Monday, 16 March 2015

Late Winter Birding, Rasher-gate and Beach Football

Slow changes in the birding at Rainham RSPB late February to mid March. The weather remaining dull, windy with rain in the air on several visits, but one weekend offered a glimmer of Spring. Gull numbers dropped during the period did the wintering ducks. Marsh Harriers put on a nice show with at least 4 different birds present on any visit. Peregrines continued and the local Buzzards took to the skies. Cetti's Warblers became very noisy and Chiffchaff's more obvious. Noteworthy was a single flock of 110 Fieldfare on Rainham 'West' with 33 more flying east early morning on a cold Saturday 28 February. Spring was around the corner as a Sand Martin flew over the same site on a 'balmy' Sunday 08 March. Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies were in flight the first weekend in March. Oystercatchers came in during this period with at least 3 pairs along the Thames during the March WeBS count. More sign of Spring with the reserve's first 'Lurp' (Little Ringed Plover) of the year occurring over the weekend of 14/15 March. A Raven 'cronked' its way onto the reserve in the morning of 15 March and a smart looking 'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit was seen all too briefly from the Butts hide. Would have loved to have got a photo of this bird.

Last month saw 'double yolkers' cooked on the stove for breakfast, this month has seen 'Rasher-gate'. Was I lucky enough to be presented with 2 rashers, or is it just an optical illusion?

Beach football in Sheffield on Saturday 14 March. Owls drew 1-1 at home to Fulham. It felt like a loss, given the way Fulham were allowed to equalise... must play to the whistle! The pitch was bare, very bare! En route saw 5 Red Kites over the A1 near Peterborough and half a dozen or so Kestrels throughout the journey.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Rainham RSPB late Jan to mid Feb 2015

Birding very settled at Rainham from late Jan through mid Feb 2015.

Wintering waders put on a good show with swirling Dunlin flocks joining the Lapwings and Golden Plovers throughout. Over 100 Redshanks roosting along the Thames with similar numbers of Black-tailed Godwits. The Ruff continues to winter at Coldharbour Point alongside Redshank and Snipe. Aveley Bay holds a dozen or so Ringed Plovers, and today an Avocet added variety.

An increase in Little Egrets over the last few weeks and wintering duck remained, including double figures of Pintail. Displaying Teal and Shelduck squabbling mid Feb, as well as the first 'whinnying' Little Grebe.

Raptors seen included Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Kestrel and Peregrine. Marsh Harriers being especially impressive with a female seen chasing a Shoveler today and later seen flying high above the reserve surveying its patch. A week ago Peregrines were particularly active over the reserve with multiple sightings during that particular visit.

All the 5 commoner Gulls throughout and today saw a cracking Caspian Gull (1st w) resting with similar aged Herring and GBB Gulls on the shore at low tide opposite the RSPB centre. Several colour-ringed BH Gulls (yellow) read in the field at Stone Barges proved to be of local origin.

Ravens entertained most weekends and the one shown opposite was seen today looking out of place on a post in Wennington Marsh. It had just robbed an imm. GBB Gull of a scrap of food. Multiple pairs of Stonechats overwinter but did not see any today, Cetti's Warblers shout and Chiffchaffs call, and last week a Bullfinch 'piped' overhead. A Water Pipit showed west of Stone barges on the day of the February WeBS count.

What's the birding highlight of the last few weeks? A choice between Caspian Gull, Ravens or Marsh Harriers? Whilst the Caspian Gull was stunning and the regular Ravens and ca. 10 Marsh Harriers in the area were perhaps unheard of just a few years ago, the birding highlight came from left field. It was from breakfast today with the gang - which produced not one, not two, but five 'double-yolkers', two shown opposite.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Caspian Gull on the yearlist - Rainham Marshes RSPB

Back birding at Rainham RSPB walking the long route from Rainham railway station to the reserve taking in the Stone Barges and Wennington Marsh. On the way to the Stone Barges a Great Spotted Woodpecker was noteworthy flying into a tree on the marsh by the railway station known as Rainham 'north'. The marsh known as Rainham 'west', south of the A13 and west of the Silt Lagoons, was quiet with a couple of calling Cetti's Warblers noted. The 5 'common' gull species present at low tide at the Stone Barges and several with 'bling', but the keen westerly wind made noting the details of the colour-rings impossible. A Rock Pipit was present and 4 Black-tailed Godwits flew upriver. 19 'Blackwits' were roosting west of Aveley Bay and Coldharbour Point held the wintering Ruff. Moving on and the highlight of the day for me was the 1st winter Caspian Gull present with 50 or so large gulls roosting on Wennington Marsh. This distinctive bird stood out and views allowed for comparison with similarly aged Herring Gulls as they swam together and also walked side by side. Marsh Harriers flew over the marsh/silts and Buzzards were over the A13.

