Sunday 31 March 2013

Rainham and East India Dock Basin

East India Dock Basin
Took a trip to Rainham followed by a very quick look at East India Dock Basin this morning. At Rainham I located three Snipe, a pair of Stonechat, large flock of Linnet, Rock Water and Meadow Pipit, two Redwing were still hanging about and plenty of Skylark sang as did Corn and Reed Bunting. On the forshore were Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing, Shelduck and Wigeon whilst Great Crested Grebe and Cormorant hunted on the Thames and a Grey Heron watched on. At the stone barges a Fox and Brown Rat wandered around the shore and a Wheatear was seen on Ferry Lane.

I quickly moved on to East India Dock Basin which is a new reserve for me. I noted it earlier in the week when Little Ringed Plover were reported there but none were seen on my visit. The only birds on the reserve were Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Coots but a nice place that I'm sure I'll return to when I have more time.
The reserve gives splendid views of the Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf.
Canary Wharf

Millennium Dome

Diver Sculpture Rainham

Tufted Duck

Friday 29 March 2013

A "good Friday" at Minsmere

I took the Jims up to Minsmere today. We set out early and arrived on Dunwich Heath at around 7.50am after a nice red sunrise for a change. One of the best things about the trip up the A12 is you get to see the sun rising in the east and on occasion it's quite simply stunning.

We scanned the heath for a while finding only Chaffinch and Skylarks until I heard the calling of Dartford Warbler in a nearby bush. A quick call to the Jims and they joined me in time to see the first of three birds leave the bush and sit up briefly nearby. Tick 188 for the year.
Dartford Warbler

On the walk back to the car we flushed a Woodcock and saw some Red Deer to add to the Muntjac and Roe Deers seen on the way up the A12.

By 9am we're in the car park at Minsmere where the Jims bag another year tick when a Marsh Tit arrives at the feeders. A quick coffee and we're on our way to Island Mere hide to find a nice pair of Garganey (189) waiting for us. The drake is in splendid breeding plumage and eventually shows well and is even seen mating.

making little Garganey
From Island Mere we also see at least six Marsh Harrier and a Sparrowhawk. Water Rail are heard but not seen. The walk to the hide provided great views of several Goldcrest but the reported Firecrest eluded us.
I split from the Jims as they wanted to spend a little longer looking for the Firecrest and bagged a nice 2nd winter Caspian Gull on my way to the sluice where I also found a female Black Redstart.
Female Black Redstart
On the journey home we made a quick stop at Wivenhoe and enjoyed good views of Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Grey Plover on the estuary banks.
Black Tailed Godwit
Black Tailed Godwit
Black Tail!
A good Friday with two year ticks for me and four for the Jims leaving me needing one to equal last March's total despite a very quiet month. Can I find one by Monday?......must be a Sand Martin around somewhere!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Hertfordshire birding

Amwell today produced a 1st Winter Caspian Gull along with Water Rail. From the hide I managed a couple of photographs of Long Tailed and Great Tit along with a nice male Reed Bunting.

Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Great Tit
Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting
From Amwell I moved onto Rye Meads and watched from the hide as a pair of Kingfishers went about building a nest hole. One of those experiences you can't help feeling lucky to witness.

Kingfisher Rye meads RSPB

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Kentish Plover Rye Harbour

A quick detour today took me to Rye Harbour where I caught up with the Kentish Plover that arrived yesterday. Two birds have been recorded but I only managed to connect with one to give me tick 187 for the year. I now need three to break even with last March's total of 190 but with the weather as it is many spring migrants have just not arrived yet, here's hoping for a few more surprises like todays Kentish gift.
Also present was a Grey Plover, several Ringed Plover, Avocets, Redshanks, Dunlin and several gulls.

Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull

From information on the Kentish Plovers rings it has been established that the bird was rung on 29th May 2009 in Germany where it was monitored until 3rd June 2010 at which point it was lost until it turned up at Rye Harbour yesterday.

Monday 25 March 2013

Sub zero Rainham

Water Pipit
A quick trip to Rainham this evening to walk the foreshore from Coldharbour car park to the visitor centre and back. It was absolutely freezing with the breeze making it feel even colder than it was.
I found the following during my visit.....3 Wheatear, 1 Stonechat, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Oystercatcher, 1 Curlew, 10 Great Crested Grebe plus the usual, Redshank, Teal, Shelduck, Lapwing, Shoveler, Little Egret, Snipe, Water/Rock and Meadow Pipit. A large flock of 30 plus Linnet, a Kestrel, Skylark etc etc.
On Wennington I was surprised to find a very large gathering of gulls including Herring, LBB, Common and Black headed but no surprises, also here were Canada, Greylag and the Ross's Goose that's been around the area for a while now. Following a large ship up the Thames was a Little Gull and three Kittiwake.
All in a nice bit of activity despite the cold weather holding back many of the spring migrants.

