Click on photos to enlarge, please do not copy photos without permission

Sunday 29 July 2012

Rainham RSPB

July 29th

I had planned to go to London to check on the Parliament peregrines but the Olympics has put paid to that visit with the cycling event, traffic would be a nightmare so I gave it a miss.I don’t watch cycling that much, the Tour De France now and then but watching the men’s event yesterday very much looked as if we were left high and dry by the other countries in the chasing pelaton.( I know, I have just learnt what a Pelaton is, before Saturday I didn't have a clue.)
Instead I treated myself to an early walk round Rainham RSPB, early on it was nice and sunny with good Dragon and Butterfly activity, bit of a contrast as I write this, it’s now raining with thunder to accompany it.
A rising tide as I walked down the sea wall produced 4 Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, 3 Redshank and 4 Oystercatchers, no sign of any Black Tailed Godwits on the mud, they do seem to favour up river more for foraging.

Entering the reserve showed lots of Darters, mostly Ruddies with many Butterflies showing including Small Tortoiseshell, I was looking hard for Emeralds Damselflies all over the reserve; I have had them there in past years but not to be today.

A hunting female Marsh Harrier showed briefly near the pylons and the usual Tiercel Peregrine was resting up on one of them. On reaching the Pools the 1st signs of autumn were apparent with 6 returning Teal amongst 50+ Lapwing and another Whimbrel sitting out the high tide.
I had earlier seen 2 small groups of Swifts, as I was scanning for the Harrier I picked up a very large group of Swifts feeding over the Landfill and Wennington Marsh, a conservative count was easily 80+, all no doubt on their way out.

To round off the walk, I picked up a Little Ringed Plover on Purfleet Scrape and 2 Common Terns heading off the reserve back to the river, a good walk.

Caught up with this Common Tern earlier in the week

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Heybridge Basin

July 23rd

With my wife Christine starting her 6 weeks holiday from School, she is a TA, we made the most of the sunshine and headed for Maldon, a favourite over the years. I also had in my head that perhaps after some lunch the tide would be favourable at Heybridge for some birding and photography.

After doing the rounds of Maldon we headed for The Ship for a breakfast in the pub as it was still pretty early, I like this pub as you can see the estuary (Godwits, Redshank and Curlew) and the tide whilst eating, what more could you ask for. My wife puts up with me very well as a birder; wherever we go out I do tend to think of what birds are in the area, you know what I mean don’t you? I get withdrawal symptoms if I leave the bins and camera at home, as I explained to my Christine I have missed so many good birds over the years for not having them with me, it is for the best that I take them along wherever we go.
After Brekkie I again got lucky with the tide in connecting with some summer plumed Black Tailed Godwits after a short wait, although they didn’t cut the corner and come really close like they did earlier in the year, I can’t complain with the shots that I got of them though, many are starting to moult.

I also recently at a peregrine site  came across an adult and juvenile Mediterranean Gull going over, always a pleasure to see these Gulls.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Barking Bound

July 21st


An early start and for once decent weather, in fact it is forecast even better on Sunday with a high on Tuesday, by next week we will be in a heat wave and will all be moaning that it is too hot, not bloody likely given the summer we have had.
The usual Oystercatchers were present on a dropping tide, around 4 of them, no juveniles unfortunately, they may try again but I doubt it now. No other waders were seen other than 2 Common Sandpipers at the Outfall with 2 Great Crested Grebes at the mouth of the Creek.
Common Terns numbered around 9 moving up and down the Thames fishing, these are no doubt part of the Barking Bay colony; they seem to work the Thames from Crossness up to Woolwich and back again.

Southern Hawker I hope

Juvenile Black Headed Gull - smart

A full grown brood of 5 Shelduck dropped in amongst the adult Shelduck and there were seemingly Gulls everywhere, probably around 500 Black Heads feeding at the Outfall with adult+juvenile Herrings and Lessers sitting all over the river.
With August just round the corner it will not be long for the 1st returning wildfowl and waders.
As you would expect with the sunshine, there were Butterflies everywhere including my 1st Gatekeepers amongst the many Small/Essex Skippers and Meadow Browns, also seen was a Southern Hawker, I am hoping that I have got that right.

