Click on photos to enlarge, please do not copy photos without permission

Thursday 31 July 2014

Rainham RSPB

July 31st

A quick I hour visit early a.m along the riverfront of Aveley Bay, I didn't have time for the Reserve so just worked the River Wall.

I had in mind an early Wheatear or Whinchat along the path bushes and scrub; it shouldn't be too long before migrants starts to arrive.
Checking the mud in Aveley Bay showed 2 broods of Shelduck but very little else other than 2 Common Sandpipers along the water’s edge.

However looking further along produced a Common Seal hauled out, usually on the Kent side it was a nice sight to see one in the Bay.
It seems to be a relatively regular occurrence to see them at Rainham, I expect testament to a cleaner river?

Moving on and around to the rocks gave up a Whimbrel and bird of the morning, a Turnstone, having recently seen one it was a welcome addition to the year list, now standing at 121.

The now almost regular Marsh Harrier put in an appearance hunting over the field distantly and I then had 3 Yellow Wagtails at the edge of the Saltings, possibly even bred on the Reserve as they were seen a little while back also.

Distant Marsh Harrier over the Reserve, the bird is a success story, can the fortunes of Hen Harrier be turned round as well?
More hints of migration materialized in the shape of 25 Swallow and 15 Sand Martins all heading west, 2 separate flocks but promising movement.

With August with us on Saturday and a not too bad (hopefully) forecast for Sea Watching, I will be heading down to Dungeness, an early Pom wouldn't go amiss.

Seen recently on another section of the river, a juvenile peregrine in pursuit of a Turnstone - it failed.

Monday 28 July 2014

Canvey Point and Two Tree Island

July 26th

Canvey Point

Although not ideal conditions for river watching, mud showing, blazing sunshine and a low but rising tide I had timed the visit in the morning in the hope of getting a half decent photo of a Little Tern.As it turned out the glare from the sun was side on so I don't think they would have been ideal anyway.

Sod’s Law and the best laid plans, I never even saw a Little Tern let alone photographed one but nonetheless it was still a very enjoyable visit with some good birds seen.

With plenty of mud showing I was hoping that I might pick up some early returning waders and perhaps a Sarnie or 2.

In a couple of hours the following was seen.

Common Tern – 17 resting up on the mud
Sandwich Tern - 5 minimum on the mud but possibly more as there was a lot of coming and going
Turnstone - 2 on the rocks
Dunlin – initially with the Turnstones
Bar Tailed Godwit – 5 including 2 full summers
Black Tailed Godwit – 8 all summered up
Grey Plover – 1 distant bird first of the 2nd winter period for me
Whimbrel – 4 seen on the mud
Marsh Harrier – Kent to Essex bird getting the treatment from the Gulls


Sandwich Tern

A good selection of waders and a good start to the morning, from here I made my way to 

Two Tree Island

By now with high tide fast approaching some waders were seen well before I got to the hide, Curlew and in particular Redshank were on the move in good numbers, by now also it was very hot.
Arriving at the hide showed surprisingly high numbers for this time of year of Black Tailed Godwit and Redshank, both species were still coming in as I started to go through them.

In the end over an hour period the following was seen.

Greenshank – 5 likely more, these were the ones that were on show
Black Tailed Godwit – 450 – if anything an undercount
Redshank – 345 including many juveniles, as with the Godwits likely more in unseen areas
Avocet – 14
Oystercatcher – 6
Sanderling – 1 distant first of the winter period bird

Blackwits dropping in

Distant Blackwits with Sanderling just about viewable on the spit

I also had 2 colour ringed Black Tailed Godwits - the first was left leg – orange over yellow, right leg pink over orange with the 2nd bird only showing the left leg – blue over orange.

A good morning.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Rainham RSPB

July 20th

After drawing a blank at Parliament at dawn in regard to the Peregrines, unusual as they are pretty reliable as a rule, I headed back east checking a few sites on the way.

With a good morning forecast, and it was, I eventually arrived at Rainham and was lucky to coincide the visit with high tide.
A nice assortment of waders were present roosting up on Purfleet Scrape so I went through these for 45 minutes along with keeping an eye on the Thames.

