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Saturday 28 April 2012

Good Day in the Bay

April 28th

I was out at dawn and heading for a Peregrine site in East London, constant rain right from the start. After arriving and sitting in the car for 30 minutes, I realised that any self-respecting peregrine would not be doing much, the rain had got heavier, so I headed for Barking Bay where I knew Paul was watching.
It proved a very good move as I added no less than 6 patch additions to the year list; it also provided a good day list with some quality birds seen.
With a make shift sea watching hide we scanned the river for a couple of hours and then walked the scrub for migrants, birds of note were

Turnstone – 2 appeared from up river on the falling tide
Black Tailed Godwit – 2
Bar Tailed Godwit – a total of 9, initially 2 and a single seen, and then 6 from up river, presumably the same birds that Gary had at Galleons Reach
Corn Bunting – 1 wet individual
Kittiwake – an adult up river
Whimbrel – 2
Cuckoo – 1
Wheatear – 5 mostly males
Whinchat – a single with the Wheatears                                                                                               Ringed Plover – 3
Dunlin – 1

Paul in the sea watching hide

6 of the Bar Tailed Godwits arriving

Well worth getting wet for, if anything the forecast looks even better on the Sunday for river watching, rain with a strong north easterly to start with and then coming round to an easterly. I am tempted to go to Canvey on the Sunday but the promise of good birds on the patch may well keep me at the Bay. A Skua wouldn’t go amiss especially a Pom as I need it for London, they are moving round the coast now, Sunday could be very interesting indeed.

On the 26th I popped into the Bay and got very lucky and located a feeding Black Tern working the mud with the Common Terns, although they are annual, I usually pick them up in the autumn, a welcome addition.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

London Bird Watch - Barnes Wetland Centre

I had a chance to go to the event on the Saturday with Jono as we were both involved in the early stages, Jono did an article and I made and fitted a nestbox for the Peregrines on Charring Cross Hospital.
I am very glad to say that the Peregrines again bred in the box and can be seen on the Wildlife Whisperer website at

The box in position and ready to go

The web cam with an artificial scrape made for her, she went straight in it as well.

On April 24th 3 chicks hatched, all in one day no less, well worth a look see if you get a chance.
I have only ever been to Barnes once, that was around 4 years ago, worth a visit for the ornamental Wildfowl alone.
The event itself was hosted by Simon King and Kate Humble amongst others and was a very enjoyable day, despite promising myself not to spend, I did, it is hard not to when they stick all sorts of goodies in front of you. The Optics tent was great, the prices incredible, top of the range Bins/Scopes are way beyond my pocket unless second-hand about 5 years down the line but none the less it was good to try them out.
I treated myself to a camouflage net that goes over you and has a hole for a camera; I hope to test it out shortly.
After the Theatre event and circulating round the Marquee I headed for the Wildfowl collection camera at the ready, I know they are all collection ducks/geese but it was good to get close up, not only for photos but identifying features as well, usually you don’t get a chance to get views like this.
Drake Eider will always remain a favourite, the colours close up are stunning and the call is something else.

How can she resist him?

To be able to see Wood Duck and Red Breasted Goose close up really does make you appreciate there plumage, especially the detail.Barrow’s Goldeneye, Blue Winged Teal and Ferruginous Duck were all present amongst many other exotics.

Jono staging a lie in and protesting at the price of the new Canon 600mm

It gave a good opportunity for me and Jono to test settings on the camera, in particular myself, Jono already knows far too much.                                                                                                                 
An excellent day, hopefully it will be repeated next year.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Dungeness and Rye Harbour

April 20th
Dungeness Beach

I started pretty early at Dungeness, around 7.00am, the idea being a sea watch and then move onto the reserve, the weather was very bright right from the start, not ideal for sea watching. Positioning myself near the patch, there were hordes of Common Terns feeding, I was hopeful of a Skua coming in closer or perhaps some passage.
After an hour I realised there was not much movement, in total 26 Gannets, 10 Common Scoter, a Harbour Porpoise and a single distant Fulmar was the pick of the bunch. Great Crested Grebes seemed to be everywhere; certainly 60+ but the real numbers were the Commic Tern flocks. There was a constant number at the patch(40ish) with the same number resting up on the beach, further out to sea, large flocks were moving west sometimes 70 strong.

Moving on to the scrub produced 2 Black Redstarts, 2 singing Wheatears and a male Stonechat, given the weather I would have expected more migrants on show, Linnet as usual were common. It was still pretty early so likely many hadn’t found their voices yet.

From here I moved on to the….


From the start there were good numbers of Sedge Warblers, it was still pretty early, hardly anyone present so I walked a circular walk.

Distant Raven

Highlights included a Ring Ouzel initially chucking away under a bush, then seen briefly flying to cover, also a flyover Raven.
Others seen included

Swallow – perhaps 20 birds went through
Yellow Wagtail – 2 over
Ringed Plover – 2
Mediterranean Gull – pair
Wheatear – 2
Cetti’s Warbler – 5

No sign of the Bittern although I understood it was heard.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
I popped into the Reserve as it is pretty close; I also wanted to try some different settings on the camera. My arrival coincided with a high tide, the newly created habitat flooded nicely and looks very good, once vegetation takes a hold it should be an ideal habitat for waders.
2 Wheatears were seen as I walked out to the hides, overhead and on the islands the noise was incredible, mainly Black Headed Gulls but backed up by Common and Sandwich Tern.
The far hide produced a group of 8 Bar Tailed Godwits resting up on one of the islands, no doubt migrant birds on their way to their breeding grounds.

