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.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

We go again...

Love 1st Jan. Love the idea of a year-long bird race. Love the fact these two things have come together at Rainham Marshes RSPB thanks to Mr H. Vaughan.

My 2014 scramble for species fell flat as I couldn’t get ‘out out*’ only just managed an ‘out*’ so ended with 153 species which is well short of average.

My team for the bird race is the Wildgoose Chasers. This name has stuck with me for years, ever since I used to team up with my dad and brother and do the Lee Valley Bird Race quite a few years ago now.

This BIG YEAR Bird Race for Rainham Marshes is quite a clever way to increase visiting birders and get a better picture of what species hang out on the reserve.

My Rainham ritual always starts with a walk along the river towards the Tilda Rice Factory that looms large above the Stone Barges.

My first target bird along the initial stretch from the reserve visitor centre was a Rock Pipit. These are usually found amongst the jetsam deposited on the foreshore and I wasn’t disappointed.

Rock Pipit on a rock of course.
The tide was high so I wasn’t expecting to see much in the way of waders in Aveley Bay. There were a couple of Curlew prodding the minute areas of mudflat and a piping flock of Common Redshank, seemingly annoyed by my untimely presence.

Brent Goose
Against the margins, Teal and Wigeon whistled and then a Brent Goose emerged from the shadow of the north bank. Overhead, a steady procession of gulls passed through.

Great Black-backed Gull
Approaching the small car park the telltale rattling of Fieldfare could be heard and small flocks of Redwing scattered back and forth nervously looking for places to alight away from me.

A rather nervous Redwing
I took the tarmac pathway towards the stone barges and passed a huge flock of Skylarks. I counted roughly 30 of these which is a healthy number of birds and they thrive on the grassy mounds left by the landfill site. On the fences, a couple of Stonechat worked their way along keeping a few metres from me.

Upon arriving at the barges, Curlew and Redshank roosted on the listing deck of one barge. I had hoped for a Spotted redshank but couldn’t locate any. I was then preparing to turn heel and work my way back to the RSPB reserve when the distinct cronk of a Raven stopped me dead.

High above the rice factory, the majestic sight of this huge corvid fought it’s way out of a belle of gulls and Carrion Crows that hassled and bullied the raven, never giving it any respite.


Normally, this would be a great sighting for London/Essex but a pair of Ravens have been frequenting the Marshes for a while now so every other team probably had the tick.

The walk back produced Snipe, Shelduck, Linnet and Meadow Pipit.

Entering the reserve, I already had 44 species in the book and this was quickly added to with the elegant pair of Pintail and Little Egret. The woodland was quiet and I only added Song Thrush here.

From the Ken Barrett hide, a few Shoveler dabbled and Lapwing roosted along the bank. Now, I have never had Water Rail at Rainham so it was with some surprise that I not only saw one but this particular bird defied the bird books by being quite at home in the open and close to human activity.

Move back can you?

Water Rail

It would have probably have said 'cheese' if I had asked it.
Further along the boardwalk I could see the familiar speck of a Peregrine perched high above the A13 on one of the pylons. But the real raptor action was happening over Wennington Marsh. A pair of Marsh Harriers were hunting with purpose white the peregrine, no doubt, watched on.

Marsh Harrier
Cetti’s Warblers called and Wrens rasped from the reedbeds. At the end of the circular walk, I again had a small wisp of Snipe and even a Canada Goose! Sometimes, the easy ones can be the hardest.

'You lookin' at me?
So a final count of 60 and although this was a modest total – the days total was around 84, it was a good start. I would like to thank Howard Vaughan and the team at RSPB Rainham Marshes for the foresight to organise this year-long event. It certainly focuses the mind and very soon, I (and my teammates) a chance to boost this total. 

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