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Friday 29 June 2012

Two Tree Island - Hadleigh

June 29th

For the last 2 weeks I have been on Jury Service, if you have not done it, it is an eye opener as to how the judicial system works. If you have a case it occupies your mind, if you don’t it is hard work occupying yourself all day, you can only read so much and you can only leave your ‘lounge’ between 1.00pm and 2.00pm.None the less I found it very interesting after previously dreading it, I was lucky, I had 2 lengthy cases both weeks, an added bonus was being released on the Thursday.

Caught up with this juvenile Little Owl on the way out locally.

Two Tree Island

I left pretty home pretty early and timed it spot on for a rising tide, the light was not bad but the wind was getting stronger by the minute. Checking the Fleet showed at least 12 Common Terns following the tide in and a lone Greenshank was the only wader of note amongst 20 or so Oystercatchers. As the tide rose 40 odd Curlew dropped onto the Salting’s.
I was not expecting much in the way of waders given the time of year so a nice surprise was seeing a flock of 21 Black Tailed Godwits dropping in to roost.
Moving on I had a calling flyover Yellow Wagtail and a Cuckoo going across the Fleet and also 4 Sandwich Terns came in with the tide.

Common Tern fishing

Black Tailed Godwit dropping in


The wind unfortunately was keeping all the small stuff down and I only picked up Common Whitethroat on a round robin walk, Gulls as usual were everywhere. It was while I was watching these that I saw a Carrion Crow catch and kill a near full sized juvenile Black Headed Gull. The unfortunate gull was sunning itself on a grassy ridge, most likely asleep and the Crow simply landed on it and then proceeded to hammer the life out of it.Very, very hard to watch but this probably happens every day, as you could imagine the gulls mobbed it relentlessly to no avail.

Juvenile Black Headed Gulls



Another surprise came in the shape of a Knot, looking at it I would probably say a 1st summer? I originally thought it was a juvenile Dunlin but looking at it and the photos shows it to be far too plump and large for a Dunlin, cheers Paul. It is easy to be wrong with waders and I must admit they do get me at it sometimes, like today.


I dropped in on the way home, as many know it is a good Dragon and Butterfly area, unfortunately it was very windy, overcast and with occasional sunshine, this did put a dampener on proceedings.
Despite this I still had some good firsts for the year including Broad Bodied Chaser and Brown Hawker, the latter defying every move I put on it to get a decent photo.

Broad Bodied Chaser

The one Butterfly I was hoping to see was Marbled White, even with the strong wind I thought I might get one, alas no, I wonder if they are not out yet?
I did however catch up with no less than 4 White Letter Hairstreaks, very high up so very distant photos, but still good to see, in better weather they will hopefully come down lower.

Other goodies seen were

Ruddy Darter – 5
Speckled Wood – 2
Ringlet – 2
Large Skipper – 4
Red Admiral – 1 very fresh
Holly Blue – 3
Meadow Brown – 1
Black Tailed Skimmer – 1 female
Blue Tailed Damselfly – many
Common Blue/Azure Damselfly – 5

Hopefully the weather will be better over the weekend, fat chance!


White Letter Hairstreak

Ruddy Darter

Large Skipper

Saturday 23 June 2012

Barking June 22nd

Barking Outfall

Arriving early at the Outfall in not to clever weather I decided to watch the river for a while given that it was rather gloomy and overcast.
The tide was dropping fast, I was not expecting much, June/July is always quiet, the distant Gull colony was frantic with activity so worth a visit to see if I could pin the Great Black Backed Gull down.
As the tide fell Shelduck started to drop in amongst the hordes of noisy Black Headed Gulls, the river watch for an hour produced 5 Common Terns, I was hoping for a Med Gull, still need it for the yearlist here.
Birds of note included 6 Oystercatchers arriving as one flock, a sad sign and no doubt failed breeders, they do suffer heavily at the hands of Crows, Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls. I think this is the case for any breeding Oystercatchers that try their luck from West Thurrock upwards, they are up against it, due to the Tip there are just too many predatory Gulls/Crows.

I then decided to check the Gull colony, as usual as soon as I stuck my head up above the sea wall many lifted up calling and then started mock diving me. I once saw a Fox try to walk out to an adjacent jetty on a walkway, about 30 Gulls set about him/her, as you would expect it reversed quite quickly.

The Beckton Gull colony

Looking at the colony showed various sizes of juvenile Lesser’s and Herrings with Lesser being the predominant Gull. I did an earlier count in May when most were incubating and came up with a figure of 85 Lesser Black Backed Gulls and 43 Herring Gulls, Gary James contacted me recently and he also counted the colony from a different position.
He arrived at 76 Lesser Blacked Backed Gulls and 48 Herring Gulls, as you can see not a lot of difference between us which is good, some of the colony is out of sight so I suspect we are both short of the true figure.
I decided to have a look in the Essex Bird Report to see when they first showed and the numbers involved.
1997 is the first showing with Lesser's – 7 and Herrings - 4, following on from this it climbed steeply, 2000 showed Lesser's – 76 and Herrings – 34.The last breeding records for the jetty were in 2001, it showed Lesser's – 109 and Herrings – 36.
I am pretty sure my figures for the last 2 or 3 years are higher than this year’s counts by me and Gary so it could be that they have reached their capacity or are showing a decline.