At roost on the scrape were 2 Whimbrel, 5 Greenshank initially before I had a 6th doing a bunk to Kent, 22 Lapwing, 4 Snipe, 5 Redshank and 3 Green Sandpipers working the margins. A good variety of waders before I headed off down the Sea Wall, as I did I got onto a bird being chased by a Greenfinch.

Greenshank, Lapwing and Whimbrel on view at roost

Very first thought was that’s a small Skylark, undulating flight and definitely smaller, I continued to watch as it broke off and then suddenly dropped like a stone into some vegetation, unusual bird.

Tail was wrong for Woodlark and flight was not right for one, Howard had also seen it and I had another distant view when it flushed, it appeared quite pale up against the greenery as it flew.
In truth I didn't have a clue what it was, smaller than a Skylark but it went out as a Short Toed Lark, having only ever seen one on the deck in Spain, I could not identify it, especially in flight not being familiar with the species.
One that got away I’m afraid.

After this I checked the Kent side of the river, no less than 11 Common Sandpipers on the dwindling mud near the Darent with a single Oystercatcher a little further along.


Common Terns were working the high tide and a rough count of birds over near the Yacht Club came to about 30 birds.
Walking back along the sea wall gave up a Seal in mid river, only a glimpse so not sure which one.

Goldeneye - likely a juv seen on July 12th in the Ingrebourne Valley - very early locally bred?

Friday 18 July 2014

The Beckton Gull Colony

As it stands this could well be the largest Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gull colony in London, an earlier count of incubating birds from Beckton Sewage works provided the following for 2014.

The Colony taken recently on July 12th with juveniles everywhere

Herring Gull – 40 incubating birds, this includes some birds actually on the Sewage works as well as the disused Jetty.

Lesser Black Backed Gull – 77 incubating birds, again this includes one pair ‘inland’

Very likely the tip of the iceberg as I simply cannot see the entire Jetty, or for that matter all of the Victorian pillars that stretch west.
I know that Gary James also records the numbers here so I will have to check with him also.

I have also been checking back to see when the colony first ‘evolved ‘ and when the breeding colony first came to light.
The very first records I can see in the Essex Bird Reports are 1996 – ‘Herring Gull – one pair with three large young’ nothing for Lesser Black Backed Gull.
In 1997 Beckton showed, Herring Gull 4 pair – at least six young – Lesser Black Backed Gull 7 pairs, at least 3 young which may suggest just summering of some.
From then on there was a steady rise in both species fortune, I suspect possibly down to Rainham Tip and the attraction of waste.
The Essex Bird Report for 2000 gives a figure of Herring Gull – 34 pairs and Lesser Black Backed Gull – 76 pairs.

Sections of the Jetty from east to west 

This is the section I suspect the Great Black Backed Gull is behind - unusual also to see an Egyptian Goose up there.

Pillars stretching off to the west, many hold breeding Gulls

The recent figure for this year may suggest stability in both species although I understand that the nationwide trend is downwards.

In recent years also Great Black Backed Gull has bred in the colony, after seeing an adult recently carrying either a Moorhen or Coot chick in its bill heading straight towards the colony, I suspect they are again.
A search of the Jetty drew a blank, it could well be, like last time in an unseen area.

Thursday 17 July 2014

RSPB Vange Marshes and Bowers Marsh

July 14th

A spare morning so headed down early towards Bowers Marsh, lots of sunshine as I arrived at 7.40am to find the bloody gate closed, the gate is not opened until 9.00am.Its a bit remote and I didn’t fancy leaving the car outside and walking in so headed back to Vange Marshes.

Parking up at the usual spot I headed for the flood and could already see good numbers of waders, en route I picked up Bearded Tit and at least 6 Marbled Whites, Ruddy Darters were everywhere as were Small and Essex Skippers.

Scanning around produced the following

Greenshank – 5
Green Sandpiper – 1
Spotted Redshank – 1 I understand there have been 5 recently
Wood Sandpiper – 1 the pick of the bunch
Ruff – a male
Black Tailed Godwit – 2
Avocet – 9

All in all a good selection of waders, rather distant as per usual, as I have said before its crying out for a Hide, surely soon unless there is a reason the RSPB are not – perhaps a vandalism issue as the site can’t be secured?

