Saturday, 27 April 2013

Spotted Flycatcher

A non birding day today, but I did manage a quick dash to Dagenham Chase after Vince found a Spotted Flycatcher. A species which can be difficult to connect with locally, Spotted Flycatchers have declined dramatically and consistently since the 1960s. Demographic modelling provides evidence that a decrease in the annual survival rates of birds in their first year may have driven the decline. The ecological causes of the decline are uncertain as good-quality, direct evidence is sparse. Check out the BTO website for more onformation.

Spotted Flycatcher at Dagenham Chase

Spotted Flycatcher at Dagenham Chase

Spotted Flycatcher at Dagenham Chase

Friday, 26 April 2013

Ring-necked Duck

Went along to Chigborough Lakes this morning, in the hope that the female Ring-necked Duck found by Simon Wood yesterday, would still be present. It was, hurrah, it was associating with a few pairs of Tufted Duck and never allowed a close approach. A scarce visitor to the UK, The first record was in 1955 in Gloucestershire, since the mid-seventies it has occurred annually and now averages around twenty individuals a year. It breeds in North America and winters in south to south central America. This was my first sighting in Essex. The images below are heavily cropped.

Ring-necked Duck female

Ring-necked Duck female

Ring-necked Duck female

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Pec at Rainham

Took a welcome break from gardening this afternoon, when I was alerted to a Pectoral Sandpiper at RSPB Rainham Marshes. Arrived around 2 pm the bird had been found an hour earlier, when it flew in with a few Dunlin and one Ringed Plover they landed on Purfleet Scrape. The Dunlin and Ringed Plover had departed before I arrived, but fortunately the Pec had attached itself to three Redshank and was still present. It was often out of view behind a small grass tussock, as it fed though it would appear occasionally from behind the tussock and give good views. At 3.30 it flew with the three Redshank south and out over the River Thames and was lost to view. This was my eighth Pectoral Sandpiper in the UK but my first in spring.

Also two Whimbrel flew low over the scrape and out to the river, the second calling as it went.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Reeling and Chock Chock Chocking!

An early morning start at Friars Park, Shoeburyness in the very slim hope that yesterday evenings male Pied Flycatcher may still be present. Sadly it wasn't, at this time of the year our returning summer migrants really have one thing on their mind. Return to their breeding territory, find a mate and raise a family, simple. It is not often that migrants in spring passing through our area stay long as was the case with the Pied Flycatcher. Brief views of a Little Owl and my first Cuckoo of spring were some compensation.

Headed off to Two Tree Island, I had planned to be there early, but due to my detour for the flycatcher I didn't arrive until almost 9 am. My second Cuckoo of the day this one was singing, a short burst of 'reeling' song of the Grasshopper Warbler which is holding territory just north of the small air strip and an even shorter view. I moved across to the east side of the island and followed the main track east, I could hear a Nightingale singing even before I had reached the feeding station. That loud "Chock Chock Chock" the Nightingale is famous for its rich tones and exceptional musicality. There were not one but three different individuals singing and occasionally showing well.

Below is a recording of a male Nightingale recorded in Bedfordshire

The second Grasshopper Warbler performed better than the first 'reeling' and showing near the scrape.

Greenshank from the viewing screen

Monday, 22 April 2013

Chasing Warblers!

Over the last few days, I have spent a number of hours at Dagenham Chase. After adding Sedge Warbler to my site list for the year this morning, I have now seen all but one of the regular occurring warblers at The Chase. After hearing and seeing the now difficult to find locally Garden Warbler on Saturday morning behind the visitor centre, followed by a silent Lesser Whitethroat. The only one which still eludes me is Grasshopper Warbler, and this is not always guaranteed annually!So, Cettis, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warbler are all now on site.

At least two pairs of Lapwing are sitting on The Slack, and at least three pairs of Great Crested Grebes are on site. Also good to see that all four Egyptian Geese goslings were looking good this morning.


Great Crested Grebe

Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Geese

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Walk Like An Egyptian!

Well perhaps not walk, more pose, one of the pair of Egyptian Geese now has four goslings, and they have the arghhhhh factor!

Egyptian Goose goslings

The parents are extremely protective of their brood and rightly so, lets hope they make it, the first few days are possibly the most critical, they have lost one already as five were hatched.
Sunday I spent 5 hours at The Chase, I counted 13 singing Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warbler, 4 Cetti's Warblers and 7 Blackcap, Spring has arrived, hooray!

Also had 4 Common Terns fly over the slack, and less than ten minutes later a Peregrine Falcon. The Peregrine made two attempts to catch first a Lapwing, which was missed by inches and then a Moorhen which seemed to dive under the water to avoid capture. An awesome sight, the Peregrine which looked quite large and I assume female, was seen off eventually by a Herring Gull ably supported by the Lapwings, magical!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Early morning at The Chase

The Chase

Arrived on site this morning at 06.45, not early enough to beat some of the dog walkers though! Started on Fels Field where two Willow Warblers were singing along with the resident species as were two or three Chiffchaff. Still a handful of Redwing around and I'm sure I heard some brief Redwing song this morning!

