Sunday 30 October 2016

Rainham RSPB: A Snob, a Magician and a LBJ

Saturday 29 October

A visit to Rainham RSPB centre taking the long route from Rainham station to the centre via the Stone Barges returning to Rainham station via the Serin Mound.

Joined MM on the way down from the station and first off Rainham 'West' held several Stonechat, and along the path running parallel to the edge of the silts a passerine was flushed by a bird of prey. This was a cracking (silhouetted) Merlin which turned on the after-burners and within seconds belted it's way onto the silts and out of view. Stone Barges was quiet with wintering gull numbers building up and on walking down towards Coldharbour Point small groups of Redshank made their way upriver on the rising tide (50 in total). Stonechat and Reed Buntings were noteworthy in the bushes, if only we had paid more attention to the Stone Barges bushes :) (Nice one SH re the Dusky Warbler). A pair of Common Sandpipers were at the western most end of Aveley Bay and a pair of Avocets flew downriver. On the reserve a male Marsh Harrier tangled with a Buzzard as viewed from the riverwall, and a lone Ring-necked Parakeet flew north over Aveley Pools (5 others earlier south of the river opposite Coldharbour Point).

After a rest at the RSPB centre and a brief river watch (nowt moving) decided to head back along the riverwall. A Green Sandpiper called from the reserve and the foreshore held 3 or 4 Rock Pipits. Set up shop at Serin Mound and it was fairly quiet for the first 30 minutes, but things were about to change. About 13:45 a Brambling flew west calling but I could not pick it out against the leaden sky. Shortly afterwards a male Snow Bunting went through, this one I did get onto, more on the sighting later. At about 14:20 a small dark Falcon flew low over the old riverwall and landed straight out on Wennington Marsh about 300 yards away, a stunning fem/imm Merlin, fair to say the bird from earlier in the morning. I managed to get the phonescoped record shot of the Merlin below before it took off and was lost to view neat the silts. Sadly it didn't return in the next hour but another birder and myself were treated to nice views of Kestrel, 3 Marsh Harriers (ad male and 2 cream-crown juvs) and distant Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. A handful of Chaffinches migrated over as did a lone Redpoll. Then it was time to walk back to Rainham station. A cracking day.

Snow Bunting notes
A few minutes after a Brambling dweezed somewhere overhead at around 13:45 (interspersed with its supplementary soft 'sup-sup' calls), a piercing 'teu' rung out from over Wennington Marsh. Not a call I was familiar with but quickly tried to remember from the 'Collins Guide' - Snow/Lapland Bunting sprung to mind. The bird repeated the call with same ferocity and I picked it up, a long-winded passerine flying over the marsh which had now started to turn and was making a 'bee-line' for the landfill. I tracked it and as it passed level with me (100 yards away and not very high) I could see extensive white wing flashes of a Snow Bunting and almost simultaneously it gave it's more typical 'trolloping' ripple call, a call I'm familiar with from birding the north Norfolk coast in winter.

The bird flew towards the top of the landfill appearing to make heavy weather of it, with slow wing beats revealing the wing flashes in detail confirming it as a male. To be honest the contrast looked like a giant male Banded Demoiselle damselfly (ok the bands do not cloak the end of the wing). The white wing markings were extensive and stretched from leading to trailing edge contrasting with dark wingtips. At one stage the bird was flying with a Skylark in tow, allowing for comparison of the Bunting and Lark shapes. The Snow Bunting being slightly smaller, looked long-winded but they were more slender and the underparts were more streamlined than those features on the Lark. The rest of the body of the Snow Bunting was silhouetted.

Light conditions were ok, reasonably neutral with 8/8 cloud cover and hardly a breeze. The bird almost flew back towards the Serin mound but regained it's flight path to the southwest and over the tip. I stayed in the area for a further hour and half, but no further sign.

Sunday 30 October

Back again at Rainham RSPB, caught up with SH's excellent find, London's 2nd? Dusky Warbler . It was typically elusive but over a long waiting period managed to have excellent flight views and saw it well in the bushes on 3 or 4 occasions. Calling 'tic' fairly frequently.

Walking down to the RSPB centre what must have been yesterday's fem/imm Merlin took off from the slope up to Rainham 'Ridge' west of Aveley Bay car park. It perched on a hillside post and launched itself in pursuit a couple of times, ending up back on a post. After a few minutes it flew off with purpose towards the landfill. I managed to get a few photos (mainly phonescoped). One shown below, much better than yesterday's effort!!! More at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'.

