Saturday, 23 April 2011


Rainham Marshes - 15.00hrs - 17.00hrs - 22.04.11

After a quick chat with Howard Vaughan (RSPB Rainhams main man) he advised Groppers (Grasshopper Warblers to me until the other day) and Ring Ouzel had been sighted earlier.

Armed with this info i set off to not find either one of them!

However a quick view from the new hide opened that morning resulted in a Whimbrel (was aksed by another guy what it was a between us we narrowed it down) (later had confirmation from others).

Followed quickly bu a Sedge Warbler & hearing four or five finally a Reed Warbler

And with a quick walk along the sea wall a Wheatear decided to land right in front of me

4 to the Life List!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Nightingale's & Whitethroat's

Another trip to Two Tree Island on Saturday taking my father down there so he could catch the Night Heron that has pretty much been there for 10 days now.

Typically upon arrival at the Night Heron wasnt there and whilst sitting & waiting as if to rub it in Rare Bird Alert paged "no sign of the Night Heron at Two Tree Island this morning".

The weather was warm and sunny and i could have just sat there waiting but bewteen us we chose to take a wander.

I ticked my first Whitethroat during the week on my earlier visit with a clear but brief sighting, however it seemed on Saturday as if they were everywhere with some good shows. We saw characteristcis of the males whilst starting to sing with a flittery flight up, almost hovering for a couple of seconds then back down.

Dads actual shot - one of many Whitethroat

We stopped counting at 20 more interested now on the singing Nightingale we could hear in the brambles ahead to our right.

Singing just to our left a Chifchaff, my dad was really please being a first for him. Back to the brambles and.....quick flight to a near bush, one Nightingale, who decided to sing for about 30 seconds before making flight into the udnergrowth. From what i have been told thats a good view of a Nightingale.

A First for me

No sign of the Lesser Whitethroats seen the day before and we couldn't catch the Cettis Warbler to the left of the raised hide over the reed beds but could here its call on a regular basis. Little Grebe's on the water along with a swimming Water Vole, Coot & Moorhen

Next off to the West Island and on the way something spooked easily 100+ Curlew from the mud flats, circling about before landing. Oystercatchers, only 2, in flight. Mallard floating lazily about on the fresh water pool to our right and Greenfinches every where. Funnily though  no Great Tit or Gold finches with only a few Blue Tit.

A call of a Phesant led to a female taking flight on the other side of the pool.

Onto the West Island now and reports of Grass Hopper Warblers were being banded about by many birders by the car park, however we couldnt hear or see it, but yet more Whitethroats and as we walked along the Thames some Black Tailed Godwit on the flats.

To the end hide to see numerous Avocet (c50) along with Oysterctachers (C100) and Black Headed Gull (C150) and a lone Redshank

Nice morning made even better by being out with the old man.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Night Heron - RARITY Class

Pager trip to Two Tree Island, Leigh On Sea, Essex; never been before but cetainly a place i am sure to visit regularly from now on; managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust - outstanding!

After parking the car and a quick walk east, i met with two birders who advised me where the Heron had been seen that morning (and for the last few days) sure enough there it was.

All on my own, i sat within the longer grass on the sea wall and spent an hour watching this bird before anybody else tunred up.

In addition i managed to hear my first Nightingale but never saw it (shortly after informed there were 3) and a Willow Warbler (a first on the list also).

EDIT: now confirmed another first from Two Tree Island - Whitethroat

Other birds seen: Magpie, Chifchaf, Black Headed Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard

Thursday, 14 April 2011


As mentioned in a previuos post my parents were at Minsmere last week; after catching up with them my dad advised he took his new Cannon DSLR with 300mm lens with him and showed me the shots.

Other than practising in his garden he hadnt used the camera before so i was really impressed when he put these two on the screen. Theres others as well; some great shots of Black Headed Gulls, Shoveller & Mallard.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Woodchat Shrike - RARITY Class

Although i have a pager its only locally zoned and the only two pages i have ever followed up on are my only MEGA; Slaty Backed Gull & a Ringed Billed Gull. The gull is a regular at Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour Westcliff on Sea at the right time of year.

Today however; up straight at work, no client meetings until this evenning, i was debating on what to tackle next; a client call out or some year end accounting.

Fortunately the pager went off again (as it had done so yesterday as well) for a Woodchat Shrike just off the Rettendon roundabout near Wickford, Essex; a quick fifteen minute car journey.

What the hell; my scope was in the car along with walking boots and fleece, so off with the suit and on with the civi's.

Shorlty after i am standing roadside with about 10 others firmly fixed on a Woodchat - a first for me. A beautiful bird.

Lee Evans (UK 400 Club) arrived and after he spoke with a few birders he sat alone watching the bird. Now i have not spoken with Lee before and have heard all the rumours and seen the TV show, however i wanted to form my own opinions and also find out more about this bird.

