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Friday 30 November 2012


November 30th

Occasionally I get the weather right, such a morning was Friday, I always look at the forecasts the night before as do many others, this morning I have to say they were spot on.
Bright unbroken sunshine at one of my favourite places, Harty Lane gave me the chance to view and photograph some Raptors hopefully, as usual it didn’t disappoint.

Arriving in semi darkness I awaited the sunrise, I had checked the lane as I drove down for Short Eared or Barn Owl, it turned out neither were seen, talking with another birder later it appears no Short Ears have been seen down the Lane this winter.

A good start to the morning was a distant Peregrine, looked good for a Tiercel and as the sun really showed I started to see Marsh Harriers, one of the birds I wanted to photograph.
I decided that I was going to stay put in one position by the reed bed, in 3 hours I managed a few half decent shots of a variety of species.

After a while I met up with Paul Whiteman and the following was recorded by me or Paul.

Marsh Harrier – well into double figures
Peregrine – Tiercel
Kestrel – 1
Common Buzzard – 1 possibly 2 very pale birds
Merlin – 1
Hen Harrier – 1 Ringtail
Bearded Tit – 3 pinging away
Cetti’s Warbler – 1
Green Sandpiper – 2
Snipe – 9
Bittern – 1 flew out from the reed bed
Redpoll sp - 4 over
Fieldfare – lots!

The pale Buzzard was very interesting, some aspects look very good for a juvenile Rough Legged, the obvious paleness and the streaking but I think it is a Common, it is certainly a strikingly looking Common. I can see why this bird, if the same one, has been mistaken for the Rough Legged. Paul also picked out another one distantly which was again a Buzzard, with a very pale head, other than that it was too far to get anything else on.

Very pale, no white tail or tail band as far I could see

We moved on from Harty for the last hour and headed for Warden Point to scan the sea, nothing much moving other than a dozen or so Red Throated Divers, a few Great Crested Grebes sitting on the sea and a group of very distant birds that were likely Merg’s.

A good end to the morning, I never got my hoped for Male Hen Harrier but the Bittern was a good substitute.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Ingrebourne Valley - Flooded and the Site List

November 27th

I visited this morning; at last the rain had stopped after the overnight deluge, good to stretch the legs despite the grey skies.
On arrival I found the whole Valley flooded, being a flood plain it has happened before, but certainly not this much, this was the highest I have ever seen it.
All of St. George’s lower area was under water as was the whole of the viewing area, from the black bridge you could not access Berwick, I tried but too deep.
As I had no choice to stay on the Country Park side I checked along the fringe of the marsh, birds seen included 2 Bullfinch, 14 Redwing, 33 Teal, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 5 Water Rail, 4 Cetti’s Warblers, a Kingfisher and a Common Buzzard seen distantly over the Farm Track.
From what I see on the news we are lucky with the flooding, sadly some people have lost their homes to it, and some their lives.

The path as you go round to St.Georges

Looking south towards the black bridge

Viewing are - St.Georges in the distance

The cattle gate, I understand the fence was cut to let them out, they are now on the farmers field eating the crop.

Looking towards the viewing area from the black bridge

The path leading up towards Berwick - unpassable

Site List

Last month an idea, which has been long overdue, was hatched up over a few pints at the October Birders drink, to get a site list together for the Ingrebourne Valley.
The idea being to log it in with the new blog at being a new blog you have to have a site list, myself and Sam Shippey undertook the task, he knows the Valley of old.
My Essex Bird Reports only go back to 1990, so I have been hitting from 1990 to date, Sam has the full selection going right back to the 50’s, that era should make for some interesting records.

It is basically just going through every Essex Bird Report that there is, checking each species, logging all the rarities and your commoner birds to give you a site total, also checking to see how many have occurred.
It is an enjoyable task as you suddenly recall past “goodies” which have long been lying dormant in a section of your memory, in my case forgotten, my memory is not what it used to be.Les has had some really good birds, Red Necked Grebe, Pectoral Sandpiper both wild Swans to say the least, Shaun has had 2 Ospreys over and Penduline Tit in the marsh. Not to forget there were 2 records of Temminck’s Stint so all in all a cracking set of records for an inland site.

It also shows you how it has all changed, Sam recently dug up a 1960’s record of 200 Tree Sparrows in the Valley, staggering seeing the fortunes of the bird nowadays.
Another thing to remember is that the Valley used to be far bigger, there was no Optomist Pub and Housing Estate, the Valley years ago entered parts of Upminster. Consequently Sam is checking where the records are occurring that far back in the older Reports.

As it stands at the moment, without Sam’s records we are on 190, looking at what has occurred in the past and what additions are possible gets you thinking, what new birds will be next?
Now we have a Reservoir, Scaup and Slavonian Grebe are a good bet in the colder weather and Glossy Ibis or perhaps a rarer Heron for the Marsh.
Being a big site with tons of cover, most of which is not accessible, small stuff very likely gets overlooked; it’s high time we had a Wryneck, Hoopoe or a Red Backed Shrike.
Here’s hoping.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Barking Outfall

Sunday November 18th

What a morning, a perfect sunrise over the Outfall and from then on blue skies, cold but you can’t beat winter birding can you, this is when the Outfall and the river comes to life.