On patrol

One thing you cannot help noticing is the extra Police and Army/Navy presence on the river, they are up and down constantly with the games imminent.


Following on from the Outfall I popped into the Bay as I knew Paul had seen a Whimbrel, by now the sun was out with a vengeance and I was constantly glancing up to the heavens, an early Honey Buzzard or Osprey wouldn’t have gone amiss.
No luck with the Whimbrel but 2 returning Black Tailed Godwits heralded the 1st returning waders to the Bay, further along was a single Redshank. Despite trying to turn every high flying large Gull into an Osprey I had no luck with Raptors until I left, I then got onto a distant Hobby.
Walking along the grass by the sea wall gave up the 1st Wasp Spider of the year for me along with a Brown Hawker and a Common Darter, as usual the Bay was crammed full of Shelduck.

2 Black Tailed Godwits

Six Spot Burnett

It was only a brief visit and the only other things of note were 3 or 4 Six Spot Burnett’s amongst the hordes of Butterflies and a single Silver Y.

Looking at the Dolphin Jetty the Oystercatcher has again re-laid after her 3 chicks were all lost no doubt to a Crow or large Gull a short while ago. As you can see it is a derelict jetty doing nothing, the plans for next year are for it to be turned into a Common Tern colony like the one slightly down river at CEMEX. Hopefully the Terns will take to it if all goes ahead.

Wasp Spider

Incubating Oystercatcher can just about be seen.

Friday 13 July 2012

Beckton Gulls and Great Black Back's

July 11th

It has to be said not the most ideal of days to visit the colony with dark skies making photography hard work.
The colony now has many fledged juveniles and these are virtually everywhere you look, my visit coincided with high tide, many of the juveniles had formed ‘crèches’ on the river, not sure what the collective for Gulls is.The colony seems to have reached its maxima and probably goes to show and reflect that how much cleaner the river is nowadays, although I suspect that much of the increase in numbers (see Barking June 22nd) is due to Rainham Tip.

The Jetty

A collective of juveniles on the river

Hope I have got this right - a Lesser Black Backed juvenile

I watched the colony for around 90 minutes, mostly all juveniles are adult sized but there are some, possibly failed or late breeders that have very small young. It was interesting to note that some of these could easily be taken by other adult Gulls but this never happened despite walking dangerously close to them. There is no doubt that they could take them as they do with Moorhen and Coot chicks but it seems cannibalism is not an occurrence in this colony.
Over the last 3 years or so a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls have taken up residence in the colony, they have bred in London before but it is not a regular occurrence. There breeding range referring to BWP stops on the east coast of Scotland and following the east/south coast all the way down it does not start again until it hits the south western coast line.
I am pretty sure that they are in the colony as you will see from the photos but as in other years I can’t visually see the nest. A few years back I got buzzed by a very angry adult in Barking Bay, quite obviously on territory or with a fledged juvenile to protect, it is possible that there are more pairs in the Inner Thames, are they only colonial breeders?
I watched this pair for a good while on the jetty at the Outfall, at all times one adult was always present and constantly disappeared behind a wall, it is possible that there could be juv(s) behind the structure. I know Gary and Nick have also seen them on there as well so signs look good for breeding.

Suspect if they are breeding, nest is likely behind wall

I also this week attended the Thames Tunnel meeting; this is the new tunnel that is to be built which will take away the raw sewage discharges that enter the Thames after heavy rainfall.
I found much of the meeting a bit of an education in relation to wildlife, birds and the connection to invertebrates and the ecosystem, raw sewage has terrible effects on wildlife.

