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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.


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