Sunday 14 April 2024

Rainham Marshes, In search of warblers

A Wood Warbler was reported at Rainham Marshes yesterday,  Brian and I hadn't seen one in London before, so were eager to make the trip. It's only a short distance from home and twenty-five minutes later we were parked in the car park. We headed down the ramp and past Purfleet Scrape towards the Cordite Store area, where the bird had been reported from earlier. As we turned the corner we could see a small group of birders looking towards a group of Willows and brambles. As we joined them the Wood Warbler began singing. Although it sang regularly during our visit it remained largely hidden within the thick cover. The walk back to the car produced a couple of Reed Warblers singing from the reeds for another year tick.

We had been told that a Grasshopper Warbler had been heard earlier in the day, but by the time we arrived at the top car park, all was quiet. A scan of the Thames added a single Common Tern, seen heading upriver to add to the year list total.

Brian and I headed back to Rainham this morning, thinking we would have a better chance of hearing the Gropper "reeling" early morning. As we headed down the path the Gropper was heard immediately. As we began scanning the area the Gropper was spotted surprisingly quickly. It was perched on a low branch just above the vegetation. As we watched the Grasshopper Warbler a Short-eared Owl flew up from the grass and landed on a fence post. It was soon mobbed by crows and went to ground among the taller grasses.

Grasshopper Warbler

Short-eared Owl

Friday 12 April 2024

Frampton Marsh, Delivers again

Brian had a rare free day, so we decided to head north to Frampton Marsh this morning. We arrived around 8am and quickly found the Lesser Yellowlegs feeding at the edge of one of the pools close to the car park. The Black-winged Stilt was also found although it was at a much greater distance than the Yellowlegs. A Short-eared Owl flew across the flooded fields and was mobbed by Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits. We spent plenty of time scanning the flooded grasslands and enjoyed views of  Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Great Egret, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, and Greenshank. The Greenshank was a new addition to the year list.

Lesser Yellowlegs

We walked along the main path, and Brian picked out two Little Gulls (an adult and a 1st winter) on the south scrape. We enjoyed closer views from the viewing mound by Reedbed Hide.

Little Gull (1st winter)

Little Gull (Adult)

Three Little Ringed Plovers were seen from the 360 Hide along with several Ringed Plovers. There were also large numbers of Dunlin and Knot all packed tightly together on one of the islands.

Little Ringed plover

We scanned the south scrape again from the viewing mound and found a Black Tern. It flew back and forth across the scrape and briefly headed across the path over the 360 Hide before returning. The Black-winged Stilt had returned to the south scrape and was standing on the shingle at the end of an island. We had been talking to another birder earlier in the morning and while watching the Black Tern he asked Brian "What's this odd-looking gull". It turns out to be the Bonapartes Gull that had been reported as having flown off yesterday evening. It showed superbly right in front of the viewing mound.

Black Tern

Bonaparte's gull

Black-winged Stilt

We finished the day with 84 species seen, including five new additions to my year list.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Abberton Reservoir

A few hours spent at Fishers Green in the Lee Valley on Monday failed to produce any sight or sound of any Nightingales, even though Brian had, heard a singing bird the previous day. 

This morning we headed for Abberton Reservoir and immediately heard a Nightingale singing as soon as we left the car. We walked the approach road to the reserve and heard at least six Nightingales. However, seeing one proved much more difficult. I eventually managed brief views of a single bird.

We moved along to the causeway and found an Arctic Tern resting on a small buoy on the water between both causeways. 

We checked the small flood opposite Billets Farm and after several scans from different areas along the road, I managed to find two Little Ringed Plovers. A check of the sheep fields around the farm added another early year tick when we found three Yellow Wagtails feeding among the short grass.

The flood which held two Little Ringed Plover

On the drive to Layer Breton causeway, Brian found four Med Gulls in a field behind Garr House Farm. A scan from the causeway produced a single Swallow, which was our only hirundine of the day. We also found a single Spoonbill deep among the tree branches, we eventually managed decent views after walking further along the causeway.

