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Thursday 27 September 2012

Rainham RSPB

September 25th

After surveying locally I popped into the Reserve for my usual circuit, with winter birding just around the corner the reserve really comes to life.
I have always preferred winter birding, probably like a lot of birders, there is so much more on offer in regard to waders, wildfowl and of course raptors.

The survey I am doing locally relates to low and high tide surveys on the Thames, as yet there are not many Black Tailed Godwits upriver, October and colder weather should herald an arrival. I did locate 92 Redshank on the survey scoped from across river at Fords, a pre roost gathering just about to jump up on the sea wall to roost.

The roost at Crossness River Wall - Redshank at the base

Arriving at Rainham and I walked straight out to the sea wall and scoped the other side, a good sized flock of 31 Ringed Plover and 6 Black Tailed Godwits was a good start. Along the sea wall I also came across a Kestrel, very approachable although it looked as if she had a damaged leg the way she carried it.On closer inspection of the photos as she took off it looks as if she might have a bit of Bumblefoot with some lumpy swelling inside the foot, hopefully it will clear up and she won’t lose condition.

Right hand foot looks lumpy

Entering the Reserve produced the regular juvenile Marsh Harrier seen distantly quartering over Wenningtom Marsh and a very large passage of Swallows, House and Sand Martins. I popped into the ‘Baillon’s hide, it had not been seen all morning, I still have had only one sighting of it on that Saturday when it came to light, me and Shaun were lucky at dawn, Paul and Martin had to spend 10 hours in the hide to see it.I am pretty laid back when it comes to getting a tick, I can take it or leave it, I have missed many London ticks as I always seem to have something else to do.Allthough I keep a London and Rainham list I tend not to beat myself and fret if I don’t get to see it, it’s probably an age thing. Fair play to the people who spent hours and in some cases consecutive days getting to see the Crake, I admire their patience, I have not got none, if I did 10 hours you would have been carting me off to an institution.

Leaving the hide I headed for the Pools, Wigeon numbers are creeping up with 26 seen, waders seen were 3 Greenshank, 5 overflying Ruff, 14 Snipe, 6 Black Tailed Godwits and a Ringed Plover.
No Pintail as yet but one or two should be arriving soon.

Female Sparrowhawk getting fiesty with a Crow recently in London

Walking round to the centre I finished the morning off with a cheese and onion toastie, I think this
is likely to stop soon, as much as I like the food, my ever expanding waistline and RSPB prices will put a stop to it.                                                                                                                                           

A good morning’s birding.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Canvey Point

September 23rd  

6.20am- 10.00am

Not surprisingly given the forecast (easterlies at long last) I was in position around dawn at 6.20a.m on the Point and eagerly awaiting the goodies that would come in, although a little slow at times the quality of birds certainly made up for it.

Totals for this period of time were not earth shattering but how can you complain when you get a Pomarine Skua being escorted into the Thames by a Long Tailed Skua, a stunning sight especially as I needed the Long Tail for the Point List.
By 10.00am when I left I had seen all 4 Skua’s and a superb Sabine’s Gull giving far better views of the one I saw here a few years back.
My totals below are my own counts, others present probably had more, with the rain I expect even more good birds going towards high tide in late afternoon.

Wigeon – around 80 including a flock of 60 up river @ 7.26
Common Scoter – 4 upriver@ 9.10am
Dark Bellied Brent Goose – around 25 seen moving around in small groups
Mediterranean Gull – Likely around 20+, a ship came in with at least 10 in tow
Little Gull – 2 little crackers
Sabine’s Gull – 1 more Essex side than Kent giving good views
Guillemot – 6 seen
Sandwich Tern – 7 all moving out of the river
Commic Tern – 30 birds at least with one group of 8 looking good for Arctic’s
Black Tern – 2 distantly
Fulmar – 1 seen @8.25am
Arctic Skua – I saw 7 birds but there were more as I missed a couple
Great Skua – 3 seen
Pomarine and Long Tailed Skua – came in together@9.22, the Pom was an adult with spoons from what I could see. The Long Tail looked like an immature bird.Quite a sight.

Hard at it.

