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Friday 31 August 2012

Thorpe Bay and Barking Outfall

Thorpe Bay 
August 27th

With my wife Christine we headed down to the sea front to walk my daughter’s dog Bo, he's never set eyes on the sea before. Naturally I had timed the visit to coincide with high tide so that firstly, Bo could have a swim, or not if he didn’t like it, and secondly Bo might get to see some waders.
Like it, he was like a fish until he swallowed too much salt water and made himself sick, but he’s a game little Staffy and went straight back in, swallowed more salt water and was sick again.

Not looking too good

Walking along the beach I was hoping for some early Sanderlings, initially we found Ringed Plovers and Turnstones and I then came across another small flock which contained 6 Sanderlings. They are a cracking little wader and as always right little posers, I fired off a few shots and we then moved on. No doubt more will arrive soon as it is a favoured wintering area, 2-300 odd seems to be the norm but 600 have been recorded in the colder winters.

I must admit too looking forward to Autumn/winter, birding seems to offer so much more with the Sea and the Thames coming to life with Geese, Ducks and Waders.

Barking Outfall

August 29th

Virtually the first birds seen on arrival were 3 Egyptian Geese, a rare bird at the Outfall, only the 2nd record after a small flock of 10 flew upriver a few years back, these very nicely added to the patch year list that now stands at 94.
Elsewhere on the mud banks, no new waders in yet other than the regulars, 6 Oystercatchers and 5 Common Sandpipers working the mud and rocks. However Teal have increased to 86 with some fresh arrivals, the Outfall is a major wintering area for them, that green winger is out there somewhere.

Other than this it was pretty quiet with 2 Great Crested Grebes on the river with only 4 Common Terns on fly by’s, highlight of the morning was a Sparrowhawk relatively close coming over from the Kent side.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Rainham RSPB

August 26th

After visiting a Kent Peregrine site I dropped into the reserve on the way home, although the weather was not too clever at dawn it had brightened up and possibly looked good for a larger Raptor as I arrived.
Walking down to the sea wall and virtually the first birds seen were 2 Black Terns working the river and eventually coming in relatively close, an excellent start and it soon became apparent that there was a little bit of movement .By the time I reached Aveley Bay I had recorded 4 more Black Terns going up river and also 14 Common Terns doing likewise, it was possible that the original 2 Black Terns seen had joined another 2 coming up, who knows?

Black Terns

Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper also joined the list as they looked for somewhere to sit the tide out.
With a strong south westerly blowing there sometimes seems no reason why you get Terns coming back up river, with a north/easterly – easterly I could understand it, it is likely that it is the right time of year and the birds are just in the river getting ready to go.


No Wheatear as yet and this didn’t change either even when I entered the reserve; it now seems you are more likely to see a Marsh Harrier rather than a Peregrine or Kestrel when you walk round the reserve. A phone call from Dominic alerted to me to a juvenile doing the circuit and in the process flushing a lot of Snipe, I got onto this and had good but distant views.
Only 3 Yellow Wagtails were seen amongst the cattle and I also had a good search for any Emerald Damselflies, the usual area’s seem to have been abandoned this year, as yet I am yet to see one.

Arriving at the pools where Dom and a fair numbers of birders were watching a good variety of waders, others had more but I saw 2 Ruff, Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover, 3 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common Sandpipers, many Snipe and 4 Black Tailed Godwits.

Migrant Hawker

A good finish to an excellent morning’s birding, the finale was 2 Hobbies hawking Dragons over the Marsh, they looked good for adult female and juvenile male, the smaller bird showing a lot of brown in its plumage.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Canvey Point and Two Tree Island

August 25th

With a not very nice forecast, rain showers for most of the morning I headed for the Point, the wind not ideal, a south westerly, I thought I was in with a chance of a goodie or 2 given the time of year. With a high tide of around 5.30a.m I arrived at 5.45am and firstly checked the Marina roost, this produced 6 Sandwich Terns, 42 Turnstone and a good mixture of Gulls although no Med’s.
Walking back along the inside of the sea wall produced 63 Ringed Plover and 26 Dunlin on a section of exposed mud, additionally there was a Common Sandpiper further up as I neared the Point.

I gave it till just after 7.00am at the Point and then decided to move on to Two Tree as the south westerly was getting progressively stronger and probably stopping anything out of the ordinary from coming in.
A couple of flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were noted moving up river and a distant flock of Dunlin contained a slightly larger bird that looked very good for Curlew Sandpiper, unable to clinch it though as I just could not get good enough views in the bad light.Commic Terns were all moving up river and totalled 26.

Pressing on I headed for…..

