Saturday, 2 January 2010

2010 patchlist underway

I spent all of today at Rainham with Andrew Gardener, kickstarting my yearlist for the site as part of the London Birders' Patchlist Competition, and trying to get to grips with a few tricky species.

Beginning at dawn on the silt lagoons, we were disappointed when any owls failed to show, but pleasantly surprised by a Common Buzzard departing its roost. It was attacked by crows within a minute of taking to the wing: what a thankless task it is to be a large raptor at Rainham. We were also treated to the spectacle of a huge flock of Common Starlings leaving (or a)their reedbed roost and making straight for the dump for breakfast, and an aerial and vocal Green Sandpiper.

After a thrash around the river walk by the side of the dump, during which the most potentially interesting sighting was a brief glimpse of a possible Woodlark among a large Skylark flock (it couldn't be relocated), we then failed to find the Great Skua from Aveley Bay (as I understand did everyone else today) but walked straight into the Serin near the mound. We also found the grey female Stonechat by the seawall in Aveley Bay, well away from its usual home on Wennington Marshes. Departing Coldharbour Lane at 12.25pm, House Sparrow became our 60th species.

After a brief lunch in the reserve centre, we repaired to the sea wall in an ultimately successful bid to nail Water Pipit. In doing so, we also scored Little Egret on the river and then the bird of the day, a single Bearded Tit which we saw and heard in the small reedbed on the foreshore in front of the centre, right on the cusp of a very high tide. It was then onto the reserve where other ticks for the day (and year) included Cetti's Warbler, Little Grebe, Peregrine and two Ruff, included a smart white-headed male.

Yesterday's two Bitterns failed to fly in to the same spot at dusk, so we closed proceedings on a very healthy 72 species. The day ended as it began, with a swirling Starling cloud in the distance over the Ferry Lane end, indulging in an aerobatic display before returning to their roost.

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