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Wednesday 27 February 2013

Southend Sanderling

I have just received the report back from Jeroen Reneerkens in Greenland regarding the Sanderling seen in Southend from the previous post.
It turns out that it is the same bird that I saw back in the previous winter, so definately a Southend regular.
Howard also saw the bird quite recently, it has come from North East Greenland to winter in the UK,it will hopefully turn up next winter as well.Worth having a look at the larger flock down in the Thorpe Bay area for more individuals also.

Recent History ( click on to enlarge as writing is quite small )

Thursday 21 February 2013


February 21st 

After a hearty breakfast at Westcliffe my wife Chris headed for the shops and I went to the Pier, cold it was bloody freezing but I was optimistic as a good easterly was blowing. When I arrived at the end by train it was deserted, not surprising as it was even colder being more exposed.
I stayed out there for a good 1 ½ hours and didn’t record one Red Throated Diver, no Auks or even Scoter, 3 Great Crested Grebes were the only birds seen other than Gulls sitting on the sea.

Mediterranean Gulls were evident with a total of 7 seen, an adult, 2nd winter and 5 1st winters; the Pier is the best place I know to photograph them, just a pity that the light was abysmal.
Other than the Meds a Common Seal was very inquisitive and one of the Grebes caught a fish which was just too big to swallow, and as ever Turnstones provided work for the camera, they are a cracking little bird.

Rather surprising given the easterly that I did not record any movement either way, I would have expected some Red Throats given that I was watching them at Leysdown over the weekend. 
I did get onto a Gull that had me flummoxed, bigger than a Common Gull but seemingly too small for a Herring Gull, likely just a very small Herring; Gulls are not my thing apart from Meds which are rather special.
Leaving the Pier I headed back to Land and came across some showy Sanderling including a colour ringed bird, I suspect it’s one from Greenland and will get in touch with them to try and find out its history.
9 Dark Bellied Brent Geese were also near the Sanderlings so these gave more photo opportunities.

Colour ringed bird

I met Chris and we then headed to Gunners Park to have a look at the long staying Long Tailed Duck, this we found out in the middle of the small lake, the light was not good, I wouldn’t mind coming back in sunshine, a superb looking bird.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Hoo Peninsula and Sheppy Cranes

February 16th

We started the morning off with a survey out on our usual area of land, near Cooling out on the Hoo Peninsula, the morning although overcast was windless and looked promising.
2 singing Corn Buntings just before we entered was a good start, even better was a male Merlin and a Common Buzzard on the entrance track as we drove out.

Ever watchful - male Merlin

As we started the 2 Barnacle Geese were located amongst the hordes of Greylag but we could not locate any White Fronted Geese throughout the surveys, Skylarks were up singing and Wigeon numbers had gone through the roof. 
This was born out on my section of the Thames that I cover, the Wigeon numbers were way above the norm for my section and way above last week’s counts.

Wader numbers were up high as well, in particular Black Tailed Godwit, they don’t usually grace my area of Blyth Sands, I have had them but nowhere near today’s numbers which were in 4 figures.
On the Raptor front it was obvious right from the start that there had been a clear out of Marsh Harriers, I only saw 2 and Paul recorded one, I suspect many had moved to their breeding grounds with the milder weather. A female Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel were the only other birds of prey.

Spring is starting to show signs at long last, male Reed Buntings singing, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and even a displaying Lapwing, puts a smile on your face.

Isle of Sheppy 

When we finished we headed straight for Harty Lane, drove down towards the Raptor Watchpoint and with impeccable timing the 7 Common Cranes staged a fly by.

The skies were not great for photography but these were what we had really come to see, we were very very fortunate, although not close views they did land and posed well before a Gas Gun put all up. 


From this they flew further out and were lost to view and that was the last we saw of them. 

The Raptor Watchpoint delivered at least 3 Common Buzzards, good numbers of Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and 2 Ring Tailed Hen Harriers, other goodies were 25 Corn Bunting, 2 Stonechat and 35 odd flyby White Fronted Geese.