On the reserve the Dunlin flock swirled around at high tide and at least 11 Curlews roosted. An Avocet moved from Aveley Bay to Purfleet Scrape on the rising tide. Loads of duck present on the reserve and the fine weather saw Teal displaying. 2 Ravens frequented the reserve mid afternoon and the Brown Rat shown opposite made the Reed Buntings visiting the woodland feeders feel a bit nervy. Stonechats present and a couple of Rock Pipits flew towards the MDZ in the afternoon. The Cordite store was very quiet.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Rainham Marshes RSPB 17/18 January 2015

Two visits to Rainham Marshes RSPB over the weekend, and a wintry feel to the place. Lots of Gulls around the Stone Barges/landfill but I couldn't pick out any of the scarcities. Peregrine flew over on Saturday and nearby Wennington Marsh held at least 3 cc Marsh Harriers with 2 circling Buzzards on the same day. Stonechats and Cetti's Warblers added to the mix and Song Thrushes and Redwings were particularly evident.

Sunday was WeBs count day and I covered the shoreline from just west of Stone Barges down to the RSPB centre. 200 Redshank, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Snipe and Curlew were seen with a variety of ducks, but, the above were, perhaps, overshadowed by 4 Egyptian Geese flying up river between Aveley Bay and Coldharbour Point. On the reserve over 200 Dunlin graced Purfleet Scrape alongside lots of Snipe, Lapwing and Golden Plover. This scrape, viewable from the centre is coming into its own. Along the northern boardwalk the Water Rail in the photo was showing nicely on Sunday attracting loads of regulars and visitors alike. Several Rock Pipits along the shoreline between Stone Barges and the RSPB centre and a smart Water Pipit showing and calling near Coldharbour Point. A subtle 'wist' compared with the 'weest' of the "Rockit".

Friday, 9 January 2015

Xmas and New Year 2014/15 Birding Summary

Back home in Yorkshire for Xmas and New Year and managed a fair bit of birding paying particular attention to the Barnsley/Sheffield moors and the gull roost at Anglers CP just over in West Yorkshire.

A handful of visits to the Anglers CP gull roosts produced regular sightings of 'Psycho' the adult Yellow-legged Gull, who could be picked up on its mewing like call, and similarly a regular and stonking 3rd winter Caspian Gull. One evening saw 2 (1st winter) Iceland Gull present, and another of an adult Mediterranean Gull which settled all too briefly on the rocks in front of the hide. Wintering Goosander and Goldeneye were present but the range of wildfowl played second fiddle to the Larids. This site is getting excellent coverage and regular updates can be found at Barnsley Bird Sightings.

The moors yielded erratic raptor sightings. Didn't connect with any Rough-legged Buzzards that had been present before Xmas but saw Red Kite on 2 visits, a handful of Common Buzzards and a Merlin hunting over the picturesque snow fields. A Brambling flew over Ewden Heights and Stonechat rested on the stone walls nearby on one visit.

Went to Old Moor RSPB only once, the day after the snowfall. Quiet at this time of year with a group of Goosanders looking very smart, as always, a Little Egret looking very unseasonal and the feeding stations packed full of passerines.

Further afield birding included twitching the Blyth's Pipit and 'Thayer's' Gull at the hot spot of Pugneys CP and surrounds, An Iceland Gull present near Dewsbury at the original haunt of the 'Thayer's' Gull sat on the refuse site roof in the cold winter sunshine. I twitched the East Yorkshire Little Bustard on New Year's Eve mid afternoon and after seeing the 'mega' caught up with the wintering Rough-legged Buzzard at Grindale. Saw this stunning raptor a couple of days later as well and a minimum of 8 Mediterranean Gulls were present up the road at Holbeck, Scarborough. I dipped Kumlien's Gull at Wheldrake Ings in the New Year but was compensated with flyover Peregrine and a local Barn Owl prior to dusk.

For more photos from this period please click on 'Latest UK Bird Photos'.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014 Year End

Connected with the putative Thayer's Gull in the roost at Pugney's CP on Sunday 28 December 2014, record shot below, having seen a juv. Iceland Gull at Ravensthorpe earlier, also shown below.

Struggled with raptors on the South Yorkshire moors, no sign of any Rough-legged Buzzards between Xmas and the year end.

Twitched the East Yorkshire Little Bustard on New Year's Eve and late in the day finally saw a Rough-legged Buzzard at nearby Grindale, both shown below. A Kestrel was jealous of its hovering abilities and buzzed it forcing it further from the road.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas Birding 2014

Connected with Yorkshire's 1st ever Blyth's Pipit on Christmas Eve near Pugneys CP, flight views giving its quiet 'chup' call, and briefly in a tree. A Little Egret flew over the nearby wetlands.

A crisp Boxing Day and a look for raptors on the South Yorkshire moors produced 3 or 4 Common Buzzards, a few Kestrels and plenty of skittish Red Grouse only in the Broomhead Moor area.

Gull roost watching at Anglers CP in excellent viewing conditions from the hide on Boxing Day and Saturday 27 December produced decent numbers of Herring and GBB Gulls and the following specialities: Iceland Gull 2 (1st winters - 27th), Yellow-legged Gull (1 adult - 26th 'Psycho' & 2 adults inc. 'Psycho' - 27th), Caspian Gull (1 3rd winter - 27th) and Mediterranean Gull (1 adult - 26th).