Saturday, 19 December 2009

The big chill

Top: Rainham at dawn. Above: a backlit Blackwit.
Copenhagen summit or not, there was little sign of global warming at Wennington Marshes this morning. Most of the snowfall of the previous 24 hours was still on the ground, inconveniently compacted into ice on parts of the road and in the Aveley Bay car park, which was like a skating rink. It was -3 C when I arrived at 8 am; unsurprisingly, there was no one else in sight.

Today was the first chance I'd had to get out for a few days, so I decided to target the bay and the viewing mound for gulls and passerines respectively - plus any cold-weather wanderers that might be on the move (remembering a previous late December cold spell here which brought Tundra Bean and Barnacle Geese). The river was alive with gulls, with the tide well down and plenty of foreshore exposed, and the tip in action. There were large numbers of the 'common five' gulls - Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed - and just a single adult Yellow-legged just offshore. Waders were mainly Redshank and Northern Lapwings, but there were single Black-tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew. A flock of some 300 Linnets bounded around between weeds on the seawall and the top of the dump; if a Twite reappears here this winter, my money is on it joining this flock.

Round at the viewing mound, there were plenty more seedeaters - Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Linnets, plus the occasional Reed Bunting but no Corn Buntings. Cattle feed put out for livestock on Wennington Marshes was attracting plenty of Starlings and Stock Doves and the occasional Meadow Pipit; I can see the finches and buntings cottoning onto this food source before long. I walked west from the viewing mound for 250 m, enjoying a natty male European Stonechat and flushing a couple of Song Thrushes, and after scouring more parties of finches found a single European Serin. The light wasn't good for photography at that moment, but here's a record shot of it, plus more landscapes from this morning.

Below: just part of the gull gathering on the river by the tip.

Bottom: one of the two European Serins shows briefly.


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