The Outfall in all its glory

I decided to try and walk much of the Creek as possible along with covering the Outfall; I had in mind the Reed Bed where I saw a male Bearded Tit a while back. The path along the Creek will soon be open to the public as part of the Thames corridor; hopefully a new hide will be erected to replace the old one that was dismantled.
Plenty of early morning birds around with Redpoll and Siskin over, a single Cetti’s alarm calling along the Creek and there were also 3 Chiffchaff, these were mixed in loosely with a Tit flock that also contained 4 Goldcrest. The sewage works every year attract good numbers of Chiffchaff to the site; I seem to pick them up all over the site so I expect the numbers are far higher for wintering birds.
A very posy Grey Wagtail was also seen.

I eventually headed back to the Outfall, no luck with the Beardies, they are highly mobile so not surprising.
At the Outfall Duck numbers are up, 412 Teal including those down the Creek, and at least 22 Shoveler fresh in, the Drakes looking real smart now having completed their eclipse.
On the wader front 12 Black Tailed Godwits headed up river, no doubt to Gary and Nick’s patch at Gallions Reach, there was a single Common Sandpiper and the Redshank flock totalled 143.
3 Rock Pipits were a good number for the Outfall and across the river 5 Great Crested Grebes were in their usual wintering section of the river.

A good morning, no additions to the list, still on 100, perhaps 105 will be attainable for the year list.

The Gull breeding  and Redshank Roost Jetty

In regard to Boris’s latest move (see last blog entry) above are photos showing the area that will be directly affected and lost if his proposal goes through. I know the Environment Agency and the London Wildlife Trust are aware of this, hopefully a concerted effort will derail him until he thinks up his next mind blower.
To the right of the Gull breeding and Redshank roost Jetty is a section of Pillars, many of these support breeding Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls, additionally a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls bred on the Jetty this year, all of this will have to go.
The mudflats in winter support up to 200 Redshank and a similar number of Black Tailed Godwits, it is a favoured foraging area for both species, there is no way for the mud flats to remain with a deep water ferry proposed.Disturbance alone will be a big issue.
Hopefully the organizations can stop him.

Friday 16 November 2012

Inner Thames Boat Survey

November 12th

As some may be aware surveys have been carried out for the last couple of years along the Inner Thames, namely the LNHS boundary, 20 miles from St.Pauls which finishes at Northfleet.
A majority of the surveys have been land based and carried out by a good few friends of mine who gave up their spare time to help. The idea is to check each Jetty/Structure at high tide and record waders and wildfowl numbers; it usually takes about 10 to 12 people to cover around a similar amount of Jetties. Similar to WeBS but this is based on the Inner Thames and manmade structures.
The results have been good and over the last year or so the London Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have come on board, the idea being to now try and safeguard each Jetty/Structure for the future.
If a Jetty comes under threat/disturbance we can hopefully stop it or at the least identify alternative roost jetties, or some mitigation can be put in place to safeguard roosting waders. In cold weather you don’t want them flying out of the river burning up precious energy.

Last year the Environment Agency very kindly supplied a boat skippered by Tom Cousins and Dave Bartlett, the main aim of the Survey being to photograph each structure from the river, unfortunately last year the weather was foggy to say the least.

Dave and the boat we used for the survey

On Monday I again got a chance to repeat the survey with Tom and Dave and also Tony Wileman from the London Wildlife Trust, the idea again being to photograph the waders on the structures for reference, unfortunately the weather was again poor with overcast grey skies followed by rain.
However the survey went well and good counts were made along the river, just about decent enough light for photos so can’t complain.
Results showed that Redshank numbers are stable comparing figures to last year; Black Tailed Godwit and Dunlin are not present as yet in the numbers of this time last year in the Thames. Lapwing numbers were slightly lower, but this could well be an oversight as many of the Jetties are unviewable, you can only see perimeter birds.

Crossness River Wall Roost

Crossways Roost - mainly Redshank

Erith Roost

We went right up to Tilbury Docks checking the Kent side on the way up and Essex on the way down, your racing the tide, great fun going from roost to roost at 30 odd knots, grab a few photos and off to the next one.

Tilbury Docks - unfortunately empty but once a large Roost

One of the highlights was seeing HMS Middleton coming out of the river; I believe she may have been moored up to HMS Belfast.

HMS Middleton

We may well see all the data that has been collected on the roosts come into play soon as Boris’s latest proposal has identified a Car Ferry for Gallion’s Reach at Beckton.This site probably holds the largest colony in London of breeding Lesser and Herring Gulls and up to 200 roosting Redshank on the Jetty in winter. On top of this the mudflats in winter support large numbers of Redshank, Black Tailed Godwit and Teal, with a deep water Ferry the mud flats will obviously go.

