Saturday, 24 November 2012

A Waxwing and it is done!

I planned a quiet weekend, and where better than Rainham.  No chasing around the country, just a nice peaceful wander around the old place and maybe get some ticks for the Rainham year list and bolster my standing in the London Birders patch list challenge. Stu said he would like to go there too and seek out the Caspian Gulls.  Er! OK.

Now gulls are fine, but I don't really want it to be my #300. I would have to look away when he found one.  Luckily it turns out he is slightly less clueless as to Caspian Gull ID as I am (though I maybe doing him a disservice here, sorry Stu). So early doors we are traipsing through the fog down to the concrete barges (not stone, as they are not).  Two Water Pipit flushed and flew around a bit and helped brighten the proceedings and the barges themselves were covered in roosting Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank, with a few Lapwing thrown in. Having checked them out there was no other option but to look at the gulls.  Kev Jarvis and his colleague Mick Southcott, were there visiting the right side of the river for a change, and soon after Shaun Harvey turned up.  This was not looking promising - as in we might actually find what we were looking for.  The fog too wasn't helping as it began to clear, though a persistent drizzle did happen to dampen things one way or another. We gave it an hour and then thankfully Stu complained he had lost feeling in his feet.  So we took this as an excuse to go to the centre for some coffee.

There was not much on the river, a flat and high and a weird milky colour, so we made good progress to the welcoming warmth of a cuppa, another Water Pipit and some Rockits on the way.  News on our arrival of a single Waxwing touring the car park and nearby Purfleet.  Oh yes! But it had not been seen for the last hour.  Ah well.  See I am calm.

Stu sneeks off to get a fleeting glimpse of it as I am buying a new tripod, and then its gone again. Still calm.

Coffee and a bite over one of the balcony stalwarts has got it again and the centre empties to get a look.  And there it is #300 about a mile away in a tree with some Starling.  Oh yes!

What the hell do I do now.  My task is over as is my short lived elation.  Not to say I haven't enjoyed every single minute of it, well I haven't.  But most of it has been a great experience and fun.  I had planned to go down to Devon one weekend and plough on with Cattle Egret, Lesser Yellow-legs and perhaps a Cirl Bunting on two, but now that seems a bit pointless.  Though there is a yank Wigeon that would be a lifer, but its in Yorkshire and a bit of an arse to get to. I would like to go to Devon, but the money outlay would be hard to justify.  I'll think on it.

Anyway it behoves me to thank all that made this feasible and helped rack up the numbers on the way and pushed me when I got a bit lazy.  Jono, Tim, Steve, Dan, Stu, Tony, Paul and Bob from the patch.  David Bradnum, Prof. Whiteman, Paul Hawkins, Martin Blow and Richard Cockerill for driving and their expertise and Yvette at work for having to patiently  listen to the on-going tedium of the list and me going on about it without showing any signs boredom whatsoever.  And the numerous people I've met around the UK who gave me lifts, local gen and the time to make the whole thing easier than it probably should have been. Finally also to Mr Garner for flushing a Barred Warbler from a wet field on Unst, and my brother for the lift to Grafham for the RR Swallow.

And anybody I've forgotten!

So back to wet Rainham. We tried to give it a go, and got as far as the target pools but quite frankly neither was really that inspired, just wet.  And cold.  The promise of warmth and dry feet too much. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Having lined up three birds to clear this infuriating listing flimflam, I managed to cock it up big time with the help of Greater Anglia and South West Trains.  Yeagh I blame you!.

It all started off well with the permanent Ring-billed Gull at Gosport (according to Birdguides long-stayers list, this was first seen here when HMS Victory was growing in the shade of the New Forest, no wonder it's head is flecked with grey.  Hard bird to pin down though. Well it might have been if hadn't been for the fact it was the first one I looked at.  Much like its compatriot at Westcliff (now sadly departed), it didn't do much bar one quick shriek at a passing black-head.  In the end I kicked it in the water and made off for the ferry.

Then it all went down hill and crashed rather successfully. Umming and aahing I tried to cover both options.  Train to Havant and then dependant on which came first; the train to Chichester or word on the RB Goose.  Both came together as did the doors, with me on the wrong side. No matter, drastic action called for.  Taxi from Chichester, bag the Hoody (not realising that the bird hadn't been seen all day), and speed back for a leisurely wander round Farlington for the lost goose.

The taxi had other ideas, taking me to the new RSPB visitor centre on the opposite side to where I wanted.  A quick, very muddy dash over to the right place to be greeted with sad birders. Arse.  By this time my bridges were smouldering nicely, so I did the only ting that is right and proper in situations like this: I gave up.

Nice evening, goldies everywhere, and some other stuff. Luckily in Pagham I found a bus stop and soon after a bus found me, thus avoiding a 7 mile walk to mull over the debacle.  Never mind with just one little birdy to get to reach the yawn...  I predict it will be a Waxwing and I predict it will be on the patch, which by any measure is better than a dodgy-probably-escaped-or-at-least-from-a feral-population-in Germany duck and a similarly-plasticy-goose.

Or maybe I'll be back. Grrrrrrrrrr

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Great White Egrets(c)at Dungeness

Now obviously I didn't go there specifically for the egrets, however they did kind of steal the show, seeing as there were four of them and three decided to fly around my head for a while. I am still waiting to see one of these big herons anywhere else, though at least I can confidently say it was not the same bird as on all the other occasions.

A quick stomp through the reserve for my main target up at the lighthouse, but instead of going by road and risking all in the face of speeding atomic workers, I chose the newly sign-posted footpath to the ness, which runs between the new diggings and the visitor centre lake.  It turned out to be a bit like walking to Blakeney Point without the sea.

It was late afternoon when I finally got through the desert, to be fair it did have some interesting bits along the way, and an even later Swallow flew south over the power station.

I could see a few hardy types peering into the lighthouse garden, among them Richard Cockerill, who appears to appear every other twitch I go on. Lift home sorted, thanks Rich.

The Pallas's showed not long after I got there but in it's flighty and industrious state was hard to pin down for pics, and the light just got worse and worse. Excuses over, got some fantastic views of it as it hovered, flycatched and basically entertained.  A rather showy Firecrest was a Kent tick, sweet!

So #298 bagged and it's off again tomorrow for a suspect goose, suspect duck and a yank gull. All going well I can put the year listing nonsense to bed and climb in with it.

And finally for you lovers of scat...