Saturday 25 May 2024

Great Reed Warbler at Ouse Fen

Well it's been a while since I added a year tick, I've got twitchy over Indigo Bunting but never found the time to visit Durham for it and the same can be said for Thrush Nightingale at Blakeney point and Collared Flycatcher at Kilnsea. I did managed to add Yellow-legged Gull to the year list at Rainham last week but otherwise I've been tied up with family stuff until this morning when I took Jim up to Ouse Fen just an hour from home hoping to see the Great Reed Warbler that's been there for a few days.

We parked up and walked about half a mile down to Crane fen where we could hear the bird calling long before we landed on the viewing mound. Over the next couple of hours it called almost constantly and chased the Common Reed Warblers around giving the odd view as it stopped to announce itself.

Bitterns boomed and we had one fly right whilst four flew left and another bird boomed from the reeds so we could safely say there's at least six Bittern here and it's always great to see them in flight.

The pointless year list moves on to a disappointing 209 but I hope I can add a few with some planned day release.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

New Fox in the garden

With the old Dog Fox seemingly passed over the winter my garden has been void of a resident Fox for most of this year until recently when a small Vixen has moved in and quickly realised that I'm an easy target for a good feed. Hopefully she'll stay for a while now she feels safe in the garden.

Dipping again and a special day with the little guy

Pitstone Quarry
Having been busy on Sunday when the Alpine Accentor was found in Bucks and not needing it for a life tick I decided to make a run for it Monday morning. Being a bank holiday we covered the 40 miles around the M25 in about 45minutes and started the walk over Pitstone hill and down to muddy slopes on the other side. The path down into the quarry was a little too steep for Dad so we waited outside hoping for news which didn't come. I also had a walk to the top edge of the Quarry but with around fifty people walking about at the bottom I decided not to climb down saving that delight for positive news on the bird which never came.

The afternoon was spent with my Grandson buying presents at the Arsenal shop and taking him on a tour of the stadium with his Dad. His face on seeing the pitch for the first time was a delight and I bought him this seasons away kit and couldn't resist buying him a replica of the first shirt I ever had way back in 1971.

memories to cherish.


Sunday 5 May 2024

First Youngster in the garden this year

Robin is usually the first young bird I get to see in the garden each year and this year is no different with the first sighting today which seems a little earlier than normal too.

So far this year I've seen fledglings of Lapwing, Avocet, Mallard, Greylag, Canada and Egyptian Goose but this Robin is the first for the garden.

A life tick was available yesterday but I couldn't find the time to twitch it four hours away at Spurn in Yorkshire, a fine male Collared Flycatcher and a bird I have previously dipped in Yorkshire. The bird had moved on today so my chance of adding this to the pointless life list may have gone for another year. Today an Alpine Accentor has been found an hour away at Pitstone in Bucks but again I can't get away but this isn't a life tick so doesn't hurt so much.

What mega will be next and will I find the time to chase it? I live in hope.

Friday 3 May 2024

Woodchat Shrike at Rainham RSPB

I was minding the grandchildren in Hornchurch when Ian L. found a Greater Short-toed Lark on KGV Thursday this week so watched the mornings sightings from a far and was disappointed to hear the bird had been flushed early afternoon by a photographer getting into it's comfort zone and forcing it to fly across the relief channel into Sewardstone marsh. With my family duty over I dropped Suzanne home and drove to Sewardstone Marsh where I found Nick and Marco and negative news from their search. I offered them a lift around to the reservoir with a plan to walk to the north east corner in case the Lark had returned. We did the walk finding just a Common Scoter on north basin amongst the few remaining Tufted ducks. There are still lot's of Great Crested Grebe about and mixed numbers of hirundines. Four Common Tern flew across the reservoir heading south and Nick had a Whimbrel which I missed. There was no sign of the Lark and so sadly it won't be appearing on my Essex/London lists anytime soon.

Roll on twenty four hours and a Woodchat Shrike is reported at Rainham and this time my time was my own so I called the Jims and within twenty minutes we were on our way. The Shrike was in brambles by Shooting Butts hide which meant walking to about the half way point on the reserve, about a mile or so. We arrived to find a few locals already there and good news that the bird had been showing well but was a bit flighty if you got too close so everybody was keeping a healthy distance (unlike reports from the Lark at KGV) and our reward was a couple of hours of good views as the Shrike dropped to the floor to feed and returned to the top of the brambles to rest in between. It was grey and damp so whatever it was eating was tiny although it did miss an opportunity when a vole ran out across the path below it. With the reserve closing at 5pm we set off at 4pm to ensure a safe exit from the car park. 

year list now 207
The Shrike is also an addition to my London list which now stands at 239

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Rainham passage watch

A weather front over the last few days meant that Rainham might just see some passage movement along the river so I've put some time in since Friday watching the Thames in the few hours of spare time I have.