A nice surprise was also coming across 2 Ruddy Shelducks, no doubt the birds seen previously at Barking Bay and Crossness, they are Hybrids but none the less an attractive looking Duck.

Hybrid Ruddy Shelduck

Barking Bay

I decided to check the Common Tern colony in the Bay, not ideal weather with a strong wind making digiscoping nearly impossible, it was also overcast.
After 30 minutes I came to a figure of 18 pairs, most with young, again part of this cannot be seen so counts are likely to be lower than the true figure. This figure is down from the last 2 years, it peaked at 29 pairs in one year, I suspect that the heavy constant rain and gale force winds has put paid to a few pairs. Some are ok as they are sheltered by rope used for mooring up the ships, they would have received some protection from the raging west/south westerlies.

The Common Tern breeding Jetty

A disused Dolphin Jetty, progress is being made to turn it into a Tern colony.

Interesting to note a pair of Oystercatchers were again in with the Terns, it may be the way forward for them, they would gain protection from the colony.A pair down the visitor centre end last week had 3 small juveniles, again on a jetty, on checking again  I could find no sign of them. A Crow was on the Jetty shortly before being seen off by an adult, despite waiting a while before a single adult came back,there was no further sign of them.

3 small juveniles just visible on June 13th, a week later no sign unfortunately.

Monday 18 June 2012

Poplar Hawkmoth and young Peregrines

Following on from the recent Cream Spot Tiger I came across this Poplar Hawkmoth in the same area, there is a realy bright light that is obviously attracting them, hopefully with the warmer weather coming it may provide even more 'goodies'.

 A family of juvenile Peregrines seen recently in London enjoying decent weather at last.

Friday 15 June 2012

Rainham RSPB

June 14th

As is my habit after checking on the Peregrines in London from dawn, I always head for another local patch after to catch up, the sun was out at last so I decided to visit the reserve.
I don’t get over here nowhere near as much as I used to, it is looking very good so I decided on a circuit around the site starting along the sea wall to Aveley Bay.
The tide was rising fast and virtually the first birds seen were 2 Common Sandpipers followed shortly after by a single Oystercatcher and 4 Redshank on the mud. The first brood of Shelduck were also seen with a fresh group of 9, always good to see, they have a hard time of it here due to the Tip and the large Gulls that are present.

Common Whitethroats

Moving onto the Reserve produced 2 Common Terns going back to the river and my first Common Darter of the year.
I also came across 2 very large Caterpillars, around 3 inches long, initially I thought Hawkmoth but cannot match them to anything in the book, in the end I think they may well be Oak Egger Caterpillars, still not sure though.

Oak Eggers?

Black Tailed Skimmers females were also seen with around 6 showing in the sunlight, again these were a first.
I also saw a Grey Heron ambush a Moorhen chick, unfortunately it strayed and paid the price, nature is nature and it happens every minute of the day.

Black Tailed Skimmer

About ¾ of the way round I spotted a Tiercel Peregrine way up in the blue, as you do I got a couple of photos of him and as I did this he went into a shallow dive. I kept the finger on the trigger and presently another raptor came in view and evaded him at the last minute.

Records shots - starting the dive


Casting back up after missing

Reviewing the photos I am pretty sure it is a Hobby, they were both miles away but outline and shape and a little bit of colour match. Was he going for it in earnest or just driving it off?
Who knows, they take Kestrel and Sparrowhawk so it is a possibility.
A very enjoyable walk and rounded off by a cheese and onion toasty in the centre, diet be damned.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

A casualty of the weather?

Last Friday I received a call from Anthony Kiddle the local Police Wildlife Officer, a member of the public had picked up a dead Peregrine outside their Tower block.
We both attended in the evening and I was fearing the worst, this time of year they are feeding large juveniles, if it was an adult it would be hard on the family.
On arrival and seeing the bird I was relieved slightly to see it was an immature Hobby, none the less a sad sight but at least there were not juveniles hopefully involved, like Peregrines breeding usually takes place in the 2nd summer when it is an adult.The plumage showed it was just changing.

An unfortunate end for a stunning bird, it appears that it had been chasing Swifts that congregate/breed at the top of the Tower Block and got caught out by the wind, Friday was the day of the really strong gusts.
It was found right outside the entrance doors with a broken neck, the Swifts were still present high up when we arrived.

Hopefully the autopsy will reveal nothing else.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

More from Bulgaria

A few more photos from Bulgaria, a majority Butterflies, I have got as close as I can by the book but would welcome any corrections if I am wrong which is highly likely.
Any thoughts on the one on the bottom and the blue?

Dark Green Fritillary?

Black Veined White

Lesser Grey Shrike

Marsh Fritillary

No idea?

Say no more

Isabelline Wheatear

Queen of Spain Fritillary - hopefully

Silver Studded Blue

Red Breasted Flycatcher

Havn't got a clue