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Saturday 27 October 2012

Sea Watching on Grain

October 27th

As per last year we are visiting part of the Isle of Grain down past Cooling Towers towards the Sea Wall and Egypt Bay.The land is private but the sea wall is all public access.
Part of the survey is to cover the river at peak low and high tide for a couple of hours, today we were optimistic with a north westerly that we might connect with some ‘good ‘birds.

To say it was cold was an understatement, the wind was gusting over 40 and the driving rain and dark skies made for a true winter feel, the 1st of the year.
Ideally we needed a north easterly or an easterly in these conditions, if we had we would have likely seen more, Paul was sea watching further up so hopefully we did not miss too much.

2 Bonxies

Dark Bellied Brents going past a Common Seal

Canvey had some good birds today but we were further up river opposite Coryton Refinery, we never connected with the Sooty Shearwater, Sabine’s or the Little Gulls but none the less still had some good birds.

Highlights were

Bonxie – 3 all going up river, a single and 2 together
Kittiwake – a single flock of 15 +odd singles
Swallow – 2
Dark Bellied Brent Goose – 23 likely some duplication as they were up and down
Gannet – 11 all turned and went back out
Common Scoter – 26 all up river
Guillemot – 1 in and out
Peregrine – adult Falcon
Merlin – 2 seen by Paul
Knot – 100
Black Tailed Godwit – 1030
Wigeon – 28

The Black Tailed Godwits numbers were impressive coming out of the river, they were in large flocks hugging the Kent side looking for some exposed mud after high tide; we suspect they all came from Cliffe RSPB along with the flock of Knot.They all went straight past us continuing east.

Despite the weather a good day, need more north easterlies/ easterlies!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Parliament - Viz Miging of all things

October 20th

As I headed down the Embankment for Parliament to check on the peregrines at 6.30am, in slightly murky conditions it has to be said, it came over the radio, a TUC Rally taking in Parliament, all roads around Parliament closed by 7.00am.

First thoughts were I’ve made a cock up and my usual crap timing, never less I carried on regardless and parked up round a back street just before they closed the roads.
In the semi darkness I located the Tiercel at 6.50am at roost and at around 7.20am he flew west, no sign of the Falcon so I settled down to wait in Victoria Tower Gardens Park.

Tiercel in the murk

As it turned out I never saw either bird again but was very fortunate to observe a lot of visual migration throughout the rest of the morning up until 9.30am, the majority all going west.

The highlight was undoubtedly a Short Eared Owl high south west at 7.43am, see photos below, bad light and height just made for record shots.

Record shots of SEO

It was mostly small groups other than the Starlings with the main flow of birds and larger flocks coming through from 9.00am to 9.30am.I recorded birds that were relatively low and could id but there was quite a lot more very high that I could not id so it looked to be a massive passage.
Starlings came through in numbers, one flock at 8.35 going west probably totalled around 600 birds, the flock was endless and they just kept coming, in total 830 were recorded throughout the morning. From what I understand elsewhere, Saturday has seen a massive movement through London with large numbers of Redwing moving through.

My totals at Parliament are probably a bit modest compared to other areas in London but in the absence of both peregrines I can’t complain, who would have expected a Short Eared Owl over Victoria Tower or viz miging at Parliament?

My totals were

Starling – 830
Chaffinch – 71
Siskin – 12 a single flock
Redwing – 35
Meadow Pipit – 110
Jackdaw – 4
Grey Wagtail – 1
Ring Necked Parakeet – 4

Additionally I also had Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and a Song Thrush in Victoria Tower Park.

Victoria Tower Gardens Park

I would have liked to have stayed longer as they were still coming through but the crowds were building and a McDonalds Hot Chocolate was calling me.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Barking Outfall

October 14th

Along with many others I have and always will prefer winter birding, for starters there is just so much more happening in regard to Waders and Wildfowl, the Outfall is one of those places that only comes to life in the winter.

It has a massive food source coming from Thames Water; it is now in that period when it is just coming into its own.
Numbers of Wildfowl are rapidly increasing, this morning’s visit provided 9 returning Black Tailed Godwit with a good count of 54 Redshank and a single Curlew.

The Outfall below looking west towards the 2nd Jetty which is the Gull breeding Jetty, Canary Wharf in the distance.I usualy view from the corner of the road, inland is Thames Water.

Teal numbers continue to multiply with a count of 419 at the Outfall and the Creek, one day a Green Winger hopefully.
From the Outfall I moved on to the Thames Water site and came across 3 Common Sandpipers feeding in separate tanks, one of which appeared to be very approachable. As you know Common Sands flush quite early and are not usually that approachable, this particular bird was quite a film star and stayed put. I was not sure what the credentials were for Spotted Sandpiper so I took a few photos and checked as soon as I got home, additionally checking with a 2nd opinion.
It turned out to be a normal Common Sandpiper, bill, colour of legs and tail not being right for Spotted Sandpiper. Its approachability I must admit threw me a bit but I will know what to look for when I do find one, there’s nothing like being positive.

Very approachable

My year list for the site continues to climb and I reached 99 with Lesser Redpoll, House Sparrow, Mistle Thrush and Goldcrest.Not too bad for a relatively small site, highlights for the year so far include Bearded Tit, Scaup and Jack Snipe, hopefully more to come.

Friday 12 October 2012

Two Tree Island

 October 12th

Not the most ideal morning to visit early on with overcast skies and strong south westerly’s putting paid to any small bird movement. I am probably a bit ignorant as to why, but why is it that all we get nowadays are basically westerly winds, it was not the case a good few years back, I presume it is possibly linked to global warming?
High Tide was around 10.30am so I basically dived in both of the hides to avoid the wind, and to see what was feeding on the mud and what came into the scrape.