In June last year after heavy rainfall more than 450,000 cubic metres of storm sewage from sewage treatment works discharged into the river. This is equivalent in volume to over 85,000 full builders skips. It was estimated that it killed 26,000 fish. As you can see it has a massive impact on wildlife and this is just the fish in this one particular month, look at the rainfall we have had this year.
For further info click on the link below and download the document, it is an eye-opener.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Elmley RSPB

July 6th

As you have probably gathered I am trying to make the most of my time off work by visiting old haunts, I am back to work on Monday so my excursions will very likely decrease. I am now at the ripe old age of 55 and a Steel fixer by trade, all my family, uncles and  cousins are all ‘ fixers’ going right back to my grandad and his brothers. It is hard graft on the body but it also keeps you relatively fit and at a decent weight. Since stopping I have piled on the pounds, I need to go back to decrease my ever expanding waistline.
This morning I was out by 5.30a.m and heading for Dungeness given the weather, on a whim I diverted to Elmley as I was not sure I would have been able to get in the sea watching hide. The new plan was to walk out to one of the hides( I know getting soaked in the process) and watch in the dry as the rain was forecast all morning, they weren’t wrong either.
Driving down the entrance track produced a nice surprise in a calling Quail, as usual trying to see it was another matter, I stayed for about 20 minutes but not surprisingly it never showed. I understand from others that it has been present for a while.

A soaking wet male Yellow Wagtail

The walk out to the hide was still as long as I remember, about a mile, so I headed firstly for the nearest hide, Wellmarsh.
Water levels were really high with no mud showing and the only waders that were managing to feed were Avocet and Black Tailed Godwit.Pochard, Shoveler and Tufted Ducks were present and looking over I could see some waders dropping in so I moved on.
I decided to stay in South Fleet Hide for most of the morning and when the rain lightened up, I viewed the Swale once from where the old hide use to be, keeping myself  low with just my head and scope showing.

Male Marsh Harrier showing a hint of a white rump

Summing up below are totals from the drive/ walk out, in front of South Fleet Hide and the Swale.

Drive/Walk out

Yellow Wagtail – 5 singing males
Mediterranean Gull – 1 adult overhead calling.
Bearded Tit – 1 calling and seen briefly
Green Sandpiper – 1 flushed by Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier – a minimum of 6 birds seen
Corn Bunting – 2 calling
Little Egrets – 2 together in dykes

South Fleet Hide

Black Tailed Godwit – 110 – initially 50 then joined by another group 0f 60ish as high tide moved them on from the Swale.
Greenshank – 1
Green Sandpiper – 2 together
Redshank – at high tide around 150 dotted round the scrape
Avocet – 90 came over to roost
Common Tern – as with Black Headed Gulls good numbers back and forth
Ringed Plover – 2 one displaying
Curlew – 2
Common Buzzard – 1 sitting on fence post

The Swale

Dunlin – 1
Grey Plover – 38
Mediterranean Gull – 3 adults
Spotted Redshank – 3 two together and a single
Wood Sandpiper – 1 feeding on its own
Sandwich Tern – 2 feeding together on rising tide
Curlew – numerous
Bar Tailed Godwit – 1 a single seen

Very distant Spotted Redshanks

The Wood Sandpiper was a little way out and I must admit to it getting me head scratching for a little while, not used to seeing them out feeding on the mud like a ‘winter’ wader.I usually see them on freshwater pools at Rainham, even at Rainham I have never seen them on the Thames mud. I suspect that with the high water levels on Elmley this was possibly the only mud available.
On the animal front Hares seemed to be everywhere and there were at least 4 sightings of Stoat, the Black Headed Gulls soon told you where these were.
On the walk down I came across a very pale Bunting which I think is a partially leucistic Reed, see photos below, photos are none too clever I am afraid due to the good old english weather.
A rather wet and miserable morning but how can you complain when you get to see all these goodies.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Out and about in Essex - again

July 4th

Having had a very good morning on the 29th I decided with the forecast to visit the Thames Estuary Essex sites again, this time Wat Tyler, Canvey Point and Vange Marsh RSPB in that order. It turned out to be a good move with some quality birds seen, no major rarities but who needs them when you have birds like Spotted Redshank, no less than 11 I might add, and a pair of Bearded Tits.
With the overcast weather I decided my first port of call would be Wat Tyler and then make my way to Canvey Point for the rising tide.