Monday 25 March 2024

Stone Curlews and Garganey in the Brecks

Today we had a free morning to go birding, so we headed north to Cavenham Heath in Suffolk. The first Stone Curlew was spotted as soon as we scanned the heathland. We eventually managed to find five individuals. Five Wheatears were also present as well as several Stonechats. A flock of Linnets contained a single Lesser Redpoll and Skylarks were displaying overhead. Red Kite, Buzzard, and Kestrel were the only raptors seen.

Start of one of the trails

We headed further north to Lakenheath, where we scanned Hockwold Washes and eventually found two drakes and a female Garganey. We walked along the top footpath and scanned the area adjacent to East Wood for any sign of Water Pipits. None were found but we did find another three Garganey asleep among the tall grass at the back of the washland. Surprisingly it was another two drakes and a female! At first, we thought it might have been the three from Hockwold Washes, but another birder came along and confirmed those three were still present and that he had been viewing them a minute ago. We returned to the viewing area and found a bird tour group still viewing the three on Hockwold. 

Six Garganey is our highest count at one site

Hockwold Washes

Garganey (2 drakes and a female)

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Ring Ouzel, KGV Reservoir

Brian and Dad had different commitments today, so a trip to the KGV Reservoir had to wait until late afternoon. A walk up the slope to the causeway soon produced several Wheatear. At least four males and a single female were found. I scanned the north basin and found the Slavonian Grebe that has been present since the 8th of December. As we scanned the reservoir two Sand Martin flew across the River Lea for another addition to the year list.

The main reason for the trip to the reservoir was for a reported Ring Ouzel, it was reported as on the path on the east side. Unfortunately, Thames Water had decided to cut the grass banks today and there had been no sign since. We met Simon W and John as they headed back towards the car park, as they were approaching the sailing club hut Simon refound the Ring Ouzel. A quick shout from Simon and we quickly joined him. The Ring Ouzel was busily feeding on the grass verges and along the fenceline of the reservoir.

This is my fourth Ring Ouzel seen at the reservoir, but my first since 2016.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Jack Snipe: Amwell NR, Hertfordshire

A planned trip to renew our reservoir permits had to be cancelled and rearranged because of problems with their printer.  So we filled the spare few hours with a trip to Amwell NR. As I stepped out of the car I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year, several more were heard on the walk to the viewpoint. A scan from the viewpoint didn't produce any new spring arrivals, so we headed along the footpath to James Hide. A Jack Snipe had been seen from the hide on the previous two days and we scanned the area hoping it was still present. A Common Snipe was feeding by a small pool in the middle of the cut reed track and after several scans with the scope I managed to locate the Jack Snipe. It was asleep among the reeds and well hidden.  

James Hide

View from James Hide

First view of Jack Snipe!

Still well hidden and asleep, but in the photo!

Eventually, it woke up

Saturday 9 March 2024

Lesser Yellowlegs, Frampton Marsh

An early morning visit to Frampton Marsh today. We pulled into the car park and spotted the Lesser Yellowlegs immediately. It was feeding along the muddy edges close to the car park fence. A large herd of Whooper Swans was resting on the water in the northwest corner. We were still in the car park when they flew directly overhead toward their favoured feeding areas in the nearby fields. There were large numbers of Pintail, Wigeon, and Teal on the water known as the reservoir.

We wandered along the track, and while checking out a small wader on the Marsh Farm Grassland, Brian found the Green-winged Teal nearby. Golden Plovers and lapwings were present in large numbers, along with lesser counts of Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, and Oystercatchers.

Scanning the North Scrapes from the sea wall, we failed to find any Little Gulls from the previous day, but several Med Gulls were present, along with good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits. Before heading for home, we had managed to see a total of 76 species. 

Frampton Marsh visitor centre and cafe

Feeding area of the Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Green-winged Teal

Whooper Swans