Grain in the background

More often than not I get it wrong at the Point; this morning was worth all those blank days.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Thorpe Bay

September 18th

It is quiet at the moment locally so I headed down Southend way for some waders, the whole area never disappoints with a number of Estuary sites to pick from.
As it was I decided on Thorpe Bay on a rising tide, when I arrived at 10ish the tide was still well out (high tide around 1.45pm) so I walked out on the mudflats mingling with the bait diggers.

The mudflats - Pier in background

I have never done this before and I must admit it was very enjoyable and scenic just standing in one position next to a beached boat with the camera, the birds virtually ignore you. Obviously with a rising tide you have to be a bit careful and give yourself plenty of time, I kept a wary eye on the worm hunters, when they retreated so did I.
I managed to get a few half decent photos and I could see good numbers of Oystercatchers and Sanderling moving in with the tide as I approached the beach, many of the Oystercatchers were already making for the roost at Canvey.

1st Winter Mediterranean Gull


Over the next hour or so on the beach I recorded around 250 Sanderling, good numbers of Ringed Plover and Turnstone and around 7 Mediterranean Gulls, 2 1st winters and 5 adults. I suspect these are Pier birds as I watched a few of them head out that way probably to roost. Interestingly none were ringed.
A massive increase in Sanderling (every photographers favourite) since my last visit of August 27th, they are a pleasure to watch as they frantically feed, you don’t even have to follow them, just sit down in one spot and at one time or another they will come pretty close to you. The tide and people walking the beach are constantly keeping them moving.


Jogger going for it with Med, Black Headed and Common Gull in background with the little chaps

Other birds seen included a single Common Tern, many Swallow heading south and at least a dozen Meadow Pipits feeding up out on the mud flats. A good visit, the lens worked a treat, but I have now got my eye on a 300mm F2.8, just got to get it past the wife.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Barking Outfall

September 15th

We now seem to be in a quiet period, winter migrants will soon start arriving in earnest and summer migrants are leaving all over the country. With that you would have expected large scale movement given the time of year, there was virtually nothing moving at the Outfall this morning. This is much the same story as on my previous watch on September 7th at Ingrebourne Hill. I was expecting more from both watches, the constant westerlies may well be effecting all movement including birds coming in.
My sole reward for a lot of sky watching was a single Yellow Wagtail and 8 Chaffinch, so I decided after the Outfall to cover the Sewage works.
At the Outfall Teal numbers have now risen to 117 with a sprinkling of Gadwall amongst them, as yet
no returning Redshank or Black Tailed Godwit, the only waders seen were 2 Common Sandpipers.


Moving inland and it was apparent that Chiffchaff were around with 7 seen and heard calling at various places around the works.
As ever Pied Wagtails were everywhere with a conservative count of 60 very likely well down on the true figure. An autumn candidate for a White Wagtail was seen but at this time of year they are hard with so much variation, decided on Pied.

A single Kingfisher was just about glimpsed flashing by down the manmade outlet flow, taking a photo would have been impossible, I am yet to get near enough to one of these secretive little bullets.


As you know from my previous post the lens went into Sigma UK on the Monday directly at Welwyn Garden City, on Friday I picked it up, excellent service from them to turn it round in 4 days.
It now works a treat with the focusing and OS system now working properly, this is the 1st service it has had since September 2008 when I bought it.

Hopefully I will have some waders to practice on, if they don’t come up the river soon I can feel another Canvey/Southend excursion coming up to get my wader fix.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Rainham RSPB

September 7/8th

On Friday morning I headed to Ingrebourne Hill at dawn planning for some viz migging, with the weather at present I was also hoping for some migrant raptors. After 2 hours I had little to show other than a nice Whinchat, 3 Yellow Wagtails and 7 Ring necked Parakeets. Not exactly mind blowing so I headed for Rainham hoping for some stimulation, I followed my usual pattern of the river and then onto the Reserve.
There was very little to see on the river, good numbers of Yellow Legged Gulls, the only waders on show were singles of Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover.
Entering the reserve showed Migrant Hawkers just about everywhere, is it me or are there far more this year? The little dragons had also pulled in a number Hobbies, I counted a definite 6 by the time I arrived at Aveley Pools. The bright skies had also made it perfect for thermaling; I also added 2 Sparrowhawks and 3 Kestrels along with a peregrine.
Lots of interaction between the Kestrels and Hobbies but I was unable to get any real decent shots owing to the lens malfunctioning. I have a Sigma 120-400mm about 3 years old, unfortunately although it locks on to something it will not hold it in focus, off to the menders on Monday hopefully not too costly.

