Seven days of Autumn Magic - 27th August - 2nd September 2017
It has been a fruitful week that began with an amble around
the delightfully posh craft fair at RHS Hyde Hall last Sunday. It was very warm with unbroken sunshine and
as it always the way here, there is undoubtedly wildlife to be seen despite the
The sedums were crowded with Honey Bees and bumbles
including several hortorums amongst the terrestris. Hovers were sparse but I
did find an Eristalis arbustorum, a couple of annoying Cheilosia sp, Syrphus
ribesii, Sphaerophoria scripta, Platycheirus albimanus, Episyrphus balteatus
and a couple my favourite Myathropa florea kept us company during lunch and
were accepted once I had explained about them not being wasps...
| Myathropa florea (ACV)|
A Hummingbird Hawkmoth zoomed around and the three ponds were
alive with Odenata with a good list of species: .Emperor, Brown and Migrant
Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer, Ruddy and Common Darter, Common Blue, Azure,
Blue-tailed, Small Red-eyed and several elegant Willow Emerald Damselflies.
|Willow Emerald Damselfly|
|Small Red-eyed Damselfly|
|and another large tachinid that refused to pose - too hot and flighty!|| |
Bank Holiday Monday at work saw a self imposed exile on the
river wall just outside the visitors centre at RSPB Rainham Marshes with the
intent of not only engaging with the visitors but also to prove that despite it
being the best part of 30c there would be plenty to see out on the reserve. I
stood there with my scope and flip chart from opening till 3pm when the heat
just got too much and in that time I had clocked up 81 species from just that
|Starlings - Ken Bentley|
There was not anything that out of the ordinary for the most
part but people were shocked at just how much could be seen ‘even on a quiet
day’. Saying that there were a couple of goodies thrown in with a very distant
Big BOP that Martin Jordan and I got onto mid morning that gave us our first
Honey Buzzard of the season and a juvenile Red Kite that was initially seen by
others and superbly photographed by Ian Plume before it climbed up from
Wennington and allowed me to enjoy it too.
|juvenile Red Kite- Ian Plume|
|juvenile Red Kite- Ian Plume|
Hobbies were a constant delight and clouds of Starlings kept
swirling around and plummeting into the blackberry clumps to strip what is left
of this year’s bumper harvest.
|Hobby with multiple dragon catch - Ricky Blackman|
Wednesday saw the anticipated poor weather with low cloud,
mist, drizzle and rain but little wind and with it came frequent pulses and
terns up the Thames. All were determined and on the move and you had to be
quick to keep up with them, count the flock and try to id as many as possible.
Sometimes they were mixed Commons and Arctics, sometimes just one species would
predominate but by the end of the day we had amassed a whopping 325 Arctic Tern and 275 Common Tern
with single adult Roseate Tern, Little Tern, 11 Black Tern and 4 Sandwich
This was our best visible passage for many years with all six
regular species in one day as well making it all the more memorable. I watched
from the warmth and comfort of the visitors centre while Andy, Phil and Dave
very bravely stuck it out along the river wall where they hunkered down behind
Phil’s enormous fishing umbrella.
|Not ideal for the high street but superb for riverwatching!|
A few waders were noted including new 16 Avocet and two each
of Turnstone and Ringed Plover but a drake Common Scoter was the only other river
bird of note but we were not complaining. As the rain let up at 5pm a splurge
of hirundines poured through with over 500 House Martins and a couple of
hundred Sand Martins counted as the moved ahead of the weather.
In complete contrast to the very cool weather of Wednesday, Thursday
was again warm and sunny but we were very grateful for the squally shower early
in the afternoon as I glanced out of the window to see five glowing white
Spoonbills descending in ever decreasing circles ahead of the incoming rain.
Cue some running round the centre shouting and other completely appropriate behaviour.
They annoyingly landed out of sight on the closest edge of the pool and so and
escape was made with camera in hand. All five were still awake when I got there and I managed a
couple of shots before they all dozed off in traditional Spoony fashion.
|Five glorious Spoonbills|
|Spoonbill departure - Steve Elwell|
It looked like three juveniles and two adults and this was
later confirmed when they continued on their southward journey about an hour
later. Pity they did not stay longer but great to see and it made up for me
missing them twice last year and twice so far this year! All these new year birds were doing my Patch Work
Challenge 2017 list a world of good in my battle to keep on the toes of the
mighty RSPB Frampton and Hale and Pickering Pastures lads in my Estuarine
Friday dawned clear and bright and calm and so I took myself
out onto the reserve at just after seven. The Thames was a mill pond with some
great reflections and you could hear two young Common Terns pursuing one of
Chiffchaffs were dotted liberally along the river wall and I
counted 22 on the full circuit but only one Willow Warbler. A couple of Meadow
Pipit headed west and were a species I missed on my Monday marathon.
Down on the foreshore a solitary Curlew eyed my cautiously
before heading further up the mud and six Ringed Plover had, as usual, found a
little rumpled area of mud in which to stand and look like other muddy lumps.
