Sunday, 31 January 2016


RSPB Havering Local Group's coach trip yesterday to Dungeness, Kent. We arrived around 09.45 at the power station and had just over an hour before the coach left for the RSPB reserve. Some of us headed towards the fishing boats, stopping and checking the gulls as we went, no luck so far with the Glaucous Gull. We climbed a couple of ridges of shingle and scoped the sea. Great Crested Grebes were feeding close to the shore, must have been 50+, in amongst them were three or four Guillemots while two Red-throated Divers drifted past just beyond the grebes, and the odd Gannet floated by. Amongst the passing gulls were both adult and juvenile Kittiwakes. Over to our left were a number of gulls feeding and in amongst them was the first-winter Glaucous Gull, a beast of a bird and so easy to pick out as flew inland over the fishing boats, around behind us to join the group of loathing gulls.
adult Gannet and a few of the Great Crested Grebes

immature Kittiwake

first-winter Glaucous Gull

first winter Glaucous Gull, beast of a bird and when flying its paleness and white primaries really did make it stand out from the rest!

Back on the coach for the short trip back down the road where some of us were dropped out near the ARC pits. We watched the feeders in the garden of the house at the entrance but didn't see any of the hoped for tree sparrows. Large swirling flocks of mainly Lapwings were regularly put to flight by the quartering Marsh Harriers, an impressive sight. On to the ARC pits and the screen hide, young Tom was already there and had had a ring-tail Hen Harrier cruise past, luckily it showed again but more distantly. A couple of Bearded Tits were in the reedbed and a Bittern showed well as it flew across in front of the hide and disappeared in to the reeds. A Great White Egret flew over mobbed by gulls and another Marsh Harrier. Moving on to the reserve a male Stonechat showed well as did another Great White Egret from the viewing mound. We then had brief views of two Dartford Warblers in the gorse area as they gave tantalising but brief views in flight and occasionally perched on the gorse. We had a look out of all the hides around the reserve and saw another Bittern in flight. More sightings of Great White Egret, three Goosander a male and two females, at least three redhead Smew and half a dozen Goldeneye. Also a roving tit flock included mainly Long-tails and Blue with a couple of Goldcrests. Goldcrests were the highlight from Dennis's hide, it was as if they were on elastic continually popping up into the air, a brief hover before disappearing back in to the scrub and then repeat.

Our last highlight were two Long-eared Owls, roosting at the back of the dipping pond near the visitor centre. One showed very well almost completely in the open, while the other roosted deeper in the scrub. 

Long-eared Owl at roost

A great day which remained dry with an overcast morning and cool breeze. In the afternoon the clouds cleared and we had blue skies and sunshine although the cool breeze remained. I never managed an image I was happy with today so record shots only!

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Wow what a place and why haven't I been here before! Heybridge Basin is the start of the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation to which it owes its existence. It was here that the Colliers' barges unloaded for the journey inland. Construction of the 13 mile canal to Chelmsford commenced in 1793 under the general direction of John Rennie.

First thanks to my good mate Denis for these directions. Park in the Daisy Meadow Car Park which is on Basib Road at CM9 4RP. This is a large Free car park, walk out of the back of the car park and up on to the canal bank, turn left this takes you to the lock gates on the Blackwater. Cross the gates and go up on to the seawall, you can now walk right round to Maldon. On your right will be the gravel pits, while across the Blackwater is Northey Island. If you go left before crossing the lock gate you will see two fantastic pubs and a café all serve food!

It was a gloriously sunny and almost windless day today, and even at the end of January the place was busy, I can imagine a fine day during the summer the place would be heaving.
The tide was out on arrival at 8am and the birds on the Blackwater were magic, about 400 Avocets, 2,000+ Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 200+ Black-tailed Godwits, loads of Dunlin, Knot and Redshank. Plus the odd Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Oystercatchers and the evocative calls of Curlew it really was magic.

Managed to find the Great Grey Shrike around the gravel pits, it showed well at times but never very close.
Great Grey Shrike

Great Grey Shrike

Grey Plover

Black-tailed Godwits

Black-tailed Godwit


Black-tailed Godwit

If like me you have never been to Heybridge Basin, you really must it is a wonderful place.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Rainham - Raven & Bittern

Spent most of today at RSPB Rainham Marshes, arrived at the small car park on the landfill at 07.45. An overcast start to the day with just a little bright redness in the sky to the east.

Looking east from small car park

Walking around to the serin mound I still had my wide angle lens on the camera, big mistake as the Siberian Chiffchaff showed well and calling for about a minute before disappearing. Wennington Marsh was relatively quiet with just one Marsh Harrier worth noting. Walking up and over the landfill site Skylarks were already up and singing and a few Meadow Pipits were also seen. On the reserve the reedbed feeders were busy and I sat a while and took a few snaps.
Great Tit

Grey Squirrel

Reed Bunting

Blue Tit


From the Ken Barret hide Raven was seen over the marsh and a Lapwing fed on an island in front of the hide.

Near the western end of the northern boardwalk I had some luck. There are two benches where you can view the Peregrine's favourite pylon and one was sat at the top. I set my scope on it and sat down to eat my sarnies, a couple passed by and stopped to look through my scope at the Peregrine. The lady asked if I had seen any harriers, I said yes there were two distant ones earlier, to which she said is that large bird one? I stood up to see a Bittern flying across the reed tops, what a stroke of luck, because if the couple hadn't passed by, I would have been sat eating my lunch and missed it!

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year's Day at Rainham Marshes

With the reserve open at 7am this morning, I managed to get there for 8am and the sun was shining with little wind...a great day lay ahead. In the woodland I saw three Goldcrests a species which eluded me in 2015! At least 7 Song Thrushes were in full voice and added to a very enjoyable walk.

The Barn Owl was watching us from the comfort of his box and then another species which managed to hide from me last year, the Dartford Warbler although elusive showed fairly well at times.

counted eight Stonechats today

Kestrel showed really well along the seawall

Managed 70 species which also included Egyptian Goose, Short-eared Owl and Common Buzzard.