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Sunday 29 September 2013

Rainham RSPB

 September 27th

I had seen the evening before that Cliff had some Skua and Tern passage up the river late afternoon, my reasoning then was that the following morning on a falling tide, one or 2 birds might have made it up to Rainham.Being more or less easterlies I was there at dawn and gave it an hour or so before I went into the Reserve, wrong tide really but you never know if something has drifted in or flown up with the tide in the darkness.

Good for a pelagic

I managed to see 1 Common Tern and that was it, so much for theories, in the meantime I checked the rest of the river on what little mud there was showing, this produced a Curlew, a flyover Green Sandpiper, 43 Ring Necked Parakeets over and 10 Dunlin.
After this I headed into the Reserve, 2 Marsh Harriers were seen before I hit the Pools and a distant blob on one of the pylons turned out to be a juvenile peregrine, looked good for a female by size. I know where it was likely from but too far to see if it was one of the local ringed birds, good to see it.

Arriving at the pools showed that Pintail have now increased to 11; good numbers of Snipe are starting to show and pleased to see that the Spotted Redshank is still present. If it stays it will have no chance next week, I will be at 420mm.

It’s a pity there is still too much water in the pools, there’s very little mud on show to bring in migrant/ resident waders and I would have thought by now with all the work that has been done that water levels can be controlled.
I remember the Old Silt Lagoons when they held water; the balance was always good with lots of mud on show. The numbers of Wildfowl and Waders that were present was quite staggering at times, waders in particular, I can still recall walking up on the Lagoon and finding 10 Little Stints, a Curlew Sandpiper and a Pectoral Sandpiper on the mud. Migrant Green Sandpipers roosted there in their 20’s on a small island at the end and at least 2 or 3 Temminck's Stints were found amongst the many Snipe that were regular.
Sadly though the water was let out and they dried up, it seems they are no longer pumped into from the Thames either, one day hopefully they can be restored to their former glory, if I remember correctly as well this was where the Western Sandpiper was found.


The remainder of my walk produced 7 Chiffchaffs and a female Blackcap in the Cordite, with the Yellow Browed Warbler influx the Cordite might be a good bet for one.

Finished off with a Coffee and headed for home.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Thorpe Bay

September 25th

I made a fleeting visit down which is now becoming an annual event, to see if the Sanderling have arrived to winter, the tide was still out but was rising fast. On arrival I walked out on the mud amongst the Boats and searched for the Sanderling keeping a wary eye on the tide, it is surprising how fast it rises. Presently I located a good flock frantically feeding before the tide covered all so I moved back to the beach and awaited their arrival.


Mainly Ringed Plovers

On the way back there was no less than 22 Mediterranean Gulls resting in a variety of pools, these ranged from juveniles to adults, the full range of ages.
I had in mind to try and get a few photos of the Sanderling, not ideal weather(grey skies) but can’t expect too much now we are going Autumn, I also kept an eye out for Purple Sandpiper, a bit early but they do appear in the Turnstone roosts in the winter on the Pier.
In the end I only waited around 15 minutes and all came up on the sand/shingle to roost, I counted 139 Sanderling and 53 Ringed Plovers, with people walking up and down the beach they are pretty mobile but are obviously used to it.

Still shooting at 300mm F4, the 1.4 Converter arrives Monday or Tuesday, must say I miss the reach of my old Sigma 400mm so looking forward to trying the converter out. Imagine, 420mm at F5.6, nothing will be safe Jono.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

High Tide

Some of you may know that a few years back I started surveying High Tide Roosts within the Inner Thames, basically from Tilbury up to East India Dock Basin, the idea being to try and get them recognised as a habitat and there after safeguarded.
With the assistance of a lot of my mates and friends, without their help this project wouldn’t have got off the ground, land based surveys were undertaken twice in the winter period. The results that were forthcoming showed how important the Inner Thames is to wintering waders and wildfowl.

After this, the London Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency and with help from the Port of London Authority it progressed, roosts were logged and mapped all along the Thames. All are now listed with GIGL and will be flagged up if any come under the threat of development or demolition.
Of course this will not safeguard them entirely, say if it is a working Jetty/Structure, but the idea is that there will always be another roost to turn to, or at the least some mitigation if threatened.

Grey Plover roosting at Beckton

Barking Bay Redshank roost

The last thing you need for wintering waders in cold weather is for them to be expending valuable energy flying round looking for roost sites; sometimes it can mean the difference literally between life and death for older or weak birds.
Many of the Structures/Jetties are derelict, there are 15 recognised roosts from Tilbury to E.I.D.B, many of the roosts are also weather dependant if a strong cold wind is blowing. An example is Crossness and Fords, Dagenham, if a cold wind is coming from the North the majority will go to Fords on the Essex side, vice versa for a south wind, both sites offer cover out of the wind.

