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Friday 30 March 2012

Barking March 29th

Like the rest of the week, it was great to see the sun coming up at dawn, it just seems to alter your day and perspective, you know photos will be better (hopefully in my case), winter has gone and you start thinking of the summer and places to go.
At the end of April I am going to Spain with my Mum, Sister and Brother in Law, unfortunately my wife Christine cannot make it, she will be at School working with the kids. I am looking forward to it, not only to the fact that I will be with them, but it is an area in Spain that I have not birded before. Gibraltar for one, known for its birds of prey and mass migration from Africa to Europe and vice versa, it will be good to see how it compares with Falstebo which I have birded on 3 occasions. Added to this, several National Parks near Mijas Costa, Malaga and the Coto Donana not a million miles away, I am hopeful of some good birding.
When I come back I am going to Bulgaria with Bradders and Jono, Lesser Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Long Legged Buzzard and Red Footed Falcon all await amongst many others.
Semi-retirement, I bloody love it.                                                                                                        Back to the Outfall, Black Tailed Godwits are still with us and the early morning showed 3 flocks moving up river to Beckton, probably numbering around 150 birds, a majority were also in summer plumage, quite stunning. Another 2 flocks of Redshank followed these numbering around 100 birds, Beckton this winter has become a major feeding area.


Black Tailed Godwits


3 pairs of Oystercatchers are disputing the mud and jetties, at times the noise is manic, 3 Chiffchaffs were calling down the Creek along with 2 calling Cetti’s Warblers, this is the first time I have had 2.
Top bird goes to a female/1st winter Black Redstart that flew across the Creek footpath in to a set of low dense trees; it then defied my every attempt to get a shot of it, a good bird and a welcome addition to the patchlist.
A very good start to the morning so onwards and upwards to the

Another group of Black Tailed Godwits were seen as I arrived on the Foreshore, 92 were recorded, with the others seen earlier, there is still good numbers in the Inner Thames given how late it is getting. 2 pair of Oystercatchers made themselves known in the usual vocal way, and the mud also produced 4 Curlew.Shelducks seemed everywhere looking for rabbit holes, a count of 86 with most feeding on the mud and already paired.

Cormorant with flattie trying to get away from the attentions of 2 big boys

Black Tailed Godwit

Meadow Pipit


With attitude

I also had my first Small/Green Veined Whites of the year and a single OrangeTip, again another first.
With the weather being this good I sky watched over a 2 hour period, no large raptors but both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were seen high up along with some way up Cormorants that had the ticker going at first.
An excellent morning, no migrants other than the Black Redstart, none the less just good to be out in weather like this.

Monday 26 March 2012

Rainham RSPB

March 26th – Migrants!
Although I have had Wheatear elsewhere I am yet to see one at Rainham, for that matter any of the local patches that I watch.Rainham has traditionally always been the first place that I see one, I know they will come through shortly but today I thought I would get lucky.
I did my usual walk – river – reserve – woods and then a coffee, the migrants came near the end as I approached the centre.

Took this at another site

I know that Little Ringed Plover have been seen on the new scrape so I parked up near the bus stop, presently I located 2 birds with one already wasting little time in displaying, you can’t beat a bit of sunshine. It was while I was watching these that I heard the trilling of Sand Martins, I located them a bit late but got onto 3 birds, most likely more went through.

Record shot of Sand Martin going through

Little Ringed Plover with Drake Wigeon

Given the weather, I was also hopeful of a large raptor, I did get some but not as I expected. Sitting in the coffee shop eating a cheese and onion toastie, I scanned as you do through the window straight away picking up a large raptor very high. Walking outside I located 3 of them together moving purposefully north east, all Common Buzzards and most likely migrant and not local birds given the number.

