Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Another year another list another lockdown

I had considered not blogging this year but then having looked back over previous years I found the diary format I adopt quite good in terms of refreshing my memory of days out, places visited and birds seen  so for now I plan to continue purely for that reason and if somebody else gets any pleasure from it then that's great too.

And so to the year of 2021.

We moved into the new year with Essex sitting in Tier 4 with a reported high case level of Covid-19 and that's had a marked effect on the family over Christmas and New Year and made for a very quiet and at times lonely festive break. The tier system has also impacted on my birding activity. The tier four restrictions permit local exercise and so my year started locally and not at the coast as is usual. I expected a much lower day one count but by birding the Lee Valley CP I managed a respectable 64 species with the highlights being Cattle Egret on Hook Marsh, a pair of Smew on Seventy Acre lake, a flock of White-fronted Geese at Holyfield farm a couple of Peregrines and a Short-eared Owl at Gunpowder park. On the way home I picked up another three year ticks with Kingfisher, Goosander and Mandarin on Connaught Waters in Epping Forest to give me a total day one list of 67 different species seen.

Distant view of the Cattle Egret on Hook marsh

On day two I walked around King George Reservoir with Neville S. My reward for the long treck around both north and south basin was two drake Scaup, lots of Goldeneye, two Black Redstart, a Grey Wagtail and a fly over Common Buzzard to bring the year list to 72. 

A drive past Eagle pond also gave me this years first view of the wintering adult Caspian Gull.

One of the two Black Redstarts on the west side of King George V

Black Redstart

View from the far end of the reservoirs

One of the two drake Scaup in with all the Tufties and Coots

On day three I walked down to Beckton sewage works meeting Shaun H and another local birder along with two dog walkers so socially a very quiet place which I'll return to soon hopefully. As for the birds I picked up a few ticks with at least ten Chiffchaff including one very pale bird that Shaun H. managed to photograph later and the other birder heard to call and thought was a good candidate for Siberian. A Peregrine flew through and sat on a pylon, Cetti's Warbler called and a Meadow Pipit added another tick before a flock of twenty plus Linnet added another. At the outfall I found a couple of Common Sandpipers, single Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit along with several Redshanks. I checked through the gulls finding one Herring Gull with an orange ring which looked like Y5ST which if I read it correct was ringed by the North Thames group in 2018 but not seen since. Great Black-backed added a year tick but otherwise I struggled to find anything else among the hundreds of gulls present on the mud, the sewage works and over the tip. On my walk back I looked again for the pale Chiffchaff but didn't see it. At the feeders by the blue container I found a single Brambling hiding among the Chaffinch flock.

Beckton where the Roding meets the Thames

The Brambling thinking I can't see it 

A short drive down to Rainham and having parked by the Serin mound I first scanned Wennington Marsh adding Barnacle Goose then a scan of the riverside added Avocet to the year list. The walk along the concrete path towards the reserve kept me distanced from most other people and gave good views of both Rock and Water Pipit. There are good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing at Rainham but none came very close as I walked down to the reserve and back. I scanned the reserve from outside to keep a distance again and picked up Pintail and yet another Peregrine which was sat on the grass for a while before getting up to put everything into panic. It just shows how well Peregrine are doing as in three days I've seen five birds. Whilst scanning for Raven I picked up a single Rook but somehow missed the Raven. As the tide came in a flock of Dunlin flew over pushed onto the reserve and as I was packing up to leave a Marsh Harrier flew over putting up all the Lapwing and Wigeon.

The view across Rainham marsh

The view across Wennington marsh

I had a days rest Monday waiting on the PM's announcement which delivered the news of another national lockdown and a move to threat level five on the pandemic. Today I watched the garden a lot whilst staying at home and my prize was first a Fox strolling about then a fly over first for the year when a Red Kite came through really low checking the local gardens for scraps. A walk along the local field gave nothing new but I did find a couple of Hare which I'd never have imagined being present so close to the house.

Not sure where I will draw the line in terms of LOCAL but I hope to get more birding done within my daily exercise "allowance" which will be good for the soul. I can walk to the farm fields and Epping forest , I'm a couple of miles from Lee Valley and a short drive gets me to places like Wanstead, Beckton or Rainham so I do have options and will try to keep the year list ticking along if at all possible whilst trying hard to stay within the "local exercise"guidelines.

After five days the year list sits at a modest 91 and I really don't know how this latest lockdown is going to go but I do know I need to get out locally so I expect a few more birds to be seen before our freedoms of travel return.

Stay safe and well guys

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