The Fords roost

Another idea is trying to make use of the small Dolphin Jetties, if you are not aware of these, they are the small Jetties either side of a main jetty which the ships use to moor up to, they are not accessed and only the rope is pulled up. Consequently they make an ideal nesting platform for Common Terns, especially the one at Barking Bay, this colony numbers around 28 pairs. With Common Terns not breeding in the Capital as well as they used to, Dolphins make an ideal substitute for a raft, they are also pretty small, consequently they can be defended easier. Derelict ones can, with a little work be transformed into the perfect platform – haunch board on the perimeter, shingled out, bits of large rope and small logs added here and there for cover, they are ideal. Added to this Oystercatchers have started to go in with the Terns at Barking Bay and thus gain protection by the Terns, it works as well, a pair have been successful for the last 3 years.

Dolphin Jetty at Barking


Oystercatcher breeding success is not good in the Inner Thames and many eggs/young are predated by Crows and the larger Gulls unfortunately, more Tern colonies more success.

Hopefully the upcoming meeting in October with the Thames Estuary Partnership will be a step in the right direction.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Rainham RSPB

September 20th

My idea was to head over there early as the forecast had showed sunny skies, what I didn’t realise that this was promised later in the morning, I had in mind to try and get a few shots of the 2 Spotted Redshank that have been frequenting the pool by the northern board walk. Needless to say early on it was grey skies and full cloud and… I couldn’t find the Spot Reds, Sod’ Law.

Previous to this I walked my usual circuit along the sea wall, this was pretty productive with 44 Ringed Plover seen, 32 on the Kent side and there were 12 in Aveley Bay, the Bay also held 2 Black Tailed Godwits and 4 Yellow Legged Gulls. As I entered the Reserve I had another 2 Blackwits flying upriver and shortly after a calling Golden Plover overhead. It was quite obvious there was also some Meadow Pipit movement, all going west and I ended up with 50 odd by the time I reached the shooting butts reed bed.

High tide waste - so much plastic

Found in the porch in the morning, around 40mm long, would welcome any thoughts on it's ID

2 Bearded Tits were heard calling here and despite a 20 minute vigil I never even saw one, the walk from here to the Pools was pretty uneventful despite a good look, not even a Peregrine on any of the pylons. It seems that since the Tiercel was killed in a collision with a fence the female has disappeared, hopefully she will reappear in the winter period.

As I said above no Spotted Redshank on the Pools, I later heard that they had been seen, but there were now 5 Pintail showing, winter is coming.
Cetti’s as usual were everywhere and I noticed they have now cut rides into the reeds, looks good for a Spotted Crake and I would imagine a good place to get some good Water Rail shots, I intend to try it next week.

Best birds of the day however went to 2 1st summer Hobbies bombing round the Cordite area and very approachable, one in particular was trying to pick off small birds flying from tree to tree, most likely Chiffchaffs, I counted at least 7 contact calling.

I am hoping that the Hobbies will stay into next week and we have some early morning sunshine, the poor photos I took don’t really do them justice, they are quite stunning close up.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Cliffe RSPB

September 19th

Prior to visiting a peregrine site I firstly dropped into Cliffe to see if any waders were on show, the time was around 8.00am.High tide was forecast later in the morning so I was not expecting many of the ‘ Thames’ roosting waders, Black Tailed Godwit, Avocet etc…
As it turned out it wasn’t a bad morning with a good assortment of waders and I stayed longer than I intended, the highlight in waders I expect would be a single Spotted Redshank and 10 Ruff.

 The Spotted Redshank was on the main pool where most roost and the Ruff were on the end Pool viewed from the raised mound.
Other waders included 6 Greenshank, 100 +Lapwing, 4 Green Sandpiper, 5 Snipe, 2 Curlew, Grey Plover, Bar Tailed Godwit and 200 odd Black Tailed Godwits.
As I stayed until 10.30am I saw the Blackwits piling in to roost, unusually, although it is still early I didn’t see any Avocet.

Other birds of interest seen were 2 Common Buzzards, a Marsh Harrier, around 70 Wigeon and a female Sparrowhawk.
A very distant Falcon bunching a Starling flock up could well have been a Merlin as it looked a little on the small side, too far to id though.
Hirundines were well represented with a flock of 80 odd, the majority being House Martins with just a few Sand Martins mixed in.
No photos unfortunately, nearly all were out of camera range.

Monday 16 September 2013

Red Backed Shrike again.....

