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Monday 25 August 2014

Valley Godwits and a very confiding Black Redstart

Ingrebourne Valley

Black Tailed Godwit is a rarity for the Valley and has always been, a good few years back now we had a flock of 16 or so drop in but it’s nothing compared with the latest arrivals.

On August 17th Shaun found 17 in the viewing area and it was surmised that these were the same birds that have been frequenting the Chase, this proved positive as a text showed that the Chase birds had left.

Since that day there numbers have grown with Dave McGough recording a staggering 54 recently, totally eclipsing the site record, it is unprecedented for our inland site. Added to this, a site mega turned up in the shape of a juvenile Avocet, found by Dave on the 19th it just shows you what could turn up if the river didn’t keep flooding. There is very little mud on show but both Avocet and Blackwit can feed in the shallow water, if we had mud showing I have no doubt we would get the rarer waders turn up.

Record shot of the Avocet

Shallow water suits them

On the 24th I went over there with the scope and undertook another count of the Black Tailed Godwits, I counted 58 in the viewing area pushing the total for the site up.
As I scanned round for more I located the Avocet on the back lake, resting next to it was another 3 Blackwits bringing the total to 61 – stunning.

They have now been with us since the 17th, over a week and still commuting back and forth to the Chase, I suspect they are bound for the Thames Estuary but it will be interesting to see how long they stay.

Black Redstart

Came across this very confiding male singing his heart out in London recently.

Unusual to get this close to them, also singing rather late on the 21st of August.
With today’s weather (Monday) I can’t see him singing for much longer.

Friday 22 August 2014

Beckton Sewage Works

August 16th

With the site under major works I have not been giving it much attention; there is simply too much disturbance so I have given it a miss concentrating on the Creek and the Outfall.

The day had already started brilliantly with a Bearded Tit down in the Creek in the massive reed bed, exactly the same spot I had a male a few years so I thought I would give the Sewage Works a go, it seemed not as busy as usual.
I stayed in the car and just drove round the tanks looking for the odd migrant, it was quite busy with Pied Wagtail numbers probably up in the hundred mark, I know this as they all did there bit in mobbing the local Sparrowhawk.

The mobbers of Sparrowhawks

The whole site seemed to erupt with Wagtails coming up from the tanks everywhere when it passed, if anything the estimate is probably a bit conservative. However in amongst the hordes of Pied I distinctly heard a Yellow, when they settled I found one, a bit distant but they all count, I ended up with 4 in the end.

Distant Yellow Wagtail

Moving on, next up was a Wheatear in company with a Common Sandpiper, an odd combination both sitting on the side of the road, the one I was looking for was Black Redstart, Beckton has always been a favourite wintering area.
Grey Wagtails were also present to round off all the commoner British Wagtails, not often that you get all 3 together.

Grey Wagtail

Wheatear and Common Sandpiper

6 Sand Martins also put in an appearance over the tanks and the first of the returning Teal showed in one of them to round off the visit, made me feel cold just looking at them, Winters coming.

Thursday 14 August 2014


August 10th

With a free morning and commitments in the afternoon myself and Paul headed down at dawn in the hope of a goodie or two.

With the stronger winds forecast mid morning to late afternoon, we were hopeful of a big Shearwater perhaps pushed in by the remnants of the Hurricane.
Devon and Cornwall had seen good numbers of Greats and Cory’s so there was an outside chance of one or two of them getting pushed along the channel.

Red Throated Diver


Knot and Bar Tailed Godwit

Early signs that it was to be an exceptionally high tide came in the shape of the skipper of the boat we were sheltering behind, he turned up and hooked the boat up to the bulldozer and pulled it further up the shingle by 20 foot.
As it turned out it was a very wise move.

We watched from 5.50 to 11.15am, no big Shears but we did have some good birds – highlights as follows-

Swift – 118 all going west against the wind, largest flock 41
Fulmar - 9
Mediterranean Gull – 4 juveniles
Common Scoter – 34 seen, largest flock 13
Kittiwake – 10 seen mostly juv’s
Balearic Shearwater – 1 @6.42am and 2 together @9.12am
Manx Shearwater – 8
Little Tern – 1
Whimbrel – 4 trying to fly west
Black Tern – 7
Arctic Skua – 3
Red Throated Diver – 1 on the sea gave close views
Shelduck – a flock of 35
Knot – 3
Bar Tailed Godwit - 16

Not a bad little haul, everything was moving west, unusual sight of the morning considering the wind goes to a Hummingbird Hawkmoth buzzing round the boats presumably seeking shelter.
Gannets, Common and Sandwich Terns were moving through as per usual in good numbers.