About forty Black-tailed Godwits fed along the edge with two Redshanks and a host
of moulting Mallards and a few Teal and the closer godwits were snickering and
bickering in their normal manner.
|Blackwits and friends|
|Yes, I know it is a cat but he was a fine beast and looked quite a home down on the foreshore|
The Bearded Tits showed well around the Dragonfly Pool and
Yellow Wagtails pinged over but we do not get the numbers in the autumn that we
|Bearded Tit - Barry Jackson|
I could not find any chats but the early morning arrival of the vast
Greylag flock always tells me that autumn is firmly hear as they transfer their
loyalties from Sevenoaks to us for the forthcoming months. Several birds are Darvic ringed and have been
traced to the KWT reserve and the piebald ones are quite easy to track.
Aveley Pool was quiet and over full but we can’t release any
water until we have somehow lowered the levels in the main feeder ditch into
which it can empty which is very frustrating. Four Cormorants were taking the
opportunity to fish and the regular dabblers included a solitary Wigeon.
Migrant Hawkers were already on the wing and it was no surprise
that the Hobbies and Kestrels were likewise active putting on some superb
displays over the marsh.
|Hobby - Mick Brockington|
|Hobby - Nick Smith|
And a superb video of this same 2cy bird taken by Pat Hart...
As I approached the Ken Barrett Hide a little brown bird
flicked up from the path in front and into the big Poplar showing white tail
sides and wing flash! Pied Flycatcher! I saw it again briefly as it dropped
down but I was on the shadowed side of the tree and I suspect that the sunny
railway aspect was where it went to perch up and feed. The woodland was full of Chiffies, Blackcaps and ‘throats
with a good sized tit flock but I could not dig out any more flycatchers so
being 9am it was time to head back in after a fine stroll and another one for
|Burnet Rose hips now gloriously purple and black|
Amazingly I only had to wait about an hour for the next one
when, in a manner identical to the Spoonbills of yesterday, i glanced out of
the window to see a large white bellied raptor circling into Aveley Pool and
thus it was time to yell ‘Osprey!’.
|Osprey - and a free plug for our neighbours City Lifting|
Unlike previous sightings here this bird spent the next
twenty minutes slowly circling Aveley Pool and the Butts Scrape and even
plunged into to the former once but came up with nothing. It felt like a juvenile through the scope and
this was confirmed by a stunning series of shots from John Humble who was fortuitously
in the Butts Hide at the time. They show it to be un-rung too so we have no way
of knowing where it came from.
|Osprey in all its magnificence - John Humble fo all the above shots|
Suffice to say there was much visitor centre happiness once
again and I think that every volunteer and member of staff also got to watch it
before it drifted off to the north.
Even more amazingly this puts me top of my Estuarine group in the Patch Work Challenge for the first time ever although I shall do very well to hold that position for long againgst the pulling power of the Lincs reserves!
I was centre bound for the day bar a short escape along the
river wall late afternoon where I stumbled upon a silent Tree Pipit that flew
up just in front of me before alighting on a dog rose. After dropping back down
it waited until Pat, David and Gill caught me up before showing once again
before heading off high and west – again without a single note being
uttered. A rare bird on the deck here
and always pleasing to see.
|Tree Pipit - note the short hind claws|
Friday was also our Late Night Opening with added Moths and
Bats and thankfully the weather held out long enough for the Bat walk to have
encounters with five or six species including possibly all three big ones and
they even held the detector up to the radio so that I could hear the Daubenton's
We were treated to a superb pink and orange sunset over the
City before embarking on some mothing.
Jersey Tiger, Old Lady and Dusky Thorn were all popular as was a fine
Red-legged Shieldbug before the rain started and the storm arrived.
|Setaceous Hebrew Character|
|Square Spot Rustic|
|White point & Least Yellow Underwing|
|Red-legged Shieldbug |
Packing up happened just in time before the
heavens opened and the sky lit up with lilac sheet and fork lightening in
spectacular fashion.I love a good storm and this one followed me all the way
home after midnight and raged for two hours after that.
|The Storm - Barry Jackson|
And so to a hungover Saturday but without the joy of having
had a drink. Laziness ensued but I dragged myself down to Oare Marshes for an evening
of perfect light, masses of waders and a good chat with friends from across the
years. Chris One-Thumb was on fine form and it was good to catch up with Nicole
and Jason who are beginning to realise that a life in Kent is not such a bad
thing with places like this on your doorstep.
|Lorax, Khanage & the Moule Moule|
The tide was way out but there was still a good selection
although the Red-necked Phalarope had moved on and although I did see the now
winter plumaged Dowitcher, it was the masses of spangled Golden Plover that
stole the show.
They glowed in the low light and are always so communicative
and get incredibly excited when a new group arrives to join the flock. Dunlin scurried amongst them and a few Ruff
included several dinky peach and buff juveniles.
|Long-billed Dowitcher and Lapwing|
Beardies pinged and two Water
Rails ‘kipped’ at each other while Swallows and Martins drifted in to roost.
Down on the Swale there were pied Grey Plovers and
Oystercatchers and flocks of mosaic patterned Turnstones while the dinky Bonaparte’s
Gull tottered around with his Black-head buddies. Sandwich, Black, Common and
Little Terns milled around and a Marsh Harrier traversed the river.
Several Harbour Seals were hauled up out on Horse Sands with
countless gulls and much to my delight I picked up an Osprey fishing way out in
the estuary which is a fine way to round up any day...
With another seven day run coming up at work, let’s hope for
some more of the same in the coming days...
Phew. That is some effort getting all this on here H. A pleasurable effort to read it all. Brilliant stuff. BCNUReplyDelete