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Sunday 30 December 2012

Beckton Sewage Works

December 30th

After an early a.m. visit to London where I happened on some nocturnal hunting by a pair of Peregrines, I popped into the Sewage works on my return.
As I have mentioned before, the site seems to hold a good number of wintering Chiffchaff, this was virtually the 1st bird heard on arrival. At last some sunshine so I made the most of it and covered as much of the site as I could.
Wagtails as usual were everywhere with Pied seemingly at every tank, Greys were present also in good numbers.

Wood Pigeon - many are very stained from eating you know what.

One bird that has always been nailed on for the site has been Green Sandpiper, it was looking like I would miss it for the year when a very welcome individual gave itself up, trying to get a photo was another matter. Below is about the best I got of it, this made 101 for the year list, hopefully it will hang around for the New Year.

Green Sandpiper

I also got very lucky with another hard to get bird, Black Redstart, in years gone by this used to be a breeding site, unfortunately they are only winter visitors now. There seemed to be a slight wing bar so likely a 1st year male. Always good to see, it certainly lived up to its reputation as a disappearer despite seeing exactly where it landed, it could not be relocated. This along with the Green Sandpiper made 102 for the year, that’s it now for 2012, out on New Year’s Day to start again.

Black Redstart

Happy New Year to all,good birding and all the best for 2013.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Rainham RSPB

December 23rd

Popped into Rainham after visiting a Peregrine site across the river, where due to the very mild weather, the pair are already copulating which is just about the earliest I have recorded it, the next bout of cold weather will no doubt put all this on hold.

Roosting Kestrel at Peregrine site

The weather was not great but I decided on a walk round my usual circuit hoping to avoid the rain, in this I was lucky.

The foreshore produced around 6 Rock Pipits and a single Water Pipit, having both together also gave me a chance on the call, as you know both calls are more or less identical. After about 10 minutes I found that the Water Pipits call was just about noticeable and subtly different from the Rocks. The difference was there but minimal, if anything the Water Pipits call seemed less sharp which is about the only way I can describe it.
Aveley Bay only held 2 Curlew with little else in the way of waders, across the sea to Kent there were good numbers in the air of Lapwing and Golden Plover.

As I entered the Reserve and walked round I came across the ‘Snow’ Goose in with the Greylags, well done to Howard for later confirming it as a Ross’s Goose, at the time I took some photos and didn’t give it a 2nd thought.
I have placed some photos below showing the Ross’s and the recent Snow seen at Coryton, as you can see distant views show almost identical birds. I know the Ross’s is never likely to be accepted as a genuine wild bird but who would have thought 2 Buff Bellied Pipits in London at the same venue?

Ross's - distant

Snow Goose

Larger build and bill more apparent

Moving on from the Geese, everywhere seems to be flooded, spot on for Wild Swans or Geese showed little out of the ordinary, a Tiercel Peregrine was present and there were 6 Pintail on Aveley Pools.

2 Common Seals over the water

A very unusual sight came as I was walking out of the Centre, 2 Common Seals hauled out on the Kent side, from size they looked like a bull and a cow, it’s not odd to see them this far up but you don’t often see them flat out on the mud.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Barking Outfall

December 21st

High tide on arrival at dawn and just starting to drop, in the very dim light I could just about see the Redshank roost, crammed full with a couple of Black Tailed Godwits in there as well.
With the milder weather many of the wildfowl have departed other than Teal; these were still up around the 400 mark.

As the light improved a couple of luxury Yachts went by upriver, having now seen the news all are destined for the Boat Show at the Excel with most being hauled out to be put on show. Stunning looking boats with an equally stunning price tag, many are million not thousands, another world.

What price?

Definitely unusual was the Submarine going out of the river with a police escort; I gather it is a Dutch sub, not quite up on my flags so hopefully I have that right. Having seen a few warships coming and going up or down river over the years including an Aircraft Carrier going past Coryton, a Sub was a first.

After this as the tide dropped I bagged a few arriving waders, 12 Redshank, 2 Curlew and 3 Black Tailed Godwits, these seem to be thin on the ground compared to the last 2 winters, possibly testament to the mild winter so far.
Walking the scrub down the Creek produced a single Cetti’s Warbler and no less than 3 contact calling Chiffchaffs, the sewage works have always been a winter favourite.

No sign of the Bearded Tit so far this winter, hopefully it or they will show over the Christmas period.

Monday 17 December 2012

North Kent Marshes

December 15th

We weren’t due to start our survey until 11.49am so myself and Paul decided to firstly visit Lakeside at dawn and then move onto Cliffe RSPB, this is next to where we are surveying towards Egypt Bay.
Not surprisingly given the hour, the light was not great at Lakeside but nonetheless we drove to Costco’s and 5 Waxwings were present for a while and were then joined by 9 others briefly. A passing Sparrowhawk sent all on their way unfortunately.

Thirsty work

Couple of dodgy looking characters without a doubt.

