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Friday 29 April 2011

Big day in Barking Bay

April 29th

Met Paul at 5.30am after looking at the weather forecast the night before, overcast with a North Easterly wind, usually good conditions for some up stream movement along the Thames and so it proved with good numbers of Bar Tailed Godwit seen.( Naff photo's, click too enlarge)

Distant Bar Tailed Godwit

A flock of 10 defecting to Kent

We initially had 10 birds on arrival on the edge of the mud, but after a while these moved over to John at Crossness and they remained there until the tide pushed them off. Further to this a group of 8 dropped in at 7.00am on the Essex side with another 2 dropping in at 7.20am.A minimum of 20 birds were present but there could have been more owing to all the coming and going of birds, hard to keep an accurate count.

1st winter/summer Mediterranean Gull


Mediterranean Gull

Partial albino Black Headed Gull

A 1st winter Mediterranean Gull was found by Paul, a welcome addition to the year list, and we located the singing Corn Bunting, presumably the same bird as last weekend.

Bar Tailed Godwits
Also seen was a single Whimbrel and a Greenshank, the Greenshank feeding on the mud on the Thames, quite an unusual sight.

Other species

Ringed Plover – 2 on the mud

Oystercatcher – a minmum of 4

Wheatear – 3 scrub

Swallow – 3 over

Sand Martin – 5 over

Dunlin – 1

Common Sandpiper – 1

Hawkins sp - note lack of feathering to crown
A very good morning, I understand that there has been a large movement of Black Tailed Godwits along the Thames, hopefully it will spill over on Saturday to the Valley.

Monday 25 April 2011

The Valley and Barking Bay

The Valley - Sunday April 24th

Walked over to the Ingrebourne at dawn looking and listening for Tawny Owls, again no luck, very hard to understand why they are so elusive and hard to find. Elsewhere at other sites, especially the London sites, they are on show much more, adults as well as young. One possible reason may well be that there is simply so much more habitat and thick cover available that they cant be located due to this, probably a good thing in the long run. Of the whole Valley, I would say that 40% of it is totally wild and out of bounds to the public , one day I suspect it will be turned into a Nature Reserve.

Common Tern ( click on photo's too enlarge)

Back to the walk, as I headed down past St.Georges Hospital, a male Ring Ouzel flew up from the path. Landed briefly in a low tree and then disappeared towards Deadmans Wood, never to be seen again. The light was not good as it was only 5.45am, so could not get a ‘ lock ‘ on it with the camera.

A good addition to the site list and way overdue, for some reason they never hang around in the Valley, as with previous Ring Ouzels this performed true to form and disappeared.

Additional sightings of note from the course of the morning were 14 House Martins, Grasshopper Warbler, 3 Yellowhammer, Common Tern, Common Snipe, 6 Lesser Whitethroats and god knows how many Common Whitethroats, certainly 40+.

The viewing area

The viewing area is looking good and drying up just right to pull in a rarer wader, If I remember correctly Les Harrisons Pectoral Sandpiper was the best one.

Barking Bay – Monday April 25th

Tried to locate Pauls spring Whinchat seen the afternoon before, and also hoped I might get lucky with the recently seen Corn bunting. No luck with either but was compensated by a calling Greenshank mid river looking for some mud at high tide, and best of all a calling Tree Pipit over head.


I was unable to relocate the Tree Pipit despite seeing the area in which it landed, the little bugger just vanished in thick cover.

Ringed Plover
A Cuckoo was also present along with a single Lesser Whitethroat. Wheatear numbers have multiplied with groups of 7 and 4 seen in different areas at the same time.3 Swallows were also seen along with a showy Ringed Plover.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Barking Bay April 21st

Arrived at the site at dawn, a stunning morning, will never moan about the weather again after the April we have had so far.(Click on photos too enlarge)

Dawn in Barking Bay
Virtually the first bird heard as I walked down to the river was a Whimbrel London bound, a good start to the morning which then got even better.

Paul had a female Ring Ouzel a couple of days ago so checked out the area, eventually located it after missing it first time round, views were good although distant.

If I keep my head down he wont see me

Cuckoo,easy to mistake for a Falcon at distance

Distant Ring Ouzel
I then decided to walk down to the river again, as I did a large Raptor came round the corner low and landed on a bush, quite distantly, initial thought was a Falconers bird, but was amazed to see a Short Eared Owl glaring back at me looking through the bins.

The eyes have it
I remember them being on site as a wintering bird 20 or so years ago, sometimes in numbers, this bird was very likely on its way back to its breeding grounds up north. Unfortunately it had not escaped the notice of the local mob, the Crows and Magpies, for the next 10 minutes they relentlessly pursued it, each time it climbed effortlessly above them and they gave up. As soon as it came down low again the pursuit was repeated.

Add caption

Additional species seen were 2 Wheatear, at least 8 Common Whitethroats, single Sedge Warbler, a calling Cuckoo and 3 summer plumed Dunlin. A good start to the Easter Holiday.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Weekend highlights April 16th and 17th

A really good weekend with great weather, certainly seems the warmest April that I can remember, and, hardly a sniff of any rain. Many migrants seem to have arrived earlier, I also expect this is weather related.

Barking Outfall and Bay 16th


Reed Warbler have started to appear in numbers with 6 singing birds, also a single Common Tern working the Outfall, 4 Oystercatchers still disputing territory and nesting rights on the large jetty.

The 1st Sedge Warbler was a site tick, in the past it has been a hard bird to nail on site, additionally, despite tripping up over Wheatears just about every where I go, I have managed to miss them here so far.

