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.


Saturday, 14 September 2013

The call for Shrike action.

It’s all a bit slow really. Any decent birder would look at my totals and think I was a bit of a slacker. I wouldn’t argue with this view really as there have been moments or opportunities I suppose where if I had just pushed myself a little bit, I might have a few more to that meagre total. Such fellows as Pied Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart could all have been picked up 5 minutes down the road but I just wasn’t in the mood you know.

This Thursday just gone, I along with all the other volunteers in the Lee Valley Park were invited to an annual awards party with volunteers recognised for their sterling efforts over the past year and an unveiling of the photography that had been selected for the Park’s calendar. The whole shebang kicked off at 6pm so I decided the best thing to do would be to take the day off work to ensure I made it in good time. So all I had to do was find a suitable location to enjoy a few hours birding.

So it rains. Well it rains in the fog to be precise. This is what I have to contend with in my quest to make an effort with my list. Not fair. I had chosen to fly along the A13 to Canvey Island for the Red-backed Shrike that had been reported a couple of days prior. I arrived at West Canvey Marsh to find the gates locked so I had to park away from the reserve and trudge through the bad weather with a sinking feeling in me old heart. Naturally I couldn’t find it and there was no one else about to ask. I went to the roadside hide and watched a Green Sandpiper in the margins and a few gulls, none of which were Meds and the weather continued to close in. In the distance a bird flew up and onto the barbed wire along an adjacent path. Could it be?

It was. I got as close as I could and took a few images (200) in dull, damp conditions. I wasn’t confident of getting anything decent but it was another tick and a cracking bird to watch. A Whinchat joined it looking a bit bedraggled and it tried to shake off the surplus moisture from itself.

One Wet Whinchat
I then made the decision to check out Canvey seafront. I had hoped for a few good seabirds here like a skua or a Black Tern so I left the West Canvey site. A quick stop off at Morrisons for a coffee and a cherry bakewell?? Not really my thing but when in Canvey...and downloaded all the images I had taken. God they were rubbish!! Not only that, but my camera was doing strange things and not turning off or closing the lens down. I was less than a happy boy.

Canvey (is that the sun breaking through?)
The seafront was not bad. Curlews, Common Terns, Oystercatchers, Redshanks and a couple of passing Black Terns cheered me up. Oh and barrow loads of Little Egrets. They must holiday here because there were at least 12 together and loads of singles over the mudflats. Excellent but no skuas or Gannets or stuff so I had to decide what to do. Of course from the picture above, you can deduce that I got my camera working again and as the weather improved, my decision to head back to the shrike appeared to be the bright thing to do.

Once back, Icouls at least now park in the car park and saw another birder sitting in the roadside hide. I approached the area where I had seen the shrike and it was still there. I didn’t want to disturb the view for the other birder so held off wondering if I should go to him and ask if I could go nearer for some photography. Didn’t need to. He came to me and asked if I had found 'it'. I just pointed. His name was George. Lovely man and we spent the next couple of hours with a growing entourage of birders, photographers and general inquisitors watching this amazing bird. Now for some better shots.








It was a brilliant day and I was glad I made the effort to go back. It’s not really about totals at all. It’s about catching a subject and enjoying it and the time spent capturing it for years to come. I met some really lovely people; all of us polite and respectful of each others opportunities to photo the shrike and the respect for the bird as well. We didn’t go close or stress it. It ate for England, consumed loads of bees, crickets, caterpillars, beetles and various other unidentified creatures.

NB. Since this trip my camera has given up the ghost but what a way to go out.

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