Two Tree Island

I hurried out to the hide as the tide was still highish but dropping, I was hoping that they would be still be roosting on the scrape. On arrival though in the car park there were at least 50 Ringed Plover sitting in out on the causeway with the odd Dunlin and Turnstone mixed in with them.
Arriving out at the Scrape and all had either left earlier or did not roost there in the darkness, 23 Teal were present along with a handful of Lapwing, I then decided to go through the waders out on the Creek and on the Salting’s.
It was quite apparent that a raptor was around and it eventually materialised into a female Sparrowhawk flicking in and out of the little creeks, although not good news for Redshank and the like it did give me a chance to count the waders flocks which had bunched.
Black Tailed Godwit numbers were around 250 with Knot numbering about 180; best estimate for Redshank was about 200 although I suspect the totals for all were higher as I could see further wader movement up the Creek.

Everything eventually settled down and I found 14 Greenshank bunched up on a Salting’s spit, all were resting up out of the wind.
As the tide dropped I found 5 Bar Tailed Godwits as I scanned along with 2 Whimbrel and 16 Grey Plover feeding on the mud, the number of Curlew leaving the roost on the Salting’s easily exceeded 100 birds.
No Little Terns unfortunately at either here or at the Point earlier, next time hopefully.

Friday 17 August 2012

Rainham RSPB and Barking Bay

August 16th

Rainham RSPB

I followed my normal route as I arrived at the Reserve, firstly the river –sea wall to the Bay and then onto the Marsh, it was overcast and grey but thankfully not raining.Definately a morning for Ring Necked Parakeets as they were constantly overhead in 1’s and 2’s, I ended up with 15 of them by the time I reached the Bay, all coming from Kent.
Best birds by far on the river though went to 2 juvenile Mediterranean Gulls together going up river, 2 Oystercatchers and a single Whimbrel were on the mud but little else in the way of waders.

The reserve however was much more rewarding with a male Marsh Harrier seen distantly hunting, this put up a flock of 17 Snipe and there were also 12 Little Egrets in the air. There is so much growth now the Target Pools are getting hard to view unless you are in the new hide, hoping for better views I carried onto the Pools.

Distant Marsh Harrier

This was looking very good with some exposed mud along the far bank, good numbers of Wildfowl were also seen 38 Teal and probably half that number of Gadwall and Shoveler.Waders were well represented with a female Ruff, 3 Juv Dunlin, Green Sandpiper and 11 Black Tailed Godwits.
I searched for the Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper that were present the day before but it was not to be, even the new scrape with some good exposed mud failed to deliver any type of wader.

It was still early so I then headed for………..

Barking Bay

The large expanse of mud on arrival failed at first to produce any waders, Shelduck were well represented as usual along with god knows how many Black Headed Gulls.
The Bay scrub has always been one of the best places to find local Whinchats and so it proved today with a group of 4 located in the scrub, although not great light they did prove quite cooperative for a photo. Much of this was due to the fact that all 4 were keeping an eye on a Sparrowhawk have a bit of fun with one of the Kestrels, a pity I was not closer I may well have got some decent shots.


Not to complain though as the 4 Whinchats were a pleasure to see and rivalled the 2 juv Med Gulls seen earlier as birds of the morning.
Overhead I picked up 9 Swifts during the morning and the rising tide now also provided 5 Common Sandpipers down near the Jetty and a single Ringed Plover making the most of the remaining mud.

A single Common Tern was the only Tern seen throughout the morning, roll on the Easterlies, they usually provide some good birds down the Thames.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Barking Outfall

August 12th

With autumn now starting it will not be long before the winter birds arrive, the Outfall has always been a winter site and produces far more birds in the cold period due to the food pumped out at the Outfall. It is a magnet and in the really cold periods it is not unusual for there to be 600 Teal here.
On arrival this morning early a.m. the first birds seen were 5 Teal so it is starting already, in the coming months they will start arriving in earnest along with Redshank and Black Tailed Godwits.

This morning’s visit also coincided with the high tide, a pair of ever present Oystercatchers were making the most of it before being pushed off, I decided to check the small trees and scrub area for migrants. I firstly came across a group of Warblers that included 3 Chiffchaff, Blackcap, a single Garden Warbler and 2 Willow Warblers, further back a Cetti’s Warbler was alarm calling.
A lot of work has been done to enhance the Creek path and the new overflow off the Creek is now looking good and more natural, I expect soon they will open the Creek walkway.

Creek Flooding area

Returning to the Outfall produced 2 groups of Common Tern, 9 and 7 and there were 9 Common Sandpipers in the roost, the best count by far for a long time.
A single Curlew was also seen along with 2 flyover Yellow Wagtails.

The rising tide had also bought in a massive shoal of Thick Lipped Mullett, they were actually out muscling the Black Headed Gulls for food pickings and because of their size presumably the resident Cormorants were ignoring them.
I at first thought they were spawning as I have seen Carp behaving in the same manner but surely it is too late now for spawning, whichever it is, it was a spectacular sight to see them churning up the surface.