After getting what shots I could I checked Aveley Pools, 7 Wigeon heralded the start of winter along with 16 Snipe, and 2 Yellow Wagtails were also heard going over. To top the morning off I had a Common Buzzard as I left site, it looked very good for a juvenile with no moult. There was a time at this time of year that you would think that most Common Buzzards seen were migrants, pleased to say, not any more with many now as localised breeders.

Seen over the garden on the 6th, migrant Buzzards or locals?

This juvenile female is becoming a regular in the garden

A very good visit not withstanding my knackered lense, little did I know what the morning would bring…..

For a good few years now all the local birders meet in the Railway for a knees up and a Kebab after, this takes place on the 1st Friday of each month. A good way into the evening news came from Howard of a Baillon’s Crake at Rainham, many of us are volunteers so all of us decided to help out and be on site in the morning around 5.40am.Obviously we all wanted to see the bird, so we all made our way there in the morning a little worse for wear in some cases.
I was one of the lucky ones who managed to see it early on Saturday morning for a short period, it refused to show itself throughout the rest of the day, evening should be a good bet and hopefully all will get to see it.

A full up new hide waiting for the Baillon's Crake to show

There was probably around a 100 birders inside at one time

Well done to Howard for opening the reserve at dawn on Saturday and making it all happen, and a very well done to the lady who showed the photos too Howard knowing that she had something different.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Cliffe RSPB

September 4th

As they say the best laid plans…. I fancied some possible wader and raptor photography so I was out at dawn, and heading down the M2 to Elmley RSPB .I last visited here on July 6th and had a very good day.Allthough high tide was not till later in the afternoon I expected that there would be some waders in front of the hides, additionally with the sunshine I was hoping for some raptors.

You know what’s coming – its Tuesday and on arrival the reserve was shut, sitting at the closed gate, thick git and going senile sprang to mind amongst a few other choice words.
Plan B – it’s been years since I last visited Cliffe, not surprisingly I couldn’t remember how to get there, Paul recently went there and had a good morning so off I went.
I can’t believe that it has not changed one bit, I came in the way I vaguely remembered, through the village, park at the top near the Church and walk down the track to the first Pool. Thinking back, I came here a good few years ago when I dabbled into twitching (I was young and impressionable) to see a Marsh Sandpiper. If my ever fading memory is right there were actually 3 of them, quite a nice sight if I have got the right site.

I am told there is now a proper car park and you can enter from the other side of the Pools, I decided to walk the track up to the Black Barn and back again.
On the way I picked up various Warblers along the track including Willow, Chiffchaff, Common and Lesser Whitethroat and further on, 2 Cetti’s Warblers.

Arriving at the first big pool produced 27 Avocet, these were later joined by another 20 odd, 94 Black Tailed Godwit, 2 Common Sandpipers, 2 Common Terns, 2 Snipe and at least 150 Redshank. Little Egrets were up in the 30’s, also along the back edge were 9 roosting Greenshank.
Moving on to the next pools came up with a single male Ruff, 11 Green Sandpipers, half a dozen more Blackwits and a Ringed Plover, best of the lot though was a calling Tree Pipit going over.

 Further on and I ended up on a slightly raised mound that gave good views over more pools, a muddy pool produced even more Redshank and mixed win with them were 15 Ruff, mostly males, I am yet to see a summer male, one day hopefully.

Far over towards the back edge I could see lots of wader movement so no doubt what I had seen was only part of the birds present, there was also the possibility for there to have been some rarer waders present, I understand that Pectoral and Curlew Sandpiper have recently been seen.

A really good visit and long overdue, the morning was capped off by locating a Black Necked Grebe amongst the hordes of Little’s on the return walk along the track.