Checking out the Gull colony showed at least 7 Herring Gulls already incubating, was not aware that they were earlier breeders than Lesser Black Backed, the Lessers are still bringing in moss and grass. The usual pandemonium occurred when they saw me, when the 1st alarm call went up, they all piped up, incredible noise from over 150 Gulls. Bearing in mind I am over a 100 metres away on the river wall, they are quite aggressive, I was even mock dived and the majority have not even laid eggs yet.


4 Summer plumed Dunlin were present in the Bay and pairs of Shelduck seemed to be everywhere investigating rabbit holes. The Bay and Crossness seems to always hold good numbers of Oystercatchers with 4 pairs seen including one pair already incubating.

Virtually the 1st birds seen were a group of 7 Wheatears, 1 adult male and the remaining were immature and female types.

On the Butterfly front, Small Whites were out in force with a minimum of 40 seen,1 Green Veined White and 2 Small Tortoiseshells were also noted. I have seen more Small Tortoiseshells in April than the whole of 2010 combined, hopefully they have recovered from the last few lean years, again, much of this has got to be down to the weather. (Click on photo's too enlarge)

Common Tern jetty, just coming to life
The Common Tern Jetty that housed 22 pairs in 2010 is starting to take off with around 25 birds already present, some have got in early and claimed a spot. The usual noisy Tern colony is starting to take shape, one by one the resting Black Headed Gulls are being made unwelcome and eased off.

The Valley 17th

An excellent morning made even better with 3 additions to the patch list, firstly a Cuckoo seen and heard for most of the morning, presumably it is the same one moving around.

Little Ringed Plover

Little Egret

A single Little Ringed Plover was seen in the viewing area, they do not breed on site but come to the viewing area occasionally to feed.

Red Kite with some inner  moult
Best of the lot though was a Red Kite picked up going south west, around 12.10pm, having spoken to Shaun, he also had one later in the afternoon. His bird had no wing moult, the one I saw did. All in all a very good day, other highlights were Grasshopper Warbler, Swallow, 3 Sand Martins, 10 Common Whitethroats, 4 Lesser Whitethroats and a pair of Ring Necked Parakeets nest site prospecting.

Small Tortoiseshell


Green Hairstreak

Also had a good morning with Butterflies, as follows, 3 Green Hairstreaks, 14 Small Whites, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 2 Peococks, 12 OrangeTips, 9 Speckled Woods, 1st Holly Blue of the year and 6 Brimstones

Friday 15 April 2011

An afternoon in the Valley - April 15th

Finished work early so headed for the Ingrebourne Valley to try and catch up with a few more migrants, even in the afternoon, many recently arrived birds were singing well, numbers are starting to build.( Click on photo's too enlarge)

Male Lapwing viewing area

Common Whitethroat
Met up with Les Harrison and Dick Jefferies and we took the viewing area –black bridge – top paddock route, the paddock came up trumps with 5 Wheatear, some were quite posy, interesting to note even in the adults how much variation there is in plumage details. Top bird goes to a very distant Hobby sitting in the paddock on the fence line, quite an early bird, last year the first recorded was April 24th.

Les and Dick

Very, very distant Hobby

Speckled Wood


2 Lesser Whitethroats were also year ticks, other species of note seen or heard were -

Reed Warbler 5, Common Whitethroat 8, Willow Warbler 4 and 2 Common Buzzards.

The viewing area produced a single Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe, 3 Little Egret, Teal and a pair of Gadwall.

Butterflies seen were Small Tortoiseshell , OrangeTip, Peocock , 9 Small Whites, 2 Green Veined Whites and 14 Speckled Woods.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Out and about in Kent

I recently had a chance to visit a wood in Kent specifically targeting one bird, Goshawk, exceptionally elusive, but I knew they were there having seen them last year.

This year I managed just 2 sightings of a male early morning moving through the wood hunting, the dawn light in the wood was not enough to get a photo of it unfortunately. As the weather warmed up I thought I had picked the perfect day, little wind and unbroken sunshine, I eagerly watched the forest canopy from a distance, waiting for them to appear. During the course of the next 3 hours had a minimum of 5 Common Buzzards, the same amount of Sparrowhawks, a single Kestrel but no Goshawks. I took many photo’s of Sparrowhawk up very,very high and again noted how much variation there can be in wing shape ,size of bird, (especially females) and tail shape. When you have 2 female Sparrowhawks interacting together, differences become apparent, I also must admit I thought that one was possibly a male Goshawk.

All female Sparrowhawks (click on photo's to enlarge)

The trouble and confusion between the 2 species, male Gos and female Spar comes from a number of issues, one of the main reasons, we just don’t get enough Goshawk sightings to get the id and jizz characteristics imprinted into our memory. Seen well, Goshawks are unmistakable, unfortunately most sighting always seem to be at distance. The male that I saw going through the wood and landing briefly was pretty close, even in bad light, there was no mistaking the wing shape, strong supercillium, larger size and a much ‘fiercer’ look.

Common Buzzard with some moult

Goshawk country
Despite the non appearance of any Goshawks going up thermaling over the wood, it was a great day with many interesting sightings from within the canopy.

Orange Underwing

Cock of the Forest

Peocock Butterfly
Treecreepers and Nuthatches were abundant with 2 Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers heard calling from different sections of the wood. Overhead in the Pine canopy Siskin and Lesser Redpolls were frequently seen and heard, calling Goldcrests and CoalTits seemed to be everywhere.

2nd year male Marsh Harrier seen at another site in Kent

I also took some photo’s of some tracks, I have a vague idea of what made them, but would welcome any thoughts on there id.


Very small Deer?