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.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Snow Buntings at Shoebury

For a few weeks, there have been sighting of snow buntings a few miles form work. This morning I went over to Shoebury to have a look. The birds have regularly been seen at East Beach, anywhere between the car park and the beach.

East Beach
With the tide out, a few waders and gulls were hanging about like delinquents on a street corner. These were made up of Common Redshanks, Curlews, Oystercatchers and Knot. Overhead a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese came down to join the waders.

This was all very nice but I really wanted the buntings. I walked along the beach and had nearly covered the length of it when a pair of small birds flew down close to me. The snow buntings didn’t seem to be bothered by me but slowly worked their way away from me as they searched for breakfast.

Blurry Snow Bunting
I tried to photograph them but it was a bit difficult. Firstly, my camera struggled to focus on the blighters and then of course they refused to sit still or even look at the camera – never employ these birds as models because they’re useless. Then trouble approached. Dogs and dog walkers always seem oblivious to birdwatcher watching something. It’s not their fault but honestly, I tried to gently indicate with my arms that I’d like them to just wait a minute but I guess dogs don’t do sign language. Anyway, the birds decided to get gone and that was that. 'Morning' the dog walker called cheerfully. 'Well observed' I thought amongst other things. I just waved my invisible hand.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

South Fambridge. A perfect way to start the day

Decisions. Got to work at 7am this morning – 2 hours early. Now should I get ahead of the game and knuckle down to some work or should I spend an hour getting some fresh air a bit of needed exercise and do a bit of birding as a bonus?

No contest.

South Fambridge from the seawall
South Fambridge has a lot to offer. A walk along the seawall gives you on one side, the Crouch estuary and on the other arable farmland. Reed Buntings were quite active and singing in the reeds that fringe the farmland fields. Skylarks too were taking to the air but invisible to see against the brilliant blue but bright sky.

Reed Bunting
On the river Crouch, a single Brent Goose bobbed about amongst the moored boats. But overhead, hundreds of skeins of Brent Geese flew up and down the estuary. Along the edge of the shore, a single Black-tailed Gowit probed the mud surrounded by Wigeon,  Shelduck and Redshank. On the opposite side, small groups of Dunlin, Golden Plover and Curlews while Lapwings stood motionless, waiting for something exciting to happen, no doubt.

Brown Hare
In the ploughed fields, a Brown Hare stood out but was quite distant. Pheasants paraded around the periphery of adjacent fields while a kestrel hung its head as it watched the grass from the overhead wires.

Two years ago, I would have probably have spent this hour, stuck on a cramped tube train. I’m a lucky man.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Plenty of crowd pleasers at Rainham

Knew it. A sunny day with light winds today and everyone and their mother has turned up at Rainham Marshes. Coach loads of flask waving wrinklies swarm through the visitor centre on their way to fill up the hides, open their rucksacks and munch on sandwiches and oh shit, the loudest crisps on earth, Wheat Crunchies.

Don’t get me wrong, I like people; people have their uses and when it comes to looking through flocks of gulls, many eyes make light work.

As you go through the visitor centre, you can either go left or right. I waited until the family with the sugared up kids screamed off to the left and I went right. peace at last and a very confiding Linnet who was also enjoying the quiet. It was even now calm enough for the Pintail to nod off which was a shame as this is the first time I have managed to photograph one and a head would have been nice.
There were thousands of Lapwings on the reserve today and these were peppered with a small number of Golden Plover. Occasionally, these flocks would catapult into the sky like nature’s playing a game of Buckaroo. Usually it will be a raptor like a peregrine or merlin that causes this but today there were no signs of any raptor so I can only suppose it was little old Deidrie devouring her Wheat Crunchies that spooked the plovers.
A few Golden Plover with the Lapwings
New hides are popping up everywhere at Rainham Marshes. I have a feeling that before long, it will be one of the finest reserves in the RSPB portfolio. The main hide is amazing. The windows are controlled by turntable wheels and pulleys that you need a degree to operate but are great fun when there are no birds around. Today it was different. There was lots to see.
Drake Shoveler

Little Egret
A Little Egret, lots of wigeon, teal, gadwall and shovelers dabbling about and huge flocks of gulls mainly made up of black-headed gulls also had great black-backed gulls, lesser black-backed gulls, common gulls and one Caspian gull in the melee. The only reason I knew there was a Caspian gull was because of the crowd. When you birdwatch, a crowd can be a very useful indicator. First they draw your attention to something or maybe nothing and there are many eyes to scan the flocks and cut down the effort. Then as chances had it, you have a gull expert in the group.

Finally, there was a small group peering into some reeds as I headed back towards the centre. They had found a couple Bearded Tits low down and close up to the boardwalk (see what I mean by how handy a crowd can be when they’re not annoying). I couldn’t muscle in so only got off one shot before the pair disappeared. Another 'headless' shot but heyho, better than nothing.
Camera-shy Bearded Tit