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Thursday 31 March 2011

Ingrebourne Valley March 31st

A brief visit to the Reservoir produced the 1st Redshank of the year, still no Little Ringed Plovers but cant complain with the Redshank.

Pair on island

In flight

Sunday 27 March 2011

Stone Curlew - Barking Bay March 27th

Got very lucky this morning whilst searching for Little Ringed Plover and Wheatear, still cant find one, they do seem late this year, instead as I walked the Bay, a Stone Curlew came up in front of me.

Only my 2nd ever in London, and a very welcome addition to the patchlist.

Just come up

Click on photo's to enlarge

It came up at 10.54am off the large open area of earth as you walk east from the visitor centre, stayed low initially heading east before climbing and disappearing around a large hill on the site. Despite a good search for the next hour I could not relocate it. On its last seen heading going east, it would either take it to Rainham RSPB or it could have flicked over to Crossness, these offer the best suitable habitats. It was not seen to leave the site.


Hopefully it will turn up again.It could have gone to ground somewhere in the Bay as there is excellent habitat there, I also understand they can be quite elusive and crouch down a lot so it is possible that it may still be present.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Just like Buses....Ingrebourne March 24th

The Ingrebourne Valley sometimes benefits from being a neighbor to Rainham Marshes as it is only 2 miles away, today was one of those days. Many species travel to the reserve along the Valley and vice versa, the habitat in the valley, although smaller is much more diverse, especially for breeding species.

Great Crested Grebe
For a number of years now I have been trying to catch up with a Mediterranean Gull from the overspill off the Tip at Rainham, what happens, 2 come along at the same time, both adults and most likely a pair. I would have very likely missed them if it wasn’t for them calling, a very distinctive call learnt from countless winter visits to the Pier at Southend. Last seen heading directly for Rainham Tip.

Mediterranean Gull above

All though I am not a Gull lover, must admit to Med Gull being on top of the list when it comes to seeing Gulls. Caspian is the next one I would like for the Valley, Berwick Reservoir would be a possible venue, identifying it is another matter, adult I think I will be ok with, this comes from countless cock ups involving Yellow Legged Gull. Immatures, no chance, just have not got the patience to learn all the plumages and features.

Supporting cast included a singing Blackcap, suspect it was a wintering bird as it couldn’t make its mind up to sing strongly or just sub- sing.

Nothing like a bit of sunshine to make you feel good

Grey Herons fishing in the viewing area
4 Common Buzzards up in the sunshine, they are now getting as common as Sparrowhawks, a very welcome sight, up high also were 33 Golden Plover. These were distant but it was clear to see that some are starting to coming into summer plumage, hopefully will be able to get some photo’s in the next few weeks.

Also seen or heard-

Yellowhammer - 4 singers

Sparrowhawks – pair displaying

Fieldfare – 80 flushed from an adjacent field by the Goodyear Blip

Siskin – 11 Berwick Glades

Small Tortoiseshell – 3 seen, have now seen more of these in the last week,than I did in all of last year. Hopefully it will be a good year for them.                                                                                                 

The adjoining airstrip housed the Goodyear Balloon from a couple of years ago, it looked like they were testing it, for such a large Balloon it was surprising to see how well it could manoeuvre as you can see from the photo below.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Rainham RSPB March 21st

As yet, still no Wheatears despite a thorough search of there usual haunts on a walk round the Reserve, very pleasant in the sun and at last we seem to have turned the corner to Spring.

Marsh Frog - 1st of the year
Pair of Peregrines briefly copulating on a Pylon, had a look at them and recognized the female, having seen other singles and pairs over the last year hunting at Rainham, it looks as if a minimum of 2 pairs use the Reserve. There is also a hybrid knocking around, an absolutely enormous bird that dwarfs the Peregrines, I suspect it has Gyr/Saker origins, to see it harassing the Crows gives you an idea of its size.
Photo's from last year below.

Hybrid - absolutely dwarfed the local Crows

Big bird

A bonus to the walk was coming across 3 newly arrived Garganey on the Target Pools, 2 cracking drakes and a female, these were found earlier by Dave Smith.


Previous to this had also had a site tick in the shape of a group of Waxwings in the Cordite area, although distantly scoped from the sea wall, there was no mistaking them with there crests as they fly catched from the Hornbeams.

Other sightings were of a Common Buzzard initially soaring quite low, and then pushed up higher and off the Reserve by a Rook, Crows you expect to mob Birds of Prey, but a little surprised on the Rook, especially as it was miles away from its nest site.

Common Buzzard and Rook

First sighting of Butterflies included 2 Comma’s and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Barking Bay March 20th

Still overcast and cold at dawn but cleared to hazy sunshine mid morning, not quite good enough for a large raptor but looked promising, at last spring seems to be arriving.

I had in mind early migrants Wheatear and Little Ringed Plover and despite a thorough search of the site, none gave themselves up.