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

Sunday 24 March 2013

Alas still no Pallas's

For the second weekend running I've driven around the 25 to Moor Green Lakes in Berks searching for a Pallas's Warbler, more for a life tick for Jim than the year tick it would bring me.
We arrived early enough to catch good views of a Barn Owl quartering the field between the car park and the gravel pits. As we walked the river to the conveyor belt and beyond we again came across several tit flocks with Long Tailed, Blue and Great Tit in good numbers along with a few Goldcrest and at least three Chiffchaffs. A Goosander flew over and a Red Kite drifted across the lakes. The pits held nothing of note other than a couple of Little Grebe and Little Egret. We tried hard to convince ourselves that a calling Great Tit might be our bird but the longer it called the more Great Tit and less Pallas's Warbler it became. It was freezing so after three hours we decided to call it a day meeting Garry Bagnell on the return route to the car park, hope he enjoyed better luck than us.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Garden birding

Male Blackcap


Blackcap bossing the feeder


What happened to spring? It's 23rd March and we've had two days that I can recall this year where you could see blue sky from my kitchen window. Today is no different as it's completely grey and snowing.
Still while I wait to see how the weather turns (better or worse?) I take a few minutes to snap away at the feeders in the garden.

Lot's of Siskin still coming to the feeders and the Blackcaps are almost resident now. I'm sure both are only waiting for that Blue Sky in order to move on to their chosen breeding grounds.
Blue Tit
Female Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch


Friday 22 March 2013

First Wheatear of 2013 at Rainham

I took a short detour today to visit the male Black Redstart at Rainham and quickly found it in the usual spot at the end of the sea wall in Ferry Lane. Lot's of Brown Rat about too but a very welcome surprise arrived in the form of a male Northern Wheatear (186) which took company with the BRS and the rats as it moved from rock to rock along the foreshore. This is my first for 2013 as they have only started to arrive in the last few days. How must this guy feel to have left his warm wintering grounds to find that on arrival in Blighty it's freezing and threatening to snow.
Northern Wheatear

I watched the birds with Dave "the beard"  until the biting cold wind took his hat and dumped it below the sea wall, luckily he was well prepared having a spare in the car, I'm sure I'll remember him as Dave the hat going forward but hopefully I'll bump into him around Essex again soon.

A quick look across the marsh for Owls was fruitless but a Marsh Harrier did make an attempt to fly in the ridiculous breeze. On arrival home I found that the male Blackcap that's wintered in my garden has been joined by another male which pleased me. The local weather forecast is poor again for the weekend but here's hoping I manage to get out.

Black Redstart

Thursday 21 March 2013

Monday 18 March 2013


The Jim's have been talking about "going for" the Pallas's Warbler that has decided to winter in Berkshire instead of Asia. The bird has been reported on and off for a good number of weeks now but I haven't had the desire to go looking until now. We made the 70 mile journey around the London orbital car park and down the M3 stopping on route to bag the boys a year tick in the form of Great Northern Diver at Staines reservoir where we also saw Black Necked Grebe and two very probable White Wagtail.
On arrival at Moor Green Lakes we headed down the track to the Blackwater River (so called because of all the sewage that's pumped into it) We walked that river past the conveyor belt to the sewage farm and back and although I did at one stage think I'd heard the Pallas's Warbler I couldn't be sure. On our return to the car park after a good soaking we bumped into another birder that said he'd had two good views of the target prompting another search of the area but despite finding lot's of Tit's and Finches, loads and Wrens and Robins and the odd Goldcrest we failed to find the target and left for home wet and weary having dipped what would have been a year tick for me and a lifer for the Jim's.
It was a nice place to visit and I may yet return for a second go in better weather.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Long Eared Owl Wivenhoe Essex

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl
What a bird...what a night....Pleased I made the trip after work. Paid £3.60 to park in Wivenhoe station car park and walked c400m along the trail onto the marsh to view the bird first sitting in the bush before moving on to the fence post. It spent a few moments flying along the fence line before returning to a post. As a dog walker went past it took flight and headed away to the south of the marsh. The bird appears to have a damaged left eye. This is the best view I've ever had of a LEO as all too often they are either hidden deep in a bush roosting or just heard in the darkness. The few minutes I shared with this bird will live long in the memory.