For the full story go to

Thursday 8 November 2012

Southend Way

November 5th

I fancied a bit of photography so headed down towards Southend, my first port of call was Two Tree Island; the weather was ideal, sunshine for a change.
With a low tide there were hardly any waders out by the hide other than 4 Redshank, good numbers though of Teal and Wigeon with 15 Dark Bellied Brent’s feeding out on the mud of the Creek.
A very distant Common Buzzard was also seen.

From here I decided to go out on the Pier, it has recently changed with a facelift, a very large futuristic building on the end now, not sure as yet what to make of it
With bright weather and the tide coming in slowly I was not expecting much on the Estuary, the highlights being 7 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Kittiwakes and 3 Common Scoter, I had come to try and photograph some of the Mediterranean Gulls.
They are not yet present in numbers it seems, I recorded 7 at the usual staging point, a 1st winter, 2nd winter and 5 adults, however scanning the Estuary produced a number of others moving up and down.

More posy than Sanderlings

Only 1 bird was ringed, the ring just about readable, it will be interesting to see if this is a regular.
In sun and cloud I was experimenting with different settings, I am not a ‘natural’ when it comes to gadgets and gizmos on the camera, ask Jono, but am slowly getting there. The trouble is that I am getting more and more critical of my photos, I know that many are over or under exposed as I either allowed too much or didn’t give it enough. It makes the old brain work though so not a bad thing at my age.
From here I headed back down the pier by train and made for the beach, the tide was more or less in, I was hoping for some Sanderling shots, as before they never disappoint although I couldn’t find a big flock.
Locating a group of around 30 so I decided to just sit on a concrete pillar and wait, in the end the tide pushed them right up to me, being the approachable little chaps that they are, they ignored me and just carried on feeding.

Fired off over 200 shots to end an enjoyable morning.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Ingrebourne Valley

November 3rd - Redpolls

A rather overcast morning as I walked down to the Valley, I decided to change the usual route and walk the Farm Trail first in the hope of a Brambling mixed in with the Chaffinch flock. The game crop provides a good source of food and cover, Reed Buntings were hovering around the 20 mark with a similar number of Chaffinch, 8 Yellowhammers were the highlights. No Brambling but I did have a flock of 37 Fieldfare over.

I also had in my head that the Bittern has probably arrived at Berwick and was making my way there but got side tracked by a mixed flock of Redpolls/Goldfinch in Berwick Glades, it was here I stayed as I tried to get a few photos. The light was bad and the photos that I did get were just about passable, I decided in the end that all were Lessers with one rather pale and well-marked individual getting me at it for a while. The bird even looked larger so remain undecided on that one, need better light and views, lots of variation amongst them though.

Pale and well marked individual, definately larger - possible Mealy?

A few Siskins were mixed in with them also; these even provided a patch year tick along with a flyby Rook amongst the many passing Jackdaws.
2 calling Golden Plovers high up overhead were the first of the winter.
One bird that was once a regular here every winter was Stonechat, they have been more or less absent since the bad winter a few years back, it is one that I look for every time, in previous winters there have been up to 6 birds on Ingrebourne Hill. I am starting to see them at Rainham again so hopefully they are on the upturn although there are still none at Barking Bay.

Heading back towards the black bridge showed the water levels still very high with the viewing area still holding a lot of water, as I write this on Sunday it is pouring down so no doubt by now it has burst its banks again.

Only a few Teal were in the viewing area and little else to finish the morning off.

Friday 2 November 2012

Rainham RSPB

November 2nd

A rather cold morning as I walked down the river wall, 6 degrees had been showing in the car but not too overcast as the sun came up, it looked promising weather wise.
60 Black Tailed Godwits flying up river and around a 100 Golden Plover on the mud was a good start as I walked towards Aveley Bay.A single Water Pipit was seen intermingling with 3 Rock Pipits and the Bay provided a Ruddy/Shelduck hybrid along with a Curlew. I thought this was the same hybrid that frequents the Crossness/Barking Bay area but markings are different.

Looking west, the Shard can be seen around 14 miles away

Hybrid and Curlew

I was rather hoping, along with others, that the Glossy Ibis would make a return, I was lucky 2nd time around a few weeks back with 2 distant sightings from the Serin mound, a London tick but would have obviously liked better and closer views.

I scanned all the Geese on the reserve in the hope of a Pinkie or a Whitefront amongst the hordes of Canada’s and Greylag’s, no luck but did pick up the resident Marsh Harrier, good to see the upturn of this raptor.A few years back it was considered a rare bird in London, now for a year tick and with a bit of patience you can more or less guarantee it at Rainham, not just 1 either, there have been up to 3 present recently.

4 Pintail were present on the Target Pools amongst many Wigeon, Shoveler,Lapwing and around 50 Golden Plover, I gave it 15 minutes looking all over just in case the Ibis had slipped back, nothing materialised so made my way to the Pools.This seemed to be holding more water and Pochard and Tufted were in evidence along a few Wigeon, most of the wildfowl seemed to be on the Targets.

I did find 8 Snipe sitting on one of the island but other than this no other waders seemed present, a pair of Stonechats provided some work for the camera.
Making my way to the centre and a Common Buzzard showed being harassed as usual, I managed a few distant shots to end the morning.