Friday, 31 July 2015

East Tilbury - It's been a while

A recent trip back down memory lane saw me visit East Tilbury - another of my old Thameside stomping grounds, In which I enjoyed catching up with local patch stalwart and old birding mate Paul Wood. Whilst watching the river we exchanged stories of past East Tilbury birding glories and dips, Greater Sandplover, Broad-billed Sandpiper(s), Blue-winged Teal, Bluethroat and Tawny Pipit, along with some of Paul's more recent success's Semipalmated Sandpiper, Long-billed DowitcherWhite-rumped Sandpiper, Red-backed Shrike and Barred Warbler - not a bad list for any site, let alone one in south-east Essex, a stones throw from London.

A clean shaven Paul (I only ever knew him with a beard) is still as sharp as ever and soon picked out both Arctic and Black Tern passing distantly mid-river, and then found three distant adult Curlew Sandpipers feeding on the Thames foreshore - the sites first returning birds of autumn, not to be out done I did chip in with an unseasonal Short-eared Owl crossing the river from Cliffe. Other waders of note were over a 1000 Avocet, 200+ Black-tailed GodwitWhimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Grey Plover and Little Ringed Plover.

Although I hadn't been back to East Tilbury in almost twenty years the place had barely changed and is still a premier Essex birding location, well worth a visit at almost anytime of the year. The most noticeable change was the loss of the silt lagoons - these had long gone to seed and were now heavily grassed over, which put paid to seeing any waders up close, I remember them hosting good numbers of roosting birds at high-tide. If I can find the time I hope to be back soon to enjoy more quality wader action this autumn or maybe a few raptors during the winter - that's if Paul doesn't contact me first with news of another exceptional find.

Following on from the wader success at East Tilbury I stopped in at Vange Marsh, where the water levels are looking fantastic. Viewing the marsh from the gated metal screen, I soon picked out a selection of roosting tringa waders, 8 Spotted Redshank (one of which was still in adult summer plumage) 8 Greenshank, 11 Green Sandpiper and a single Common Sandpiper. More distantly I counted 27 Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Ruff, 5 Little Ringed Plover and 5 Curlew - as I said, the water levels look great on the marsh, and surely this place is going to produce something a little bit special on the wader front for one lucky observer this autumn - watch this space!

Waders, Roosting, Essex, Rspb

In the foreground a selection of Tringa waders roosting on the scrape at Vange Marsh

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Novelty Sandpiper

Although Green Sandpiper is an annually recorded passage wader at Wanstead, usually seen along the river Roding or as a flyover on the Flats - I've struggled to catch up with one, which is not that unusual as waders in general seem to elude me at Wanstead. My only previous record was a bird in flight calling over the Flats, which I failed to see and frustratingly went down as heard only.

So with news of a bird enjoying the exposed mud of an ever shrinking Shoulder of Mutton lake (possibly for its 3rd day). A - I was keen to see it, and B - Seeing any feeding wader on the deck in Wanstead is always a bit of a novelty for us landlocked locals.

Adding Green Sandpiper to the patch year list brings me up and into the nervous 90's, and with Nick Croft hearing Little Owl on the Flats as he made his way home after connecting with the Green Sandpiper, hopefully 91 is not too far away.

Wanstead, London

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Re-Tern to the patch

I've not added a new bird to the patch year list since the 28th May (Reed Warbler) and I wasn't expecting to add anything new this weekend, but a rare mid-summer visit reaped a small reward in the shape of a Common Tern - It caught me totally off guard (hence the poor photo below) as it quickly flew low and without calling over Alexandra Lake.

In previous years I can typically add Common Tern to the year list with a visit to Wanstead Park, with one or two birds knocking around the waters - but as yet this hasn't been the case, which makes ticking a bird on the Flats a real bonus. That's 89 for the Year List with a couple of glaring omissions still to add - Yellow Wagtail and Siskin, and with autumn just around the corner, there'll hopefully be a few more goodies on the horizon to keep me on track of breaking that century count for the year.

Wanstead, London, birding