Sunday, 27 January 2013
January is nearly over and the cold snap certainly is. I am not really where I would have wanted to be on my quest and this weekend my time would be limited what with a family thing to do Saturday evening. There are some good birds around but with logistics not on my side, I faffed, finally persuading myself that Rainham would be my best bet. I've bet worse, but if I'd managed to get my sorry carcass out a bit earlier I could have probably done a bit better. The sun shone, so that's a first in a long time for the reserve, the wind still prevailed blowing this time for a southerly direction, so not too unpleasant.
It all started rather well, a Turnstone (I thought my first for London, though spreadsheets tell another story), roosting in amongst the Redshank and numerous Snipe on the old stone river wall. A first for Rainham at least and probably the bird Kev Jarvis has been seeing down at the Earith Yacht club all winter. A good bird for London. Good numbers of Dunlin were flashing around the Aveley scrape and Snipe everywhere. May have got the Barn Owl as it peaked out of its box to the north of the woodland. I was having it anyway. A pair of Stonechats utilising the fence line towards the Ken Barrett, and a Water Rail or two sharming somewhere in the reed bed. I knew my best chances for getting something good lay on the shore line on either side of the river, but with sun low and the tide coming in I wasn't too hopeful. I wandered around with Rich Cockerill, who I'd met in the centre. He helpfully suggesting birds that I might not have seen on my list, all of which I had.
We split up at the Sea wall as I was off to Rainham to catch the train via the river path. The tide was now turning so a few Redshank were already on the mud, but very little else. Down by the container depot a Grey Plover flew in and while I tried to ignore it so it wouldn't fly, flew off again. Round the other side of the dept towards the offshore loading jetty the old sea walls harbour some good bits of mud. Plenty of gulls, nothing interesting, more Redshank, hundreds of Wigeon and Teal and blimey a Ruff! Score! A dozen or so Snipe were roosting up on the bank, not one of them had the decency to be anything but a common. The Grey Plover was there too.
As I approached the working tip, I could see it was now ideally placed, and the conditions near enough perfect to scour the gulls. Scour I did, for half an hour, for absolutely no joy, couldn't even pick out a Med. Absolute bollocks! What I did notice was the amazing variety of shapes and colouration of the Herring Gull. Wouldn't at all surprise me if they get split further: I suggest along the lines of ugliness.
Having given up on gulls I wandered round to the western marshes. The evening looked good for Owls, a far more enjoyable prospect. But there weren't any. In fact they've been thin on the ground this side of the silts since the cattle moved in. Disappointed I walked off to Rainham. Ooops missed the train. In the dog house again.
On the new pedestrian bridge I paused and gave myself one more scan. Finally an owl showed itself hunting way back over the silts. Arse, a Barn Owl!