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Saturday 26 February 2011

Thames High Tide Roost Count - 2nd Winter February 20th

Along with a group of others, many who had taken part in the 1st count of 2010, selected sites were again monitored for wader numbers in the Inner Thames. The purpose of these counts is to earmark locations where the birds are roosting, be it Jetties or Structures. The info can then be used for future reference if any developments are planned in the immediate area or on the structure itself.

The Environment Agency has offered to help in some capacity and will shortly be forwarded maps so that locations can be logged and recorded, records can then be used for mitigation.

On top of this it also shows just how important the Inner Thames is as a wintering area for waders, although , as expected, numbers do not match the Outer Thames with a more rural habitat and wider mud flats, for a metropolitan urban area, it is excellent.


Avocet – 82  Black Tailed Godwit – 27  Common Sandpiper - 6  Curlew - 23  Dunlin - 471  Lapwing - 75 Oystercatcher - 29   Redshank - 481   Ringed Plover - 1

Observers and sites

Barking Outfall – D. Morrison   Barking Bay – P. Hawkins  Dagenham Riverside – D. Morrison  East India Dock Basin – N. Tanner  Rainham RSPB – S. Bacon  Stone Barges - S. Harvey  West Thurrock Marshes – D. Jefferies

Not quite the good results we had on the 1st winter count, these results may be a reflection of milder weather movement with birds drifting back down river towards Tilbury and Canvey. One of the glaring omissions is Black Tailed Godwit, 588 recorded in the 1st period and only 27 for the 2nd.I cannot see that many birds moving back down river, going on past records for this time of year, so it is likely that there is a roost we don’t know about, or they piled into Crossness which was not covered.

The same could also be applied for Redshank.

Redshank arriving to roost at Dagenham Riverside
The Rainham RSPB count was very unusual with not one wader flying onto the Reserve to roost, at one time it always held a good flock of roosting Black Tailed Godwit, one reason may be the amount of work that is ongoing. Additionally the lack of Lapwing numbers recorded on the survey is likely down to the massive flock on the Reserve that are more or less resident, these do not seem to be using the Thames roosts at the moment. Certainly the flock must be approaching 800 when seen recently.

Photo by Dick Jefferies.Part of the record Avocet flock at West Thurrock Marshes

Avocets continue to break London records with a flock of 80 seen by Dick Jefferies, surpassing the 59 in the 1st period. These were again recorded at West Thurrock Marshes and it is good to see this elegant wader doing well, not only locally but nationally as well.

Thanks to all who took part, hopefully we can keep it going this forthcoming winter.

Monday 21 February 2011

Avocets - Barking Bay February 20th

Another weekend, another dreary, misty, wet, grey typical English winter day, same weather pattern every weekend, no good for birds or so I thought……

Curlew - apologies for the photo's, good old english weather I'm afraid
Arrived on site mid morning in preparation for a high tide count later that day, a number of us were counting all the high tide roosts along the Thames but that’s another story. As I walked along the foreshore I did my usual scan and noted good numbers of waders on the mud, and a great surprise, amongst them was a small flock of 12 Avocets. Avocets very, very rarely come up the Thames this far, perhaps to Rainham RSPB but not Barking, 12 was also unprecedented.

The flock at waters edge

Slightly better photo


It is interesting to note that Dick Jefferies had a flock of 80 later at West Thurrock Marshes , and at least 19+ Oystercatchers came up the river also, so it looks as if the weather system created some movement.

After this I walked inland and had a Golden Plover calling overhead as they do, in bad light you can hear them but they are a sod to pick up in a grey dark sky, managed to get a couple of photo’s after tying myself up in knots locating it.

Golden Plover

Other highlights were

Common Snipe – 2 groups flushed 17 and 11, by far the highest total I have had on site.

Jack Snipe – 1 a real bonus and a great addition to the site, they are very hard to come across.

Dunlin – 260 foreshore

Redshank - 89 foreshore

Wigeon – 2 flying down river

Curlew – 12 on the mud with 4 of these display flying over the site

Oystercatcher – 4 on the mud.

Common Snipe
All in all a very good visit, just goes to show that when you think the birding is going to be crap due to the weather, it throws up some surprises, will not moan about the weather again……. until next weekend.

Black Tailed Godwits - seen later at Dagenham on the high tide count

With decent light it would have been a better photo, this was on F5.6 and ISO 1600

Sunday 13 February 2011

Geese and Fish - Saturday Feb 12th

Popped in to the Valley on the way back from London hoping to get some better photo’s of the White Fronted Geese, the English weather as usual is thwarting my every step. Have now decided that I seriously need a camera that shoots at ISO3200, my Nikon D80 is ok but at low light, it is not good enough, neither is the auto focus, a D300s is calling.

White Fronted Geese in with the Greylags
Found the Geese in the top paddock, mixed in with around 70 Greylags, got off a couple of distant shots before they all flushed as a Micro Light Aircraft came over.

Refound them on the Res and got off a couple of digiscope shots, above and below is about the best I could do with the light.

Also happened on a chap landing a 28 pound Common Carp, an absolutely stunning looking fish, I am sure you will agree from the photo’s below.