Out with the Lark this morning and yes, back to West Canvey Marsh, with a sunny morning forecast, and it was, I headed back down for another go at the Shrike.

It eventually showed straight from roost in the dense set of bushes around 7.20am and then fed on various insects for the next hour, mostly craneflies and beetles. During this time I fired off quite a few shots, experimented and changed settings, from A Priority to Manual, back again, changed the white balance, up the ISO, down the ISO, shutter speed and so on. In the end I gave myself a bloody headache, I blame this on Shaun as I was quite happy shooting on A Priority and then he said try Manual.

Saying that I can’t think of a better target bird to practice on, (other than peregrine), it really is a terrific looking bird and no doubt the closest I have ever seen one. The adults we saw in Bulgaria in 2012 were pretty approachable but this bird really takes the biscuit.


During the morning period the Warbler also made a very brief appearance, likely a Reed but the way it carried itself, banana profilish, did show some characteristics of Blyth’s, an interesting bird.
Also met Nik and another 2 chaps, apologies as I can’t remember your names, brain was still overloaded from the camera, no more memory left so to speak.

From here I pressed on to Two Tree Island to see what was present in the roost, on the walk out a single Whinchat was seen along with some species of escaped Parakeet buzzing around.
Although it is still quite early in the winter period the scrape still held a good number of waders, the most significant counts being 47 Greenshank and around 400 Black Tailed Godwits, these fluctuated in numbers though as many headed up the Creek to another roost presumably. Other waders present were Grey Plover, Avocet, Bar Tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Snipe, a good mixture and another good morning.

A section of the roosting Greenshank


Photos not great, click on photos too enlarge.
Possibly too brown on the upperparts for Blyth's

Friday 13 September 2013

Rainham RSPB

A good morning - Friday

I decided on an early morning visit after seeing the overnight rain and knowing that it was an early morning high tide, with luck I might pick up a wader or 2 at roost.
Checking the new scrape first in front of the visitor centre produced no fewer than 11 Greenshank, a single Ringed Plover and best of all a Knot. Wigeon numbers are already increasing and I recorded 26 round the reserve on my walk after.

Record shot of the Knot roosting with Greenshank

I was keeping an eye out for Spotted Redshank knowing that a couple have been seen earlier in the week as I headed off round the Reserve.
The Cordite held 3 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and a female Blackcap, given the weather I was hoping that a goodie might have dropped in, it was grey and abysmal, winter is coming.

Arriving at the Pools and I immediately found a single Spotted Redshank quickly followed by another on the main pools, both birds were feeding intently, scanning round produced 2 Pintail, another Ringed Plover and around 7 Snipe. From here I moved on noting a Peregrine on the pylons and for comparison there were also 2 Hobbies hawking for Dragons.
As I walked round the corner there was yet another Spotted Redshank, I understand it has been in this pool for a day or 2, this gave great views, can’t remember when I last had 3 Spotted Redshank here, they are usually a hard bird to come by, even at Rainham.

Not great light....

After taking a few photos I carried on eventually going out onto Aveley Bay, the tide by now was dropping fast.
Scoping the Bay and the mud I came across the Knot again, it was feeding with 3 Black Tailed Godwits, no doubt these were the birds seen earlier at roost. Across the river showed a Ringed Plover flock numbering 34 birds, with the other 2 seen as well this made it a good number in the area.

Now I have a bit more time I will try and get over a bit more, a good visit.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Red Backed Shrike - West Canvey Marsh

With a free day I decided to pop down to the Marsh and see if I could hopefully catch up with the Shrike, in truth I was expecting a long walk as I thought it would be in some desolate stretch of distant marshland.

Pulling up in the car park I was told, and then shown by a chap (thanks if you happen to read this) where the bird was, he then went one better and refound it.

It was on the fencing as you look towards the open hide which serves the Fleet around 100 metres from the car park, and as per usual with Shrikes, very approachable. Over the next 1 hour or so I got off a good few shots, did a lot of experimenting with the settings and managed a few half decent shots considering the weather was crap. There was another chap present with a big boy Jono lens, he will have some stunners despite the lack of sun, it was showing down to 20 feet.

Adult or juvenile they are cracking looking birds, if it stays, and the sun shines I will return.

From here I moved on to Two Tree Island, I was toying with the idea of watching the river at Canvey Point even though the North Westerly winds were more suited to Shellness/ Reculver. The tide however was miles out, it will be interesting to see what went past the 2 venues above.

At Two Tree a good count of 137 Golden Plover was had on mud opposite the causeway, I also had a Sanderling on the edge there; these were the highlights amongst the many other waders present.
To top the morning off I had a Hobby over south.