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, 3 January 2013

New Year’s day; the best day of the year to go birding

With ten whole days off over the Christmas and New Year period, I was expecting to have a halcyon period of birdwatching. But as the norm in our household, I was doing those odd jobs that needed doing, going on shopping trips (groan) and of course, looking up at the dark, rain-filled clouds that appear whenever I get the time to go out birding. All my dreams and schemes to get my yearly total to 160 lay in tatters; 155 would have to suffice.

So on New Year’s day, I had the chance to get out of the house. The weather was forecast to be beautiful sunshine with a cool breeze but thankfully no rain. I decided to go to Old Hall Marshes which was a random choice for me as I have only ever been there twice in my life. But the thing with birding on 1st Jan is that you can start a new year list – if you do one that is and every species is a good one.

Old Hall Marshes RSPB reserve
From the car park, I took a clockwise direction and basically walked the whole circumference of the reserve. No ideas how far that was but with the heavy rain over the past few weeks, and a less than even path, the going was heavy to say the least. The hard bit is trying to look up at the sky for raptors, geese and waves of waders while avoiding slipping over into the thick mud or worse, the water.

View from Pennyhole Bottom (I know)
Old Hall Marsh is renowned from its strongholds of Curlew, Grey Plover and wintering Brent Geese. The latter was very much in evidence with skeins crossing the Essex skyline and floating down into the grazing marsh areas.

Brent Geese
There were 100’s of Wigeon and Teal swimming along the Salcott channel along with four Pintail (2 drakes) and a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, Huge flocks of Golden Plovers(400+) and Lapwings(850+) lifted upwards as a Marsh Harrier glided past them and Common Redshank, Oystercatchers and Dunlins called as they flew low into land at the waters edge.

Red-breasted Mergansers
Along the water’s edge, a few Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails were feeding on insects in the seaweed. They ran along the sea wall flying a few feet to catch their prey.

Not the best shot of a Rock Pipit
Offshore, a couple of Goldeneye did great disappearing acts as they dived under the water and surprisingly, a female Common Scoter played the game with them.

Looking towards Tollesbury
After about 5 hours of trudging through the mud, over stiles and through iron gates, I eventually made it back to the car park. I had seen that a Little Owl and a Barn Owl had been seen regularly around the Warden Office and car park but was still taken aback when this beautiful creature landed on the fence. It stayed long enough to pose for a few snaps before dropping down on an unfortunate field vole and carrying it off for dinner.

Barn Owl

Birds seen:
Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Pintail, Goldeneye, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Coot, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Common Snipe, Turnstone, Common Redshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Barn Owl, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Stonechat, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Starling, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting

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