Big Boy or might even be a girl, not sure how you tell with fish

Thursday 10 February 2011

Rainham RSPB February 9th

I popped in after finishing a survey in Kent, first visit of 2011, not year listing Rainham, so just taking it easy trying to do some photography, weather permitting. Having said that, as soon as something rare turns up, I know I will probably go running to tick it. The exception was Dominic’s Slaty Backed Gull, an exceptional find and well done to him for having the patience to go through thousands of Gulls, I know I could not. Just cant get excited over Gulls, one of the reasons may be that I am crap at identifying them, Med Gulls I like.

Male Reed Bunting
Anyway back to Rainham, the new Hide is well under construction and all the electric fencing has been laid, hopefully it will keep the Foxes out and aid breeding Redshank and Lapwing.

I walked the foreshore first, a minimum of 9 Rock and one Water Pipit were on the rocks at low tide, looking at the Rocks, there always seems to be some variation, some are definitely paler and recall Water Pipit. Even looking at them every year, the differences can be minimal, you are looking for leg colour, a more prominent supercillium (Water ) and paler underside and flanks, again for Water. Rock Pipit tend to be darker plumage and darker legs.

To me a Water Pipit, pale flanks, browner above, more prominent wing bars.

To give an idea of how confusing Winter Rock/Water Pipits can be, last year I put out a photo to a number of mates, which I thought was a Water Pipit, and opinions came back divided, it is not always clear cut with them, especially in bad light.

Rock Pipit - overall a lot darker

Good numbers of Wigeon and Shelduck on the river and mud, I then made my way to the Reserve. A very enjoyable walk round, unfortunately despite studying every Bullrush, there was no sign of the Penduline Tits that had been seen recently.

Golden Plover

Marsh Harrier - showing the  'shallow V'
Birds of note seen were :

Marsh Harrier – an immature male seen briefly

Lapwing - a flock of around 600

Golden Plover – 17 in with the Lapwings

Little Egret – unusually only 1 seen

Pintail – pair on Target Pools

Cetti’s Warbler – 3 calling

Good to see some species showing the first signs of spring , towards the end of next month, we should start to see some migrants arriving.

Waxwings - caught up with these just about to go to roost

They are everywhere this winter, yet to get one in decent light, cant complain though.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Barking Outfall and Bay February 6th

No change in the weather, still blowing a hard south westerly , not surprisingly, very little activity about.

2 rather distant Common Sandpipers
The Gull colony is starting to come alive with many Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls already paired up and starting to gather moss and such like from the surrounding area. As far as I am aware this is the largest Gull breeding colony in London, I know they can be quite aggressive, even on an isolated Jetty, with me a good 100 metres away, they still get alarmed and mock dive me. Not so bad at the moment, but when they have small young, they really kick into gear. I once saw a Fox try and make it out to an adjacent Jetty, they were like confetti, all over him, it did the trick and he did a u-turn.

Pair of Mistle Thrushes

Listening for worms

Other than 2 Curlew, 2 Common Sandpipers and around 60 Redshank there was not much else to see at the Outfall, 6 Black Tailed Godwits on a flyby and an adult Yellow Legged Gull were the highlights.

2 pair of Mistle Thrushes on the Thames Water site gave some decent photo’s, pity about the light.

Mistle Thrush

Again very little activity, best of the lot were 9 Curlew on the mud and good to hear 2 Skylarks singing sporadically, game little birds although having a hard time of it fighting the wind.

4 White Fronted Geese

Also caught up with the White Fronted Geese on my way home, they look good for 2 adults and 2 juvenile/1st winters.

2 adults on left - Greylag extreme left

Saturday 5 February 2011

Ingrebourne Valley Feb 5th

Despite the weather, grey skies and a 25mph strong south westerly, I ventured out in the morning not hopeful of adding anything to the list. Added to this it was also the local birders drink the night before, I was in a poor state after a good night with mates along with a Curry afterwards, it was made all the better by watching us beating Wales in Cardiff. The walk was as much to clear my pounding head along with the birding, so was not expecting much.

Grey Heron

Due to the recent floods, it covered large area’s of Hornchurch Country Park adjacent to St.Georges Hospital, they are now clearing out the river and digging drainage channels, so that hopefully it will not happen again. The effects of the flooding goes further up river and also floods the viewing area, it is one of the reasons that we don’t have breeding Redshank and Lapwing in this spot any more, and in years gone by drumming Snipe.

Teal dropping in on Berwick Ponds

While I am on my soapbox, the Valley in many ways has more potential for scarce breeding species than Rainham RSPB, the habitat on site is so diverse with many area’s totally isolated. In 2004 Les Harrison found an adult Spotted Crake, subsequently a full grown juvenile was also seen, who is to say they did not breed on site? The Valley seriously needs land management for it to fulfill its true potential, year by year some of the reed beds are reducing in size due to encroaching grass and bramble.

Back to my walk, I ended up with 3 year additions, as follows:

Coal Tit – 1 calling in the firs behind the bench on the hill

Woodcock – 1 flushed Berwick Ponds

Red Legged Partridge – 1 seen, also calling top horse paddock

Other birds of note seen or heard were Goldcrest, 7 calling Cetti’s Warblers, 2 Water Rail, a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a good size flock of Fieldfare numbering around 100 birds.


On another matter regarding the hybrid duck seen on Jan 30th, Les Harrison also saw this bird at Rainham Marshes RSPB, to me it is identical and it is without doubt the same bird.
Have posted an excellent  photo below taken by Les.I think it rules out Ring Necked Duck.....

Pochard/Tuftie ?