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Saturday 29 November 2014

More High Tide

Referring to the last post, one of the purposes and aims of these survey’s is to attain comparison data from one year to another, it is important and shows the health of the Inner Thames as a feeding and wintering ground. Of course much depends on the weather, it is comparatively mild now, there is no doubt that numbers would be higher if we were in a cold spell.

I try to keep the dates annually as near as possible to each other for consistency as we go forward; I also compare them with annual numbers in other areas. Basically if it’s low or high numbers in the Inner Thames in one year, is it the same in other areas?

Littlebrook Power Station

Rainham RSPB

The now disused Outfall at Crossness,once a bird magnet as a food source

Of course as mentioned before it’s not an exact science and flocks and density of birds are always an estimate, for one you don’t want to spook them by getting too close in the boat.

Having said that the Black Tailed Godwits were flying around before returning to the Jetty, in this I was able to do a much more accurate count.

This year numbers of the more common waders in the Inner Thames were up from 2013, in some only marginal but nonetheless an increase.

Below are survey results of Black Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing excluding the numbers from Rainham RSPB, these are the more ‘numerous’ birds of the Inner Thames.


                                        2014   2013   2012   2011

Black Tailed Godwit     316     180     203     480

Curlew                            31       23       34       28

Redshank                       615      589    755     772

Lapwing                         421      263    161     240

Of course if you include Rainham RSPB these numbers are even higher, especially on the Lapwing front.
As you can see though all show an increase from 2013, good to see Black Tailed Godwit numbers climbing again.

Fords roost - Black Tailed Godwit and Redshank

Lapwing - Cory's Wharf

Redshank - Littlebrook Roost

Aside from recording numbers the other main issue is identifying Jetties/Structures, they are vital and important to wintering waders, 
Working with the London Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, I logged them all with GIGL a few years back.

Barking/Beckton Gull breeding colony jetty and winter roost

The same Jetty - will this roost/breeding Jetty come under threat from Boris's proposed Ferry?

The Maps by GIGL, there are 15 of these in the Inner Thames

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Thames Boat Survey

November 20th

This was to be the 4th year running that the Environment Agency had very kindly supplied a Boat to survey Waders on the Inner Thames.
The purpose of the survey being to log all known structures/jetties, working or derelict for roosting waders from Broadness Point, Swanscombe to East India Dock Basin.

As before, Tom Cousins and Peter Gray crewed the boat and the 4th position was taken by Tom Cook, the E/A Biodiversity officer.
The only difference from the previous year was that we had a different boat, and we launched from the Thames Barrier rather than Crossness.

We soon left and headed down river to Broadness Point, high tide was around 11.15am at Tilbury, once we were in position at the Point the idea was to then work our way up river from there with the incoming tide.

On our way up plenty of waders were on show, Black Tailed Godwit numbers for one seemed to be higher than 2013 but the mud was disappearing fast so we pressed on to the Point.

Black Tailed Godwit feeding as we headed down river

Fired off a few shots as we headed down at Aveley Bay, checking later showed the Avocet in the corner,

In previous years we have had Turnstones at Broadness Point, none this year but good numbers of Redshank already at roost along with a Curlew, there was also a Peregrine up on the Pylon.

Working our way up river we came to the first of the ‘big’ roost sites at West Thurrock, the Saltings held 17 Curlew but an added bonus was 7 Avocet sitting it out on the river. These I suspect had probably moved up from the large flock at Mucking Bay.

Curlew - West Thurrock

Pre roost gathering

Surprisingly the La Farge Jetties were empty; these usually hold large numbers of Dunlin and Redshank.

Pressing on we passed under the QE2 Bridge and after this arrived at Purfleet - Cory’s Wharf, as luck had it all the birds were in the air and it gave a chance to make a much more accurate count, an impressive 180 Lapwing were on the Jetty.

Cory's Wharf - loaded out with Lapwing

Next stop was the Stone Barges, on the way we had a female Marsh Harrier crossing the river from Rainham RSPB, some wing damage was seen but seemed to be flying ok. This, along with the Avocets seen earlier were new birds for the Boat Surveys.

Marsh Harrier - left wing damage

The Stone Barges were surprisingly quiet with only a handful of Black Tailed Godwits and Redshank so we headed for Fords; this was loaded out with Curlew, Redshank and Black Tailed Godwits.

The Godwits flew and it again gave me a chance of a more accurate count before the flock returned and settled back down on the Jetty, I estimated at least 300 Godwits were on the old disused Jetty.

From here it was over to Crossness, again good numbers of roosting waders with the highlights being 550 Dunlin amongst good numbers of Redshank. It’s never an exact science but the Dunlin were lined up along the river wall, counting was made a lot easier.


We then proceeded to Beckton to check the roosts there near the old Victorian Pillars, last year we couldn’t get in to survey due to a moored ship, this year all clear.

80 Redshank were at roost along with a few Dunlin.

This was to be the final roost as checking all the structures/jetties up to the Thames Barrier revealed no other waders at roost, I checked the Bow Creek roost after by car.

