Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A bit of last minute Christmas birding

Having a few days off before the Christmas break allowed me to indulge in a bit of last minute birding. And rather than create separate posts for each trip, I am lazily putting all the highlights into one post.

Amwell Gravel Pits
At the northern end of the Lee Valley, Amwell is a good place to find wintering ducks and bittern.
Birds seen: siskin, goldeneye, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, great crested grebe, common gull

Great Northaw Wood
Ancient woodland in Hertfordshire
Birds seen: nuthatch, common treecreeper, coal tit, marsh it, great spotted woodpecker, tawny owl (heard only)
Mammals: muntjac deer

Connaught Water
Local lake on the edge of Epping Forest
Mandarin duck, Hooded Merganser (unknown origin)
Mandarin Duck
Mandarin Ducks

Sunday, 11 December 2011

From Bewick’s swans to bouncing bombs

Following the blustery day at Rainham Marshes, the following day was calm, sunny and reasonably mild. The plan was to visit Fingringhoe Wick and Abberton Reservoir.

Fingringhoe is on the Colne esturary and can attract a range of wintering ducks and waders. There was also still a long-staying Glossy Ibis which eluded me so we’ll skip over that one.

Most action came from the esturary. There were 18 red-breasted Mergansers on the water with small flocks of Brent geese. Avocets, curlews, knots and dunlins ferried back and forth with redshanks and lapwings adding their voices to the scene. A single Slavonian Grebe drifted slowing up river providing another highlight.

Pretty Map

Brent Geese

Red-breasted Merganser

Slavonian Grebe
From Fingringhoe Wick, I headed over to Abberton Reservoir. Abberton Reservoir is famous for a slightly different type of bird. In 1943, the RAF used Abberton reservoir as a practice run site for the Lancaster bomber and the bouncing bomb, created by Barnes Wallis because it was a similar shape to the Eder Dam in Germany. Lately, and more peacefully, the reservoir has played host to hen harriers, short-eared owls and Bewick’s Swans. I was hoping that it was still the case.

Upon arriving at the reservoir, I was a little surprised to find so much land management work going on. A new visitor centre and re-profiling of the reservoir is all taking shape. Fortunately, this hasn’t affected the quality of the birds.
Roy King Hide, Abberton Reservoir
I counted five short-eared owls quartering fields around Wigborough Bay and four Bewick’s swans roosted in the same area.

Bewick’s Swans

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Gone with the wind

This is the first of two back-to-back birding trips this week while using up my annual leave.

Nothing was going to stop me, not even a little breeze coming in from the SW. Okay, so it was more than just a little breeze, more a mini hurricane to be dramatic. I hedged my bets and opted for the safety of Rainham Marshes. This wasn’t because it’s sheltered because it isn’t. It is however not far to bolt for home if the weather gets too much.

The Thames from Rainham Marshes
Fuck, it was windy. I walked along the sea wall west towards the landfill site scanning the sea for winter ducks. The wind nearly blew me over a couple of times and viewing through a scope was difficult as the wind turned my eyes to pools of water. Teal and Wigeon bobbed about probably having fun but not sure. The fun ended though when a Peregrine Falcon in the shape of an air to sea missile dived down towards the unsuspecting wildfowl. Luckily, the falcon, probably suffering from the wind in it’s eyes like me, missed catching his lunch. The ducks went all over the place.

Teal. Shortly to have a bit of a shock.

I love watching birds trying to fly in strong winds. Some manage really well like ducks and geese but magpies are really untidy. They look like puppets being puppeteered by someone having a fit.

Rock Pipit
I found a small party of Rock Pipits a bit further on. I was able to sit in relative shelter and this enabled me to take a reasonable shot of these birds. Hadn’t had one this year so this took me to equal last year’s total so hopefully by the end of tomorrow I’ll be celebrating. I guess this sounds as though totals and lists are the most important thing to me. They’re not but they serve the purpose of motivating me to get out and watch birds in the most inclement of weather.

I started the circular walk around the RSPB reserve noting Black-tailed Godwit, Redwing, Little Egret, Pintail and at least 700 Lapwings which with another Peregrine circling overhead, were continuously spooked into taking flight like a giant swamp of bees. 

Hopefully, tomorrow will be calmer and brighter than today but to be honest, I couldn’t give a damn.