Dropping my grandson to school in Hornchurch puts me close to the reserve and makes visiting a little more justified but still with other family care commitments the time is limited but I managed to enjoy some time in the worst of the weather.

Tuesday saw me ticking my first House Martin of the year followed by my first Swifts on Wednesday and then as the weather closed in Thursday had me picking up my first Whimbrel of the year with one sat on the foreshore. A Greenshank has been regular on Wennington and a Wood Sandpiper has been reported but not seen by anybody I know despite some lengthy searches and wasn't even spotted on the breeding bird survey. A couple of Wheatear remained on site. Thursday saw me pick up my first two Hobby of the year too.


Saturday saw the rain and the wind really pick up and it proved to be a rewarding couple of hours as I saw 80 or more Arctic Terns moving up and down the Thames making it difficult to count but with groups of 30 then 37 along with smaller groups of ten etc it's fait to say at least 80 were involved but possibly many more. Two Sandwich Tern flew out of the river along with two Black Tern and three Little Gulls to add to the drama. A Black-necked Grebe was drifting up and down on the tide along the Thames which I think is a Rainham tick for me. Four Whimbrel dropped onto the foreshore along with a couple of Barwits and eight Blackwits. A  Short-eared Owl was seen being mobbed by a Crow and later sat on a post out on the reserve and two Raven flew over kronking. Two Groppers where still reeling away but remained hidden. Out on the far bank of the River I spotted more Black and Bar Wits, three Grey Plover and four Little Ringed Plover remained on Wennington where I counted nine Yellow Wagtails although others reported twenty or more. 78 species were seen in total on Saturday by me without going onto the reserve proper.

A return on Sunday saw less action on the Thames but eight Arctic Terns were seen along with twelve Little Gulls, twelve Whimbrel, two Barwits, Greenshank, 4 Little ringed Plover, 31 Dunlin, 13 Ringed Plover, a Drake Pintail and a single Wheatear was new in on Wennington. A Purpose and Seal were spotted out in the river too. Others saw Kittiwake and Little Tern but I missed them whilst searching the marsh.

Monday saw Arctic Terns coming back out of the Thames and fifty or so were counted as the stopped to feed by the Yacht club with some Common Terns. A single Little Gull was noted and six Whimbrel plus three Ringed Plover remained. New in were a couple of Common Sandpipers and my first Cuckoo of the year for Rainham along with a single Wheatear again. The Greenshank remained as did the Pintail and a Peregrine was spotted flying over.



I've also managed an hour at Fishers in the middle of a care home visit at the Abbey which resulted in me year ticking Garden Warbler as many have arrived over the last week or so. Nightingales are still singing in the usual places and a couple of Cuckoo are now in.



My First Garden Warbler of the year in that oak tree

Year list is now 206

An Eastern Subalpine Warbler was found in Norfolk late on Sunday but I was unable to travel Monday due to commitments with my wife and in-laws. Tuesday was to prove difficult too with it being my youngest Granddaughters birthday so I planned a trip for today (Wednesday) but unfortunately despite the bird showing well all day and into the late evening on Monday it wasn't seen again on Tuesday. I've seen Subalpine Warblers but they were split into Western and Eastern in 2020 and none of those I've seen have been accepted as Eastern hence my interest in this bird but it'll wait for another day when I have less commitments.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Wanstead Flats

With a spare hour this morning between family commitments I chose to spend it walking around the roped off Skylark area of Wanstead Flats and my reward was two cracking Whinchat, a Little Owl, lots of Common Whitethroat, Two Lesser Whitethroat, a Willow Warbler and a Green Woodpecker along with the obvious Skyarks of and a little chat with Marco which happens annually on my spring and autumn visit to the flats in search of migrants.

I also spotted a couple of Green Hairstreak butterflies which I don't see very often but I failed to find the reported Redstart despite directions from Marco.

year list now 201

Green Woodpecker

Green Woodpecker

Little Owl