Click on photos to enlarge, please do not copy photos without permission

Sunday 31 July 2011

Barking Bay

Saturday July 30th

With the good weather arriving as promised I was hoping for an early Whinchat or Wheatear in the Bay, the warm sunshine also promised a good Raptor, especially with last weeks Red Footed Falcon seen over the patch.

The raptor never materialized other than a very photographic Kestrel, in fact there were 3 of them, a family group. There was a flock of Starlings present feasting on the emerging flying Ants and also demolishing the blackberry bushes, how many, I would say around 1500, certainly a spectacular sight.

Kestrel ( click on photos to enlarge )

Part of the Starling flock

There was also plenty of Butterflies and Dragons on the wing with many Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, Common Blues were also seen. Fresh Ruddy and Common Darters were also showing.

The Black Tailed Godwits in the Bay, one being chased by an immature Gull


Best birds of the day go to 8 summer plumed Black Tailed Godwits and 4 Curlew feeding in the Bay, I managed to get some photos of these before they departed, all were feeding up.

3 of the 4 Curlew

Going north overland

Black Tailed Godwits

Eventually the 8 Black Tailed went back down river and the Curlews flew over my head going inland northwards, unusual. Also feeding on the mud was a single Dunlin, 3 Oystercatchers and 9 Common Sandpipers.

Friday 29 July 2011

A walk round the Valley

Monday July 25th                                                                                                             

 Weather was pretty good so decided to visit the Valley, we are now getting towards migrant time, first port of call was the viewing area. With the recent heavy rain that we had, unfortunately the river has again burst its banks and flooded the whole area, a pity as it was looking good for returning birds. Hopefully with warmer weather it will dry up enough to attract migrant waders.

Lapwing in the now flooded viewing area

Green Sandpiper and Lapwing

Despite the higher water levels it still held 5 Teal, 30 odd Lapwing and a Green Sandpiper.      Moving on towards Berwick Ponds and I added a possible Brown Argus, though more and likely a female Common Blue, Chiffchaffs were calling everywhere and every bush seemed to hold juvenile Common Whitethroats.

Female Common Darter

Little Egrets on the Reservoir

Possible Brown Argus?
3 Little Egrets were on the Reservoir along with 3 Yellow Wagtails.

Young Common Lizard?

Hobby coming in at speed

The highlight came on the return stretch when watching the House Martins over St.Georges, all of a sudden they bunched and started to climb like crazy, suspecting a Hobby proved correct as it came in at speed from the north. Glad to say that it failed and gave up, but certainly a spectacular sight.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Something Fishy at the Outfall

As is my habit, I was out at dawn this morning to check up on Barking Outfall and see if anything new had come in .I had not checked the tide and arrived to find it still rising at 5.00am, coming in with it was a massive shoal of fish, I had a look and confirmed that they were Thick Lipped Mullett, I saw them here last year. There was not much happening bird wise early on so I had a very very rough count of just how many were present.

Part of the Shoal ( click on photos to enlarge )

I estimated around 3 to 400 fish, they were on top, tightly packed and quite visible in the shallow water, they were rising all the time from just below me, to about 50 metres out from the sea wall.

Got to wondering if they were all Mullett and had a look through them, this turned up another 2 o3 different species, not up on my fish but it looked like there were Carp, possibly Bream and maybe Bass in amongst them.


White Mullett?

Unknown 2

Bass or Bream?

I was pretty sure on the Carp as I had a shoal here a while back, one or two quite sizeable as well, the others I am not so confident on.


Bearing in mind this is the River Thames, tidal and very salty at Barking how do the Carp and Bream( if Bream is what they are ) adjust to the salt water? Any Anglers out there let me know.


Juvenile Common Tern

Elsewhere at the Outfall produced a good count of 9 Common Sandpiper, Redshank, 5 Oystercatchers having the usual quarrel and 12 Common Terns fishing, this also included the years first juvenile.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Local Birding

Things have been a bit manic of late with the Peregrines, so I have not been able to get out much locally to catch up, here and there I have grabbed an hour or so, mainly trying to get some half decent photos.

