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Saturday 29 October 2011

Southend Pier and Seafront

October 28th

A day off from work meant that I was able to visit Southend with my wife Christine parking up towards Thorpe Bay and then heading along the shoreline for the Pier. A good walk and always plenty to see on the way, especially waders as the tide was rising and the mud was covered.

Adult Mediterranean Gull(click on photos to enlarge)

Gulls were ever present and at one time I had 3 adult Mediterranean’s in view at the same time, plenty of people about feeding them works a treat and it does congregate them. I could also see in the distance a very large flock of waders, this turned out to be the Sanderling flock; this has risen quite dramatically since my last visit. At a conservative estimate I would now say there are around 350 birds, on our return journey quite a bit later the flock was really bunched and an estimated count was probably a bit more accurate. On a tight wheeling flock it is very hard and having photographed the odd flock in times gone by on a photo and then counted the dots, (I know very sad) I have found that I am always undercounting, hence the conservative estimate.


Rock Pipit

Sanderling flock

Ringed Plover alighting

Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin

Looking for some room



Certainly an impressive sight, they are constantly on the move from people walking down the beach and dog walkers, nothing wrong in that, I do it myself, walking by the sea makes you feel good. You would think the Sanderling would find a high tide roost like the Turnstones; these are very adaptable and will roost anywhere.

Turnstones on the Pier - posers

Eventually arriving at the Pier head after a hearty breakfast on the way produced 8 adult Mediterranean Gulls and 2 1st winters, I took some photos, none too clever as the weather was really grey and over cast. A Common Seal was also seen.

1st winter

Adult - ringed as well

1st winter

The highlight came whilst we were waiting for the train back in the shape of Gannets coming out of the Estuary, a group of 11 first of all, then these were followed closely by a group of 4 and then closely on their tail, another group of 4.In total 19 came out and passed right over the pier, I suspect the murky grey weather had bought them in.

9 of the 1st bunch of 11

A good end to the day.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Coalhouse Revisited

Sunday October 23rd

Having recently caught up with the Semi – P here, I decided to visit again, there was so much on view on the previous visit it spoiled me and I wanted more. This was once one of my regular haunts 15-20 years ago, it is a great area and Paul and others have turned up some great birds here.
Sunday’s visits coincided with a fast rising tide; waders on show were Curlew, Black and Bar Tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and the ever present Dunlin. Avocet numbers were around the 140 mark.

Swallow(click on photos to enlarge)

Male Stonechat

Male Stonechat

I decided to walk east in the hope of a Harrier or even a Short Eared Owl, in years gone by they were regular down here, Hen more than Marsh in winter, I was also hoping for Corn Bunting. In the end after about 2 miles none of these materialised but a total of 9 Stonechats were seen enroute, this comprised 2 pair and what looked like a family group of 5.The undoubted highlight was a group of 4 Bearded Tits made up of 2 pair with one of the males bearing a ring. I sat and watched these for a good hour and managed to get some photos which you can see below, I thought the views of the recent pair at Barking were good, these were little stunners. For the time I was there they worked the reed bed up and down, in between and for what seemed like no specific reason, they would go for a fly around, climb, do a few circuits and then return to another part of the reed bed. This happened about 4 times, not a noted strong flyer they could have been surveying the landscape for other reedbeds?

Bearded Tit - pair

A male in all his glory

Females not bad either...

Going for a fly around


Male showing leg ring

Additional species seen were-

Fieldfare- 1 near the car park mixing it up with Mistle Thrushes
Redwing – 2
Rock Pipit – 5 noted on the way out
Swallow - 2 west
Water Rail – 1 calling
Stock Dove - a flock of 32 feeding in adjacent fields

A very good visit, I can see it becoming a regular haunt again.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Barking October 22nd


My usual dawn start with a perfect sunrise coming up over Crossness, crazy weather at the moment but not complaining, how could you with all this sunshine?
The tide was nearly in when I arrived and if any waders had been present they had already gone to roost, this proved the case with 31 roosting Redshank located later on the Gull Jetty. Also in were 2 Rock Pipits, this is the usual number for the Outfall, they could be birds moving through but I suspect that they will winter here.