Pre high tide at the Creek Hide showed substantial movement up the Creek with a minimum of 800 Dunlin seen in a vast flock, 72 Avocet feeding as one flock and a nice flight of 40 odd Grey Plover going up to some distant roost. Turnstone and Ringed Plover also seemed present in good numbers as the tide pushed them around. Redshank numbered at least 170.
A suspected distant raptor put everything up and this included 9 Bar Tailed Godwits and a small flock of 12 Golden Plover overhead, Wigeon were also present in large numbers.

As the tide was fast approaching its peak I headed for the Scrape Hide, birds were arriving constantly.
At its peak there were a very large flock of 19 Greenshank tucked up out of the wind with 80 Ringed Plover well spread out(most likely more) 4 Golden Plover, a calling Rock Pipit,30 Black Tailed Godwits, 98 Teal and a single Knot and Avocet.
9 Dark Bellied Brent Geese completed the morning.

From here I headed round to Leigh on Sea to view the Brent’s all at roost in one massive flock, difficult to gauge numbers but there must have been at least 1400 birds, quite a spectacle, thoughts immediately turned to Norfolk and Pink Feet, I will have to go soon.
It was while I was watching from the bridge that the whole lot lifted up, it stopped everyone on the bridge as the sight of them and the noise was incredible.

Quite a sight

A great end to the morning.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Ingrebourne Valley

The morning after….

The kebab was, as usual brilliant the night before, as it always does it rounds off the end of the monthly Birders drink up the Railway; as usual I was walking down to the Valley at dawn putting myself through the usual pain caused by liquid refreshment.
Why I do it I don’t know, why not just lay in on the Saturday and not set the alarm the night before for 5.00am, instead I am thinking Ring Ouzels and Black Tailed Godwits and then questioning if I am right in the head. That’s birding, there is always a ‘good un’ round the corner, the phrase ‘no pain no gain’ is very apt.

As I walked down past St. Georges Wood virtually the first birds seen were 2 Common Buzzards, I suspect they were roosting nearby, these promptly headed over to the Farm Trail, a good start to the morning.

2 Common Buzzzards with the usual attendants

Pressing on showed the whole Valley flooded, certainly the most I have ever seen it flooded, consequently it was alive with waterfowl, Canada Geese numbered 278 with 35 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall and 31 Teal in the mix as well.2 Snipe and a Kingfisher were also seen.

A couple of Snipe on the flooding

Looking towards the Bridge

It was also apparent that there was also good numbers of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff around, the final total for each of these was 8 and 11, good counts.
House Martins were absolutely everywhere over the flooded marsh and a conservative count made as it got warmer showed a minimum of 220 birds spread right along the Valley.

I decided to walk the Farm Trail after earlier spotting a few groups of distant Finches , en route I had 4 Redpoll species over calling, most likely Lessers but who knows?, it’s been a few years since we had a Mealy.
As I started down the Trail towards the game crop it was evident that there was quite a lot of activity with large numbers of Corvids out on the fields, I easily reached 26 Jackdaw amongst the Crows, very likely more present.
Several Yellowhammers were seen which is always a pleasure, some even seemed to still be paired as male and females were still bonded. Good numbers of Skylark were present and the finch flock numbered around 50+ mostly Reed Buntings and Chaffinches but also Meadow Pipits mixed in as well.

With colder weather the game crop will again become a Finch and Bunting magnet, hopefully it will pull in some Brambling also.
A good walk was rounded off by a distant Common Buzzard, likely one of the birds seen in the morning and 2 very confiding Goldcrest, the bloke with the hammer in my head had left so not a bad day after all.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Barking Bay

October 2nd

My first visit since mid-August, not ideal for photography with grey 100% cloud cover but none the less as I walked on site there looked to be some movement with an early showing of Meadow Pipits heading across the river south.
I decided to give the scrub a good bash and try and cover as much ground as possible, I had Ring Ouzel in mind after last year and hopefully Stonechat, a rarity on the site now, a few years back I remember 6 of them in the scrub.

All in all though it turned out a good morning, no rarities but I did have a single Corn Bunting along the Riverside scrub and adding to this 2 calling Tree Pipits mixed in with the Meadows going south.

Other highlights were

Yellow wagtail – 1 over calling
Redpoll sp – 2 calling overhead
Grey Wagtail – 3
Meadow Pipit – a minimum of 41 crossing to Crossness with another 80 on site
Lesser Whitethroat – 1
Jay – 6 south
Linnet – 110 building up nicely
Skylark – 14
Redshank – 112
Shelduck – 94
Black Tailed Godwit – 1

The highlight of the morning however was a Seal, I at first thought it was a Grey but now not so sure, possibly Common.
Whatever species it was it had caught a very large fish, likely Bass or Mullett, anglers out there may know from the shape of the tail, photos are grey and distant but watching it for half an hour while it tried to eat the fish was quite entertaining.

Crap photos and heavily cropped but the fish is viewable

Trying to swallow it

Gulls as usual were giving it a hard time every time it surfaced but after eating the big un, it carried on fishing and then caught a Flattie, I wondered if it only eats the choice bits of the fish and discards the rest.

Afters was a flattie

On one of the photos this seems a contradiction as it looks as if the whole fish is going down head first, anyway it is good to see him or her this far up the river, and it also seems very healthy fish wise.