Today I have been out doing normal and manly things, like drinking beer and watching West Ham beat Fulham 3-1 - possibly in an effort to offset my rather geeky and, ultimately, ill-fated early morning expedition to see Barn Owls yesterday with this person. Actually any owls would have been nice, I'm not fussy. Instead, what I got was rudely awoken at 05:15 ON A SATURDAY MORNING and, in the grand tradition of British birding, soaked to the skin. All I can say is that the owls are clearly smarter than us, because they didn't get up, and I don't imagine they got wet. Still, my new thermos performed admirably.
From there, we headed straight on over to Rainham Marshes - my first visit this year - and a welcome cup of tea. All talk in the office seemed to be of Pendulines and the suckers who were still hoping to see them. My personal goal was to double my year list and a quick glance out the window got me my first - Wigeon on the near lake. Cool. Also present was a rather spiffy Pintail, which is a lifer as well as a year tick. Don't waste time looking for him in the below, he's not there.
A quick wander round to the hide produced a decent picture of some Teal, a few distant Shelduck and a break from the wind, as it was cold and we were still drying out. Then to the boardwalk where nothing much was happening at all, so we headed back for more tea and I took the chance to snap some Skylark out the window.
The finches were out in force, and I got Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch all from the same flock. I officialy like Goldfinch, very pretty birds. Also further down the path we heard a shy Meadow Pipit, which I wouldn't have recognised but am having anyway. Must learn bird calls.
Bought some food back at base and spent most of the rest of the day on the northern boardwalk. During this time Parus's better half arrived, which meant the year list war was renewed. Got 3 raptors - Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk - which impressed me greatly. Saw some Reed Buntings, and heard a Cetti's warbler and a Water Rail. Argued with Parus about the sex of the Kestrel. See what you think. You may have to take my word for it that the grey blob is a Falcon.
No sign of the Pendulines, surprise surprise. Rarest spot was probably the 2 Chiffchaffs, one of which was a Siberian sub-breed (I'm not up on the latin). Surprisingly even I was able to see the difference between them. Only the tristis (OK, a little latin) in the pictures below. Apologies for the general crappiness of the pictures, this thing was spending about half a second on each perch and every time I took my eye off it it disappeared. Ended up just pointing the camera in its general direction and hoping I had enough for a decent cropping. I like the first one best, because it actually looks like a bird. I'm informed by those who know that the second is better for identification.
There was plenty more - Dunnock, Little Egret, millions of Lapwing (who liked the Falcon not one whit), a solitary Ruff, some well hidden Snipe and a last minute flyover from a couple of Black-Tailed Godwit who'd been flocking with the Lapwing all day. Far too many to name them all individually.
In conclusion: A good day, despite the owlessness of the morning, which by my definition means one in which I actually achieved what I set out to achieve, and in which I got to eat a Rainham Marshes bacon sandwich.
Site list - 54
Year list - 63