Grey Wagtail enjoying the sunshine (click on photos to enlarge)

Redshank at roost

Rock Pipit

Also seen were 5 Shoveler, these are the first arrivals for the winter; Teal numbers continue to grow with 302 at the Outfall and down the Creek.

Other sightings

Kingfisher – a bird flashing by.
Common Sandpiper – 1
Grey Wagtail – 4
Shelduck – 16

I searched high and low for a Stonechat, I ended up negative but did locate 3 Wheatears, one of them looked good for a Greenland size wise with a good peachy breast.3 calling Redpoll over were most likely Lessers and the Linnet flock was now well over a 100.


Looking over to Crossness into the sun revealed large numbers of waders, from a distance they looked like Redshank and Black Tailed Godwit, good numbers this early in the year, hopefully a sign of more to come.


3 in a bush.....


Common Buzzard

With the warm weather it was no surprise to see 3 Sparrowhawks up together along with a single Kestrel, the highlight on the raptor front came in the shape of a Common Buzzard, my 4th for the site this year.

Other sightings included

Shelduck - 92
Skylark – 18
Rock Pipit – 2
Song Thrush – 4 possible migrant birds
Blackbirds – 9 most likely migrants
Black Tailed Godwit – 2
Redshank – 14
Lapwing – 22

The finale came not with a rarity but a Warship coming down the Thames, I suspect it was the ship that was moored up to HMS Belfast in the city, can’t see them hiding another one up the Thames. Certainly an impressive sight, ‘F81’ I suspect means Frigate, it was so big it even had a Helicopter on the back. Having been bought up as a boy on stories of the Battle of Jutland and later the Home Fleet in World War 11, I must admit to always having had an interest in naval vessels.

A fine sight


Thursday 20 October 2011

Rainham October 18th - where has all the water gone?

It’s been a while since I last visited and in truth, the day and weather was not ideal with very strong south westerly winds, anything that did show, especially small stuff quickly disappeared seeking shelter.
Having just finished a survey in the afternoon I had a couple of hours to spare so I walked the foreshore and then the reserve.
As expected there were no waders on show on the river and not a duck of any kind, I did get lucky with 6 Rock Pipits, likely fresh in and doing there level best to keep their feathers on and hide behind something.

Rock Pipits

I did not expect to see much on the reserve but good to see Wigeon in with around 140 birds seen, Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal were also present in decent numbers.
A single Stonechat was seen holding onto a fence wire, a Chiffchaff in the woodland and a flock of around 80 Goldfinch were feeding in cover.

What I do find strange is the water levels, Aveley Pools has a good level albeit too high to attract waders and the rest of the reserve seems to be bone dry. The brand new hide has no water in front of it, what is the point of sitting in it if there is nothing in front of you to see. Likewise Purfleet Scrape is bone dry, this has been remodelled a number of times over the years but it always dries out, why?

New Hide, unfortunately no birds in front of it

Having birded Rainham Marshes for 30 years you know and can see its potential to bring in large numbers of waders and wildfowl, it’s a pity that it is under achieving due to a lack of water. When the Reserve floods and does hold water it pulls in large numbers of Wildfowl, it is a different place entirely. By now the water levels should be sorted out and constant, they are not, looking inland from the Visitor Centre, the nearest area of standing water is Aveley Pools.

Fox near woodland
What of the Silt Lagoons, the number of birds that these held was phenomenal when they held water, the regulars will tell you, I can still remember quite clearly flushing a group of over 40 Green Sandpipers at roost one morning, it has now been years since they opened the sluice gates and they have remained dry ever since. Again the potential is there but will anything ever be done to realise it, it has been a number of years since they held water, hopefully there are plans to bring them back to their former glory.
Here’s hoping for some rain.