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Thursday 31 October 2019

Beckton Sewage Works and C'mon England

Winter has arrived lately and with it many of the winter speciality species like Redshank, Curlew and Black Tailed Godwits.

All were seen recently on visits heralding the approaching cold stuff and in particular Redshank numbers are rapidly building, usual wintering numbers are around 100 but according to the weathermen, it will be a cold snowy November/December so numbers may well rise.

However I recall cold snowy winters are forecast most years so we will see.

I caught up with the Common Buzzards again on a couple of occasions, at one time both in the air together, they are remarkably similar given that there is so much variation in the species, you only have to look at the individual seen earlier in the month at Rainham.

She is clearly bigger than him when together, not so pronounced as peregrines but there to see nonetheless, plumage is very similar as you can see from the merged photo, when you look closely little difference’s appear.

Her black band to the tail is not as obvious as the male so she may be younger than the male, although not clear photos so it may well be the light and the angle of the image.

Dawn just about to go worming - I think this is the male

Merged and very similar

As I write this we have hit November; however Saturday November 2nd is hopefully going to be a great day as we face the Springboks in the Final.

There is no doubt that the battle of the forwards is going to be immense, the Boks are always physical but hopefully we will have their measure.

With Curry and Underhill I think we have the best pairing in world rugby and with Tuilagi again a big threat and always making ground, the backs could play a bigger part.

Great also to see another Sarries man in there also, Heinz has done a great job and a shame he got injured but a great opportunity for Spencer.

C’mon England!

Thursday 24 October 2019

Peregrine Nest Clean Up

I had kindly been give access to this nest site by the owners as the building was being scaffolded for some reservation works, the opportunity was there as the cleanup is usually undertaken annually by 2 Abseliers. The best thing about it was that it had a hoist to the top, a bit of a luxury, far easier on the joints and my little legs.

It’s been a very productive nest site, since 2006 it has produced an outstanding 30 juveniles, its only the second time I have had access physically to the nest site in 13 years so I jumped at it literally, as expected plenty of prey up there.

However most of it was underwater near the nest tray as the drain hole was bunged up but a lot of stuff was identifiable, if not a bit smelly being in the water.

I was able to confirm at the nest site - Wood Pigeon, 4 Ring Necked Parakeets, 3 Starling, Green Woodpecker, 2 Black Headed Gulls, 2 Redwing, an unidentified small wader and various Feral Pigeons.

Green Woodpecker skull

After getting it ship shape, fresh substrate in the tray, cleaning out the tray area and bunghole it was ready for them for 2020, the work will be finished before breeding so all good hopefully.

After with fresh substrate - should dry out soon

On the way back down we went past 2 other caching sites, on the first one was another Wood Pigeon partially eaten, the chaps had watched one of the peregrines bring this in that morning, I would suspect it was the Falcon as Woodies are heavy birds to carry.

On the next caching site was a Woodcock, again fresh and more or less definitely taken at night as most are, it is sad that it was taken but its nature as we know, nocturnal hunting is just another string to their bow.

Partially eaten Wood Pigeon


On the other side of the building, yet to be scaffolded, there are 3 high level larger cache ledges that I know they use the most for stashing prey; it will be very interesting to see what is on these, I know there is going to be far far more.

Thursday 17 October 2019

First surveys of the Winter


First up was Cooling Marshes on the Kent side, we weren’t expecting big wader numbers as its still relatively early in the winter but it was good to get out on the Marshes again, if I recall correctly this will be our 7th winter.

Nice to see the pair of Little Owls again straight off, many of the Pools have dried up not surprisingly but with the amount of rain we have had this month, it’s only a matter of time before they start filling up and becoming wader/wildfowl magnets again.

The regular winter Raptors were seen on both the surveys with Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard present, 2 Peregrines were sentinels on the posts ever watchful and Paul picked up a Merlin trying to pick off passing Chaffinches.

On the recent Sunday survey Chaffinches were flooding in going west, with a strong westerly wind blowing, around 6, it was extremely hard work for them fighting the wind but none it seemed stopped, the migration movement urge to be somewhere outweighing the need to rest it seemed.

I recorded over 600 and I know Paul probably had around a 1000 moving through further inland, both of us also picked up Tree Sparrows tagging on to the Chaffinch flocks.

