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.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Having a butterfly ball

It’s mid July and the strangest of phenomenons has befallen us all, a mini heatwave in the UK. People have gone from moaning about the overlong and severe winter to moaning about the heat and an inability to sleep at night.

I moan too. I moan about the lack of birds about at this time. Sure if you’re in the right place, crowds of waders or seabirds can produce incredible scenes but on my local level, things are pretty quiet. It used to fascinate me when I saw birders turning to the world of butterflies, moths and dragonflies to get their kicks. I didn’t really get it. I tried a few times to get excited by spotting and naming butterflies and moths but the thrill was always short lived.

But I’ve changed. The reason for this is fairly simple and quite obvious (to me). Photography. Just seeing and noting down these creatures wouldn’t be enough for me. I get a kick out of shooting a butterfly as they are so delicate and beautiful and people go Wow! when I show them. But more importantly, this also helps me ID the critter as I’m just below hopeless when it comes to knowing what’s what. And with ID comes understanding and with understanding comes knowledge and ultimately care. So now I care. This new found love will make me care about the habitat for these chaps and help me do something about improving it. Just the plants we put in the garden will do this but don’t ask me which as I haven’t got that far yet.
Speckled Wood
When it comes to habitat, I’m very lucky. I live close to Epping Forest and the Lee Valley Park. I know the Lee Valley Park well and in particular an area known as Cornmill Meadows which is a designated Dragonfly sanctuary

As the sun got up, the temperature rose rapidly. Perfect conditions for the world of bugs to come to life. I had no idea what I was seeing and I would liken it to birdwatching abroad when you see exotic birds and have to ID them 'after the event'. I have also discovered my macro setting on my bog standard digital camera. Bloody useful for these assignments I can tell you.

Banded Demoiselle (male)
Broad-bodied Chaser

Common Blue Damselfly
Large Skipper
And the closer you get to nature, the closer it will come to you!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

A nature trek up the A13

Decisions, decisions. There are some amazing places on this planet to go birding. The Amazon, The Galapagos Archipelago, The Camargue, Cley etc..... and of course, the A13.

To be fair, the RSPB reserves along this strip of tarmac from Canvey to Rainham are rather good.

West Canvey Marshes
The day was getting very hot and my mum would have had a fit as I forgot to wear a hat or carry any fluids. This was the first time I had been to the West Canvey Marsh reserve but found it small and simple. A couple of open hides and well signposted directions made the whole experience pretty good.

Headless Mediterranean Gull
Birdlife was a bit thin on the ground with only the odd Skylark or Whitethroat calling . There was however a Mediterranean Gull in with the Black-headed Gulls, exactly as the information board said there would be. Actually, there was more happening in the world of lepidopterology. Now I don’t know much about butterflies and moths except they’re a lot easier to sneak up on and photograph than birds.

Meadow Brown
Small Skipper
The next stop was Wat Tyler Country Park and Vange Marshes. These reserves sit beside a huge landfill site at Pitsea and there is a constant convoy of heavy duty refuse vehicles pounding the road past the reserves.

Things were quiet with just a pair of Green Sandpipers flying over and a Black-tailed Godwit on the Scrape at Vange. So it was onwards to Rainham Marshes. Rainham had the best of the birds with 5 Greenshank and a very nice Pectoral Sandpiper which preferred to stay distant.

Small Tortouiseshell
It wouldn’t come any closer!
Little Grebe. Couldn’t get much closer

Grey Heron