A short video of the Merlin uploaded to my You Tube channel, enjoy.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Vis-migging- Rainham twinned with Numpties, Spurn?

Ringtail Delight (Sat 22 October 2016)

Migration in evident at Rainham RSPB on walking down to the Serin Mound on Saturday morning with Chaffinches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits moving through west. Most were up high and some silent. Variety was provided by a group of Redpoll and back near the centre a group of 6 calling Tree Sparrows shot by (local rarity). Vis-miggers stationed at the bottom of the ramp were logging the birds and a Short-eared Owl entertained on occasion when spooked from the centre of the marsh by corvids or an adult male Marsh Harrier. Into the afternoon it was becoming evident that Common Buzzards were moving through singles or in groups, with the largest being a group of 7, and lesser numbers of Sparrowhawks. The star was way out west from the watch point, namely whilst watching a pale Buzzard over Wennington Marsh PS picked out a ringtail Harrier heading strongly north-east from over that area. Scoping it revealed it to be a Hen Harrier with the warm underparts and small size suggesting imm. male. It was good that several folk got onto it as this beauty was heading out of town at a fair pace.

Egrets... We've had a few! (Sun 23 October 2016)

A return visit on Sunday saw a group of us (AT, RB, PS and myself) head down the riverwall. Aveley Bay was quiet so encouraged by AT we carried on to Serin Mound mindful of Cattle Egrets recently reported (a day or so ago?) a few miles east at Thurrock. Setting up the scope on the mound mid morning and I soon picked up a small Egret flying from the south-west corner heading out towards the A13 flyover. First noted all dark legs and feet (which looked strikingly black). This set alarm bells ringing and I quickly noted that the wings appeared rounded and then straight onto the bill, it was short. As the bird was flying away only when it turned right to head east towards the reserve did it reveal details of the bill - a short orange bill. I quickly got the others onto it and it looked like it was heading out east but turned around and landed by Aveley Pools. All were happy on its 'id' and news was put out over the radio, text and Twitter airwaves. It wasn't settled as soon afterwards it took off and landed back on Wennington Marsh by a distant group of cattle, where it showed well but distant for a bit, then viewing was obscured by the vegetation as it moved at the feet of the cattle. After a while and with this bird still out of sight, a Cattle Egret was picked with a more distant group of cattle. We watched it for a while and then established that 2 birds present, confirmed by others later in the morning. FS arrived quickly by cycle power and was one of many who could share in this sighting during the day.

On leaving and by the Aveley Bay car park AT got onto 3 Egrets in front of us heading fast downriver. We scoped them, 3 Great White Egrets and watched them flying east and lost to view beyond the RSPB visitors centre. Found out that others at the centre were able to see them fly by as well. Not a bad tally, but it took me an hour to add the commonplace Little Egret to the day list!

Caught up with one of the Cattle Egrets (flight view) in the afternoon in the company of a Little Egret near Aveley Pools. Other highlights include the cracking male Marsh Harrier and a distant big Peregrine over the Silts. A Kestrel mobbing it looked tiny by comparison, a brave/foolish Kestrel!

Phonescoped video of one of the Cattle Egret (at distance) uploaded at:

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Cyprus Birding mid October

A quick note on a recent birding trip to Cyprus (08 - 15 October 2016). Migration was steady at best and hard work given the hot temperatures (25-33C).

Connected with White Pelican near Larnaca and other highlights include Desert Wheatear (Paphos Lighthouse), Scopolli's and Yelkouan Shearwaters (Cape Pomos), not forgetting the stunning Eleonora's Falcons NW of Akrotiri Peninsula. The dragonflies and butterflies were worth studying when the birding was slow. A trip report to follow.

Here are some of my first photos sorted out from the trip. Looking forward to returning soon. It was obvious that there has been a severe lack of rainfall in Cyprus, badly needed for irrigation... thought he worked on BBC Look North ;-)


Arrived back late on Saturday 15 October, how to spend the Sunday? Sort out the washing, get the shopping in, ease back into things... Not likely when these Siberian Accentor beauties have been turning up in Blighty.

Twitched the Easington (East Yorks.) Siberian Accentor with my dad and also caught up with Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warbler at the Crown and Anchor, Kilnsea and the Bean Geese between Kilnsea and Easington. Now, that's a proper way to spend Sunday afternoon. Plus, Wednesday won at Huddersfield!