Shelduck at dawn

Pick of the supporting cast was a flyby Avocet heading downriver, no doubt one of the lingering birds from February 20th, every year now they are getting more regular at Rainham RSPB, good to see. The only drawback with Avocets is that they disrupt other waders breeding close by, for such an elegant wader they can be quite aggressive.

Pair of Curlew

Also seen was a flyby Kingfisher, Shelduck peaked at 145, a very good count, single Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin.

Additionals were

9 Snipe

15 Oystercatchers – mostly Crossness

6 Black Tailed Godwit

11 Curlew

Redshank numbers were also quite high with 129 recorded.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Rainham RSPB March 15th

After finishing a local survey on the Thames I decided on a walk round the Reserve, don’t seem to have the time these days to cover it as much as I used to, this was only my 3rd visit of the year. There was a time when I was glued to the place, for the 1st time ever I am not year listing the site, must admit it is nice not to have to drop everything, make time and high tail it over there for a year tick. Site ticks, they are a different matter, Dominic’s Slaty Backed Gull had me legging it up the footpath in my lunch break as I was working at nearby Romford, complete in working gear, hob nailed boots, hard hat and all.

Very distant Ring Tailed Hen Harrier
Was optimistic on the weather with Raptors in mind, the forecast was for 16 degrees, blue skies and sunshine, as usual they cocked up, it was grey and misty all day.


None the less I saw some good birds including the Ring Tailed Hen Harrier, a rare bird nowadays under extreme pressure up north unfortunately.

Also seen on a round robin walk was

Golden Plover – 10

Ringed Plover

Peregrine – on prey on the usual pylon

Cetti’s Warbler – 4 calling

Pintail – 8

Dunlin – around 100 on the mud flats.

Stoat - sussed and about to bolt
Russ, good to meet you, after we talked of the Weasel, shortly down the road a Stoat came out in front of me, got one shot off and then it disappeared, fast does not even begin to describe it.

Green Woodpecker - came into the garden this afternoon grubbing in the grass

Monday 14 March 2011

Green Winged Teal and a touch of colour

I headed for Connaught Water with my wife Christine, to see if I could catch up with the putative Green Winged Teal as I needed it for my London List, as far as I am aware it has not yet been confirmed as one. Weather was not ideal with showers and over cast grey skies, none the less it was good to visit as it was the first time I have been to this lake.

Hopefully good credentials

Eventually found the bird tucked up on an island distantly with a female Eurasian Teal, from what I could see it looked ok going from the features that were visible. Not being familiar with the species I checked it in a book, the vertical white line was there and the head pattern looked good. Would liked to have seen it in better light and closer to get more features, will be interesting to see if it is accepted.

I know the lake is renowned for its Mandarin Ducks, could only locate 3,the drakes colours were absolutely dazzling, also came across a pair of Egyptian Geese, still trying to get one of these on my local patch, Ingrebourne Valley .

Pair of Mandarin Ducks

Egyptian Geese pair

Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Siskin also seen, well worth a visit in April/May when everything is singing. Apologies for the weather related naff photo’s, need a Nikon D300/300s badly, or a D700 if I can stretch to it.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Ingrebourne Valley March 12th

Out at dawn to try and pick up a Tawny Owl, weather system did not look bad for once for the start of the weekend. No luck with the Owl but just good to be out in decent weather, decided to do the viewing area and then up to the top paddock, hopefully for Wheatear, and also to see if the White Fronted Geese were still with us. There was a time when I would walk the whole site in a morning but these days my stumpy little legs protest and are not up to the job.

Male Yellowhammer

 With the brighter skies many species are now starting to sing in earnest, 2 Chiffchaffs calling were the 1st of the year and additionally a pair of Lapwing were in the viewing area, with all the recent works on the site to stop the River Ingrebourne flooding, species like Lapwing hopefully will not get flooded out. Vast stretches of the river have been de silted and cleant, it had become clogged up and flooding had become a regular event at the St.Georges Hospital section.

Lapwings in the viewing area


Highlights from the morning were

Siskin 8 – dropped in to the copse adjacent to the top paddock

Lesser Redpoll – 12 again over the copses in Berwick Glades

Golden Plover – 1 over

Goldcrest – 2

Cetti’s Warbler – 5 calling

Great Spotted Woodpecker – 2 drumming

Sparrowhawk – pair displaying

Negative news on the White Fronted Geese, they were not in with the Greylags, possibly at Belhus Country Park.

Thursday 10 March 2011

White Fronted Geese - March 10th

I have not seen the White Fronted Geese for a few weeks now so presumed they had gone from the Ingrebourne, had a look this morning after spying the Greylag Geese flock in the crop field next to the Horse Paddock.

Was pleasantly surprised to see that they are not only still here, but that they have now added another 2 bringing the total now to 6, cant see them staying much longer with Spring just round the corner.
Got some half decent shots despite the crap weather.