Sunday, 17 March 2019

Ingrebourne Valley

Went for the first time for ages to the valley. I parked in Hornchurch Country Park popped in to the visitor centre briefly before heading off. A quick look from the viewing area, not a great deal, Mallard, Teal etc and a few Blue and Great Tits. What I did find astounding and hadn't thought about it before going was the number of dog walkers, all well behaved but so many must have been a couple of hundred across the site. Also many cyclists, walkers including a large walking group, needless to say it was very busy, which in a way is good to see people using their outdoor ammenities.

just a very small part of the number of dog walkers

I then carried on turning left and over the black bridge, had both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker here in the wood to my right. I carried on up the slope to the road, turning left towards the paddock. Well it was a horse grazing paddock the last time I was here, but is now a newly planted plantation. I carried on and walked the trail through Rainham Lodge Farm where a few Skylarks were up singing but no sign of any Yellowhammers, not surprising as a thirty strong walking group had gone through minutes before me!

former grazing field now a new plantation

Carrion Crow

I retraced my steps and walked the edge of Berwick woods to Berick Pond more woodpeckers a singing Song Thrush and a mixed tit flock. On the pond were mainly mallard with a mute swan but at least four Water Rails were heard squealing and a few Cetti's Warblers.

Berwick Pond

I walked back through the wood, a big mistake as I came to quite a steep part of the path, the steps were extremely muddy and almost hidden. I decided to take the more greener looking route, big mistake as I slipped went up in the air and came down on my back but more importantly I landed on my new camera and long lens. Both of which were damaged, I was bruised but completely embarassed and annoyed with my self for not turning back and finding an easier route. I fear this may cost me dearly.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzard
I had now lost interested and walked back to my car to head home after walking 13,000 steps and one slip.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Coalhouse Fort

Spent a few hours in East Tilbury on the hottest February day since records began. To be honest I was there from 10:15 to 15:15 and on such a sunny day it was not great for photography. I really need to get myself out during what they call "The Golden Hours". These are the hour or so as the sun rises and sets.

I spent a quite a bit of time looking for the Twite and eventually finding them, but they were pretty flighty whenever I got any where near they were off, or i was looking directly in to the sun, still at least I saw them. Also of interest two adult Med Gulls flew over calling.

managed a Meadow Pipit

and a Long-tailed Tit

male Stonechat, there were a few Stonechats but never close

female Reed Bunting


Looks lik a tug out of Felixstow

Part of the moat and looking across the River Thames to the massive cranes at DP World London Gateway Port

and I met this friendly chap at the end

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Stone barges to Coldharbour Point

This morning although there was a frost earlier now at just after 8am the sun was shining with lots of blue sky and pleasantly warm. On one of the stone barges I spotted a Water Pipit, but it had to be on the furthest one. Although I waited a while it never came any closer, hence the rubbish images.

Water Pipit with bold eyestripe and double wing bars

Water Pipit

Water Pipit

pair of Wigeon

Grey Heron flys by

female Stonechat near Coldharbour Point

SWS Essex tug boat goes by quickly

1st winter Herring Gull heavily blotched underparts and big primary window

Cormorant heading east

another 1st winter Herring Gull heavily blotched underparts and big primary window

Black-headed Gull

Yet another 1st winter Herring Gull heavily blotched underparts and big primary window

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Dagenham Chase

The Chase I've not been there for quite some months, probably should have worn wellies as it is pretty muddy in places. I was hoping to see Bullfinch a bird that is not at all easy to see locally these days. It was obvious that quite a bit of habitat improvement had been undertaken and there was a new fence on Crowfoot Marsh, all great news. 
Great Spotted Woodpecker spotted distantly near the slack 
 I did manage briefly to see a single male Bullfinch, but as soon as it spotted me it was gone showing me its white arse as it went. Although I walked the length of the river I couldn't find a Kingfisher or Grey Wagtail. But, I did spot a fairly high flying Buzzard passing overhead.


 I then popped down to the seawall at Rainham around 3:30pm in the hope that the Short-eared Owl may show. Of course it didn't but these two Shelducks flew over.

Shelducks over the seawall

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Caspian Gull at the Stone barges

Yesterday I walked from the stone barges and back again, I was hoping for a water pipit or a rock pipit would do, but alas it was not to be! It was a pleasant walk with a good selection of species seen.

I was chuffed to find my first Caspian Gull, and well pleased when the identification came back as correct.

first-winter Caspian Gull near the stone barges

the same bird
So why is it a Caspian Gull? Firstly thanks to Howard for confirming the identification. 
Note the clean strikingly white head, long and low sloping forehead, long, slender all dark bill with the basal third only partially paler grey, relatively small beady black eye, the white ground colour, heavier streaking around the lower hind neck, pale legs. You can see that it has already replaced lots of its first generation (juvenile) wing coverts with second generation feathers - just look for contrasts in the colour, pattern and wear of feathers in the coverts and you will notice differences. It has also replaced a tertial on one side (the upper feather on its left side; again notice the contrasts between this new feather and the lower ones, which are older). This moult immediately should take you away from Herring and to either Caspian or YLG. The jizz (as described already) and pattern of the tertials (diffuse paler thumbprint near tip in Caspian, sharper narrow fringe in YLG) help take you to Caspian with this bird. Caspian very often has lots of grey in its second-generation scapulars (as with this bird) and this can give an impression quite unlike Herring. When it flies several other very important things become apparent and if it calls you will hear other useful differences. Of course, there are individual differences and quite a bit of variability, so this is just a simplified overview but hopefully it helps. This bird looks oddly short legged for a Caspian, so when something does not quite fit it is worth seeing as many other features as possible. Thanks to Chris Gibbins for providing all the detail about the feather patterns and moult etc.

I love trying to get flight shots, this I think is a first-winter Herring Gull, but please let me know if I'm wrong?

adult Herring Gull

Marsh Harrier over Wennington Marsh

Kestrel keeping a look out and a little distant

high flying Peregrine put everything up on Wennington Marsh

Blue Tit

male Blackbird

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Black-necked Grebes at Abberton Reservoir

My tip for getting some reasonably close images is to get there early (fewer people). Stand back from the wall, as standing at the wall has the effect of pushing the birds further away including the Goosanders. And to give it some time, a little patience. Or maybe I got lucky!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Abberton Reservoir

Arrived on the Layer de la Haye causeway 07:45 and the day was beginning to dawn, there was just a small amount of orange sky otherwise it was still quite dusky and I needed to up my ISO on my camera to 2000 and probably should have tried even higher as freezing movement was difficult.
I thought I had counted 11 Great White Egrets but now looking at this picture it looks like there were 12. The low light, even with a high ISO couldn't get s sharp image. These were east of Layer de la Haye causeway along the southern edge and close.

Great White Egret a little sharper as the light began to improve

As the day began there was just this small area of orange sky but no sun appeared during my visit sadly!

Part of a group of 70+ Goosanders

female Goosander

Great White Egret

Another Great White

drake Goosander

2 Black-necked Grebes

Black-necked Grebe with patience they would come in close to the causeway.

Bewick Swan

2 of the 4 Bewick Swans present