Green Sandpiper

Marsh Frog

Elsewhere on the walk I also had some good birds, 7 pairs of Pintail were seen including the partial leucistic female, Little Egrets numbered 5 birds. The woodland produced 4 calling Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap was giving sub song.
Also seen were:

2 pair Oystercatchers – Bay
Curlew – 4 Bay
Redshank – 22 Bay
Ring Necked Parakeet – 9 over in the morning
Water Rail – 4 reserve
Black Tailed Godwits – 8 in the Bay, all summer plumed, very nice
Green Sandpiper -2 reserve

Butterflies on the wing were Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, first Marsh Frog seen as well.
Surprisingly again no Wheatears, I expect with the weather they have just kept going, no doubt to Wanstead, they have had too many already.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Barking Bay

March 22nd

Another very bright day dawned with hazy sunshine right from the start, I am still looking for Wheatears on site, I know Greg had them recently but the good weather has moved them on, have to wait for the next wave of migrants. It is all good stuff and on days like this it is a pleasure to be out no matter what you do or don’t see.
As it turned out I added 3 additions to the patch list with Green Sandpiper, Long Tailed Tit and Ring Necked Parakeet all joining the list, it now stands at 71.Surprisingly no Chiffchaffs were heard in the Nature Reserve but it can only be a matter of days before they start going at it, like wise Blackcap, migrants will soon arrive.

Green Woodpecker trying to hide

The best of the rest was 3 pair of Oystercatchers, 74 Black Tailed Godwits, initially on the mud but then headed off up river, no doubt to Beckton; it has become a favourite foraging area.
A calling Grey Plover was seen heading down river and the Linnet flock has reduced to around 50 birds, some already nest building.

Green Sandpiper

2 Green Woodpeckers were trying outcall each other at each end of the site.
Next week will be when it all starts; hopefully Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover will put in an appearance.

Wheatear - this was taken last week surveying in Kent

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Rainham RSPB

March 20th
A bright morning and out at dawn, hopefully to connect with the Little Ringed Plovers that were seen, and hopefully Wheatears.
I checked Aveley Bay first and located a single Dark Bellied Brent Goose mixed in with the Shelduck at low tide. Also present were a single Curlew, 4 Oystercatchers, 2 Ringed Plovers, 4 Dunlin and 63 Redshank. A good start with the Brent so I headed for the Reserve and did a circuit.
I relocated the Brent Goose again on the Target Pools feeding with Wigeon; I am presuming it was the same bird and also a Tiercel Peregrine in the usual spot.

Dark Bellied Brent Goose

Distant record shot

Pintail are still present with 12 birds seen including a partial leucistic female, no Golden Plover, looks like they have definitely gone.

Partial leucistic female Pintail

Elsewhere around the Reserve I picked up a male Sparrowhawk hunting, at least 9 calling Water Rails, 4 calling Chiffs and at least 7 Little Egrets.
I also heard my first Marsh Frog and good to see 14 Common Snipe in front of the visitor centre.

Reed Bunting


Little Grebe


Not something you see everyday on the Thames, a Paddle Steamer

After this I headed for the Stone Barges to search for the ‘white wingers’, 2 Iceland’s had come up in the morning. I was the only one there and there were bloody thousands of Gulls, I gave it 20 minutes and failed miserably to locate one, there’s just too many and I have not got the patience to stand there forever. As mentioned before, try as I might I just can’t get into them unless there Med’s.
I did see one Water Pipit on the Barges coming into summer plumage, a little stunner, surprisingly there only seemed to be the one.
No LRP’s and no Wheatears but a good morning’s birding none the less.

Friday 16 March 2012


March 15th
Out in Essex again for what turned out to be an excellent survey, although it did not start off too promising with thick fog, this soon cleared though to reveal a glorious day.
Christ that sun make you feel good, it obviously affected the birds with many already paired and males holding to territory singing, I counted no less than 27 singing Skylarks.
The habitat that I cover is a massive private area, mostly grazing marsh, flooded dykes, large reed beds with Hawthorne spread out all over the site. This make it a magnet for farmland species like Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, with the weather all were on territory singing.
Yesterday probably ranks as the best day I have had there in quality of species seen with no less than 5 Schedule 1 species seen, Marsh and Hen Harrier, Avocet, Cetti’s Warbler and Bearded Tit all making an appearance.

Male Marsh Harrier in the fog

With a bit of auto contrast

On top of this I also had Short Eared and Little Owl, Dark Bellied Brent Goose and a Woodcock, the survey will shortly be ending, a pity it has been a pleasure to cover.

Woodcock heading off into the sun

Short Eared Owl

If this was coming towards me,wouldn't have been too bad.

I managed to get some photos, none too clever, due to firstly, the fog; secondly all wanted to fly into the sun or away from me, not complaining though, how could you seeing this variety of species?

