Saturday, 24 January 2015

Spent some time yesterday beside the river Thames just east of the riverside car park. Here the gulls are continually coming down from the landfill site to bathe and loaf a while before returning to feed. Yesterday I am pretty certain I had an immature Caspian Gull here, which isn't that uncommon along this part of the Thames, but they are noteworthy. So today I came back armed with my camera, and sods law didn't find it or any other. I admit I do struggle at times particularly with the larger immature gulls, so decided to photograph a few as they flew over and see what I got. I'm pretty sure these are all Herring Gulls below, but please do correct me if I'm wrong!

2nd winter Herring Gull

2nd winter Herring Gull

2nd winter Herring Gull

The perils of feeding at a landfill site

Thursday, 22 January 2015

RSPB Rainham Marshes

Spent seven hours on the reserve today. I walked the circular trail which included going around the woodland twice looking for Bullfinch without success! Then after a pitstop in the visitor centre I walked along the river to the stone barges.

Bird of the day was an immature Caspian Gull on the river between Coldharbour Point and the stone barges. It was with many other gulls who were coming to the river from the adjacent landfill site for a wash and brush up. They never stayed long before flying back to the tip to feed. I spent an hour here watching and it was busy all the time with gulls coming and going, also saw two Yellow-legged Gulls. I struggled here trying to digiscope them without success, having been out for over five hours the cold had set in and I was shivering quite badly. I will try again with my DSLR maybe tomorrow!

At least six Song Thrushes around the woodland, with higher numbers of Blackbirds and just a few Redwings. Cetti's Warblers showed well near the feeding area as did the Brow Rat below.
Brown Rat feeding below the feeders

Two Ravens were seen out in the middle of the marsh, also counted 150+ Dunlin and over 50 Golden Plover on the marsh. A Stoat showed well along the northern boardwalk, but always kept its distance, it did flush a Water Rail in to view and had the company of four scolding wrens!
Rifle butts
 Late morning and the sun came out and I couldn't resist this lapwing which I digiscoped along with the Common Snipes below from Purfleet Hide.
Punky Lapwing

A few Common Snipes around

Moody view across the river
 At Coldharbour Point I couldn't find the recent Water Pipit but this pair of Stonechats were compensation. It was a high tide with very little marginal vegetation above the water level.
Stonechat male at Coldharbour Point

Stonechat female at Coldharbour Point

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Rainham Marshes

Spent the day at Rainham today, a right mix of weather, a calmish and sunny early morning. I got a right soaking just before lunch, the wind increases and clears the rain away finishing with sunshine and strong winds.....lovely!

Only added a few to my year-list but had an enjoyable walk round, a fantastic boozy beef casserole and some great company.

Wennington Marsh is looking good after the re-profiling.

Wennington Marsh viewed from the serin mound
 Dusted off my iPhone 5s and played around with some digiscoping, not too bad considering these were from the Butts Hide and the birds are never close from there!

drake Pintail digiscoped

drake Pintail digiscoped

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Red Kite

Managed to grab half an hour on Sunday to take a few kite pictures. Luckily the sun was out and the sky was blue, good 'ol Princes Risborough it always delivers!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Rainham Water Rail

Popped in to RSPB Rainham Marshes yesterday afternoon in the hope that the Water Rail was still showing on the northern boardwalk. After spending the morning at Wanstead Park photographing the Slavonian Grebe, I was hungry and settled down to beans on toast. I'd just taken my first mouthful, when Howard spotted one of the Ravens flying across the reserve, not a bad bird to start my visit with!

Walking anti-clockwise around the reserve and just past the Ken Barrett hide where the boardwalk starts, the Water Rail did indeed show well on the pool where the terrapin used to be.

It was also good to meet Gary Prescott 'The Biking Birder' again. And after a chat and crippling views of the rail I wished him all the very best for his challenge this year.You can follow his progress HERE

Slavonian Grebe at Wanstead Park

Yesterday morning I couldn't resist going to see an apparently showy Slavonian Grebe less than twenty minutes from my home. The weather was brighter this morning with some cloudy sunshine and the Slavonian Grebe was quickly spotted on my arrival at grid-reference TQ 41466 87228.