Bar Tailed Godwit

No luck with any Raptors or such like despite the blue skies, a strong westerly wind put paid to anything coming over the Channel.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Walthamstow Reservoirs

April 17th
I have not been to the Reservoirs for a while now, the last time was probably Lol’s Dusky Warbler, I had a good day then with some good species seen. I knew today was going to be rough, especially the morning, with perfect timing I copped the lot as I walked up on to the 1st Reservoir, it came down with a vengeance.

The City - the Shard now dominates the skyline

Out came the poncho, way to big but ideal as it covers camera, bag and scope, the downside with the strong wind is that it sometimes reverses itself like a brolly and tries to blood strangle you. A couple of times it had me impersonating a windsurfer down the side of the Reservoir.
Rather surprisingly given the weather I picked up migrants straight away, I suspect they had been pushed down by the rain and like me were seeking a sheltered spot. First one up was a Little Ringed Plover, feeding amongst a horde of Pied Wagtails; I did search for Whites but none that I could see.
I decided to walk the length of Lockwood Reservoir and then back again, mid-way down I came across more migrants roughly bunched up in a 100 metre stretch, this included the following

Swallow 14 – initially feeding on Lockwood
Sand Martin 3 – in with the Swallows
Wheatear 2– on the side loosely associating with Wagtails
Yellow Wagtail - 9 mixed in with the Pied
Grey Wagtail – 1, at one point I had Grey, Pied and Yellow in the same view
Little Ringed Plover – 4 including the one mentioned above, 3 flew out from the side, scoping showed the single still in position further back
Shelduck - a pair
Green Sandpiper – a single in the river

Grey and Yellow Wagtails with a Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plovers


No Common Terns, can’t say I blame them given the weather, a very good variety of migrants and well worth getting soaked for.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Barking Bonanza

April 15th

A bright but cold morning, only 4 degrees showing in the car, I had my hands in my pockets for the first hour, blimey it was cold, now I am retired I am getting soft.
I checked the Gull colony on arrival, now getting going with many pairs gathering moss and grass from the nearby tanks, also good to see a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls were present in the colony. As yet showing no sign of nest building but I will keep an eye on these, especially as there were a pair present in 2011.
I started to watch the river as the tide was coming in and got onto an Arctic Tern going up river at 7.45am, after this I had Common Terns going up in one’s and two’s, a final count later showed 12 Common Terns feeding as a group on the far side of the river.

Getting into swing - the Gull colony

Common Tern

Grey Wagtail


Another migrant joined the list after; a single Common Whitethroat was heard in the scrub along with 2 singing Blackcaps and also 2 Cetti’s Warblers. I suspect there were probably other migrants present but the cold was probably keeping everything quiet. From here I headed to the Bay, Paul had just found 2 Ring Ouzel’s.

Thanks to Paul, we quite quickly located the 2 Ring Ouzels, usual brief views before they went to ground; it looked like a male and female. After last year’s female seeing a male was very welcome, although views were not great. Skylark and Meadow Pipits seemed to be everywhere, the grass very much to there liking.
5 Wheatears were also present on the short grass area, 2 cracking males, Paul had earlier had 3 males so very likely there were 6 Wheatears.

Common Tern

Appear to be feedinmg on sme sort of worm

After this we moved down to the receding tide, a minimum of 12 Common Terns were present feeding on what appeared to be very small worms, left in the shallows, no idea what they were but obviously to their liking. It is also possible that these were the same 12 Terns seen earlier ½ mile up river at the Outfall.
To complete a good haul of migrants, 2 Swallows went through going north.


Saturday 14 April 2012

The Valley

April 14th

I walked down at dawn just before 6.00am feeling none too clever after the excursions of the night before up the Railway, needless to say it was the monthly Birders drink, as usual I was suffering.
With my wife’s sentiments still ringing in my ears, “your nut’s” I have to say I agreed with her, I should have layed in, too late to turn back so I ventured forth into the wilderness.
Virtually the first bird heard as I walked in by St. Georges was a Common Whitethroat, a year tick no less and a very good start, good to see them in, like everywhere else migrants have been thin on the ground and most are late. I am yet to record a Little Ringed Plover over the Valley, I always get one at the end of March, not this year though.

Dawn - makes you feel better just looking at it

Walking on and more summer migrants gave themselves up, Yellow Wagtail over the Reservoir, a Cuckoo at Berwick Ponds, Sedge Warbler by the Black Bridge and a single House Martin over the viewing area, presumably the same bird again seen later over St. Georges.
Lots of habitat enhancement has taken place, not only along the river and adjoining fields but also St.Albyns Lake, the lake especially looks quite good, next year it will look a lot more natural when the plant growth has become established.
The viewing area as expected has raised its water levels with the recent rainfall, hopefully this will dry out just right for waders, with all the river work it should now not flood and spill over, with this it may again attract Redshank to breed.

Bullfinch - you never seem to get a clear shot of one of these


Willow Warbler

Other highlights included Common Buzzard, Peregrine, both were dots high up, 23 Golden Plover way up also and no less than 14 calling Cetti’s Warblers.

The best of the rest was –

Willow Warbler – now 5 singers
Chiffchaff – 9
Common Whitethroat – 5 birds in total
Red Legged Partridge – a pair in the middle paddock
Teal – still 3 pair hanging on
Blackcap – 12 singing
Bullfinch – 2 pair
Swallow – 1

Early next week should see the arrival of many more migrants; I was hoping for Ring Ouzel today and checked just about everywhere, especially both paddocks, again no luck, it has always been a hard bird to get in the Valley.

Peregrine - way up