Barking Outfall

I recently had only my 2nd record since I have been watching the site, about 12 years, of Bearded Tit with 3 birds seen in the Creek reed bed. A major rarity here I suspect that they go un noticed due to the fact that you can’t get anywhere near the reed beds, they are quite vast.
It seems that the Thames Water footpath will eventually open as they are doing some major works along it; they are also creating a new habitat. It looks very good and it was the sole reason that I could get close to the reed bed, also heard was Cetti’s Warbler. Photos below

Male Bearded Tit

Part of the reed bed

New habitat

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

March 12th

With the promise again of good weather I was out at 5.00am and heading down to my uncles Wood in Kent. It is a 200 acre mixed woodland which is run as a shoot, it is alive with wildlife and I have it all to myself. One of the big draws to it is not only is there no dog walkers but on 2 occasions over the years I have seen Goshawk. I have seen a male on its own come through the wood hunting just after dawn, but by far the best, was an adult female at tree top height followed by a smaller juvenile calling for all his worth. It was a stunning sight that will always stay with me, I know they are there or in the area but getting them up displaying and getting a photo is another matter.
When I arrived at the wood at dawn unfortunately the fog was too dense to see through so I headed down to Rye Harbour in the hope that it would be clear, it was I am pleased to say.
Massive habitat works are taking place and it looks as if they are creating more foraging and breeding habitat for waders, it looks very good.
I was hoping for a Wheatear but it was not to be, it can only be a matter of days with this weather and if the winds change to the right direction, I also had in my head an Osprey as the conditions were ideal, you have to be optimistic.
The Reserve never disappoints and the Gull colony was alive with activity and noise, mostly Black Headed but there were at least 50 Mediterranean Gulls present .Also mixed in with these on a couple of islands were 24 Sandwich Terns, with the sunshine they were already up calling and displaying.
I am not a Gull man but I have to say that Med Gulls are a favourite amongst them all, it is not that often you get to see this many together, I am used to seeing one or 2 in the winter on the Thames, seeing this many together is quite a spectacular sight.

Mediterranean Gull

Sandwich Tern

4 Avocets were also seen along many Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers which were already paired up.

After this I headed back to the wood to skywatch in perfect conditions, I had my first calling Chiffchaff and also saw my first Butterflies, a Brimstone and a Peocock.

A couple of the animals that passed in the wood as I stood still, Hare and Fox

Unknown Moth

I also had a couple of Moths flittering around the tops of Silver Birch, no idea as to their identity.
The hoped for Goshawks again never materialized but I did have a kettle of 5 Common Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel all up high enjoying the conditions.

Unusual to hear 2 Tawny Owls calling at 11.30am in bright sunshine, with the weather set to continue I am hoping that I can get back there again, one day I will get a photo of a Gos.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Local Stuff

With more time on my hand nowadays as I head gracefully into semi –retirement, I can now start concentrating on my birding a bit more. It is good at long last to not have to try and cram everything into a weekend, Peregrines take up a lot of time but now life is definitely easier.
Now able to bird during the week around family commitments also means I can start covering some of my old patches, one of these I visited the other day after having a good day there in the cold snap.
Stubbers OPC has been going for years, probably 45 or more, the 2 big lakes are not and never have been fished, it has also turned up some good birds over the years. Whooper Swans in 2001, Long Tailed Duck in 2004, Ring Ouzel, Slavonian and Black Necked Grebe all spring to mind.
The drake Scaup I am pleased to say is still present and sticking tight to the Pochard flock, a cracking looking bird that I suspect will go soon with the milder weather showing. Of the 3 redhead Smew and Goldeneye there was no sign.

Greater Scaup

Staying with waterfowl I also popped into the Ingrebourne Valley during the week, on the chance that the Whitefront may still be present, it is, and it also showed quite well for a bit of didgiscoping.As with the Scaup I expect this will go soon also, with a bit of sunshine I managed to get a couple of decent shots of it.The reservoir has been a favoured haunt for Whitefronts over the last 4 years with up to 4 showing in some winters, of course it is mainly due to the fact that they latch onto the large Greylag flock.

White Fronted Goose

Also seen on the visit was a Common Buzzard, another Little Owl was located, this now makes 3 separate birds for the Valley or thereabouts.