I had parked in Northumberland Avenue, Wanstead close to the gates and as I walked through the gates Heronry Pond was on my left and the slav was feeding under the nearest overhanging willows along the south side of the pond.

It was indeed showing very well, but frustratingly almost the whole time staying along the shaded southern side of the pond. It did once come across towards the northern side and the better light.

A cracking little bird and well worth the visit

A Kingfisher used the overhanging willows to fish, but was often obscured

I did manage to quietly move and grab a clearer shot though!

Two Egyptian Geese were also on the pond

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Bumbarrels in literature

John Clare (13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864) mentions them in Emmonsails Heath in Winter, he writes:

Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread
The fieldfare chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the awe round fields and closen rove
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again

‘Bumbarrels’ is a lovely and earthy colloquial name for long-tailed tits – and here Clare deftly snags with words their busy, fidgety ways – and arrests us with that audio-visual image of ‘the whistling thorn’ and its close, orchestral collaboration with the fieldfares, for whose movements ‘rove’ is the perfect description.

John Clare, the nineteenth century naturalist poet doesn’t let us down in providing a poetic tribute to Aegithalos caudatus. Inspired by his local ‘bumbarrels,’ he wrote this poem, full of closely observed detail – and a lovely, vivid sense of these busy little birds, which truly do ‘hang and hide along’:

Bumbarrel’s Nest                                                       

The oddling bush, close sheltered hedge new-plashed,
Of which spring’s early liking makes a guest
First with a shade of green though winter-dashed -
There, full as soon, bumbarrels make a nest
Of mosses grey with cobwebs closely tied
And warm and rich as feather-bed within,
With little hole on its contrary side
That pathway peepers may no knowledge win
Of what her little oval nest contains -
Ten eggs and often twelve, with dusts of red
Soft frittered – and full soon the little lanes
Screen the young crowd and hear the twitt’ring song
Of the old birds who call them to be fed
While down the hedge they hang and hide along.

                                                                       John Clare.

Friday, 2 January 2015

West End - Rainham

A beautiful bright sunny walk around the west end of Rainham Marshes. The stone barges held a high tide roost of mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks. A Raven was first heard cronking away as it flew over the landfill site while a Common Sandpiper flew by heading east close to the foreshore. Further on the first-winter Brent Goose showed distantly in Aveley Bay.
High tide roost on the stone barges

mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Redshanks

heavily cropped record shot of the Brent Goose

New Year's Day

One of my New Year Resolutions, and there are a few! is to spend more time on my local RSPB reserve, Rainham Marshes. This is fortunate, as purely accidentally, it coincides with a bird race on the reserve during 2015. More of which you can see here.

Today was dull and overcast throughout the day, but, mild at around 11 °C although it felt a lot cooler in the 20 mph fresh south-westerly breeze, especially up on the seawall! It was about an hour before high-tide and most of the waders were feeding on the Kent side of the river. Among the mixed group, the majority were Dunlin and Redshank, with fewer Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits. There were also four Ringed Plover feeding in one of the small narrow channels along the mudflats and also a single Spotted Redshank and Grey Plover, A Great Crested Grebe flying up river was a nice find. In the scrub along the seawall were 30-40 Fieldfares and the odd Redwing.

Out on the reserve at least two Marsh Harriers quartered the reserve and Kestrel were seen hovering on a few occasions. A female Sparrowhawk flew low along the fence line and perched briefly on a post. On the many pools and scrapes the wildfowl, especially the drakes were looking resplendent, if only the sun would come out! At least five Stonchats were seen around the reserve, the pairs always staying close together. It was a good walk with very good company it was enjoyable. I look forward to my next visit!

drake Wigeon from Purfleet hide
drake Teal from Purfleet hide