Marbled White

Ruddy Darter

By now time was marching on so I headed for Bowers Marsh, arriving down the dust track produced an open gate of all things (why 9.00am?) along with a singing Corn Bunting in the Car Park.

2 Yellow Wagtails quickly followed as I walked out before I arrived at the scrape nearest to the road, this was teeming with waders, especially Avocets, likely around 70+.

Going through them produced –

Greenshank – 9

Black Tailed Godwit – 7 seen over the back

Redshank – 9

Ruff – 1 male

Mediterranean Gull – 1 adult

A nice assortment of birds which was added to as I walked back after an hour or so watching them, 27 more Black Tailed Godwits dropped in to another pool.


27 Black Tailed Godwits dropped in

On the walk back Cetti’s was heard and more Marbled Whites seen, a good morning to start the day.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Canvey Point

July 10th

On a whim I decided to head for the point, rain and overcast low cloud made for good conditions although the northerly wind and early time of the year meant that expectations were not that high.
It turned out to be a good morning, I watched from 9.15am to 11.45am with high tide around 11.30am, below are some of the highlights from the session.

Jeff also turned up and stayed later so his numbers and species are likely different to mine.

Gannet – 138 seen, flocks of 21,40,17 and 60.All coming in high from the Pier, more or less getting near the Point and then turning back.

Great Skua 2 – 1 seen well mid river going out and another very good candidate far out shadowing one of the Gannet flocks.

Record shot of the Bonxie

Mediterranean Gull – around 12 seen, all ages other than juvenile

Sandwich Tern – 4 seen up and down the river

Little Tern – 3-4 birds with 2 seen together going out, singles were passing the Point but was likely the same bird(s) or 2 working the Shoreline

Black Tailed Godwits – 7 seen Kent to Essex

Dunlin – again 7 seen all summer plumed as were the Godwits

Around 20 odd Common Terns were seen, no Arctic’s as yet and throughout the watch Swifts were coming across from Kent to Essex.
Little Terns are always good to see and after last year’s absence for me of seeing them at the Point, seeing 3-4 in early July was a real bonus.

As you can imagine photos are not great due to the weather but you can’t have it all, a very enjoyable sea watch.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Rainham RSPB

July 8th

After an early morning Black Redstart survey I decided on a visit to the Reserve, given the time of year I was not expecting too much in the way of migrants but ended up having a good morning.

A quick scan of the New Scrape produced 2 summer plumaged Black Tailed Godwits, 3 Redshank and about 12 Little Egrets, a good start so I headed down to the sea wall.
Meeting Dave Smith we picked up no less than 6 Bearded Tits in the corner reed bed adjacent to the Mardyke, every now and then they would do the ‘ towering flight’ , think better of it and then drop back to the reed bed.

I know its distant but the 'dot' is one of the Bearded Tits

Always good to see so we then checked the river, this produced an Oystercatcher, 8 Dunlin on the Kent side and a Grey Seal, possibly a Bull.

Big old boy - very likely a Bull probably around 5 foot in length

Common Tern fishing

We also picked up 3 juvenile Yellow Wagtails; it’s a little bit early for any movement so we wondered if these could have been locally bred – possibly on the Reserve.

Dave continued around the Reserve and I went back along the board walk in the hope of getting some photos of the Blackwits, when I arrived there were now 8.Prior to arriving I had also seen a Marsh Harrier highish with very clean feathering, it looked a little dark so could well have been a juvenile.
Entering the hide I found the Godwits rather distant for photos but stunning in their summer plumage, only 2 were showing signs of winter wear.

Distant summer plumed Black Tailed Godwits

On the point of going everything then stood up alert and sure enough a Marsh Harrier came through, a different bird to the one seen earlier, this was a 2nd year male.
It also has a damaged leg and is no doubt the same bird that Paul saw over the weekend, pleased to say though it did not impair it as it was actively hunting, it also flushed a Green Sandpiper which I needed for the year.

The leg hanging down - seems ok hunting though

A very good couple of hours which pushed the year list up to 119 by adding Grey Wagtail, House Martin and as above, Green Sandpiper.