Thursday, 25 September 2014

Garden Birding

At home in the garden today, in between painting the shed I spent some time skywatching! Half a dozen Swallows heading south, followed by three Meadow Pipits and a Jay. Rarely see jays from my garden, so I was quite surprised an hour later to hear another Jay going over, and looking up I counted a group of five heading north. To put that in to context, I have only ever seen a single Jay on three other occasions in the last ten years! I have seen a few comments recently on social media, that there could be a shortage of acorns this autumn and Jays are moving in search of food. This could explain my record garden sighting!

Also, our regular Sparrowhawk, instead of flying through the garden, today it stopped briefly on a neighbours television aerial.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

High Tide on Two Tree

Spent the morning at the west end of Two Tree Island yesterday. High tide was just after 1 pm and I took my position in the hide over looking the scrape at about 10.30 am. Already there was a group of around twenty Greenshank and a few more Redshank.

Greenshanks - Two Tree Island, Essex from Alan Shearman on Vimeo.

The hide is a popular place at this time of the year and it was great to see Denis and the two Johns, in fact as high tide approached there was standing room only in the hide with around twenty people now present. Why so popular? It is probably the best place in south Essex to get good views of the largest variety of wading birds. This high tide roost begins to form around two hours prior to high tide, so timing is important to witness this spectacle. And it is a spectacle, in no particular order today there were; Greenshank 40+, Redshank 100+, Lapwing 30+, Avocet 60+, Black-tailed Godwit 200+, Grey Plover 10+, Golden Plover 20+, Ringed Plover 200+, Knot 20+, Dunlin 50+, Curlew Sandpiper one juvenile bird and a couple of Turnstones. Also, we saw Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Teal, two Yellow Wagtails and a female Sparrowhawk who spooked the roost on a couple of occasions.

For photography, the birds were just never quite close enough for my 400mm, so the images below are quite heavily cropped!


Black-tailed Godwits


Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover and a few Dunlin

Thursday, 18 September 2014

South Essex Marshes

Tuesday evening in the hide overlooking the Veolia scrape at Wat Tyler Country Park. Counted 120+ Little Egrets roosted in trees along the western edge of the scrape. Impressive numbers with the majority coming in well before dusk and using the islands to gather and feed, I hadn't noted that in previous years. At 19.18 the Glossy Ibis came in from the east flew across the scrape and straight in to the roost and out of sight. Distant gunshots out on the marsh disturbed the roost, the Ibis circled above the roost with the Egrets before settling back down.

Glossy Ibis comes in to roost at dusk
Glossy Ibis taken last October near Wat Tyler CP
Early morning short visit today to RSPB Bowers Marsh. Out on the fresh marsh there were still two Little Egrets along with three Ruff, two Greenshank, two Green Sandpipers, 13 Blackwits and 30+ Avocets. Around the reserve a flock of 18 Corn Buntings were good to see.

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Robin popped up and began singing near bunting flock


Sunday, 14 September 2014


Delivered workshops at two allotment sites this weekend, both were fun and well attended. These sunflowers were impressive, this image doesn't do them justice. They were about 10' tall, very stunning.

 These yellow flowers Rudbeckia fulgida took my fancy and I will definately get some for my garden.  Its flowers are certainly among the most yellow of yellows. Large golden discs - their colour made all the more intense by black, velvety centres - open in huge abundance during early September and continue in succession until the end of October. In some years they go on glowing into the murkiness of November. The plant stands about 18" high and looks very impressive when one flower bed contains only these.

 One of the plotholders had created this impressive small pond, beautifully planted and with some interesting focal pieces, again the image doesn't really do it justice.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

What A Day!

I had decided a couple of days ago that Sunday I would spend some time birding at Dagenham Chase. I hadn't checked the weather forecast the night before, as I normally do along with the high tide times. Even if I had I probably wouldn't have thought 'this looks good for migrants!'. Even on arrival, I bumped into Steve D in the beehive car park and he told me he had just had a Wheatear on the Traveller's Field. Walking back together Steve showed me where he had seen it, and sure enough it was still there, feeding along one of the mown footpaths through the field. Even, as we stood watching the Wheatear, we had no idea what today had is store for us!
Wheatear on Travellers Field
Steve headed back to his car to collect his scope, and we agreed to meet up at The Slack, as there were 8 Black-tailed Godwits there. It took me a while to get to the Slack, as the scrub area on Travellers was busy with birds, most were Blackcaps with a few Robins and Whitethroats, but more than I would usually see here, still it hadn't twigged!

On arrival at the Slack, the new fence is brilliant by the way!, looking over the area from the south side I picked up a Whinchat in the scrub within the fenced area, it was being harassed by at least two Robins and working it's way east. More blackcaps and a Lesser Whitethroat in the same area and a second Wheatear hopped in to view. Now the penny was beginning to drop! I reached in to my pocket for my phone to call Steve, when it started ringing, it was Steve and he had a female Pied Flycatcher in the SE corner of the Slack. By the time I got there, which wasn't long, it had disappeared and sadly would not be seen again!

After fruitless searching, I decided to move around behind this area of scrub and work my way along the River Rom. With the sun shining on this area of scrub, I soon picked up a flycatcher, eventually it sat in view a smart Spotted Flycatcher, brilliant, I phoned Vince who was now on site and as we spoke and I tried to explain exactly where I was, I'm useless at giving directions! it was joined by a second Spotted Flycatcher and I could now see Vince walking towards me. My third Wheatear of the morning had landed on top of the tallest tree nearby and stayed there for around 20 minutes, as we watched the flycatchers.

Spotted Flycatcher
Vince headed off to check the scrub area on Crowfoot Marsh, I stayed a little longer with the flycatchers and noted more Blackcaps and another Lesser Whitethroat. Heading towards The Slack bench the hawthorn and gorse scrub held good numbers of Blackcaps, a few Whitethroat, two more Lesser Whitethroats and a roving tit flock. I'd just sat down, when Vince called to say the scrub on Crowfoot was busy with birds, he had another two Spotted Flycatchers and would be spending some time there searching. I decided to join him, it was indeed busy, I could here the 'whet whet' calls of Chiffchaffs all around me, another Lesser Whitethroat and a Spotted Flycatcher were soon seen. Vince called me he had a Redstart, cor what a day! After some patient waiting it showed itself, a female/imm type, and as they often do it was continually dropping to the ground briefly catching insects before returning to the low scrub.

Redstart on Crowsfoot Marsh

Redstart on Crowsfoot Marsh
Eventually I dragged myself away from the Redstart and headed towards the Black Poplars, while Vince went to Check out the old allotment site. I found another Spotted Flycatcher in the Black Poplars, but Vince had three Spotflys and a Redstart in the old allotments, this I had to see.

Redstart in the old allotments

Spotted Flycatcher one of three in the old allotments

It was now 6 pm and I'd had a great 9 hours birding and it finished with two Whinchats together on top of the largest bramble club in the Travellers Field.

On site today, between myself, Vince and Steve we had counted 12+ Spotted Flycatchers (we never did cover the whole site completely), 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Redstarts, 3 Whinchat, 3 Wheatear, 10+ Lesser Whitethroat, 18 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, Whitethroats and a shed load of Blackcaps!

Whinchat on Travellers Field