Moved back across the road to the Millennium Centre and walked towards The Slack. Had another Willow and more Chiffchaff singing along with two Blackcap. Just before the entrance to The Chase a Kingfisher flashed across in front of me. On The Slack still the one sleeping Greenshank and a Yellow Wagtail put in a brief appearance before heading in the direction of Crowsfoot Marsh.

Two species that have declined dramatically  nationally are Song Thrush and Bullfinch. At The Chase today I counted four singing Song Thrushes and a pair of Bullfinches.

Song Thrush

male Bullfinch
See I said there was a pair, rubbish pictures though, they are not at all approachable, and who can blame them!
Bullfinch pair

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Dagenham Chase

Spent the afternoon at The Chase, still very wet underfoot in most areas, but at least it didn't rain. Added four species to my Essex year list; Greenshank and at last some migrants Little Ringed Plover (2), Sand Martin (6) and Willow Warbler (2). Also good numbers of Chiffchaff around today.
Little Ringed Plover

sleeping Greenshank - a good site record

Egyptian Goose

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Ingrebourne Valley

Early frosty morning walk around part of the valley in glorious sunshine. From the viewing area a pair of Garganey were kipping and hidden in vegetation before flying to the back lake and out of view. Rubbish photo but at least you can see it's white supercillium!

drake Garganey
Fortunately, I turned round from watching the Garganey to see a Woodcock which had been flushed by a dog fly over and disappear from view. On the reservoir the five Red-crested Pochards, three of which were drakes were viewed through the fence. Two Buzzards were thermalling over the paddock and nice end to a short visit.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Gunners Park and Bowers Marsh

After the excellent sightings in the Thames Estuary off Gunners Park over the last few days, all of which are extremely well recorded on Southend Ornithological Group Bird News page. I decided to start the day there. Probably due to a far less strong easterly and welcome sunshine, bird movement never quite lived up to the last few days. Common Scoter were still present in good numbers probably 80+ being seen, mainly in small flying groups, with the majority heading west. Around the Mulberry Harbour at least two Velvet Scoters were seen in flight. Up to three Sandwich Terns were seen fishing in front of the Mulberry Harbour, my first of the year as were the Velvet Scoters. Unfortunately all were too far away to photograph.

The park has seen a large amount of housing development over the last few years and this still continues today. A new school nearing completion, Hinguar School has a landscaped grass area with newly planted trees. A female Black Redstart was found by local birders and provided good views, as it used the stakes supporting the newly planted trees to make feeding sorties to the ground, an excellent local find.

The female Long-tailed Duck was still present on the lake and has been since the start of the year at least. She spent most of the time with her head tucked in asleep, and the one time she did wake up I never had her quite in focus Doh!

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck
I was at Gunners over high-tide and came across this small mixed group of roosting waders. There were a hundred odd Sanderling with a handful of both Dunlin & Ringed Plover.

Roosting Sanderling, Dunlin & Ringed Plover





Ringed Plover
In the afternoon I walked the full circuit of Bowers Marsh, glorious sunshine (at last) and little wind made for a very pleasant walk. The best bird seen was a male Bearded Tit which showed well as I sat and ate my lunch. Despite the weather, migrants were obvious by their absence. Thousands of gulls seemed to get spooked to flight, far too easily, each time I scanned the skies fruitlessly for a passing raptor. A Green Sandpiper, one Black-tailed Godwit and five Avocets were seen. The commonest wader was easily Snipe, with individuals flushed from each wet area. Skylarks were also in good voice and numbers. A good day with fine weather for a change, dare I say, it felt like spring!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Vange Marsh - Probable Siberian Chiffchaff?

Spent the morning on the RSPB's reserve at Vange Marsh. In the abstraction ditch near the north-east corner of the reserve, were five Chiffchaffs and a bird that looks the part for Siberian Chiffchaff. All the chiffies showed well at times foraging low down in the abstraction ditch, but they were not always in the ditch, the nearby Blackthorns and Hawthorns appear to be part of their feeding area, and they would disappear at times. This bird has been present since Sunday and was found by local birder Neil Chambers, nice one Neil! I'm by no means an expert on Chiffchaff ID, but the bird does appear to have the correct features according to some literature and is a dead ringer for some published photos of Siberian Chiffchaff. Have a look at Martin Garner's excellent 'Birding Frontiers' blog  here. Below are five images which I took this morning.
probable Siberian Chiffchaff

probable Siberian Chiffchaff

probable Siberian Chiffchaff

probable Siberian Chiffchaff

probable Siberian Chiffchaff

And below is a Common Chiffchaff also taken this morning.

Common Chiffchaff