Pressing on we headed to Leysdown, walking out to the end gave good numbers of Sanderling, 20+ Red Throated Diver and many Wigeon as we approached the off limits area.
Scoping also showed 200 odd White Fronted Geese sitting out the rising tide and in amongst them were 10 or more Barnacle Geese.
The last part of the day was spent watching and photographing waders, always enjoyable, also seen were around 300 Dark Bellied Brents flushed from a field.

The walk back to the car gave us distant views of a Merlin preening, a good end to the day. 

Thursday 14 February 2013

Dagenham Riverside Roost

February 13th

With the wind coming round to a pretty strong south easterly, I was not expecting the jetty to be as full as it usually is, with a temperature of 2 above it felt a lot colder.
Rather surprisingly there were a good number of birds present; I expect the Lions share would be on the wall at Crossness tucked up out of the wind.
As it stood, they were all very flighty, this is normal but a passing peregrine kept many on their toes with a couple of low level passes.

Bird of the afternoon went to a Bar Tailed Godwit seen going down river with 7 Black Tailed Godwit, I expect making for the Stone Barges or Rainham RSPB.This year Black Tailed Godwit numbers in this winter period are low and way down, normal wintering numbers for the last 3 winters have been far higher. For some reason they are not coming down the Thames even allowing for cold weather movement, the numbers are present at Cliffe RSPB, at the moment we are at least 50% down on normal winter figures.It does make you look for reasons, bad breeding season, do the low numbers correspond elsewhere and so on?
Hopefully it is just a one off and we will return to the normal numbers next winter of around the 500 mark.
16 Curlew, 212 Lapwing and 155 Redshank made up the rest of the waders and 91 Teal and 40 Shelduck completed the Wildfowl.

The old Fords Jetty much like the Crossness River wall roost over on the Kent side probably rate as the largest roosts within the Inner Thames, the only other roosts that are comparable would be West Thurrock, all are extremely important to wintering waders and wildfowl.

The usual Black Tailed Godwit numbers

Both Crossness and the Fords roost are connected and relatively close to each other, if the wind is light, Crossness shades it especially with Dunlin numbers. If however the wind say is a strong northerly, the waders and wildfowl will make for Fords, vice versa for a strong southerly, they will go to Crossness.Unusually today though they were still present in respectable numbers.
Hopefully all will remain for the future, they are vital roosts.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Alpha Pools and the Hoo Peninsula

February 9th 

We again opted for a visit to the Alpha Pools prior to starting the survey at 9.50am, a bit of a fresh walk out but well worth it in the quality of the birds present.

The only disappointment was that they were mostly at the far end of the lake but Paul found some goodies amongst them.
First up was a Black Necked Grebe followed by one of the 2 Long Tailed Ducks that are present, after this a Slavonian Grebe was located followed by 2 female Scaup. No doubt due to the number of birds present , the size of the lake, there could well be more goodies lurking, very likely more Scaup.

The Lesser Scaup hybrid was also seen along with a single Little Stint, despite a good search we could not locate the 2nd bird that we saw in January, all in all a great start to the morning, we moved on….

Hoo Peninsula 

The drive out along the track was quite productive with 3 Common Buzzards seen along with a single Marsh Harrier, we also saw 6 Ruff mixed in with the Lapwing, I later saw these bunched and climbing obviously evading a bird of prey. With the flock bunched like this I estimated there number to be around 1400 birds, quite a sight.

The highlight of the survey however was 35 White Fronted Geese along with 2 Barnacles mixed in with them and about 250 Greylag Geese.

White Fronts in with Greylags

Barnacle Geese

5 White fronts about to head upriver

These very obligingly flew to my left later and landed on the river, managed to get a few shots of them along with 5 White Fronts that broke off and headed up river. 

500+ Starlings also attracted the attentions of firstly a female Merlin and then a male Peregrine, both came away empty handed.

The Tiercel peregrine I expect I had seen earlier closely watching a flock of Wigeon on a fleet, smart birds, they stayed put despite usually flushing at the sight of me.

