juvenile from this year. They do to a certain extent retain an affinity with offspring even into the following year, I have seen this in London, and this was probably why it was not challenged.
The immature quickly singled out a Lapwing, unfortunately or fortunately however you want to look at it, it turned out to be super Lapwing. The immature made pass after pass at it, some were narrow misses, in others the Lapwing made it look easy. Every time the immature cast up after missing, the Lapwing then stayed pretty tight to the peregrine instead of trying to get away, at one time it was following the immature. In the end the immature gave up and settled on a field, the Lapwing leisurely carried on, no panic whatsoever. I wonder if it would have adopted these tactics if it had been an experienced adult peregrine instead of a relatively inexperienced immature?


Resting after the chase

In contrast we watched a female Merlin as we were leaving; her flight at first was usual but then became more powerful as she climbed strongly. I stayed on her as she got higher and higher, presently a small flock of Starlings came into view, and she split 3 from it and then continued to chase these even higher. By now they were dots even in the Binoculars, the Starlings were climbing for all they were worth but she was getting close and closer. In the end she suddenly flipped over and was gone, I suspect the Starlings had lost their nerve as she got closer and dived for the land. The outcome? As soon as they dived it favoured the Merlin, they are tenacious.

Female Merlin

Drake Wigeon

Grey Plover

Grey Plover again


The photo’s above were also taken at the site.

Friday 9 December 2011

Rainham RSPB

Thursday December 8th

Against my better judgement due to the gale force winds and dark skies I decided on a visit to the Reserve, I was not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised in what I did see. As expected hardly any passerines, the few that I did see were trying to retain their feathers and were hiding from the wind.

Wigeon and Teal

Drake Wigeon

A Tiercel Peregrine was one of the first birds seen, seemingly enjoying the wind to the consternation of the Lapwing flock, probably totalling around a 1000 birds, these were doing there level best to stay above him. Also up was a flock of Golden Plover, a later count on the deck showed 84 birds.

A very distant Common Buzzard

Female Sparrowhawk - note size of crop

A single well marked Water Pipit was present and hiding in cover on the foreshore, no chance of a photo but a very pale individual, will hopefully get a photo over the weekend.

Black Tailed Godwit in front of Ken's Hide

Also seen were:

Rock Pipit – 4 on the foreshore
Dunlin – around 140
Curlew – 2
Sparrowhawk – female with a very full crop
Common Buzzard – 1
Pintail – 5 Pools
Black Tailed Godwit – 3 on the pools
Grey Plover – 2 mixed in with the hordes of Lapwing

Works now have also finished on the new Purfleet Scrape, it looks good, just needs the magic stuff, water.
While I was there I also photographed a small wader, it was coming at me fast in a flock of Lapwing,  (the Peregrine effect), I managed one half decent shot in the bad light before it disappeared towards the Thames. Initial thought was a Dunlin/ Snipe when first seen, and then as it went past, I thought it looks too small for a Snipe, the bill was too short and the shape/flight of the bird was wrong. I had a quick look at the camera and thought this is none of the above.
On later review of the photo and getting some opinions on it, it looks very good for a Pectoral Sandpiper; I understand Pete Merchant had one the day before on the Pools.
Photo below.

Not a good photo due to the bad light

Heavily cropped