I approached, introduced myself (luckily we had conversed by email previously and he remembered). We got chatting whilst fixed on the Woodchat and i asked the questions i wanted to know;

Is this a regular to England? No, normally about 20 recorded each year over summer; not normally in Essex.

Is it male or female? Lee, proceeded to inform me clearly and precisely why this was a male, highlighting the colours being warmer, the cap being of more a Rufous nature. He also mentioned the two white spots at the top of its bill, stating in the female this would normally be more banded than two spotted.

I asked if the spots were bear parts of the bill? No, they are bristles to protect the bird from prey stings; prey being bumble bees etc.

At that moment the bird flew to the right and within 10 seconds was back with an enormous bumble bee.

Lee also highlighted to me behavoir; especially when the bird was regurgitating a pellet.

After a while Lee left leaving me on the bird, where i watched it take another bee before heading back to my office.

All in all a great couple of hours on the bird and i must say Lee to me was both polite, helpfull and extremely knowledgeable about his birds offering help if i ever needed it.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Life list seems to have stalled over the last couple of weeks even during mid migration; after an email from a top lister who informed me he saw six species of warbler over at Rainham last week its made me realise that theres an awful lot at the RSPB reseve i am missing :( Mind you mid April spells six months of birding.

From what i can gather he is hearing the birds then locating using many many years of experience, so i am going to swot up on the bird sounds for the more common Warblers and get over there at the weekend and see what turns up.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Wedding Birding

Was at my sister in laws wedding yesterday and mananged to spot the following just while having the photo's done:

numerous Pheasant
numerous Carrion Crow
Blue Tit
2x Pied Wagtail
4x Mallard
numerous Greylag
numerous Canada Geese
Song Trush

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Room at the Inn - but not much

Since moving in, this is the third spring, my nest boxes have always been empty; however this year things have changed; The 2 blue tit boxes remain empty as does the great tit.

The Robins have taken up home in the box near the kitchen window and after a Great Spotted Woodpecker removed the whole filling from the WP box it is now being Starlings.

Hopefully we will hear the patter of tiny feet and flutter of tiny wings soon.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Parents in Minsmere

They seem to be doing well, i wont post the full list so far (arrived there Monday morning) but birds of note;

3 x Bittern
Numerous Med Gulls
2x Tawney Owls

Where's The Stonechats

Essex Bird Watching:

I have noted over the last 4 weeks that the pair of Stonechats that seemed to have spent the winter over at Rainham have vanished; they have been a regular appearance along the northern edge of the reserve as you come out of the Woodland Area but before Barretts Hide, normally in the reeds opposite / by the Ancient Tree Stump.

So after a bit of Learning Birding and reading it appears that they can spend the winter months over this side of England but prefer to take their summers on the west side, so i can only presume thats where they have gone.

Hopefully they will be back later in the year.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Marsh Harrier & Little Ringed Plover

Nice mornings birding;

I set off to get to my regular haunt RSPB Ranham Marshes probably for 8.30am but didnt actually arrive until 9am; mainly due to seeing a Green Woodpecker about 100 yards down the road, nothing unusual there; we have them in our garden on a regular basis feeding off the ants around the BBQ area at the back or face down in the grass. Now for me this was a first, it was climbing the trunk of the old oak. As i hadnt seen this behaviour and there was no body around to make it fly, i watched it for about 10-15 minutes.

Rainham was busy for 9am, must have been the warm bright sunny morning and it got off to a flyer with a Cettis Warbler just after leaving the entrance ramp. Again i heard the song and then located the bird. Standing in the same spot but viewing a different location a Chiffchaf.

By the time i had left the Woodland Area i had ticked off: Blue Tit; Great Tit, Cettis Warbler, Chiffchaf, Reed Bunting, Two amazing Black Caps showing really well and a Coot & Morhen in one of the Woodland ditches.

On the Target Pools no sign of any Little Gulls today but plenty of Black Headed Gulls, Common & Herring with a few Lesser Black Backed (another guy called a 2nd winter Yellow Legged and although i saw it, wasnt to sure).

Definately two types of Lesser Black Backed on show today both the graellsii & just one of the darker intermedius. The differences were picked out on adult birds.

The Peregrines were sitting in their usual pylon not up to much however a Marsh Harrier was in view, out of view, for easily and hour and some great viewing was to be had. Black Fingers and Hand were easliy identifiable.

Over on the Butts Hide Water side the two Little Ringed Plovers were for all to see with the naked eye and again were there the whole time the marsh Harrier was on diplay from the other side of the hide.

I noted a slight bobbing action from these two however dont know if thats common with LRP's.

Further round 3 water voles happily cleaned up

Other birds: lapwing; great crested grebe; little grebe; grey heron; starling; blackbird; magpie; cormorant; teal; wigeon; wood pigeon; shoveller; carrion crow; tufted duck; mute swan; mallard; pochard; skylark; canada goose; greylag goose; a group of 8 magestic little egrets & gadwall