Thursday, 18 May 2017

A Couple of Hours on the River Wall at Rainham Marshes

6th May 2017

High tide was at 10.40am today, so instead on going on to the reserve, I thought I would spend a couple of hours on the river wall to try and see some Whimbrel on the receding tide. There were many Linnets arounds, often feeding on the sward kept short by the Rabbits, but a female was also building a nest in a nearby bramble and was carrying in enormous beakfuls of nesting material.

Whitethroats are also numerous along the wall, enjoying the masses of tangled undergrowth and brambles.

...........and as is often the case, a male Stonechat suddenly appeared in front of the camera, and disappeared just as quickly.

But the star of the show was this cracking male Wheatear which seemed fascinated by the sound of the shutter and kept coming closer to see what was going on.

The tide was now on its way out and mud was beginning to appear, so time to divert my attention to the waders. There was certainly a good selection today with about 20 Grey Plovers, the most I have ever seen here and many in their black breeding plumage, a few very rusty Knot and a flock of 10 Bar-tailed Godwits to replace the usual Black-tailed Godwits.

But the bird that caught my eye was this rather pale brown wader. It was obviously a plover, but what flavour? Luckily at that point it flew showing its black axillaries, confirming that it was an aberrant Grey Plover. If it was just a 1st summer bird then it was the palest Grey Plover I have ever seen. So now to photograph the waders.

Fo no immediately apparent reason every bird on the foreshore was spooked and flew up erratically into the sky. A quick look round soon revealed the culprit............a rather stunning Short-eared Owl. A bit of a surprise as getting a bit late in the season now, but very welcome nevertheless.

I suppose that, in terms of star birds, I had better relegate the male Wheatear to second place.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Greenshanks, Kingfishers and Tree Creepers

5th May 2017

First stop was Rye Meads to see how the Kingfishers were getting on. On the way round to the Kingfisher Hide, a quick pitstop at the Draper Hide revealed two Greenshanks that had just arrived. The water levels were still fairly high to prevent the growth of vegetation and provide some protection for the nesting birds on the islands This meant that the Greenshanks were a little distant, but still near enough for some shots.

Now into the Kingfisher Hide to see what the Kingfishers were up to. At least some of the young had hatched this morning as the adults were seen carrying egg shells from the nest. So time to settle down and wait for the adults to bring some food. While we were waiting this Heron flew in and stood guard on the nest bank.

Then on a few occasions the male appeared with the smallest of fish, just right for newly hatched young. But every time, although he sat around outside the nest hole for a while, instead of taking the fish into the nest, he ate it. Perhaps the female called out that she wasn't ready yet!!

Then on the way home after a rather successful day, we called in to a glade in a local wood to try our luck with a pair of Tree Creepers that were feeding young. Here there was a never-ending stream of juicy food being brought to the nest suggesting that the young were fairly well grown.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Dotterels at Therfield

28th April 2017

The Dotterel is a member of the plover family and breeds in the highlands of Scotland, having spent the winter in the Atlas Mountains in north-west Africa. During its migration north, small groups or "trips" spend some time at traditional stop-over points. During the 1960s and 1970s the local stop-over point was the fields around Dotterel Hall by the A505, just east of Flint Cross, with an arrival time of on or around the 12th May. It is recorded that James the First used to shoot Dotterel at Royston each year. Dotterel are no longer regular on passage through the local area, but this year four birds spent a few days at Therfield, not a million miles from Dotterel Hall.

Dotterel are different from most other birds in that the females are brighter than the males, which reflects the role reversal whereby the male incubates the eggs and raises the chicks. On their breeding grounds they are notoriously tame, but on migration they are often just specks in the distance on the other side of a ploughed field in heat haze. However, for some reason the Therfield birds were very tame and it was possible to photograph them down to 15 yards.

Of the four birds present, two were females and two were males. Here is a selection of shots of the females.

..............and now some of the duller males.............

Well, how superb. That saves me a trip to the highlands to get some close-ups of Dotterel!!!!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

An Early Summer Visit to North Fambridge

25th April 2017

North Fambridge is a reserve on the north bank of the River Crouch, based at Blue House Farm. The main attraction at this time of year is the large lagoon, so we headed straight there and settled down in the hide. Right outside the window some Black-headed Gulls were setting up territory and were a little noisy to say the least. This small island is also attractive to the Avocets so some interaction was inevitable.

Avocets were driven to extinction in the UK in 1842 following years of both eggs and birds being taken for food, and it was over a 100 years later that the Second World War brought about their return. A stray bomb from a nearby firing range blew a hole in the sea wall at Havergate Island and allowed the sea to pour in creating ideal habitat for Avocets, and in 1947 four pairs arrived and the rest is history.

A lone Redshank also visited our little island, but was clearly on a feeding mission rather than staking a territory.

Just as we were about to leave four Mediterranean Gulls dropped in for what appeared to be no more than a chill-out seesion on the lagoon. These are another species that are increasing in numbers and, although occasionally seen inland, tend to stick to the coast.

But the star of the show today was this rather tame female Wheatear that followed us along the fence-line. I know I have said it before and I will say it again, if only all birds were this cooperative!!