Wat Tyler

It’s been a long time since I used the hide overlooking the scrape; it was if I remembered correctly when I saw the Olive Backed Pipit years ago. I can recall the scene now, a Tiger beat was organised by a well-known birder so that everyone got to see it, tired migrant be damned! I must admit though to ticking it just like the rest, would it have shown naturally? Who knows, but an organised flush was not the right thing to do for a knackered migrant. It all boils down to how much a tick means to you, I enjoy the Scillies just like everyone else but can quite honestly take or leave a tick.
Enough of the political stuff, back to birding.
The view over the scrape has not changed and it was good to see the first sign of the coming autumn with 9 Teal present.
Elsewhere there was a Cetti’s calling, and good to see Oystercatcher and Common Tern both with fairly well grown juveniles.
Gadwall, Pochard, Little and Great crested Grebe and Tufted Duck were also present.
I stayed a while listening for Bearded Tit but none showed so headed for Canvey.

Canvey Point
The tide was still rising on arrival at 10.15am, again not expecting too much, early days for waders.
Scanning the mud produced good numbers of Oystercatchers and 12 Curlew, the pick of the bunch however were 2 distant Bar Tailed Godwits just off the Salting’s.
I then concentrated on the river, as expected not much movement, an adult Mediterranean Gull, 4 Common Terns, a Common Seal and a Turnstone coming in from Kent were the highlights. I then heard the screeching of Sandwich Terns and counted 3 going up river, I later added another 2 resting up in the Marina. I was hoping to get a Little Tern but August has always been a better month for these little crackers.

Mediterranean Gull

Sandwich Terns resting up

Also seen was a large flock of Black Tailed Godwits going from Kent to Essex, around 107 looking later at photos, good to see them coming in already, heading for the roost along Benfleet by the looks of it.
Time was pressing on so I headed for the Marina and found another 2 Sandwich Terns resting up as the tide came in; a very unusual sight was seeing a Stoat running across the mud, what it was doing out there is anyone’s guess.

Black Tailed Godwit going too roost 

Stoat on the run

The Turnstone that I had seen earlier was not present and apart from the 2 Terns and a handful of Black Headed Gulls the roost was empty.

Vange Marshes RSPB

This is always a good place and never seems to disappoint, such was the case today with some really good birds seen. The only drawback that I can see is the lack of Hides, everything is so distant and it is impossible to get close and obtain good views. I suspect they are planned for the future as they did with Rainham RSPB.
I entered along the A13 kissing gate end; good numbers of Butterflies were on the wing with Small and Essex Skipper seen along with Ringlet, Red Admiral, Small Heath and Small White all seen.
Scanning the lake and shallows produced really good numbers of waders, I had also timed it spot on as it coincided with high tide. Not being a regular I don’t know if the birds are always here or just rest up on peak tide.
It was certainly an impressive line-up as you can see from below.

Spotted Redshank – 11 this was a group of 10 and a single in with the Black Tails
Black Tailed Godwit – 21 many still in summer plumage
Curlew – 2 resting up
Greenshank – 2 dropped in together
Avocet – 27 again all resting up

Single Spotted Redshank with Avocet and Black Tailed Godwit

The group of 10 Spotted Redshank

The Spotted Redshanks are mostly in summer plumage and even at distance they are a cracking looking bird, could do with one of these over the Valley.
To cap a very good morning I had a pair of Bearded Tits as I walked out, now I have more time on my hands this is another place that I will have to visit more.