Just part of the hordes of Black Headed Gulls

Competing Thick Lipped Mullett

After this I headed into the sewage works, carefully negotiating Security with the berserker German Shepherd, the dog seriously wants to take lumps out of my arse. Pied Wagtails were everywhere as usual but a nice addition to the Patch list was 11 Sand Martins feeding over the sludge tanks. It is possible that they may even breed on site as I found a series of man-made holes in the side of a concrete building that the Martins may well be using for nest holes, I will check again next week.

With the addition of Sand Martin, Garden and Willow Warbler the patch list now stands at 93, hopefully August will bring some migration and river movement to reach the ton.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Two Tree Island

Saturday August 11th

An early morning start, first briefly at Canvey Point before heading round to Two Tree Island to catch the rising tide.

The Marina roost produced 12 Sandwich Terns laying up along with a good number of Common Gulls doing the same, autumn is here.
I only gave it around 30 minutes before heading round to Two Tree Island, as I drove through Hadleigh the Olympic Mountain Bike event was already becoming apparent with personnel and services everywhere.

The Olympic Moutain Bike course from Two Tree Island

Catching the tide right produced an eventual count of 540 Black Tailed Godwits, a lowish tide had them spread out all along the Creek, over a 100 were in the reserve along with 2 Ringed Plovers and 6 roosting Greenshank.
6 Bar Tailed Godwit were on the outer creek before it flooded along with 4 Whimbrel dotted around, like the Bar Tails they did not roost and were still feeding in the muddy margins. Some movement was noted in 8 Yellow Wagtails overhead, a calling Golden Plover and the odd Swift going through.

Curlew, Whimbrel and Redshank

A spectacular sight was a female juvenile Peregrine duffing up the wader roost out on the Salting’s, possibly suggesting local breeding.
A good visit, a hoped for Whinchat or Wheatear never showed, with the cracking weather I expect many migrants are just going straight through but then again it is still early.


Juvenile Green Woodpecker in the garden

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Barking Bay - Heavyweight Gulls

August 5th 

Now we are into August I will start stepping up the visits as autumn migration will soon be upon us, last year the large expanse of mud and the scrub produced some good birds.
The scrub area has always been a Wheatear magnet, especially the short cropped grass patch and it was for here I made for along the green sward.

En route I picked up Common Sandpiper, 5 Black Tailed Godwit, 2 Ringed Plover and 2 fully fledged groups of juvenile Shelduck out on the edge of the mud, tagging along with them was the hybrid now becoming a regular.
It was as I was half way down that first one Great Black Backed Gull and then a 2nd adult made themselves known with that deep guttural call and started to circle me, I have seen this behaviour before in past years, again at the Bay. Further to this one adult started to mock dive me getting really stressed, knowing it had to have a juvenile nearby I searched the mud, presently 1 came into view, not on the mud but flying overhead. This was the confirmation that I was after as I have suspected local breeding for a good few years,(see July 11th entry) I also had no doubt that this was the pair ¼ upriver at the Beckton Lesser/Herring Colony.
In past years both Paul and I have been mock dived by stressed angry Great Black Backed Gulls, at all those times we have not been able to locate a juvenile so it was good to have the proof at last.

Stressed adult Great Black Backed Gull

Juvenile G B B Gull approaching

The behaviour of the big Gulls seemed to have rubbed off on a pair of Lesser Black Backed as well as they started to dive me also, if anything coming even closer than there bigger relative, again it was due to a fledged juvenile being present in the sky. Bearing in mind that the colony is round the bend upriver, both the Greats and Lessers behaviour suggested that both were freshly fledged from the colony, very likely making their way down to Gull utopia, Rainham Tip.

As mentioned before I am not a Gull man and the differences between juvenile Great Black Backed and Lesser Black Backed Gulls had me scratching my head, they are very similar with differences in plumage marginal. Obviously GBBG is bigger but at times I must admit it gave me a headache trying to split them, judge for yourselves from the photos, hopefully I have got it right.

Adult L B B Gull

Rather stressed

Juvenile L B B Gull

Swifts were also on the move with 14 seen all going south across the river and an unexpected patch addition added to the list in the shape of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, the year list now stands at 101.Another 14 Black Tailed Godwits were also seen going down river.

An interesting visit, no Wheatears unfortunately but they are no doubt on the way.

Lancaster Bomber
Whilst sitting in my 2nd floor flat in Hornchurch on Saturday afternoon glued to the tele watching the Olympics, which has been brilliant, I heard a very loud aircraft approaching. I had an idea what it was as it got ever louder as there was a Military Aircraft show on locally over the weekend. With a start that Usain Bolt would have been proud of, I ran for the camera in the other room and managed to return just as it came right over the Flat.

I squeezed off a couple of shots before it went round the trees, and then one as it lined up probably for a low flypast as it had put it wheels down,. I can’t imagine it landing at the airstrip near Cely’s Wood as it is too small.

A stunning sight so low down, the noise of the 4 engines was incredible.