Saturday, 25 January 2014

Mainly concerning ducks...

First stop today was Chingford and a little hike to Connaught Water, snap up a few Mandarin and perhaps the female Smoo, that has been residing of late.  The little hike took a bit longer due to the plain being mainly composed of mud, with the remaining bit being standing water.  Didn't take long for my boots to be the same.

I think someone moved the lake, because it wasn't were I last saw it, its now several hundred yards further north.  Luckily I found a path which had bits of small gravel mixed in the with the mud and water and was able to track it down.  We think we've got problems with aresoles and their dogs on the patch, these are of another magnitude.

Found a small group of male Manadarin getting a bit frisky, as were the Teal, but then again it doesn't take much to get a duck frisky.  Couldn't find the Smew, or the Hooded Merganser (so that must have been kosher all along), but did stumble across what looked like a crime against anases (ducks not bums!).  Apparently according to my Key to Wildfowl of the World by the late Sir Peter Scott, it/they were Ringed Teal and not a mix and match of duck genes as they appeared.  Hailing from South America I expect that they got blown in on all these Sou'westerlies we're having.  Surely not an escape; I mean to lose one bird because your too f**kin stoopid to pinion it is one thing, but three birds?  I am sure the fabulously rich people who have enough land and think so highly of themselves that they need their status reflected in their private collections, aren't such complete tossers that would fail to prune three ducks!

So a viable population in the making there then, and soon to be added to the British and London lists, so a heads up to you eager London listers.

Sloshed back to Chingford station and caught a bus up to Mansfield Park.  No-one seems to be doing the Girling these days so I thought have a butchers and score some BN Grebe.  And I did, best views I've had from this view point half a county away. Definitely three, but probably six, which is way down on what's been there in the past.

Time up I skied down the slope and then realised I didn't have my keys to the KGV.  Twat! It meant I would have to find another elevated position somewhere down the road.  As it turned out, on the road. No sign of the GN Diver from my limited viewpoint, which means I may have to chum Josh down there next week - if it's still there. Did get some Goosander year tickery!

From there I sloshed down the side of the KGV to Sewardstone, the Gunpowder Park (Stonechat and singing Skylark) and wearily made my way to the Cheshunt lakes.

Friday lake (or what ever the hell its called) was devoid of Smoo, but had a rather nice female Goosander and nothing else. I finally caught up with a male Smew on Hooksmarsh hiding under a willow. Unfortunately missed the Bittern by minutes, because I was trying to string any Greylag into something more interesting somewhere else. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Rainham double header

After Saturday's turgid stomp around Rainham, which was as dull as the ditchwater that was everywhere, the sensible birder would have gone somewhere else to try his luck.  Like the Lea Valley for certain sawbills and grebes and maybe even a Bittern to enthuse the soul.  Not me, oh no.  got all the way to Liverpool Street only find myself heading to Rainham on the C2C.  It couldn't possibly be as bad as Saturday.

Not quite.  Luckily I met up with @Johnnogull, who was doing a Webs count along the foreshore, and so tagged along. It started well; a couple of singing Chiffchaff no less on the western marshes, then a pair of Stonechat (yeagh nailed you, you bastards!), and while we were admiring them and a female Marsh Harrier over the silts, I got a brief view of a Short-eared Owl, obviously flushed from its roost, heading off into the reed beds. Now for that Black Redstart reported Tuesday.

Zip on that one, but then we were looking in the wrong place as we were so informed by a birder coming along the river from Purfleet.  Even with his instructions we couldn't find it.  Ah well!

Picked up GC Grebe and Grey Plover on a rising tide, a load of Snipe and other bits and bobs and didn't fill my boots, didn't fill my boots with water, which in my book is a bit of a result.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Today, as predicted, I was whisked away to Abberton to help out on the WREN Group visit there. The main reserve bit of the reservoir used to be quite good, but since they've had to fill the place with more water so that the people of Colchester can wash their cars it will take time to get back to what it was.  Last time I was here it was for a very confiding Wheatear, this time everything was far off, or smaller.

With only 2 scopes between 13 it was a bit of a struggle.  Again it was the Layer causeway where all the good stuff was to be found.  Most of us wanted to see Smew, and we did, five of the beauties, one even came close enough to persuade me to get the camera out.  Sorry!

We met up with the family Anderson out on a little tour of the Essex countryside, and there were a few other familiar faces on the causeway and if you could forget the icy wind it was quite pleasant.  We managed to find the two White-fronts from a gaggle of Greylag, sift the RC's from the Common Pochard herd, and then I found the Scaup. Happy days for my fellow Wansteadians, however while I revelled in my brilliance I missed the Bittern landing in the reeds in front of the others.  Tits'n'arse.

and now the obligatory Heron coming into land shot...

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Rainham Patch List Challenge up and running

Finally managed to get down to Rainham today to kick of my second patch for the Patch List Challenge thingy (Wanstead obviously the more important), and it was sunny!  After I had got over the shock of that I began to enjoy myself.  Starting a new list is like opening a fresh jar of coffee, wonderful, the next time though the magic has gone.

Nothing to brilliant had transpired until I got to the Concrete Barges. There were twenty or so Redshank in the high tide roost.  Hang on that's crap! So I did a little detour to look at the tip, the silts, anything really.  When I came back then it was better.  Better to the tune of 100 Dunlin and 100 more Redshank.  That good!.

Well no, but it did get a bit better when I was told the Spotted Redshank, that usually resides in Kent, was on the river side of the roost.  Positioning myself just so, I could see it sticking out like a sore thumb kind of thing.  Took me the best part of the year to get that sod last year.

With high hopes and a high but receding tide I went the river way. Sod all. My next point of hope was the Serin mound and the possibility of 2 Caspos on the floods.  As if I could pick them out.  Luckily I knew a man who could, and he just happened to stroll up at the point I was forcing myself to look laridwards, and in the time it takes to say "Caspian Gull are really quite interesting", he'd found it.  Hats off to soon to be dad Mr Bradnum.

But I race a ahead of myself. On the way up to the mound a Yellowhammer flew up and over the tip.  Not common round these here parts, it was my first for Rainham.  Sweet!

You may have noticed a lack of slightly out of focus, under/over exposed images.  Correct I lugged the camera around all day without getting it out, apart from to show Mike Messenger the Kittiwake I found on the flats this week.  Couldn't really be arsed and nothing a couple of feet away.

That was about it really.  Ended the day on 72 species, which may or may not be better than previous years, who cares.  Tomorrow I am going with the Wren Group to Abberton, which could be good for birds and if not at least I will try and ask what Wren in this context stands for....

Exciting times.

didn't see any of these