My camera at the moment is a Nikon D80, this will shortly be replaced by a D300, it has a far superior auto focus system and also a higher ISO rating, the theory is that it will give me clearer photos, especially at dawn, this is when peregrines are most active.

Greenshank in the Valley (click on photos to enlarge)

Juvenile Black Headed Gull - this one was at Barking
I managed to visit the Valley the other day, the viewing area now has its resident cattle and the water levels are starting to drop. There seems to be a resident Greenshank along with up to 5 Green Sandpipers. The bird that most of us are hoping for is a Wood Sandpiper, Les Harrison had one early morning but unfortunately it did not stay, with the recent unstable weather, fingers crossed for another.

Ruddy Darter

Black Tailed Skimmer
I also got to see my first ever Silver Washed Fritillarys locally, a stunning looking butterfly and very surprised at just how large they are, well worth the wait.

Silver Washed Fritillaries

Migration is now just round the corner, so I will likely step up the visits to Barking Bay, hopefully if spring was anything to go by with Little Stint, Dartford Warbler, Stone Curlew, Ring Ouzel, Red Breasted Merganser, Greater Scaup and Short Eared Owl, the autumn promises more goodies.

Common Tern pair

My money is on a Red Backed Shrike, I even know where it is going to perch…….

Sunday 10 July 2011

London July 9th

One of the added bonus’s in visiting London’s Peregrines is that it gives me the chance to see much more wildlife in many urban areas. There are some unique sites in London that have not only Peregrines, but also Black Redstarts, Grey Wagtails and Kestrels all breeding under the same roof.

Male Black Redstart - a stunning looking bird (click on photos too enlarge)

Grey Wagtail
All of these are specialist urban breeders and there seems to be no interaction between any of them, especially, as mentioned earlier in the blog, Peregrines and Kestrels.

All of them carry on as per normal despite the threat from Peregrines above, it is business as usual.

Peregrine - high level hunter
Unfortunately many Brownfield sites are disappearing all along the Thames, the pressure on East London and Metropolitan Essex is immense, my local patch, Barking Bay will be gone in a few years time as the whole area is being regenerated. It will only increase when we eventually come out of the recession.

Peregrines I know will be around in 10 years time, god knows how many pairs, but I wonder if Kestrels will survive in Central and Inner London with habitat and food loss, hopefully they will. I certainly don’t see them in the numbers that I used to 5 years ago, most pairings seem to bordering, or in the Royal Parks. It makes you wonder what they are feeding on, certainly not Sparrows.

Kestrel - low level hunter
Along with Peregrines, Kestrels are a favourite bird, I hope the little 'mouse hawk' survives in Inner London.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Barking Bay and the Valley

Saturday July 2nd

The Bay

With glorious weather a visit to the Bay called, I did not expect much bird wise, reverse migration will probably not start until the end of the month.

With bright sunshine, there were butterflies everywhere, I lost count of the number of Meadow Browns, Small Whites and Small/Essex Skippers I had, certainly 50+ for each species.

Also on the wing were Gatekeepers, no Common Blues seen but these should be out again shortly, hopefully a Brown Argus amongst them, the site is perfect for them.

New insect bank at Barking Bay (click on photos too enlarge )

Closer views
On the bird front, 3 Oystercatchers were seen and another noted incubating, very likely a failed breeder, also good to see was 2 broods of Shelduck, both pairs were hugging the large jetties to avoid predation from Herrings/Lesser Black Backed Gulls.

Common Buzzard, I know crap photo

Black Tailed Skimmer

Oystercatcher breeding on the Common Tern colony, for protection?
My 3rd Common Buzzard of the year was seen, these are taking off locally, good to see. Common Darters were out with around 6 seen, also at least 6 Emporers with the same number of Black Tailed Skimmers.

The Valley

Just a quick visit to check the Reservoir and was surprised to see 4 Hobbies hawking up highish, not sure what they were feeding on in the heat, they were taking insects but they were not Dragonflies.

Hobbies all

Shorter winged male

                                                      Longer winged female

Another Common Buzzard was a dot in the blue and a Common Tern gave good views sitting on a post.

Male Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtails have obviously bred nearby with no less than 6 seen, some juveniles, also a calling male in a tree.

Common Tern

Pied Wagtails, adults and juveniles were everywhere.