Next stop was Cliffe, we firstly located the Velvet Scoter dozing as usual, the whole lake it was on seemed to be covered with Little Grebes, certainly 100+ just for this lake. Scanning all over produced 2 Goldeneye, several Pintail, around 800 Black Tailed Godwits and a couple of Kingfishers.
From here we moved up to the North Pit, this was teeming with wildfowl, we ended up with Common Scoter female, 3 female Scaup, 1 1st winter drake Scaup, Greenshank and around 14 Goldeneye.

A good start to the morning and some quality birds.

Where we are surveying on Grain does seem to suffer from low flying aircraft, we had it last year with some idiots flushing all and sundry, Geese, Ducks and Waders all suffer from this disturbance, Saturday was no different.
Firstly a microlight aircraft buzzed all the roosting waders inland and then a Helicopter flew low along the sea wall and flushed around 600 Wigeon, the chopper actually veered away from these seeing the danger, the fact of the matter is they would not have flushed if he was up high.

Flushing all

It would be good to know what the laws are against low flying, they are a pain.

Still no Hen Harriers or Rough Legged Buzzards as yet but at least 4 Common Buzzards and 3 Marsh Harriers are regular on site as are a pair of Peregrines.
I went right through the Greylag flock looking for some wild Geese, again no luck as per last week, they do not seem to have arrived as yet in any numbers.

Short Eared Owl

A river watch produced 2 Red Throated Divers, Red Breasted Merganser, 2 1st winter Drake Scaup and rather bizarrely a Short Eared Owl flying upriver. For as long as I watched it going west it never veered into Essex or Kent, very odd probably raised by Skua’s.

Friday 14 December 2012


Out surveying again on Thursday, cold barely above freezing, 3 pairs of socks was not keeping it out either.

Scanning around to see what was around half way through the survey I picked up a distant hunting Barn Owl, I have never seen one hunting in daylight in Essex, usually somewhere like Norfolk. I suspect the weather was playing its part, if this was one of my local Owls it would have had half a dozen Crows on it straight away, Crows were around but seemingly ignoring it.

I carried on and about an hour later whilst watching a Fox hunting I turned and there was the Owl sitting on a post, its back was towards me obviously intent on something below in the grass. Using stealth an Apache would have been proud off I inched up behind it, light was not great but I got off a few shots. In the end it heard the camera click and turned, they really are cracking looking Owls and the details in the feathering this close up was stunning.
Below are a few photos of the bird, unusual to get this close to one.

First spotted

Edging closer....

Fox on the prowl

Nice to see one with a good tail


Elsewhere the Snow Goose remains with the Canada’s, I went through them again in the hope of a Whitefront or Pinkie but no luck, good numbers of Redwing and a mixed Finch/Bunting flock held 2 Corn Buntings.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Stubbers OPC and Grange Waters

December 6th 2012

Around this time of year I always start visiting the above 2 sites, last winter Stubbers turned up good birds like Goldeneye, 3 Redhead Smew and the best of all a drake Scaup, just don’t get to see enough of these birds.

Stubbers was first port of call this morning, no Smew but I did locate 2 female Goldeneyes, one gracing either of the 2 lakes so not a bad start.
Elsewhere on site there were good numbers of Pochard(58) and a few more Tufted(64), 12 Siskin also went over and both Great Crested and Little Grebe were present in good numbers.

Not a bad start to the morning so I moved on to first Mollands Lane and then did my circular walk taking in the 3 lakes of Grange Waters.
I looked long and hard for Smew, traditionally they arrive around December 3rd onwards so I was hopeful of one, unfortunately none materialised despite my best efforts, unusually there were no Wigeon present either. This was likely down to frozen snow covered grass and large sections of the lake being frozen over.
From here I headed cross country to the Scuba Diving Lake with its newest resident a Long Tailed Duck found by Paul on Sunday. Being a female as well like the last one it very possibly could be the returning bird from a good few years back.
Anyway I soon located it on arrival and even better managed to get a few photos of it, if it is the same bird that I found a while back, it is now not so wary and a little more approachable.

First spotted

It was while I was taking some photos of the Duck that a Ring Tailed Hen Harrier flew across the lake, I got on it too late as it flew behind some trees in front of me, try as I might I could not get a lock on the focus through all the branches.
A pity as it was relatively close and the photo might not have been too bad even in not great light, can’t win them all though.

After this I searched the reedbed for a Bittern but none on show, they are very hard to see here,
talking afterwards to an Angler and he said he has seen the Bittern last weekend; he described it as a brown Heron so it sounded good.
After this I visited the other 2 lakes, again no Smew but good counts were had of Tufted (317) and Pochard (81), 250 Lapwing on the field as I walked out was a good end to the morning.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Snow Goose

Whilst surveying on Tuesday down near the Refinery at Coryton I came across this little chap below, obviously of wild origins as it is unringed, no doubt part of a cold weather movement from across the Atlantic.

At times very hard to see

The snow was very apt and at times it was quite hard to see, I know its plastic but still a nice looking bird.

Monday 3 December 2012

Rainham RSPB

December 3rd

Below are some photos of todays Snow Bunting at Rainham, it favoured the lower sea wall concrete walkway.After initially finding it further up towards Aveley Bay it then favoured a strip about 150 metres from the centre after being flushed by dog walkers.

It like me was very wet, I stood next to a large bush and it happily fed about 6 metres away, food looked like grass heads.