Wigeon sitting tight, peregrine watching from the fence

Presumably the same peregrine later

A good survey, Wigeon numbers were again high, we are here again next Saturday hopefully more goodies, last year’s Rough legged Buzzard wouldn’t go a miss. 

Waxwings seen the previous day at Littlebrook

Friday 8 February 2013

Essex Surveying and a Slav

February 8th 

Although cold this morning (0 degrees) when I started this morning’s survey it was very bright with little wind, this reflected in the birds present, many including Skylarks were up singing.
Most of the water bodies were frozen with only the odd fast flowing dyke open, consequently no Waterfowl and rather surprisingly not a Lapwing seen either.

A very welcome sight was 31 Corn Buntings ground feeding amongst a small of Skylarks, this if my memory serves me correctly is the biggest flock I have had in the area.

On the Raptor front a Marsh Harrier was seen to head over to Kent mobbed by a number of the bigger Gulls, before this it gave pretty good views. Both Barn and Short Eared Owl were again seen but rather distantly, a male Sparrowhawk and 3 Kestrels completed a good morning for birds of prey.

Off to Kent on Saturday morning for another survey on the Hoo Peninsula, beforehand we are going to pop into Cliffe, Long Tailed Ducks hopefully. 

Slavonian Grebe 

I have planned quite a few times to go and see the Grebe near Littlebrook but there has never been time, of late Peregrines, nestboxes and substrate changes have kept me busy. After the survey today an opportunity arose and myself, Paul and Shaun went there to see the bird. I had heard from my mates how approachable the bird is; quite simply you hardly even have to move, sit down and it will swim pass you, close as well.

Below are a few shots taken, the trouble is you just can’t stop pressing the button, it is so confiding and at times too close, it is that good.

We lost the light to some grey skies but can’t complain, how can you looking at this little cracker below. 

Monday 4 February 2013

Ingrebourne Valley

Woodcock hunting 

At the moment the year list for the Valley is on 69, barring a possible Yellow Legged Gull it may well soon hit 70, one bird that I thought may well push it up was Woodcock.
With a good number having been seen recently, Les had 4 in one day, I dropped into the Valley mid-morning on Saturday.
Like any site there are particular species ‘ hotspots ‘ the latest one seems to be Berwick Glades for Woodcock, I left that till last and firstly did the Reservoir. The same Gull, be it Herring or Yellow Legged was again on the Reservoir, it has been present over a few weeks now, have a look at photos below, to me it looks good for Yellow Legged if both are the same bird. 7 Wigeon were also on the Reservoir and I had a brief view of the Ross’s Goose as it left for the top paddock with a good number of Greylags.

Seen on Jan 15th

Dark mantle

In flight showing Yellow Legs

Seen on Feb 2nd - possibly the same bird

In flight legs look Yellow

After the Res I started searching every copse, along the way I came across 30 Siskin preening and sub singing in a Hawthorn, the adjoining Alders had probably pulled them in, the light at the time was awful. 

I also came across a couple of trees in a small section of woodland that had been freshly gnawed with the bark eaten, I have never seen or come across sign of a Muntjac in the Valley, but other than Roe Deer it is the only animal I think it can be. Roe Deer I would not expect around our way either.

Muntjac or Roe Deer?

I eventually came to the Glades, picking up a good size flock of Lesser Redpoll along the way, easily 40 birds and loosely associating with them was around 20 Yellowhammers, as mentioned above not good for photos so images are poor. 

Male Siskin poor photo

Mostly Lesser Redpolls


I would like to say that after walking most of the Glades for an hour, I was dripping in Woodcock, but unfortunately not one, it looked absolutely ideal for them I must say, so I think the exercise will likely be repeated this weekend. 

A good walk, notable absentees from the list so far are Sparrowhawk, Little Egret and Bullfinch, you are now more than likely to see Common Buzzard rather than Sparrowhawk over the Valley, good to see the fortunes changing of this larger Raptor, it went on the list on the first visit of the year.