All week I've been planning a quick jaunt round Upminster/Cranham way to see if I could find Cranham Marshes, so naturally when the time came it was cold and it snowed. Undeterred, I went anyway. First stop off the bus was to get some fingerless gloves from Aldi. I am now very glad I did this.
Turns out I couldn't find Cranham Marshes (not too surprising given the poor standard of Essex Wildlife Trust's directions; as it goes, even after getting home and rechecking google maps, I'm still not sure which bit is the reserve), however I found a nice bit of scrubland with trees, long grass and a promising looking reed bed next to The Jobbers Rest pub and accidentally bumped into the Thames Chase Community Forest behind the golf course. Nothing much about in either of those in terms of wildlife, but given the cold weather, the lateness of the day and the very strong winds I was expecting that. This was more about exploring than birding.
Managed to scare off something small and pinkish breasted rounding the first corner in the scrubland (eyes in the trees and not on the ground, damnit) which may have been a Chaffinch or a Bullfinch. One's a tick and one isn't, so that was a bit annoying. Notable among the birds I did ID (i.e. anything not Crows, Magpies and Wood Pigeons) were 3 Goldfinches chasing each other around the trees and a host of Blue Tits among the berry trees. Gulls aplenty on the wing, but with the prevalence of first years I couldn't get a positive ID. Will have to do one of these Gull workshops at Rainham. On the way out of the Forest I heard something that sounded somewhat like a Dunnock, but visual inspection just produced an LBJ well hidden in a bush. Suppose it could have been a female house sparrow, but I'm having Dunnock.
Just as I was heading back, I walked past Coopers school and saw some medium sized brown things on the field. I debated unpacking the bins again and was glad I did, as it turned out to be a flock of about 30 Fieldfares. Site, Year and Life tick all in one :-) Awesome. As little as a couple of months ago I'd probably have seen them from a distance and just dismissed them as blackbirds/starlings without paying any attention - it's amazing what you manage to miss if you're not making the effort to look.
Got a few pictures of the sites, will probably put them up next post. For now, I'm braving the cold again. The pub is calling.