Enjoyable surveys and good to be back again.

Recorded 9 Bearded Tits on the last survey

Big boys - 2 Ravens out on the Marshes

On the Essex side I visited Coryton for the first time this winter, decent weather with a light wind as I started the survey.

The Kestrel was holding station by its nest box and a distant flock of birds sitting on a telegraph cable turned out to be Corn Buntings, hopefully I will keep seeing them here for years to come, another bird declining.

Kestrel keeping an eye on the box

Being October I had in mind one bird that I had seen here before, Ring Ouzel, there had been a few around lately in Essex so quite pleased when I stumbled onto 2 feeding with a flock of Starlings in Hawthorne’s.

They were off transect so photos are distant but likely 1st year birds, both went to ground when a Peregrine appeared.

Ring Ouzels - distant but likely 1st year birds


Moving on as it was high tide after a long walk I eventually arrived at the wader roost, much the same as Kent numbers were low but to be expected until the real colder stuff arrives.

Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin were all present in low numbers along with a couple of Rock Pipits on the Saltings.

To cap off a good day a flock of Avocet came in, again low numbers but good to see this elegant wader again and as with Kent, good to be back treading the turf.

Sunday 6 October 2019

Rainham RSPB

October 3rd

After last month’s visit after an absence of a good few months, I again found myself heading over Rainham following my old dawn route.

The sunrise alone promised a good morning and so it turned out with some good birds seen throughout the morning, looking over on the Reserve showed a distinct lack of water in some of the regular areas, rain obviously needed to bring the water table up.

7 Redwing were seen immediately leaving roost,Goldcrest heard, Redwing starting to arrive now so the cold stuff is on its way, mind you have always preferred winter birding, having said that, it was cold and I obviously needed more layers, getting soft and starting to feel it as I get older.

Pretty Dry

No Rock Pipits yet along the River Wall,2 Chiffchaffs heard and a good count of 204 Black Tailed Godwit were in the Bay with 2 Curlew and 18 Redshank on the mud also, surprisingly no sign of any Avocet.

2 colour ringed Black Tailed Godwit

Went through the Gulls, found 7 Yellow Legged Gulls but not the ringed Caspian, it’s a bit of a minefield with these for me and don’t mind admitting they get me at it in regards to ID of the different ages, however very slowly getting there.

I should learn more on them, retaining the knowledge in my head and holding it there is another matter,age,impatience and a lack of excitement on seeing hundreds, even thousands of them on the water/mud doesn’t give me a kick, hats off to those who sort them out.

Yellow Legged Gulls

No Stonechats en route or late Wheatears but a couple of Marsh Harriers were seen flying over the Reserve.

A Barn Owl was seen having a preen, always good to see these and 2 Bearded Tits were seen flying over the Dragonfly Pools.

Calling Geese heralded the arrival of at least 350+ Greylags/Canada’s dropping in, quite a spectacular sight all coming in together and very stirring to the senses, made me think of Norfolk and the Pinkfeet, me and Chris will have to get back there this winter.

Quite a few dodgy Geese in there as well, there all Feral but it looked like a few were straight out of the Farmyard.


A single Common Buzzard was seen before I got onto another Buzzard at distance, it was so pale and had me going for a short while before it passed closer, a very striking looking Common Buzzard which I later caught up with sitting on a post. It has to be the most striking looking Common Buzzard I have ever seen, as you can imagine at distance it put me in mind of Rough Legged.

Cracking looking bird

A single Stonechat was in the reed bed near the Pools and another 2 Chiffchaff were seen en route, 2 circling waders with a flock of Lapwing turned out to be male and female Ruff, over a dozen Pochard on the Pools but no sign of any of the recent Spoonbills.


A single adult Peregrine was on one of the pylons, very alert with a flat crop so looked like it was hunting, confirmed when I saw it head off at speed over Wennington Marshes obviously on to something.


On arriving at the Centre for a coffee, Howard picked out 2 Raven flying east, a bird needed by all of us at the Ingrebourne Valley with only one record in 2004,again by Howard, given the expansion of its range I suspect that it is only a matter of time before one of us picks one up.

A very enjoyable morning.