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.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Where did the summer go?

So where did the summer go? Come to that, where did I go? My blogging seems to be flagging which is possibly due to a couple of reasons.

1. I’m a lazy so-and-so and writing a blog can only be fun when I have been somewhere great and seen lots of brilliant birds and stuff, or,

2.  I’m too busy doing other stuff and birding isn’t that important really.

Okay, it is important but so many things in life take priority and that’s life unfortunately. I tell myself if I won the lottery (difficult at the best of times but sort of impossible when, like me, you don’t do it) I could/would go birding everyday. But then surely it would stop being fun? I love it when I do get the chance and try to make the most of it as it might be a while before I do it again.

This weekend looked promising and even the weather appeared to be on my side (for once). I just had a million and one things to do first. Lots of gardening and DIY needed to be rapidly done on Saturday and even a late meal in Chinatown couldn’t prevent me from getting up early and heading out to Rainham Marshes…

…that seemed to be in the middle of a massive cycle event. Well, not the reserve obviously but along the Thames path they came and they may as well have had football cards pegged to their spoke with the amount of noise they made as they cycled two abreast shouting to each other scattering linnets and goldfinches in all directions. ‘Thanks’, I called out to them as they flew by but they couldn’t hear me…

I detoured away from Tour de Rainham and hugged the track close to the river foreshore. There were quite a few birds feeding on the exposed mud, mostly Black-headed Gulls and Teal but one Avocet scythed its way along a shallow gully caught my eye and I got a shot. A few terns flew up river but all looked like Common Terns, no Blacks or Arctics among them unfortunately.

Soon after and with a steady stream of cyclists peddling towards me in the distance, something flew close by to my left. Instinctively I scanned the sprawl of random driftwood sleepers the tide has thrown up over the years and found an autumn plumage male Wheatear looking at me. It let me take a few shots before playing hid and seek with me. But I wasn’t in the mood. 

A quick check around Serin Mound produced a Reed Warbler, a flock of Goldfinches and Linnets respectively and a couple of Chiffchaffs.

By now, the reserve would be open and the drawbridge to Howard’s castle down for all to cross. There was a small passage of Swallows weaving low over the river wall and out across the Thames. I weaved my way into the visitor centre and was about to ask if anything was about when the nice RSPB person told me about a Long-eared Owl found in the Woodland area. She didn’t say it was a nightmare to see but then, maybe it wasn’t earlier.

Not only was it a nightmare to see, it was also a nightmare to get into a position to see it was a nightmare to see. I eventually managed to shoehorn myself into probably the most vicious bush on the whole reserve and now have marks along my shoulder and back that Warren Beatty would have been proud of…now there’s an idea…. So in between having people block my view and/or kick my tripod, I managed this, the best of a poor bunch to say the least. But some people didn’t even see the owl and at the end of the day, just to see one of this majestic birds should be enough for anyone. I was certainly happy.

I passed Howard along the boardwalk; he’d been looking for the Red-crested Pochard but with no luck. Nice shirt I thought, it was his day off after all!

I found a Ruff on Aveley Pools and spent 20 minutes looking for the Spotted Crake but only a Ringed Plover and Dunlin walked through the crake area. There were Black-tailed Godwits and good numbers of Shoveler here. A group of Bearded Tits pinged from the reeds but the wind was a bit  strong and they were keeping their heads down.

I decided to focus on dragonflies for a bit. it is nearly impossible to get the Hawkers useless you see one landing to rest but the chasers are a different kettle of dragonfly.

Common Darter
These guys will take off as you approach them but if you wait, they generally come back to the same spot and you need to be ready. This one let me almost tickle it I was so close. I only use a point and shoot Nikon Coolpix but I love the results.

Migrant Hawker
I completed a circuit of the reserve and decided to have one more pop at the Owl and the Cordite part of the woodland. In the cordite, I saws a Migrant Hawker land but had to digiscope this as it wasn’t possible to get close. Had a conversation with a warden and friend about fairy shoes, fairies wings and gold rings which you could find by disembowelling flowers. Most interesting. They were looking for the Spotted Flycatchers that were about. We did come across a monster Hoverfly which was impressive and the photo doesn’t do it justice.

This was big. Like an inch long or something.
Finally I got back to the Long-eared Owl post and met up with Tom Bell. The owl had dropped out of sight, Tom thought it was because all the birders trying and vying for position. I think it could hear those cyclists from afar.

Marsh Frog. Unusually silent today!!!

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