In regard to the tide by 10.40am we had to move higher, wind driven it pushed up the shingle and flooded us out.

Early on - normal position where most people watch from

Starting to come in,early on sea level was about 3 metres lower

Time to move

Still rising when we left

A good morning and a brief visit on our way out produced 3 Garganey and a Pintail on the Arc Pits.

Wasp's nest - a work of art

Thursday 7 August 2014


August 6th

With rain forecast for most of the morning and a moderate S S Westerly showing on the weather map the night before I headed down and arrived at 6.15am.
The forecast was bang on so I decided to go to the point and park myself up behind a boat, sheltered out of the rain and wind but also close enough to the sea to grab some photos.

It was very dark, ideal conditions for sea watching bar the rain, but as for photography not ideal but cannot complain as some species worked the shoreline and came quite close.

In all I gave it 3 hours, nothing earth shattering, no Shearwaters for instance but then again it is still very early but you never know what’s rounds the corner do you.

I was hoping for a Skua or 2 due to the conditions and the Tern passage, over the course of the 3 hours I would say at least 400 Commic Terns passed me going west, predominately Commons from what I could see. Sandwich Terns were also going in the same direction and numbered around 80 over the 3 hours.

Highlights from the session below.

Mediterranean Gull – 4 all juveniles
Common Scoter – 61 including a flock of 45
Kittiwake – 2 both juveniles
Swift – 14 west
Guillemot – 1 on the sea
Gannet – 34 largest flock 11
Harbour Porpoise – a minimum of 6 watched surfacing together but likely many more
Dunlin – 7 east
Arctic Skua – 1 @ 8.55am
Bar Tailed Godwit – 12 west
Whimbrel – 16 west slightly inland

I also had a Dolphin sp that I saw briefly in the scope a little ways out, much bigger than the Porpoises and appeared ‘2 toned’ from brief views.

Gannets on the move

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Common Scoter

Distant Whimbrel flock

Homeward bound I stopped at Arc and picked out a Garganey, I understand that there were 3 there later and also 4 Little Stints, they would have been a nice bonus but needless to say a good morning anyway.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Oare Marshes

August 2nd

From the last post you will note that I had intentions for Dungeness on Saturday morning, twas not to be as the monthly Birders drink took place the night before, you can guess the rest.
Feeling a little rough in the morning I decided against driving at dawn so waited until 11.00am, picked Shaun up on the way and we decided on Oare Marshes for the afternoon.

Having not been there for a while I had forgot how close waders come, we had got lucky and it was a rising tide for mid afternoon, as it turned out our timing was perfect.
As we started to set up 2 Curlew Sandpipers were immediately found close in but unfortunately flushed along with everything else, looking to the heavens produced the reason, a male Marsh Harrier carrying what I presumed to be the leg of a Marsh Frog.

Male Marsh Harrier with what looks like a Marsh Frogs leg

That was to be the last time we saw the Curlew Sandpipers despite a good search over the rest of the afternoon.
Black Tailed Godwits soon started to arrive and scanning through them produced a single Golden Plover, more or less still summered up, a nice sight.

Other waders present were Ruff, Avocet, Redshank, Lapwing, Dunlin and a single Turnstone, all were offering good views as well, we both got a good few photos through the afternoon and although the sun was to our right they didn’t come out too bad.

Totals below

Curlew Sandpiper – 2
Dunlin – 14 adults and juvs
Ruff – 9 including 3 nice males
Turnstone – 1 briefly
Avocet – 41
Black Tailed Godwit – 500 minimum, arriving all afternoon
Golden Plover – 44, a single initially and then 2 flocks totalling 43 dropped in, all in varying stages of summer plumage, stunning looking birds and fine site.

Yellow Wagtails were also present in numbers and we heard there calls for most of the afternoon.


In the latter part of the afternoon we both also had brief views of a distant duck before it disappeared from view, colour and wing bar noticeable so I managed to fire off 3 shots.

I am not saying it is one but it doesn’t look bad for a Ferruginous Duck at range.

The photos are simply not good enough, it could be a very rufous female Tuftie or even a Hybrid, see what you think from the photos.