Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spring weather, no birds.

Yesterday was too nice a day to spend the whole of it indoors, so I wandered over to Rainham for some spring migrant goodness. Fat chance. Lots of gulls (LOTS of gulls), lots of common British birds (nice views of a Dunnock in the Cordite store) and absolutely no Wheatears, Sand Martins or Little Ringed Plovers.

However, while traversing the Northern Boardwalk I laid eyes on my first ever Water Rail. It's on the life list because I've heard them before and they're pretty unmistakable, but yesterday I caught a glimpse of a brownish streaked back attached to a bright red bill climbing under a big pile of reeds. Tried to follow it, but no further showings. Still, w00t.

The birds were outclassed yesterday by the sheer pleasantness of the walk. How long has it been since it was warm enough to go for a stroll in thin sleeves on a Saturday and not worry about rain cutting short your exercise? Rainham was looking particularly stunning in the sun. And I got a tea and a sausage sandwich. Win.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Can you tell what it is yet?

Just a quick one, because it's too nice a day to waste indoors, but my first ever tablet arrived in the post this morning and I had to have a quick play. First ever attempt at a sketch (taken from the picture on the calender in front of me):

That was fun. You'll probably be seeing a lot more of this...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

New patch, less birds, more oddness

I was never really expecting an area two minutes walk from London Liverpool Street to be an improvement on Tower Bridge, and it isn't. Five work days in and the office list stands at 2 - the ubiquitous feral pigeons and a single Herring Gull dive-bombing tourists. I have seen a small brown bird land in one of the small brown trees planted in the area. It was Sparrow/Robin/Dunnock/Goldfinch/[Insert Rare Warbler Here] sized and shaped, which probably tells you just how good a view I got as it hid behind branches and flitted from tree to tree. Looks like I'll be fighting for every morsel on this patch.

Tuesday was interesting though. Got a very unusual bird. Parus has been trying to convince me that it dazed itself by flying into a building which is why it's not flying and that it's alright to tick it. I have my own personal theory that Carluccios like their ingredients particularly fresh. Either way, it drew quite a crowd.

The passing orchestra was a stroke of luck

No apologies for the soundtrack. Not only is Night on the Bare Mountain an excellent piece of music, the alternative was some woman whinging about how they should call the RSPCA and how it's pathetic that they're trying to catch it themselves (incidentally they HAD called the RSPCA, as she would have known if she'd bothered to ask, and had been told if the bird wasn't injured they wouldn't turn up). It's this kind of randomness that makes Central London worth the hassle.

Oh, and this kind of randomness.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Flying visit

Managed to drag my mum out for a quick three quarters of an hour round Rainham yesterday on the way back from the roundabout-fest which is Thurrock retail park - clockwise through the reeds and then up onto the seawall and back to the visitor's centre. On the one hand it was a bit disappointing as the visitor book was promising quite a bird-heavy day and I didn't have my scope. On the other hand, it was nice to have a reason to stop and look at things I'd normally just gloss over (pfft, not another Shoveler...) and I got to be the guide for once rather than the guided.

The one and only highlight, apart from a pleasant walk round a nice green space, was catching a Skylark descending from its song flight and into one of the fields. I like Skylarks.

So after several months away, that's two Rainham visits on consecutive weekends. Here's hoping for a third next week.

In non-bird news, I started a new job on Friday doing similar-but-not-quite-identical project related things for the same employer. I actually have to wear a suit, rather than the pseudo-smart business casual I got away with in the IT department. But it does mean I've moved away from Tower Bridge, and therefore have officially lost my work patch. Fortunately I hear a fellow birder may be picking up the reins in a few weeks time, so there should still be someone keeping an eye on all the passage waders terns passerines gulls, but you should probably expect local rarities to appear pretty much solidly for the intervening few weeks.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Was that seriously my first visit to Rainham this year?

I think it was. Bloody hell. Well I've broken the seal now, so I'll be back every few weekends from here on.

Ended up going for a quickish spin round the reserve with, you guessed it, the fiancée this afternoon. Seem to be spending a lot of time with her lately. Can't think why. Good thing she likes long walks in the country.

Bumped unexpectedly into a sweary local birder who was getting cold outside the visitors' centre looking for some Goldeneye that turned out to be round the corner about half a mile upriver. He caught up with them eventually. In the meantime we settled in with tea, bacon/sausage sandwich and cake. Try the homemade blueberry cake, it is NOM.

Started by heading clockwise round to the new hide, with fiancée picking up a Water Vole on the way. A Kestrel got me all excited by being a distant and high-altitude bird of prey around the area the Hen Harrier was last seen yesterday, but once I actually got the bins on it it was not to be. We sat and picked through gulls and waders for a while. Loads of Black Headed, a few Common and some indeterminate young brown ones which I really will learn to tell apart some day. Waders were a bit more interesting. The usual hundreds of Lapwing, three or four sleepy Redshank, a single Ruff wandering up and down and a Knot doing much the same. True counts were made difficult by a regular and unexplained shuffling of the deck as everything went up and came back down again thirty seconds later. I suspect they knew everyone was looking for the Hen Harrier and wanted to keep us on our toes. A couple of hundred Wigeon were grazing on the grassland, but the smartest Wildfowl out there was a male Pintail dipping for food.

Managed to get round the north reedbeds without hearing a single Cetti's, and apart from another flock of 15 or so Redshank during a quick stop in the Ken Barrett hide there wasn't much else that was exceptional out there. We walked back past the forest feeder and I was surprised by both the Bumble Bee, which I thought was early, and the two Redwing, which I thought were late, so I'm not convinced that spring is here quite yet. Getting very close though.

Nice to get out there and give the scope a run out again. Even if I'd taken the camera you wouldn't have got much out of today, it was all a bit distant. So I'm going to shamelessly steal someone else's.

Credits go to