A very enjoyable survey.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Rainham RSPB

Bad habits and cock up’s

November 12th

After the heavy rain in the morning, the afternoon proved to be totally different with wall to wall sunshine, I took the opportunity for a walk round the Reserve to blow the cobwebs out.

I was looking for the Dark Bellied Brent Goose to add to the year list, also needed was Fieldfare so I firstly took in the woodland, lots of Redwing but alas no Fieldfare.

Purfleet Marsh however being flooded in many areas was teeming with birds, Wildfowl were absolutely everywhere, predominately Wigeon and there were also Canada’s and Greylag’s. A scan through did not reveal the hoped for Brent but it did show large numbers of Waders.

Pick of the bunch were around 120 Golden Plover in the air, courtesy of a male Marsh Harrier hunting, it also showed around 40 odd Snipe high up as well.

Common Darter

Pressing on I added 3 Stonechat before reaching the Pill Box, I then got onto firstly a single Raven which was then joined by a 2nd out on Purfleet Marsh, I only added it to the site list a month or 2 back so possibly becoming a regular.

The direction they had come from was not surprisingly the Tip, great to see them colonizing, with the pylons available at Rainham it could even be a future breeder, should be interesting with them and the peregrines mixing.

A Crow and a Raven at 200 metres,quite obvious who's who.

Arriving at the sea wall my arrival coincided with near high tide; I had a scan around and picked up 2 distant birds on the river up near the Car Park end.

I only had Bin’s but was pretty sure I had seen a crest on one, Merg’s came into my head, if so a good and rare bird for Rainham.

Being the fit beast that I am nowadays, the long walk down was nothing for a better view; I arrived and had another look.

Before I go into it, I will firstly make my pathetic excuses, I was directly into the sun, they were distant outlines and I had no scope, I know its crap.
I looked through the Bin’s, saw a crest on one and thought 2 Red Breasted Mergansers not looking at the other one properly, blasted off some distant shots, happy with myself I put them out.

I have got into a bad habit of not checking the back of the camera, I should do this at the time but I am always in a rush to get to the next place, I have also done this before.
Years ago at Rainham, I fired off a few shots at a speck of a Buzzard way up, didn’t look at the back of the camera and later saw that it was a Honey. The list goes on, Osprey in the Valley, this really was a dot, got a lock on it and thought I will have a look later thinking at the time it was likely a pale Buzzard…..

These days it’s a choice between the scope and the camera, you can’t carry everything so of late the scope stays at home.
Pre camera days I used to scrutinize everything, always having a scope but have got into the habit of relying on the camera too much, my latest motto is now – always check the back of the screen as the other bird was in fact a Goldeneye.

Red Breasted Merganser and Goldeneye record shots - should have looked properly at the time

Anyway moving on and pathetic excuses made, I have no doubt I will do it again; I eventually arrived at the Centre.

In between I had recorded at least 8 Rock Pipits and a couple of Curlew going to roost.

From the centre I added around 150 Black Tailed Godwits arriving to roost and also 2 Egyptian Geese, a very good walk and 2 year ticks to boot in the shape of the Red Breasted Merganser and the Goldeneye, total now 137 for the year.

A fitting finale was a flyby Raven.

Flying off to roost

Monday 10 November 2014

Rough Legged Buzzard

Photos below are by my mate Dick Jeffries, as you can see very good and far better than anything I can produce.
The bird is in Hertfordshire and showed very well judging by the photos.

Me and Paul are over on the Hoo Peninsula this weekend surveying, hopefully its only a matter of time before we see one there.

Friday 7 November 2014

Isle of Sheppy

November 4th

This was to be the first visit of the 2nd winter period, myself and Shaun headed down arriving at dawn at Harty Lane, no wind giving perfect ‘ Owl ‘ conditions.
In the past I have had both Shortie and Barn down the Lane but we saw none, I suspect conditions are possibly just too mild and Owl numbers have probably not built up yet. If I remember correctly they were also seen over Capel Fleet more.

None the less we got to see a good number of Marsh Harriers; many coming from roost by the looks of it, there were also at least 2 Common Buzzards around.
Not quite the numbers of Raptors as yet, no signs of Hen Harrier during the first hour or so but we did pick up 3 Kestrels and a very distant peregrine.

From here we went to Leysdown picking up 3 Corn Buntings on the way, arriving at Leysdown showed large numbers of Waders looking to roost along with 300 odd Dark Bellied Brent’s going to the fields to feed.

Quite a spectacular sight also was a single flock of around 150 Curlew going to roost on the Saltings.

We then spent an enjoyable couple of hours watching and photographing the waders, also seen was a single Wheatear.

Having a 'jaw'

Seemingly everywhere these days

The last part of the day was spent back down Harty Lane with a couple of posy Stonechats, by now it was sunny but no Raptors were aloft other than Kestrel.

Bearded Tit were seen and at least 3 Water Rail calling with a flyby Kingfisher.

Not the hoped for Hen Harrier or perhaps a Rough Legged Buzzard, but surely it’s only a matter of time for the latter due to the numbers that have arrived.

ATM Streetart for Hen Harrier Day - seen it before but still stunning