Monday, 25 September 2017

Two Days To Go...

With two days before the start of this year's Shetland adventure it only seemed appropriate to get in as much birding as possible before I set off.
As such I found myself at a tranquil Ingrebourne Valley at a little after six yesterday morning with the intent of hopefully getting the obliging (when it shows) Spotted Crake that was discovered by my boss, Andrew Gouldstone the previous weekend. I had already dipped twice and as I stood there patiently by myself with the sky turning pink to the east with a cacophony of Canada and Greylag Geese breaking the silence I did wonder if it would be third time unlucky.  Over 20 Snipe probed the edges and two Green Sandpipers tiptoed around while at least seven Water Rails squealed from cover across the vista.

Cetti's Warblers sang and a Tree Pipits called as it went over along with a handful of odd Mipits while the flocks of raucous Ring-necked Parakeets swirled overhead but it still took best part of 40 minutes for the delightfully lemonoidal shaped Crake to appear right under my nose.

Spotted Crake

It showed incredibly well for the next 15 minutes before I decided that there would still be some time for birding at work before opening and hastened off.

Blending in...

Just how I got any pictures in the pre-dawn light is amazing but I was just pleased to have seen this enigmatic little chap.

Green Sandpiper 
My morning only got better at RSPB Rainham Marshes with a good scan of the far side of the Thames resulting in the Curlew Sandpiper with the small Dunlin and Ringed Plover flock and seven noisy 'eriking' Sandwich Terns up river. Sam Levy found the first Brent Goose of the season and with Goldcrests along the river wall and House Martins were on the move it felt like a good vis mig was in the offing.

It did not quite come to that but Buzzard and Hobby action was superb and included a ghostly pale bird of the former that had people guessing. I picked up a Yellow Wagtail from the end of the ramp and the Little Stints and nine Ruff did the decent thing and flew over my head with some of the Ringed Plovers.

And so to part three of the day with and after work dash avoiding some interesting traffic to Roding Valley Meadows NR where the stunning juvenile Red-necked Grebe found by Barry Jones on Friday was still paddling around on the lake and showing ridiculously well.

Red-necked Grebe

I do not think I have seen a juvenile before and the tiger striped face and rufus neck was delightful.  Ring-necked Parakeets headed off to roost and both Grey Wagtail and Little Egret complimented the scene.  The only down side was the large numbers of that thoroughly annoying large biting midges that homed in on my still shorted legs!

And so today which Max Hellicar and I spent trundling around the mid and south Essex countryside. It was a very grey and gloomy day but we persevered at Abberton Reservoir and located a good spread of waders in Aveley Bay including a small Pectoral Sandpiper amongst 34 Ringed Plovers, eight Little Stint, four Dunlin, two Curlew Sandpiper, 16 or so Ruff, 40+ Blackwater,  Greenshank and three Snipe. A juvenile Black Tern hawked the lagoon and countless Pintail were scattered amongst the Wigeon.

Max's superb Pectoral Sandpiper shot....

We were also treated to the mass exodus of Cormorants from the Reservoir as they headed for the Blackwater with 820 counted and another 50 elsewhere taking the site total to at least 870!! Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings were seen around by Abberton Church but we could find nothing amongst the huge rafts of Great Crested Grebes and the Great White Egret eluded us.

With the light not improving and an incoming get tide we headed back to Canvey Point for a seawater.  It was murky, the breeze was blowing upriver, the tide was still flooding in and the only burds we saw were actually going out! Four Gannets,  a Bonxie, pale adult Arctic Skua, Arctic Tern,  four Common and five Sandwich Terns were noted along with twenty Brent Geese, 50 Wigeon, a few Swallows and Med Gulls.

Arctic Skua

Black headed and Med Gull

Little Egret 

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

The ever obliging Turnstones were coming to some seed left on the sea wall. They were most entertaining and attracted in a rather rotund Woodpigeon and a smart coal black Carrion Crow.



Fat Boy Pig E On

Carrion Crow
From here we had a last stop at RSPB Bowers Marsh and although the light was abysmal we did have a some great encounters with 16 Corn Buntings, 15 House Sparrows, 16 Reed Buntings and a mixed Linnet, Goldfinch flock along with a flighty male Stonechat.

Over 100 House Martins and Swallows hawked low to the ground and hedges with a couple of Sand Martin for company and occasionally harassed a Kestrel.

The lagoon was covered in Wigeon and Gulls and we picked up six Ruff, six Ringed Plover, Little Stints,  8 Blackwits and three Lapwing around the edges while a Greenshank invisibly called.

A couple of wonderfully performing Bearded Tits rounded off a nice prelude to the main event that starts on the morrow...

24th -25th September 2017

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