Thursday, 1 January 2009

Rainham kicks off!

Happy New Year!

I spent the whole day at Rainham today, despite my best intentions of wanting to cover other east London sites as well. Quite a bit of time there was spent in company with Baz Harding and Dave Holman and his wife; perhaps it's a sign of the times that Norfolk's birding luminaries are choosing Rainham to kickstart their yearlists.

Anyhow, it was a day well spent. I was up to 22 species even before I got through the door of the visitor centre, and while lingering outside checking the gulls Baz came out to tell me that the Pendulines were reportedly showing well. Within 15 minutes we were watching them down to just a few yards, and put on a decent show for the camera. I continued out to the Target Pools, but that proved a fruitless exercise as they were frozen solid and, apart from a brief Little Egret and a few Moorhens, totally devoid of birds.

Back in the scrub, a Cetti's Warbler gave very close views for a few moments, and I heard a brief, very distant call that may have been the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker reported along the approach road; unfortunately it did not call again. I have rarely seen so few gulls on the river in winter but they did include two adult and a third-winter Yellow-legged, and there was a decent scattering of waders on the Kent shore and all three pipits by the seawall.

After lunch, two Bearded Tits - a Rainham tick - were reported back in the Aveley Pools reedbed, but I had already decided it was time for the Ferry Lane end. I flushed a Short-eared Owl from the bank of the silt lagoons and had a Green Sandpiper flying around, calling; it went down by the pool at Tilda Rice but soon departed, doubtless having discovered it iced over. With
light fading, the roosting Black-tailed Godwits on the barges (day tick number 68) were followed by another Short-eared Owl over the tip, but I scoured the darkening skies in vain for a Stock Dove.

At the last gasp, however, I did find a superb male Dartford Warbler on the tip slope, tagging along behind a male Stonechat (as they sometimes do, in an association never fully explained). I haven't had this species in London for many years and it was also a Rainham tick, so it was a fitting find to end the first day of the year on one of my patches, and species number 69; I couldn't quite break the 70-mark single-handed. Summary highlights as follows:

Great Crested Grebe - 1 on the river on the rising tide
Little Egret - 2
Pintail - c.18
Peregrine - 1 on pylons west of Aveley Pools
Water Rail - Aveley Pools boardwalk
Ringed Plover - 41 on the foreshore
Grey Plover - 1 on the foreshore
Golden Plover - 6 on the reserve
Green Sandpiper - 1 over the silt lagoons/Tilda Rice, and heard again at dusk over the tip
Yellow-legged Gull - 2 ads and a third-winter on the river
Ring-necked Parakeet - 7 fly-overs in total
Short-eared Owl - singles on the silt lagoons and tip slope
Rock Pipit - 1/2 on the foreshore
Water Pipit - 1 on the foreshore
Cetti's Warbler - 3 in total
Dartford Warbler - tip slope (look up slope from the riverside path beyond the barges car park)
Penduline Tit - 2 males on the Aveley Pools boardwalk

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