Monday, 24 September 2012

Sabine's Gull 0 - Tea and cake 2

The weekend started with bright and sunny conditions (how that would change!) and an early morning walk around Wanstead Flats, a single Whinchat was still knocking around the open grassland near the ‘Golden Fleece’ pub and a Little Egret flew over head but not a lot else of interest early on. Stonechat had been seen in the far west of the Flats near the Jubilee pond, so I headed in that general direction across the football pitches picking up a few Swallows heading south along the way. As I reached the Gorse bushes south of Long Wood, two Whinchat’s sat up high on the gorse, joined by a Wheatear and then a Stonechat – three members of the ‘Chat’ family in one small patch of Gorse in the middle of East London you can’t fail but be impressed with that! But was this the same Stonechat from the West side of the Flats? Probably not - this was later confirmed when both birds were seen together.
With news of Yellow-browed Warblers scattered along the east coast on the back of some encouraging easterly winds - and one bird seen as close as Rainham, the next couple of hours were spent circling the Long Wood and scrutinising every small movement in the trees but despite seeing healthy numbers of Chiffchaff’s with a least 20 birds in the area, there was no sign of any of these ‘eastern gems’.
With rain forecast for Sunday afternoon and strengthening easterly winds, many predicted watching the Thames could be fruitful – wrong! Well wrong if you were watching from Rainham as I and many others were. My sum of a four hour river watch was a single Sandwich and Arctic Tern, several Common Tern, Greenshank and some rather distant Turnstone and Sanderling on the Kent side of the Thames and very little else - whilst at Canvey Point they were seeing Sabine’s Gulls, Gannets and later a Leach’s Petrel, none of which had ventured further up the river to Rainham - although frustratingly a Sabine’s Gull was seen from Gallions Reach even further along the river from us! This had somehow slipped through the net of at least a dozen watchers; maybe this bird took another route? – I suspect not! It must have passed us at some point – probably when the RSPB tea and cake was being warmly consumed.

Weather conditions looked promising!
Anyone seen a Sabine's Gull?

With the great and good heading in the direction of Shetland or the Scillies in the next week or two (the
Northern Isles are already 1-0 up and scoring with Britain’s 2nd ever record of Magnolia Warbler). I will have to be content with mopping up any goodies on the mainland – let’s hope there are a few birders left to find something!
*Today (Monday) a juvenile Sabine's Gull has been seen flying up and down the river from Rainham - typical!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Baillon's ache!

It's Friday evening and I'm on the way to the monthly East London birders drinks in Hornchurch (which is a long, long way on the District Line - it's probably actually in Essex) and news breaks of a Baillon's Crake at Rainham!

Hatch a plan! I can't go early on Saturday morning - Mrs B is doing a boot sale (Mrs B never does boots sales - ever! Actually this will be the first boot sale she has ever done! What are the chances that it falls on this day - Plan A: scuppered!

Plan B: Saturday PM - an early evening visit, 3hrs standing in a hide (no seats available) until dusk - no sign, dipped!

Plan C: Sunday AM - return to scene of previous days dip, waking up in what feels like the middle of the night to get to the hide and in position before sunrise - done!  

Proof of my early start!

As the sun rises above the marsh and the first shapes and figures of birds are made out on the shadowy light a call from the left goes up!

"I think i've got it!"


"There in the channel"

"Where in the channel?"

"About half way down - in the reeds at the edge of the water" (It's never easy giving directions to a bird without any decent interest points to focus in on)

I'm now frantically trying to get onto the bird (along with the rest of the 50+ bleary eyed birders in the hide) but despite much efforts to point me in the direction of the Crake - thanks Lee. I just couldn't get the bins onto it! And then all to quickly the bird had returned to the depths of the marsh and out of view...bugger! I gave it a couple of more hours staring a reeds, sedges and rushes! Before reluctanty sloping off - shoulders slumped and dragging my scope on the floor behind me.

This marsh could hide dozens of Crake's!
As I started penning this post the Crake had been frustratingly seen on and off for most of the day! Possibly tempting me back for a 3rd visit in two days - how I love the A13.... is that how this tale will end?

No... having already spent enough time in a hide at Rainham than is healthy for a happy and harmonise marriage – I gave the Crake one last crack! And then finally after another couple of back aching hours, standing and staring at the same stretch of rushes, I was rewarded with excellent views – aided by the careful positioning of myself in a prime front row location!

Job done and Baillon's Crake finally bagged I was off home, tired, elated and some what relieved - twitching...I should have stuck with the golf!
Bird ticked - I retired to the back of the hide